Hastings United Football Club was victorious in its first game since the midweek change of ownership this afternoon (Saturday).
New majority shareholder Dave Ormerod looked on from the directors’ box as a second half goal from Olalekan Bankole gave the U’s a crucial 1-0 win at home to Herne Bay.
The result was all the more important in view of away victories for fellow strugglers East Grinstead Town (today) and Ramsgate (yesterday), and United remain one place and one point above the three Ryman Football League Division One South relegation spots.
United’s fourth home league victory of the season completed their first ‘double’ of the campaign having also won away to Herne Bay just before Christmas. In fact, the U’s have now won all four meetings with the Kent side since the start of last term without conceding.
Josh Jirbandey went straight into United’s starting line-up after returning from his studies in America, while Sam Cruttwell lined-up in central midfield and winger Tyrell Richardson-Brown operated as the lone striker.
United produced a far better performance than in their previous home fixture against Horsham a fortnight previously and were deserving of their victory against a Herne Bay side which arrived at The Pilot Field unbeaten on its travels in 2015.
United on the whole had the better of the first half, certainly during the initial half-hour, and carved out the two best opportunities of 45 minutes which went by without a single shot on target.
Both of them fell to Richardson-Brown, who firstly headed a cross from the influential Steve Brinkhurst wide of the target and then rounded away goalkeeper Jack Dello from Cruttwell’s long ball over the top only to shoot wide of the near post.
Herne Bay made the stronger start to the second period. Mark Lovell’s fiercely-struck 25-yard drive was well dealt with by United goalkeeper Josh Pelling, who then gathered Danny Spiller’s free kick.
Jirbandey volleyed straight at Dello before United came agonisingly close to breaking the deadlock when Richardson-Brown headed against the angle of post and crossbar from Marlon Patterson’s cross.
The same two players were heavily involved in the all-important goal. The impressive Patterson put Richardson-Brown through with a lovely pass and although his left-foot shot hit the crossbar, Bankole nodded in the rebound from close range.
Richardson-Brown later hit the side-netting with a deflected shot from just outside the box and Sean Ray’s header from the resulting Sam Willett corner went just wide of the near post.
With Ray and Jirbandey in resolute form at the back, United saw the game out relatively comfortably other than James Turner poking wide of the near post following a right wing cross and then shooting straight at Pelling.
United: Pelling, Rose, Turner, Bankole, Ray, Jirbandey, Brinkhurst, Cruttwell (T. Olorunda 58), Richardson-Brown, Logan (Willett 74), Patterson. Subs not used: Foster, Maclean, Giles. Attendance: 392.
Ryman Division One South bottom five (played-points): 20 East Grinstead Town 42-43, 21 HASTINGS UNITED 42-41, 22 Ramsgate 41-40, 23 Redhill 42-37, 24 Horsham 42-33.