A glance at the league table below shows that there are four teams still with realistic ambitions to challenge for the South-East Division title over the last six weeks of the season, and thus gain automatic promotion to the Isthmian Premier: Hastings United, Ashford United, Whitehawk and Cray Valley PM. Hastings, now back in pole position, have ten remaining matches as follows:

14th March Phoenix Sports (away) 
21st March  Three Bridges (home)
24th March Chichester City (away)
28th March Ramsgate (away)
4th April Cray Valley PM (home)
7th April Hythe Town (away)
11th April Faversham (away)
13th April Burgess Hill Town (home)
18th April Herne Bay (away)
25th April Guernsey (home)

Adam Lovatt in action against Whitstable
PICTURE: Scott White

It will be seen that of these, six are away, including at Chichester City (7th in the table) and Herne Bay (5th), and the ‘U’s’ away form – five wins and seven draws in 13 games – compares poorly with their formidable home record, where they’ve won 13 out of 15. On the other hand there have been no league defeats either at Pilot Field or on the road apart from by Ashford; they have a settled side with no first choice players other than Davide Rodari sidelined through injury; and are guided by a manager who will draw on last season’s near-miss disappointment to drive the players on.

If Hastings do fall short, they will surely qualify within the top five finishers for a play-off place, and at least this season the winner of that knock-out series is guaranteed promotion, unlike a year ago. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that, though.

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