Goals by Justin Ascheri and Ricky Freeman gave Chatham Town a deserved point from an enthralling game at Hastings United.
Hastings went straight on the attack, and Alex Hyde was called upon to make two good saves in the first ten minutes. The Hastings players and supporters clearly believed that they could match the seven goals they scored at Chatham in November, and it was no surprise when Frannie Collin – a former Chatham player – gave them the lead on 17, although he can have been only just onside.
A Chatham corner after 20 minutes was dealt with unconvincingly by the Hastings defence, but Hastings were soon back on the attack, hitting the post and forcing another good save from Hyde. Chatham soon bounced back though, and on 24 Chris Saunders showed his skills inside the box before passing to Cameron Heffernan whose shot hit the post.
Kyron Lightfoot saw a shot saved, and then six minutes before half time Chatham were level. A long crossfield pass from Ryan Flack found Ascheri unmarked, and Ascheri lobbed Hastings keeper Pidgeley – who has played in the Premier League – from ten yards out for the equaliser.
Early in the second half, Collin put Hastings back in front with an exquisite free kick that gave Hyde no chance. Hastings were rampant again, and Hyde kept Chatham in the game with both a fine save and a clearing header following a defensive error.
With twenty minutes to play Ricky Gundry was brought as a sub, although not completely fit, and within a minute he had won Chatham a corner.
Within five minutes Chatham were level, after new signing Liam Smith’s long ball found Freeman. Keeper Pidgeley had come well out of his goal to meet Freeman, and Freeman calmly placed the ball over his head. Both men could only watch as the ball rolled into the net.
Chatham won a series of corners in the closing moments, and Freeman Rogers went close with a header.
Jon Difford cleared when Hastings won a corner in added time, and then Hastings won a free kick on half way in the fourth extra minute. Pidgeley came forward to take the kick with the rest of his team in the Chatham box, but his shot was caught by Hyde and the final whistle blew immediately.
Wins for Guernsey and Three Bridges were not what Chatham would have hoped for, and they mean that Chatham drop a place in the league to twenty-third. Even so, this was one of Chatham’s best performances of the season and they richly deserved the away point.