Its the late, late, late show - AGAIN
Hastings United 1-2 The Mead
For the third time in seven days, a Mead contest has been decided at the death - but this time it was even later than before .
Following the dramatic win over Herne Bay last Wednesday and the heart-breaking defeat to Cray Wanderers at the weekend Tuesday night at Pilot Field saw the Mead claim three points but scoring twice in stoppage time to claim the points, which seemed unlikely but in the final analysis were fully deserved.
Behind when a defensive mistake allowed Hastings to take a 48th minute lead, the Mead finally found a way through the home defence as the clock ticked to ninety minutes when Paul Vines drilled home a fierce shot in off the left post, and there was still time for debutant substitute Raphael Duyile to combine with fellow replacement Tobi Ajala to coolly round the keeper to win the game, and spark a bench clearance which showed just how important these three points were to the squad.
Pilot Field is an old fashioned ground with what surely must be one of the biggest playing areas in the division and the Mead took full advantage to play some good possession football yet frustratingly seldom threatened home keeper Horlock. The Mead weren't helped in the early stages when Richard Avery was forced off with a leg injury - fortunately, the gaffer was able to bring Leon Smith into the action after completing his recent suspension.
Alex Teniola went close early on shooting wide before Vinesy fired past the post from a good position and when Horlock made a stunning double save to keep out Laurent Mendy's header, you feared that it might not be the Mead's night especially as the visitors were indebted to Lewis Carey at the other end as the stopper made great saves from Pogue and Cruttwell before the break.
Three minutes into the second half, Hastings took advantage of a poor clearance to take the lead. Leon beat Cruttwell to the ball but sliced his clearance high into the air, and with the wind swirling all over the place, Jake McIntyre didn't make clean contact in nodding the ball back to Lewis allowing Cruttwell to nip in and score.
The goal knocked the stuffing out of the Mead for a while, but full credit to the boys for the way they responded and kept plugging away. Bode Anidugbe and Tom O'Connor formed a great partnership in central midfield and provided a great engine-room for the Mead - one which allowed the visitors to take a foot-hold in the game. There were had loud penalty appeals which were waved away after Joe Denny was flattened after a charging forward run before Horlock made a second amazing block to deny the luckless Laurent - the keeper performed heroics to keep his side in front with an amazing point blank stop!
At the other end only Lovatt will know how he missed with a free header from Rodari's corner but the miss was to be crucial as in the final seconds of normal time, Jake partially redeemed himself by flighting a great ball into the Hastings box which Laurent was able to somehow divert into Vinesy's path, and the Mead number nine did the rest - thundering in a shot which flew in off the left post!
Incredibly Hastings had the chances to win the game as Rodari's great run saw him drill in a shot that flew just past the post, before the Mead won the game. Tobi Ajala who had just replaced Harvey Brand - who had had another fine game at full back - just before the equaliser fed a brilliant ball into Raph, and the debutant (who himself had replaced Alex earlier) rounded Horlock brilliantly to win the game and spark that bench clearance.
Undoubtedly this was three points won the hard way, but whichever way you look at this win on the Sussex coast, the message must be clear - leave a Mead game early at your peril!
THE MEAD - Carey, Brand (Ajala), McIntyre, Anidugbe, Avery (Smith), Denny, Green, O'Connor, Vines, Teniola (Duyile), Mendy
Subs - Kinch & Ovenden