Hastings United had to settle for a 1–1 draw at home to Guernsey last Saturday after conceding a first half penalty, then two dismissals – leaving them to play nearly 30 minutes with nine men against eleven. It was scant reward for the valiant efforts of groundsman Simon Rudkin and other volunteer staff in getting the Pilot Field pitch ready after overnight snowfalls, and a disappointing loss of two more league points that should have been theirs for the taking against a very limited visiting team. 

It was not generally an over-physical game, but neither the penalty decision nor the two red cards could be seriously contested. Sam Cruttwell tripped a Guernsey player on one of the very few occasions that they managed to penetrate the home penalty area. Young defender Ollie Black received a yellow in the first half for a midfield infringement, then went into a tackle with a Guernsey player high and late within 15 minutes of the re-start; less than five minutes later Jack Dixon reacted angrily to a challenge and received a straight red. But if Chris Agutter’s side showed indiscipline in these instances, they must also be granted some plaudits in the way they continued to push forwards even in the face of such a numerical disadvantage before eventually seeing out time.

The ‘U’s had started brightly enough. Daniel Ajakaiye, who was lively throughout and deserved his man-of-the-match accolade, scored in the third minute. For the next half hour it was almost wholly one-way traffic, the home team dominant in midfield and pressing down both flanks. But a mixture of determined defence by the visitors, agile goalkeeping and some profligate finishing (Jordan Mongoy, hat-trick hero of the previous home win two weeks before, being particularly wasteful) kept them from adding to the score. After the penalty equaliser went in, Guernsey started to believe that it could be their day. In the final reckoning they will have flown home disappointed that they couldn’t make their superior numbers count over the last half hour.

United have now dropped to third in the Bostik League table, below Ashford United on goal difference and a whopping 13 points behind leaders Cray Wanderers. Next Saturday they travel to fourth-placed Horsham. It’s a game they will hope to win –  but will also be desperate not to lose. 

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