HASTINGS United Football Club is set to be without its leading scorer for what promises to be a fascinating climax to the season.
Billy Medlock will miss United’s final two Ryman Football League Division One South matches - and the play-offs should they get there - with an ankle injury sustained in last weekend’s 4-2 win at home to Molesey.
Having scored in either half to take his tally for the campaign to 28 - the best return by a Hastings player since Terry White in 1999/2000 - Medlock was caught by a lunging tackle and had to be helped off the pitch.
His ankle quickly swelled up like a balloon and the swelling has made it difficult for hospital staff to diagnose the full extent of the injury, although it won’t be a short-term recovery.
“It could be ligaments (damage),” said United manager Garry Wilson, who took Medlock to hospital on Saturday night with assistant boss Danny Bloor. “They’re still not sure. He’s wearing a protective boot and he’s on crutches.”
Although Medlock’s goals will inevitably be a huge miss, United do have other attacking options and Zac Attwood was on target during a decent display after replacing Medlock against Molesey.
“Billy’s bang in form at the moment, but other players have got to step up to the mark and get us through,” continued Wilson. “Hopefully they can do that. I’m not deeply concerned.”
All of the five other top seven clubs in action on Saturday also won, but United’s hopes of reaching the play-offs received an unexpected boost on Tuesday night when rivals Faversham Town lost 2-1 away to neighbours Sittingbourne.
“I wasn’t expecting that, but it’s the way football goes sometimes,” said Wilson. “We’ve been away midweek to places you’re expected to win and haven’t won. It can happen.”
United therefore continue to hold the final play-off spot of fifth and remain above sixth-placed Faversham on goal difference, with Corinthian-Casuals just a point adrift in seventh. United are four points behind the two teams immediately above them.
“It makes it a little bit more into our hands,” continued Wilson. “We’ve all got a few tricky games left and it’s going to go down to the last day whatever happens.”
Although United’s remaining opponents have nothing to play for, the games away to 10th-placed Ramsgate today (Saturday) and at home to ninth-placed Herne Bay next weekend will be far from easy.
“Away games are always tricky,” added Wilson. “The boy (Joe) Taylor scores a lot of goals for them (Ramsgate), but they will know they’re in for a game.”
Other than Medlock, Wilson expects to have a full squad to pick from against a Ramsgate side which United beat 3-2 in December’s reverse fixture.
United, incidentally, now have more points than they achieved when they made the play-offs two years ago and are one shy of the total Whyteleafe achieved when finishing fifth last season.
The U’s are also up to 96 league goals for the campaign - a figure bettered only by champions Folkestone Invicta - but they’ve conceded the most of anyone in the top seven.
United are running a coach to today’s match, leaving The Pilot Field at 11.30am. The cost is £12 for adults, with a £2 discount for supporters’ club members, and £5 for under-18s. Call Dave Russell on 07970 332270 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to save a place.
Remaining fixtures - Hastings United (5th, 80pts): today (Saturday) Ramsgate (a), April 23 Herne Bay (h).
Worthing (3rd, 84pts): today Guernsey (a), April 23 Ramsgate (h).
Hythe Town (4th, 84pts): today Chipstead (h), April 23 Faversham Town (a).
Faversham Town (6th, 80pts): today East Grinstead Town (a), April 23 Hythe Town (h).
Corinthian-Casuals (7th, 79pts): today Walton Casuals (a), April 23 Three Bridges (h).
Don’t miss out on all the latest breaking news where you live.
Here are four ways you can be sure you’ll be amongst the first to know what’s going on.
1 Make this website your homepage
2 Like our Facebook page at facebook.com/pages/Sport-Sussex
3 Follow us on Twitter @SportSussex
4 Register with us by clicking on ‘sign in’ (top right corner). You can then receive our daily newsletter AND add your point of view to stories that you read here.
And do share with your family and friends - so they don’t miss out!