Hayling United moved a step closer to relegation from the Wessex League premier division after a 3-1 loss at home to leaders Poole Town last night.
While the victory virtually assured the Dolphins of the title and promotion to the Southern League south & west, Lee Paul’s Humbugs look destined for the drop.
With just four matches left to play this season, they are now eight points off safety.
The gulf in ability between the sides was such that once Poole striker Carl Preston had galloped clear to beat keeper Steve May with a cross shot that flew in off the base of a post – and Tom Jeffs doubled the advantage on 35 minutes – any hopes Hayling had disappeared.
To their credit, however, they did put Poole under heavy pressure at times but the nearest they came to pulling a goal back in the opening 45 minutes was a well-struck shot from Josh Case that former Gosport Borough keeper Nick Hutchings claimed under his crossbar.
At the other end, veteran May continually spared his side a hammering with quality saves to deny Crystal Palace target Steve Smith, Preston and the busy Dan Cann.
Before the match, Poole manager Tommy Killick complained about the poor pitch surface, though it made no difference to his side who quickly adapted to the bumpy conditions.
And it wasn’t until late on that they took their foot off the pedal and sacrificed a clean sheet, as Hayling’s Dan Martin raced in to power home a header from close range. But it stood for nothing more than a consolation as Poole had already extended their lead, Steve Richardson’s cross-shot cannoning off several legs in a packed six-yard area to find the corner of the net.
Now Hayling can only hope that other relegation-threatened clubs continue to lose their remaining matches, while basement battlers Brockenhurst could find themselves having points deducted for allegedly fielding an unregistered player when they met Brading.
‘Time is running out for us but there are still points to be won and we await the result of the Wessex League findings on the Brockenhurst issue,’ said Paul.
‘The spirit of the lads came through once again and after we scored, Poole did well to keep us from pulling back at least another goal. So from our point of view, we still have a foot in the door,.
‘It hasn’t slammed shut on us so we are still in with a chance of staying up.
‘And if teams around us continue to shed points, then it could be them and not us for relegation.’
Hayling United: May, Watts, Thornton, Salter-Vaile, Martin, Clements, Case, Kirby, Black, Burney, Fisher. Substitutes: Ayres, Walker, Tambling, Smallbones.
Poole Town: Hutchings, Sturgess, Spetch, Dibba, Walker, Richardson, Jeffs, Hubbard, Smith, Preston, Cann. Substitutes: Bassiriki, Gale, Cook, Cuss, Roberts.
n In the Puma Engineering Hampshire League, Paulsgrove went down 4-3 at AFC Stoneham, Liphook shared a 4-4 draw with Fleetlands and University of Portsmouth thrashed Hamble Club 6-0.