Hastings United player-manager Sean Ray has described today as the best day in his footballing life.
The U’s overturned a half time deficit to win 2-1 away to higher grade Bishop’s Stortford and reach the FA Cup second round proper for the first time.
Speaking on the pitch after the game, Ray said: “It’s certainly the best day in my life other than the kids being born. I don’t know what to feel.
“What support we had as well. I thought we were the home side; they (the supporters) didn’t shut up all game. That was for them as well.
“First 15 minutes they were the better side. A lot of sides would’ve caved in and lost that game, but we held ourselves together and from 20 minutes onwards there was only one team in it.
“I thought we worked their ‘keeper more than Matt (Armstrong-Ford, the Hastings goalkeeper) was worked and no-one will tell me we didn’t deserve that.”
Ray was a key figure in United’s success, particularly during the second half. He firstly made a goal-line block, then a crucial last ditch tackle and after that scored the equaliser from Lee Carey’s corner.
“I challenged the first one (from the corner) and it hit me in the mouth, but I managed to slam it home,” said Ray. “I didn’t know what to do (after scoring). I didn’t want to jump in the crowd and get booked.
“There was no doubt in my mind we were going to win this game. I said to the players before the game the bare minimum I expected today was a draw and they had a chance of making history by being the first Hastings side to reach the second round of the FA Cup. I’m as proud as anyone.”
Highlights of this afternoon’s FA Cup first round matches will be broadcast on ITV 1 from 11.20pm tonight and the draw for round two will be made live on the same channel at approximately 2.40pm tomorrow.