Hastings United fought out their second 1-1 home draw in the space of three days tonight (Monday).
The U’s shared the points in a good Ryman Football League Division One South contest against a useful Merstham side with both goals coming in the first 11 minutes.
Merstham drew first blood in the fifth minute. The quick and tricky Taurean Roberts skipped past Sam Cruttwell on the away right and delivered an inch perfect cross for Omar Folkes to score with a simple header.
United levelled just six minutes later. Taser Hassan’s cross from the right hit a Merstham defender and Ronnie Dolan found the target with a low shot on the turn.
Sean Ray saw a goalbound header from Hassan’s right wing corner blocked by a Merstham head, while Kalvin Morath-Gibbs headed just over from Fabio Sarava’s corner at the other end as the lively start continued.
United were indebted to an incredible goal-line clearance by Cruttwell to remain on level terms. Folkes seemed certain to score his second after a long ball over the top had bounced over United goalkeeper Josh Pelling - who was outside his box and therefore couldn’t handle - only for Cruttwell to somehow get back and hook the ball away. Sarava then flashed a 25-drive whiskers wide.
Merstham got on top during the closing 20 minutes of the first half. George Craddock wasn’t far wide with an effort from distance and Sarava’s resulting corner was cleared by Cruttwell at the far post. Sarava drilled a free kick just over in added time.
The second half was a fairly even affair which remained intriguing even if there wasn’t as much goalmouth activity. Pelling made a good save low to his right from Roberts, whose team-mate Tutu Henriques glanced a free kick just wide of the near post in the 75th minute.
Seconds after that, Merstham went down to 10 men. Marc Okoye was shown a straight red card for a foul on Sam Adams just inside his own half which left the United midfielder needing treatment and prompted an angry reaction from his colleagues.
The dismissal made little difference to the pattern of play as Merstham certainly didn’t settle for a point. United had the best chance to win it, though, when Dolan’s deflected shot was spilled by away goalkeeper Brannon Daly, who recovered well to block Kenny Pogue’s follow-up.
United: Pelling, Rose, Cruttwell, T. Olorunda, Ray, King, Dolan, Adams, Pogue, Sawyer (A. Olorunda 74), Hassan (Cook 70). Subs not used: Bankole, Temba, Fayers. Attendance: 253.