Chris Agutter was left frustrated after a controversial, late extra-time winner sent Hastings United crashing out of the FA Cup in their first qualifying round replay against Worthing on Tuesday night.
Craig Stone put the U’s in front in emphatic style before former Worthing striker Ben Pope doubled their lead two minutes into the second-half. But two goals in six minutes – a header from Lloyd Dawes and a rebounded tap in by substitute Ollie Pearce from Ricky Aguiar’s long range effort – drew Worthing level as the match headed into extra time.
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With penalties looming, Jesse Starkey floated a Worthing free kick on to the head of Marvin Armstrong who nodded home from six yards out to send the 510-strong crowd into delirium and send Hastings home empty-handed.
Hastings manager Agutter felt aggrieved in what he described a ‘missed opportunity’. He said: “The game was decided by some outrageous decisions, I know when we deserve to lose games and don’t get me wrong, Worthing are a good side but both games should have been done and dusted.
Agutter admitted it was partly his team’s fault for ‘missing chances’ but said the fact that the game was ultimately decided by refereeing decisions was a ‘disgrace’.
He added: “It’s a kick in the teeth because, over the two games against higher level opposition, we’ve been the better side, I’ve got no doubt about that. It is a missed opportunity because we really were dominant. To have not got what I believe we deserve is really frustrating.”
United travel to fellow Sussex side Three Bridges on Saturday (September 14) and Agutter appeared grateful that his side can return to focusing on the league.
He said: “We know where we’re at as a team, we know what we’re capable of, so the biggest positive is there’s now not going to be a backlog in terms of fixtures. Now we can concentrate solely on what matters.”
Hastings: Rogers, Elphick, Stone, Elliot, Akakaiye, Pope (Pogue 82’), Adams (Pool 103’), Beale, Lovatt, Azeez, Dixon (Worrall 90’). Unused subs: Black, Hull, Chalmers