CHRIS AGUTTER says it is not a two-horse race for the title after Hastings United suffered their first home BetVictor South East defeat of the season to closest rivals Ashford United.

A Sam Hasler double and Jay May finish sunk leaders United at the Pilot Field in front of a season’s best 1,189 gate that also set the division’s record for the season.

May tucked away the 13th-minute opener after David Smith got in an angled shot-cross from the right.

Hasler, a loan signing from Folkestone on Thursday, drilled home the second six minutes later from 22 yards out.

Hasler killed the game off in the 79th minute after racing on to a pass from midfield before beating the advancing Louis Rogers.

It completed a league double for Ashford over Hastings, who saw their lead at the top cut to a point and their goal difference advantage suffer a five-goal swing.


Ashford look like the team to beat after their emphatic win on the sticky turf at United but boss Agutter believes there are other teams who have an interest.

He said: “Whitehawk will have a lot to say in it (title race). The point we got down there in the week was massive because there are not many teams that go there and get anything, and Ashford still have to play them.

“It’s certainly not between us and Ashford, Whitehawk will have to say about it, Herne Bay and others as the gap is not massive.”

Hastings stuck to their play-from-the-back principles but Ashford were physically strong and direct, soaking up pressure and hitting swiftly.

It might have been a different story if Jack Dixon had been able to touch home a cross across the six-yard box from the lively Daniel Ajakaiye at 2-0 down, or Jake Elliott’s superb run and shot had dipped in.

But for all their possession, Ashford’s keeper was never really tested and it was Rogers who had to make a good late save from Theo Osinforlarin to prevent a fourth on the break.

Agutter said: “We have been done on three counter attacks but, fair play to Ashford, they deserved to win.

“When you go a goal down like that against a team set up to counter. it’s always a challenge but we have had it many times this season and always come up with the right answers.

“Today we didn’t but we need to do what we did after the last loss – go on our biggest run of the season.”

Meanwhile, Ahmed Abdulla's header gave Whitehawk a 1-0 win over Sittingbourne to take them to within four points of Hastings.

Abdulla nodded in from close range after the Brickies failed to deal with a 33rd-minute free-kick.

Hawks have lost just once in 17 games but boss Jude Macdonald took most satisfaction from another shutout.

He said: “That’s three clean sheets in the last four games, which is really important going into this stage of the season with some difficult games coming up.”

Chichester closed on the play-offs with a 3-0 win at Guernsey and Burgess Hill won 2-1 against ten-man Faversham.

East Grinstead picked up their first win of the season with a 2-1 victory at Three Bridges courtesy of goals from Gil Carvalho and Dan Thompson after they had gone behind.

Hastings: Rogers, Black, Aboagye, (Azeez 63) Elphick, Stone, Elliott, Ajakaiye (Mfula 67), Pope, Worrall (Adams 60), Lovatt, Dixon. Unused subs: Beale, Pogue.

Ashford: Mott. Ossai, Wilson, Prescott, Bourne, McIntyre, Condon, Fagg, May (Stone 89), Smith (O’Connor 45), Hasler (Osinfolarin 80). Unused subs: Hook, Russo.