Ollie’s bolt from the blue lifts United

Hastings United hauled themselves three points clear of the Ryman Premier relegation zone with a crucial 3-1 win away to fellow strugglers Folkestone Invicta.

Goals from Russell Eldridge, Ollie Rowe and substitute Kenny Pogue did the damage against Kent opposition that played all but eight minutes of the second half with only 10 men following the sending-off of Robbie Kember.

To complete a very good day for the U’s, all their relegation rivals lost with Aveley going down 1-0 at home to Wealdstone, Croydon Athletic losing 4-0 against Canvey Island and Maidstone United being pipped 1-0 at Tonbridge Angels.

Hastings made a bright start at Cheriton Road and after Matt Hall had forced a decent save out of keeper Jack Delo they took the lead on the quarter-hour mark through an exquisitely flighted free kick from Eldridge.

Hall was denied by Delo for a second time before a slowly improving Folkestone side deservedly got back on level terms seven minutes before half time, Darren Smith firing home following a neat interchange of passes on the left hand edge of the Hastings box.

Sam Adams should have restored Hastings’ lead on half time but his effort - from a whipped Eldridge cross - was cleared off the line.

Folkestone suffered a huge body blow on 53 minutes when Kember was shown a second yellow card of the match for a lunging challenge on George Porter.

From then on Hastings dictated proceedings as they probed for an opening. One arrived courtesy of Porter’s through ball but Pogue failed to make the most of the opportunity and Liam Dickson just about managed to clear.

The goal finally arrived in the 76th minute and what a goal it was.

There seemed little danger when right back Rowe - who grabbed the winner against Billericay Town the previous week - decided to chance his arm and let fly from 35 yards. The shot could not have been better hit as it sped past the reach of the grasping Delo and thumped inside the far upright for a quite glorious strike.

The goal knocked the stuffing out of Folkestone and Pogue made sure of the points with a cushioned volley from Harry Beautyman’s raking pass. Pogue was denied a second when Delo tipped a thumping effort against the crossbar.

Hastings also gave a debut to their latest signing, winger Ben Billings who has played for Seaford Town, Welling United, Aveley, Eastbourne Town and Eastbourne United.

Hastings (4-5-1): Barton; Rowe, Ray, Jirbandey, Storrie; Adams, Manning (Pogue 62), Beautyman (Davisson 88), Hall, Eldridge (Billings 72); Porter. Booked: Rowe, Manning.

Ryman Premier bottom six (played-points): Horsham 34-32, HASTINGS UNITED 32-29, Aveley 31-26, Folkestone Invicta 32-25, Croydon Athletic 32-22, Maidstone Utd 32-21.