Hastings United missed the chance to go top of the table after being held to a 1-1 draw at home to Sittingbourne tonight (Monday).
United instead had to settle for going back up to second in Ryman Football League Division One South, one point behind leaders Walton Casuals with two games in hand.
The U’s had won six of their seven home league games prior to kick-off, while Sittingbourne had lost six of their seven away trips but the visitors will feel they deserved a point against a team lying 16 places above them.
The first half of a match played in persistent drizzle was a fairly entertaining affair with United probably having the better of it but Sittingbourne certainly having their moments too.
United debutant Ronnie Dolan saw a long range effort pushed aside and Rodrigo Branco’s header from a Bailo Camara cross at the end of a good home move was saved by Sittingbourne goalkeeper Adam Molloy.
Branco, who had a bright opening 45 minutes, had a low effort from the edge of the box palmed away by Molloy and Sam Adams wasn’t far away with a curler, while Josh Pelling had to turn away a Tom Loynes shot low to his left at the other end.
United went ahead in dramatic fashion in the 35th minute. The referee decided that Branco had been fouled by George Crimmins just inside the box and although Adams saw his resulting penalty saved, the linesman ordered a retake and Molloy couldn’t quite prevent his second attempt trickling over the line.
The home side’s lead, however, lasted just five minutes. Pelling parried Joe Taylor’s initial effort, but Hitcham Akhazzan fired home the rebound. Pelling saved from Omar Folkes moments later having initially presented him with the chance by playing an uncharacteristically weak pass.
The second half was less eventful than the first. United were still playing the better football, but struggled to create chances and Sittingbourne had enough about them to cause some nervous moments in the home defence.
Branco’s effort from the tightest of angles was kept out by a goal-line clearance from the sliding Ashley Ulph before Pelling saved well at his near post. United midfielder Danny Ellis let fly with two attempts from distance, the first being pushed aside by Molloy and the second flashing just over.
Akhazzan struck the base of Pelling’s left-hand post with a terrific long range effort, while Sean Kelly twice came close to winning it for United with headers late on. His first attempt from an Adams corner struck the top of the crossbar and the second effort from Kenny Pogue’s cross dropped just wide.
United: Pelling, Slocombe, Hare, Darby (Woodley 82), Judge, Kelly, Ellis, Dolan, Branco (Pogue 73), Adams, Camara. Subs not used: Gilbert, Pacheco, Lee. Attendance: 328.
Ryman Division One South top six (played-points): 1 Walton Casuals 17-34, 2 HASTINGS UNITED 15-33, 3 Peacehaven & Telscombe 16-32, 4 Guernsey 14-27, 5 Worthing 18-27, 6 Leatherhead 14-26.