Hastings United consolidated top spot with a 1-0 victory at home to Three Bridges this afternoon (Saturday).
Although not a vintage performance from the U’s, Kenny Pogue’s early goal made it eight wins and three draws in their last 12 Ryman Football League Division One South matches.
After a minute’s applause for Nelson Mandela prior to kick-off, United’s leading scorer Pogue met an eighth minute Sam Adams free kick from the right with a thumping header from six yards for his 12th goal of the season.
Tom Vickers fizzed a 25-yard drive just wide and moments later delivered a cross which Trevor McCreadie couldn’t direct on target while stretching at the far post, at which point United threatened to dominate.
But it certainly didn’t pan out that way as Bridges soon started to get very much into the game, even if United goalkeeper Josh Pelling only really had to make one save low to his right from Bayan Fenwick during the first 45 minutes.
United had a great chance to double their lead with the final act of the opening half. Pogue latched onto a ball over the top through the inside right channel and squared for strike partner Trevor McCreadie, but Bridges defender Sampson Djimah made a vital intervention with Martin Grant out of his goal.
The hosts struggled to stamp their authority on the second half and third-bottom Bridges might well have got something out of the game. Pelling made a good save low to his right to keep out an Elliott Romain volley from just outside the box and the same player flashed a 25-yard strike just over.
At the other end, McCreadie was whiskers away from getting on the end of Pogue’s left-footed drive across the box and Sean Kelly’s header from an Adams corner was blocked on the goal-line.
A low shot by Williams Peauroux was touched wide by Pelling diving to his left, while Adams forced a similar stop out of Pelling’s opposite number with a left-foot volley from outside the box and McCreadie’s lift over Grant dropped just wide of the far post.
Crawley-based Bridges - the Sussex County League champions of two seasons ago - had a decent chance to grab a point in the third minute of added time, but Peauroux couldn’t direct his near post header on target from Tony Garrod’s left wing cross.
United: Pelling, Slocombe, Gilbert, Darby, Judge, Kelly, Dolan, Adams, McCreadie, Pogue (Olorunda 70), Vickers. Subs not used: Ellis, Woodley, Henson, Corrigan. Attendance: 374.
Ryman Division One South top six (played-points): 1 HASTINGS UNITED 20-43, 2 Peacehaven & Telscombe 20-42, 3 Leatherhead 21-42, 4 Walton Casuals 22-41, 5 Faversham Town 21-32, 6 Guernsey 19-32.