Can Hastings United recreate the FA Cup magic of six years ago?
Hastings United will be hoping to recreate the magic of six years ago as the football club seeks to continue its Emirates FA Cup progress.
Chris Agutter’s side will travel to Hitchin Town in third round qualifying tomorrow (Saturday).
Hastings won at the same ground at the corresponding stage of the world famous competition in the 2012/13 season and went on to reach the third round proper.
Agutter said: “When people like (captain) Sam Adams say they’ve never been so far in the FA Cup, you realise just how big a deal it is. We’re never going to win the FA Cup, but if we could go as far as possible, it would be great.”
Hitchin play a level above Hastings in the non-league pyramid, but are third-from-bottom of the Evo-Stik Southern Premier Central and Hastings are second in the Bostik League South East Division.
Hastings have already knocked two higher level clubs - Kingstonian and Leiston - out of the FA Cup this term and have won 10 of their 11 matches so far in all competitions.
“It’s a winnable tie, definitely,” continued Agutter. “I don’t think Hitchin are in the best form of their lives, but that can go out the window in the FA Cup.
“I think we’re playing really well. When we beat Kingstonian (in first round qualifying on September 8), I don’t think we were playing as well as we are now. Our performances are on an upward curve, definitely.
“We’re in a good moment, and we need to keep doing the right things and keep doing the ugly things well, and take that into the biggest game of the season so far.”
Hitchin scraped through the previous round on penalties against a Didcot Town side which plays a level below them.
“I think they’ll be well-organised and probably similar to Kingstonian, go from back to front quickly, a physically big, powerful side,” Agutter went on. “They’ll be effective from set-pieces and well-drilled, but we’ll prepare accordingly really. We know if we can do what we do really well, we can cope with those types of opponents.
“And I think we can dictate to them. I think we can go there confident and put our stamp on the game.”
Agutter hopes Sam Beale and Antonio Walker will recover from the injuries which forced them in the Buildbase FA Trophy win away to Waltham Abbey last weekend. Sonny Dullaway was carried off in the same game and his knee became quite swollen.
Of the 3-1 victory over Waltham, Agutter said: “It was a really positive day at the office. I think the first half-hour was the best we’ve played this season, it was a great spell of football.“I thought we were brilliant and we could’ve been four or 5-0 up. We really carved them apart and that alone warranted the win.
“Antonio came off injured and after that we lost our rhythm a little bit and got involved in their game - they were quite back to front - and gave away a sloppy goal before half time.“After that it was a 50-50 game and Charlie (Horlock) made a great save at 1-1, but we came on strong again and got the deserved win.
“There were lots of positive individual performances. Antonio was excellent, Tom Climpson carried on where he left off the previous Tuesday night, and the midfield of Jack Dixon, Sam Adams and Hassan Ibrahim was excellent.”