Hastings United’s footballers suffered their first away defeat for nearly three months this afternoon (Saturday).
The U’s conceded a goal at the end of either half as they went down 2-0 against fifth-placed Herne Bay in Ryman Football League Division One South and had their captain sent-off near the end.
With Herne Bay having picked up 16 points from their previous six league games and United 15, spectators would probably have arrived at a grey and breezy Winch’s Field expecting a decent contest.
But this really wasn’t a game that will live long in the memory and it was a frustrating one for a United side which welcomed Sam Cole back into the starting line-up and Zac Attwood to the subsitutes’ bench following injury.
The first half was a tight affair with few goalscoring opportunities. The first openings fell to United when a Jack Harris header from Cole’s good cross was saved by Herne Bay goalkeeper Jack Delo, who seconds later tipped over Simon Johnson’s looping header.
With United playing up the slope on a heavy surface, Cole headed a Sam Adams free kick into the side-netting at the far post and Billy Medlock drove just over the Herne Bay crossbar from distance.
United were enjoying a pretty decent spell when Herne Bay opened the scoring with a goal out of nothing in the 45th minute, Joe Nelder lifting a neat finish over Josh Pelling in the away goal.
Herne Bay looked fairly comfortable for much of a scrappy and stop-start second half featuring a number of free kicks and stoppages, not to mention some questionable refereeing decisions.
Medlock was whiskers away from getting on the end of a good low cross from Tyrell Richardson-Brown - a half time replacement for Johnson - and Sam Cruttwell fired into the side-netting from the left-hand edge of the box in United’s best moments.
At the other end, Pelling pulled off a fine reflex save to keep out Mark Lovell’s glancing header from one of several well-delivered Herne Bay set-pieces.
As the clock ticked into added time, home substitute Elliot Cutts pulled his shot wide of the far post with just Pelling to beat at the end of a great solo run.
United skipper Ollie Rowe was shown a straight red card for bundling over Lovell just outside the box. Home captain Danny Walder drove the resulting free kick under the wall and into the net for Herne Bay’s second goal in the 93rd minute.
United failed to score for the first time since the FA Cup defeat against Poole Town on October 10, while Herne Bay have now gone a remarkable 602 minutes without conceding.
United: Pelling, Crabb (Cumming-Bart 73), Wilson, Rowe, Ray, Cruttwell, Medlock, Adams, Harris (Attwood 69), Johnson (Richardson-Brown HT), Cole. Subs not used: Temba, Hollbone. Attendance: 202.
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