Hastings United Football Club pulled off a fine victory over higher grade opposition to continue its progress in the Emirates FA Cup.
Bostik League South East Division leaders Hastings won 2-1 at home to Bostik League Premier Division side Kingstonian in first round qualifying today (Saturday).
All three goals came in the space of six breathless first half minutes. Strikes by Daniel Ajakaiye and Sinnkaye Christie gave Hastings a hard-earned victory in a good cup tie which could have gone either way.
Kingstonian would’ve headed back up the A21 ruing their failure to convert several presentable opportunities during a nervy second half for the Hastings supporters in the largest crowd for a competitive game at The Pilot Field since August 2017.
Hastings made a bright start and enjoyed plenty of early possession. Ajakaiye had a driven shot well blocked, while at the other end, Elliott Buchanan’s effort from the tightest of angles was pushed away by Hastings goalkeeper Charlie Horlock.
The home side opened the scoring after 15 minutes. A good move down the left ended with Kelvin Ogboe pulling the ball back from the byeline to Ajakaiye, who turned cleverly before rolling a left-footed shot across goalkeeper Robert Tolfrey into the net for his 10th goal already this season.
Hastings’ lead, however, lasted just three minutes. The initial shot from Gregory Cundle was blocked, but the ball rebounded out to Manolis Gogonas, who produced a tremendous strike from outside the area into the corner of the net, giving Horlock no chance.
Hastings were back in front two minutes later. A corner from the home left wasn’t cleared by Kingstonian and Christie struck a low left-footed shot which clipped the inside of the post on its way into the net.
The game settled down for a while after that, although Kingstonian threatened two or three times in the final 10 minutes of the first half.
Horlock made a decent save low down at his near post from Olumide Oluwatemilehin’s deflected shot, Cundle’s strike from outside the box deflected wide and Hastings were grateful for some determined defending by Adam Lovatt to snuff out another Kingstonian attack.
Ogboe thought he had won a penalty when tripped by Gogonas early in the second half, but the referee adjudged the foul to have been committed just outside the area. Buchanan had the ball in the net at the other end only to see the offside flag raised, much to his displeasure.
Hastings then had a couple of chances to make it 3-1. Ajakaiye latched on to a weak Kingstonian back header, but his lift over the goalkeeper was neither a shot nor a cross. Ogboe then pulled his shot wide from inside the box following a lovely pass from the impressive Jamie Fielding.
After Muhammadu Faal was unsuccessful with his appeal for a penalty following a long Kingstonian throw, things became rather edgy for the home supporters as Kingstonian had four pretty decent opportunities, mostly of Hastings’ own making, in 15 minutes just after the midway point in the half.
Horlock did well to deny a clean through Faal as he tried to round him at the end of a Kingstonian break from a Hastings corner before Aaron Lamont chipped just wide from distance with Horlock out of his goal.
Buchanan shot just wide from the edge of the area after Hastings lost possession midway inside their own half, while Cundle’s header from an inviting position in front of goal after Hastings failed to deal with another Gogonas long throw was safely held by Horlock.
Having survived those near misses, Hastings endured few alarms during the closing 15 minutes and Sam Cruttwell flashed a shot just wide at the other end before Antonio Walker’s attempt was blocked by Toby Ajala having been nicely played in by Ajakaiye.
The final whistle was greeted by enthusiastic celebrations from Hastings’ players and management as the club earned £6,000 from the FA’s prize (in addition to the £2,890 it got for winning in the previous round) and a place in Monday’s second round qualifying draw.
Hastings: Horlock, Fielding, Beale, Cruttwell, Howlett-Mundle, Christie, Golding (Dullaway HT), Lovatt, Ajakaiye, Dixon (Adams 71), Ogboe (Walker 65). Subs not used: Vickers, Janneh, Mensah, Climpson. Attendance: 602.