Hastings United Football Club dug in to earn a gritty FA Trophy victory this afternoon (Sunday).
A first half goal from Sam Adams and a second successive clean sheet earned Hastings a 1-0 preliminary round win away to Romford.
Hastings manager Chris Agutter made one change to the starting line-up from the league win at home to Carshalton Athletic last Tuesday, Ollie Rowe replacing the injured Tom Vickers in central defence.
The game began at a frantic pace with Hastings - who lie 17th in Bostik Football League Division One South - and Romford - who are second-bottom of Division One North - both looking bright.
It was Hastings who landed what proved to be the telling blow after 15 minutes. Adams rose highest in the penalty area to meet Sam Cruttwell’s free kick with a lovely header - his first goal since returning to the club last month.
Hastings looked in control at that point, but the rest of the first half in a match played at Thurrock FC rather fizzled out amid a host of stoppages for fouls, injuries and the ball sailing out of the ground.
Romford came out much stronger in the second period and caused quite a few problems down their right flank, albeit without fashioning that many goalscoring opportunities.
That said, Hastings required some brilliant last ditch defending from Rhys Whyborne, goalkeeper Charlie Horlock and Whyborne again to throw themselves at the ball and block a trio of shots when Romford seemed certain to equalise.
Horlock did well to divert another effort, which bounced awkwardly in front of him, against the post, while a ball into the area landed just wide of the far post.
Jack Dixon saw a shot tipped round the post for Hastings, who assumed a more bit control during the closing quarter-of-an-hour. Davide Rodari came off the bench and forced a good save from the home goalkeeper.
Romford threw everyone forward bar the goalkeeper in the latter stages, but Hastings held firm and saw the game out to record their first away victory since August.
Adams again played well and Ollie Black had a very good game at left-back, while Rowe and Whyborne formed a useful partnership in the middle.
Hastings’ reward is £3,000 from the FA’s prize fund and a home tie against Ashford Town (Middx) in first round qualifying on Saturday October 28. The league game at home to Chipstead, which is scheduled for that date, will therefore have to be rearranged.
Hastings: Horlock, Akoto, Black, Carey, Whyborne, Rowe, Cruttwell (Rodari), Dixon, Adams, Pogue, Beale (Lovatt). Subs not used: Climpson, Janneh, Bown. Attendance: 130.
* HASTINGS United Football Club will hold a fans’ forum at the Hastings United Sports & Social Club on Tuesday (October 10) from 7.15pm.
The panel will include manager Chris Agutter and director of football Dean White, and the forum will be chaired by club chairman and director Dave Ormerod.