Pressure growing in survival battle

Matt Hall is expected to return for Hastings United
Matt Hall is expected to return for Hastings United
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Hastings United face a hugely important day in their battle for survival on Easter Monday.

The U’s go to local rivals Tonbridge Angels in their penultimate game of the Ryman Football League Premier Division season.

Although United’s 1-1 draw at home to Hendon on Saturday kept them in the final safe spot of fifth-bottom, they are now only three points above fourth-bottom Aveley and four better off than third-bottom Maidstone United.

Speaking after the Hendon match, assistant manager Adam Hinshelwood said: “We’ve just got to try and stay positive. Tonbridge is going to be a very difficult game and it’s going to be scorching hot again.”

United will be guaranteed to stay up if they match the result of Maidstone at home to rock-bottom and already relegated Folkestone Invicta, and fare better than Aveley at home to mid-table AFC Hornchurch.

Anything less than that, however, and it will all come down to the final day next weekend when United entertain Aveley and Maidstone travel to Hornchurch. United do have a much better goal difference though.

United were beaten 2-1 in February’s reverse fixture against fourth-placed Tonbridge which was overshadowed by claims that former Hastings striker and matchwinner Ade Olorunda was the target of racial abuse by a spectator.

“Tonbridge are a very good side and have got some influential players. We struggled to cope with them in the opening 20 minutes, but we’re a better side than we were then,” said United manager Jason Hopkinson.

Matt Hall is expected to return following illness, while Hinshelwood added that there were one or two strains after the Hendon game. Kick-off at Longmead Stadium is 3pm.