There are three relegation spots at the foot of the Ryman South. Hastings are, after today’s draw, four points above them and definitely in the mix for the drop. They are firmly staring down the barrel and, as we all know, when you’re at the bottom nothing goes your way. Pretty much everyone in the crowd of 287 (bettered in this division only by top of the table Burgess Hill Town) knew that when the referee announced five minutes of added time at the end of a match in which Hastings had scrapped to a 2-1 advantage that it was only going to end one way. Sure enough, three minutes later, along came the scrabbled, avoidable heartbreaker.
This was not a good game although, thankfully, a dire first half that ended goalless gave way to a second in which both teams clicked a little better and there were chances and incidents enough to fight off the February chill. The home side took the lead early in the second half, against the run of play but after a neat attacking move, and they held out until Three Bridges scored the kind of goal that would have sent the Soccer Saturday studio into raptures. Five minutes from time they went ahead again but then, as mandated by fate, could not hold out. No doubt the bar talk afterwards talked of hope, of possibilities – it says a lot that Hastings’ goal difference is a mere -6 despite 16 defeats from 33 games. This is not a team that is getting thumped week in week out, but it is a team that can’t win.
I brought along a son – who declared that he will now support Hastings despite calling them ‘Eastbourne’ for most of the match – and managed to take a few photies of the game as well. The gloominess and my ineptitude means they’re aren’t many but they are here.
The season rolls on now for Hastings (as I’m sure it does for Three Bridges but they’re not my local so I haven’t looked into the matter) but to avoid that plunge into Sussex League football they really are going to have find ways of closing games like this out – even when the tannoy says there’s five minutes more to go and the gods are feeling like a giggle.