At the match: Hastings United v Cray Wanderers

Close quarters action … Copyright (C) Jon Smalldon 2019, All rights reserved.

It was the kind of day where a person dressed as an animal because they are raising money for charity winds up leading the home fans in a chant of “We’ve got the best bear in the league.” It was the kind of day where going 2-0 down after six minutes never seemed to anyone like the end of the match. It was the kind of day where the ref looks stern and blows the whistle for an imagined ankle tap but then fails to notice actual wrestling. It was a superb kind of day, full of all the best that non league can offer.

Elsewhere in the country they’ve been having weather. This is Hastings, we have wind. Parkrun was cancelled because Storm Hannah meant volunteers could not safely stand still and marshall. Later in the day, up the hill and a bit more sheltered, it had calmed down a little but was still ever present. And so, on this very blustery day, we got ourselves a whirlwind of a match.

Cray are top of the table by a country mile. One defeat all season long. Hastings gave them determined pursuit earlier in the year but have drifted back a fair bit since. Only a fool would have backed anything other than an away win … and I would have loved to have seen the odds when the Hastings defence fluffed their lines twice in quick succession to give the almost invincible visitors that two goal lead.

But, how things change. It was 2-2 at the half’s midpoint. Cruttwell sent in a howitzer that, wind assisted, deceived the keeper and stayed true under the bar before Rodari scored a carbon copy of Cray’s goals with a close-in tap.

In the tempest, more madness. Good luck to anyone trying to explain what happened. Bars and posts were hit. Players felled. Others dived. Goalie redemption from well-saved shots. The referee waved cards. Some felt the urge to introduce themselves to opponents with some choice expressions. 491 people got their money’s worth and then some. A dancing bear lead the chants and several hundred quid went towards a homeless charity. The usual.

The winner came surprisingly early in the second half. Another well struck shot, this time against the wind. With still more than half an hour to go more goals seemed likely but despite no let up in the end to end action, none came. In the end, after five and more minutes of injury time, it was 3-2 to Hastings. Somehow.

I brought along the camera. Some photos are here. Hastings are in the running for the end of season play offs even if I have no idea how they will actually work; Cray will win the division even despite today. And we will all be back again for more in the future. Although maybe not the charity bear.

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