Hastings United finally ended their five-year wait for an FA Trophy victory this afternoon (Saturday).
The U’s edged out Brentwood Town 3-2 in a preliminary round tie at The Pilot Field which ended up being a good deal closer than it looked like being when United led 2-0 at half time.
With United lying third-from-top in Ryman Football League Division One South and Brentwood third-from-bottom of Division One North, the U’s would have been optimistic of securing their first win in the national non-league knockout competition since a 3-2 victory at Harrow Borough in autumn 2008.
Brentwood goalkeeper Tim Pitman saved a Sam Adams free kick and Kenny Pogue’s angled drive in quick succession before United opened the scoring midway through the first half. Adams laid the ball off for Bailo Camara to fire into the roof of the net from just inside the box.
The visitors came close to equalising, however, on three occasions in the next 10 minutes. Jack Gardner shot just wide of the far post before United goalkeeper Josh Pelling saved from Jason Dobbs and Steve Carvell glanced a left wing cross against the far upright.
Pogue wasted a great opportunity when his cross to Adams wasn’t good enough and Adams sent a free kick into the side-netting. United doubled their advantage in the 39th minute as Adams played a good ball across goal from the left-hand side of the box, presenting Pogue with a simple tap in.
Gardner flashed an angled drive just over as Brentwood again got in down their right-hand side, while Pogue blazed over at the other end from an inviting position just inside the box with final act of the first half.
It looked like being a routine win for United at the break, but Sean Kelly was shown a straight red card within two minutes of the restart. The central defender went in with a two-footed jumping tackle, but won the ball cleanly and there seemed to be few complaints about the challenge from the Brentwood players.
All of a sudden there was a bit of hope for the visitors and they pulled one back in the 70th minute. Gardner’s low cross from the right-hand side of the box was diverted against his own crossbar by Ben Judge and Carvell nodded in the rebound from close range.
United restored their two-goal cushion three minutes later. Substitute striker Rodrigo Branco had already gone through on goal once and tripped over the ball, but this time he rounded Pitman and finished clinically from an acute angle.
The lively Branco had another opportunity three minutes later and wasn’t far away with a very good lob. Brentwood again got within one in the 78th minute as Dan Subuloa dispatched a penalty into the roof of the net after Danny Ellis was adjudged to have fouled Dobbs in the right-hand side of the box.
Subuloa chipped narrowly wide from the edge of the box soon afterwards, but there were no more scares for United thereafter. In fact, Ellis flashed a shot wide of the far post and Pitman was grateful to swoop on the loose ball following a 50-50 challenge with that man Branco.
United’s reward is another home against league rivals Horsham - the former club of manager John Maggs - in the next round on Saturday October 19. The scheduled league game away to Guernsey on that date will be postponed.
United: Pelling, Slocombe, Fobi-Edusei (Richardson 70), Camara, Judge, Kelly, Ellis, Olorunda, Pogue (Branco 66), Adams, Woodley (Gilbert 51). Subs not used: Cruttwell, Burbridge. Attendance: 344.