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Hastings United 3-3 Kingstonian

Courtesy of the football authorities' intriguing admissions system for this level, Dulwich Hamlet had a very odd last day of the season, in that they had already played all their matches. No such luxury was afforded to K's fans, who set south for sunny Hastings. Sitting in sixth place on Saturday morning, a win would guarantee that much coveted play-off spot. But by 5pm such hopes were firmly dashed as an 'up for it' Hastings split the points.

Ian McDonald made just two changes to the side that put 5 past Lymington. Steve Symes became the third man to wear the number 4 shirt in as many games, with Martyn Lee dropped to the bench in favour of a three up front combo of James Rose, Charley Side and Tony Reid.

The match opened with a pace and fervour which would leave an uninformed neutral to suspect both sides had promotion prospects to chase, though the reality was that Hastings were playing for little more than a mid-table position. The opening exchanges were filled with high tempo end to end football with chances at both ends, but it was the visitors who first took the lead on the tenth minute.

So cosy

Richard Taylor tried to take a long throw when one of the Hastings players lept up to block the ball about a yard from the touchline. After a brief chat with his linesman and the offending player, the referee opted not for a free kick, but ordered a retake of the throw. Taylor's throw was every bit as good as a cross and Scott Corbett was able to leap to head home for his 7th of the season.

The visitors' lead was, however, short-lived and just three minutes later K's were undone by a Hastings corner. Put in toward the near post, Hughes went up for the ball but failed to make the catch. The dropped ball bounced off a defender before falling at the feet of Danny Williams who equalised from a yard out with no great difficulty.

Ten minutes later K's woes were doubled when Russell Eldridge added to the Hastings tally. A good run from the Hastings midfielder made him plenty of space. The long ball over caught Jon Coke out of position and Eldridge was able to make the shot. Hughes blocked the first effort, but was only able to parry it back into the path of Eldridge, who made no mistake on the second time of asking.

Half an hour in Corbett was blatantly pushed in the back just outside the box. Bashiru Alimi played the resultant free kick short into the crowd of players. Sills headed on to the far post where Reid, played onside by a defender on the opposite post, was left completely unmarked. All Reid had left to do was tap the ball into an unguarded net to level the scores with his 14th of the season (below).

Reid pokes in

'What you got, Reidy?'

Once again Hastings demonstrated that having nothing but league position to play for didn't mean they weren't going to play for it. The scores remained level for less than ten minutes. Duncan Mcarthur picked up a short clearance and broke quickly to run through the Kingstonian defence and put a cross goal shot past Hughes, who picked the ball out of his net for the third time.

The second half had similar levels of intensity and controversy as the first, but inevitably a match of this magnitude and passion began to deteriorate as time went by. Fifteen minutes in K's were awarded a penalty for a handball by Matt Piper. Rose powered the penalty to the bottom right corner. Chris May dived the right way but the power was such that the ball bounced off the keeper's hands into the underside of the goal, clearly crossing the line before bouncing out again. The linesman signalled for a goal, but the referee signalled for encroachment - something he did twice when K's visited Cray early in the season. Rose stepped up again and this time the keeper was sent the wrong way and the scores were level again.

Despite continuing pressure from both sides, the match began to enter a painful stalemate of scruffy defending and wreckless play. Both K's captain Julian Sills and United's Tim Olurunda received second yellows.

Whether it was simply the pressure of the occasion, or the surprise at Hastings United's determination to finish their season on a high note, the simple truth is that Kingstonian were unable to produce the performance that was required of them.

The picture says it all

Whilst after two successive relegations, seventh place may seem like a positive result, fans' feelings of disappointment are understandable. After a disappointing start to the season, dropping as low as 19th at one point, the run of form over the winter period shot Kingstonian back into business end of the league and really, there were many opportunities over recent weeks to make sure that the trip to Hastings should not have been the pressure game it turned out to be.

Sat 29th Apr 2006
The Pilot Field
Isthmian League Division One
Hastings United3
Corbett, Reid, Rose (pen)
1Alan Hughes
2Scott Corbett
3Jon CokeCautioned
4Steve Symes16
5Julian SillsCautioned and Sent Off
6Richard Taylor
7Danny WardCautioned14
8Bashiru AlimiCautioned
9James Rose
10Charley Side15
11Tony Reid
12Paul Wetherall
14Martyn Lee7
15Kenny Ojukwa10
16Steve Potterill4
17Jonty Venter
Match Report By
Kevin O'Connor