Hayling paid the penalty for a woeful first-half performance as they crashed to a 4-1 defeat against league leaders Blackfield & Langley.
The Humbugs could have easily trailed by six or seven goals at the break but salvaged some pride with a much-improved performance after the break.
There was a sense that it wasn’t going to be the home side’s afternoon when they conceded a soft goal in the opening minute, failing to clear Blackfield’s first attack down the left and when the play was played into the area, Ekowe Elliott took advantage of a static defence to turn the ball past Luke Hutchings.
Elliott could have had a hat-trick inside the first five minutes. Twice he found space on the edge of the area but on both occasions fired wide.
However, there was no denying the striker a second goal on nine minutes. Once again the defence failed to clear the ball and the front man fired home from the edge of the area.
Five minutes later and the Watersiders were three up. Emanuel Soetan’s step-over took him past Steve Black and his cross was nodded in by Kevin Gibbons.
It was clear which side was looking forward to winning the league and which team had one eye on the end of the season as the champions-elect threatened to run riot.
Pete Murphy cleared off the line as Gibbons’ shot trickled towards goal, Alex Baldacchino smacked a shot straight at Hutchings and Elliott chose to shoot with three players unmarked at the far post.
The fourth goal duly arrived on the half hour when Jake Rowley and Soetan combined to set up Gibbons for his second header of the match.
Hutchings then produced a leaping save to deny Baldacchino as the top scorer chased down a long ball out of defence.
Hayling enjoyed their best spell of the game immediately after the restart. Mike Turvey and Alex Esaton both went close before Jack Salter-Vaile reduced the arrears with the goal of the game – a stunning flick and volley into the top corner from almost 30 yards.
With the match all but over, Blackfield were content to sit back, soak up the pressure and hit the hosts on the counter-attack.
They stepped up the pace in the last quarter of the game and almost added a fifth but substitute George Bowerman’s first touch after coming on hit the base of the post.
Wessex League premier division
HAYLING UNITED 1 (Salter-Vaile)
BLACKFIELD & LANGLEY 4 (Elliott 2, Gibbons 2)