Hastings United maintained their unbeaten league status in an entertaining 2-2 draw away to Guernsey.
Craig Stone headed United in front after twenty-two minutes, with Charlton Gauvain equalising less than ten minutes later with his own header.
Guernsey snatched the lead through a Ross Allen penalty early in the second half after Stone was adjudged to have fouled him. United had to dig deep to get themselves back into the game and equalised with less than fifteen minutes remaining through Daniel Ajakaiye’s superb strike.
The game was played in difficult conditions because of a strong wind and a bumpy playing surface. Despite this, both teams played some excellent football with United manager Chris Agutter stating, “Guernsey are the best team United have played this season”.
It was United who made a confident start by maintaining possession and taking the game to their hosts, though it took fifteen minutes to create the first real chance. A break down the right by Jake Elliott before playing a pass across the edge of the area for Rodari, who scuffed his first-time shot. Five minutes later, Lanre Azeez hooked a shot wide after one of Ollie Black’s long throw-ins was flicked on.
United took a deserved lead on twenty-two minutes after being awarded a free-kick on the left of the area. Ryan Worrall crossed to the far post where Gary Elphick nodded back across goal for Stone to head in from close-range.
Immediately Ajakaiye had the chance to double the lead. Ben Pope set him free in the area but was forced wide and his eventual cross was collected by the goalkeeper.
Midway through the first-half and Guernsey began to ease their way into the game. A corner was pulled back to the edge of the area for Allen to shoot fiercely. Louis Rogers made a strong save and the follow up shot was blocked for a corner. On the half-hour Guernsey equalised. An excellent cross from the left fell perfectly for Gauvain who had lost his marker and headed in at the far post.
Before half-time, Gauvain fashioned himself another chance. Firing narrowly wide of the upright from twenty yards.
Half-time: Guernsey 1-1 Hastings United
United kicked-off the second-half and created an early chance. Stone’s long ball down the left found Pope who crossed for Ajakaiye. With his back to goal he tried a cheeky back-heel which thudded against the foot of the post. Minutes later Pope fired wide from twenty-five yards.
After United’s brief early spell of pressure, it was Guernsey who picked up how they had ended the first-half. Playing neat football and regularly reaching the United area. On ten minutes Guernsey worked the ball from right to left freeing Alex Scott to shoot from ten yards. Only a good block by Elliott prevented Rogers being called into action. Minutes later Scott with another chance from a similar position, this time Rogers did have to make a save to maintain parity.
Parity was short-lived. A Guernsey ball through the middle was half-cleared by Elphick into the path of Allen who went over in the area after getting in front of Stone. The referee deemed a foul and awarded a penalty. Allen brushed himself down and thumped the spot-kick home.
A minute later and United almost equalised. Pope flicked a header onto Ajakaiye to cross for Azeez whose goal-bound shot was sliced high into the air by a defender. Only a header off the line under pressure from Rodari maintained Guernsey’s lead.
With their unbeaten start to the league under serious threat and with Guernsey continuing to attack, it took a big effort from United to get themselves back into the game. Worrall’s whipped cross was headed wide by Stone before a series of Guernsey fouls turned the match back towards United.
As the game headed toward the final ten minutes, it was Ajakaiye to the fore. Worrall controlled a goal-kick on half-way and passed into Ajakaiye’s feet some forty yards out. A turn and a dart between two Guernsey players before Ajakaiye steadied himself and fired into the bottom corner from eighteen yards. A brilliant goal all of his own making.
Both teams went in search of a winner with United coming closest in the final minute. Ajakaiye won a corner from which Stone headed powerfully against the bar. The ball rebounded to Elliott to head goalward and Elphick flicked on. To United’s disbelief, a Guernsey defender again headed the ball clear from on the line. Hands on heads from all the players.
Full-time: Guernsey 2-2 Hastings United
An excellent away performance by United against a team who have won both of their previous home games. After their record breaking win on Tuesday, we saw a different side of United. A side which is resilient and capable of finding a way to obtain a result.
With Cray Valley losing to Whitehawk, the top of the table sees Cray on 28 points after 14 games, Whitehawk second on 26 points after 13 games with United lying third also on 26 points having played 12 games. United will have the opportunity to regain top spot when they visit Whitstable Town on Tuesday night.
Hastings United: Rogers, Black, Elphick, Stone, Elliott, Rodari, Ajakaiye, Pope (66’ Adams), Worrall (83’ Pogue), Lovatt, Azeez (Unused subs: Beale, Chalmers, Pool)
Guernsey: Stanton, F Tobin, Dodd, De La Mare, Strawbridge, H Tobin, Mahon, Scott, Gauvain, Allen, Canha (87’ Loaring) (Unused subs: Marsh, McKane, Mackay)
Next game: Tuesday 3rd December away to Whitstable Town, kick-off 7:45pm.