Hastings United’s footballers made an instant return to winning ways this afternoon (Saturday).
The U’s put their midweek defeat against Faversham Town firmly behind them with a 1-0 victory at home to Chatham Town in Ryman Football League Division One South.
Sam Cruttwell scored the all-important goal with a first half free kick, although United spurned plenty of opportunities to have made the closing stages far less nervy than they were against a Chatham side which finished with 10 men.
On a pitch looking in excellent condition given the amount of rain and matches it had endured in the preceding days, United switched to a 4-3-3 formation with Liam Wilson - son of manager Garry - making a rare appearance at left-back.
The opening quarter was fairly even. United goalkeeper Josh Pelling beat out a Siao Blackwood cross-cum-shot, a Richard Davies free kick and a terrific first time Kieron McCann strike from 25 yards, while at the other end, a good run and shot by Cruttwell brought a fingertip save out of Chatham stopper Ryan Nicholls low to his right.
On a windy and showery afternoon, United landed the decisive blow in the 25th minute. Cruttwell whipped in a devilish free kick from the right which skipped off the slick surface and into the far corner of the net without anybody getting a touch to it.
United seemed to take charge thereafter. A crisp drive by Cruttwell was pushed away by Nicholls and Billy Medlock saw a goalbound effort blocked at the end of a solo run. Sam Adams’ low drive from just inside the box after a brilliant run and pass by Richardson-Brown was well saved by Nicholls, who was also out quickly to deny Medlock following more good approach play by Richardson-Brown.
There was little goalmouth action during the first 35 minutes of the second half and although United looked comfortable, you felt they just needed a second goal to kill the game off.
Richardson-Brown came agonisingly close to getting it with a delicate angled chip which struck the crossbar at the end of a surging run down the right. At the other end, Omari Hibbert gave United a little reminder that Chatham were still in the contest all the while it remained 1-0 with a 20-yard strike which flashed just wide.
Chatham were reduced to 10 men in the 80th minute when Joe Loft was shown a straight red card after being adjudged to have brought down Richardson-Brown just outside the box, although the visitors clearly didn’t agree with the referee’s decision.
That proved the catalyst for a dramatic passage of play during the closing stages. Medlock drilled the resulting free kick against the post and Simon Johnson, who had a tidy game in United’s midfield, fired the follow-up whiskers wide.
Having scored a goal at one end, the easy-on-the-eye Cruttwell prevented one at the other when he made a vital goal-line clearance at the far post after substitute Joe Bingham got his head to a Chatham corner.
United had a couple more opportunities to put the result beyond doubt late on. Jack Harris stabbed wide on the stretch having burst into the box and Richardson-Brown - who earned the sponsor’s man of the match award for another remarkably energetic display - blasted wastefully wide from a great position after being played in by Cruttwell.
United: Pelling, Wilson, Cruttwell, Rowe, Ray, Walder, Medlock (Hollobone 90+3), Adams, Richardson-Brown, Johnson, Temba (Harris 77 (Cumming-Bart 90)). Subs not used: Vickers, Rose. Attendance: 335.
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