Hastings United’s long westward journey to Weymouth ended with a slender 1 – 0 defeat in their FA Trophy third qualifying round tie.
United dominated the first half but were unable to find a vital breakthrough. Abdulai Baggie’s opportunistic goal on the hour extinguished United’s interest in what was their fourth game in the competition. Weymouth were grateful for a man of the match performance by their goalkeeper Calum Ward.
Weymouth entered the competition at this round courtesy of being two divisions above United in the football pyramid. Yet, after Weymouth’s Yemi Odubade fired over in the third minute, it was United who held sway over their opponents with long periods of possession and opportunities to score.
On ten minutes, a move involving Ryan Worrall, Jack Dixon and Daniel Ajakaiye ended with the latter setting up Dixon on the edge of the area to shoot low and hard, forcing Ward into his first save of the game. Jake Elliott then crossed to the far post which required Ward to tip the ball over the bar for a corner.
United continued to be incisive. Lanre Azeez and Adam Lovatt fashioned a shooting chance for Ben Pope which flew wide. Elliott was then involved again, winning a strong tackle before playing a one-two with Azeez. His shot from inside the area was saved by the feet of Ward with the rebound landing out of reach.
Midway through the first half and United were building pressure, in no way overawed by Weymouth. Characteristic of their play, United passed themselves out of a tight corner through Elliott and Azeez before spreading the ball wide for Ajakaiye. His pass inside to Worrall was uncharacteristically fired over from 25 yards.
It took 30 minutes before Weymouth threatened United’s goal again. Jordan Ngalo’s shot was comfortably saved by Louis Rogers before Baggie passed to an overlapping Ollie Harfield, whose whipped cross into the six-yard box missed everyone.
United thought they had taken the lead on 42 minutes. A shot by Dixon was saved again by Ward and the resulting in-swinging corner was powerfully headed home by Gary Elphick. The referee’s whistle rudely interrupted celebrations. The reason for the decision not clear.
Weymouth then nearly stole the lead themselves. After a scrappy bit of play on the edge of the United area, the ball broke to Josh McQuoid. His sharp shot hit the base of the post with Ngalo shooting wildly over from the rebound.
Half-time: Weymouth 0 – 0 Hastings United
Weymouth began the second half with far more purpose than their first half performance. Twice Harfield found space to cross after overlapping runs, one of which led to Ngalo curling a shot narrowly wide of the top corner. There was a bit of rain in the air too and this was setting the gremlins free. In other words, the game was getting feisty.
Dixon looked to be fouled in midfield but instead of a United free-kick on half-way, the outcome was a Weymouth corner instead. The cross was met by Jake McCarthy’s firm header which Rogers athletically tipped over the bar.
The deadlock was broken on 61 minutes. McQuoid broke away down the left and his cross was only half cleared. Baggie latched onto the loose ball and scored at the near post from eight yards. Weymouth rewarded for their strong start to the second half.
United began to push players forward looking for an equaliser. Elliott and Pope played a one-two allowing Elliott to gallop forward but his shot lacked power and didn’t trouble Ward. With space opening up, it was Weymouth who broke forward next, ending with Josh Wakefield’s side-footed effort straight at Rogers.
As the half wore on, United continued trying to get back into the game. Despite stringing numerous passes together, the final ball just wouldn’t come off. This was illustrated by Azeez who battled hard to win the ball on the right wing and swung over a lovely cross, which flew inches over the heads of both Davide Rodari and Elphick.
The game ended on a sour note for Dixon. Chasing a loose ball, a shoulder challenge on Brennan Camp left the defender in a heap and the referee produced a harsh straight red card.
Full-time: Weymouth 1 – 0 Hastings United
A game of fine margins. After a superb first half performance, United will rue missed opportunities to take at least a one-goal lead. Weymouth looked a completely different side in the second half and demonstrated why they are flying high in their league, unbeaten in their last ten league games. Despite the gap in divisions, it was the Weymouth goalkeeper who was awarded man of the match and the home crowd who were baying for the final whistle. Whilst no consolation for United, it highlights how their composure and commitment brought the best out of the hosts.
Hastings United: Rogers, Black, Elphick, Elliott, Ajakaiye, Pope (70’ Rodari), Beale (70’ Adams), Worrall, Lovatt, Azeez, Dixon (Unused subs: Hull, White, Pogue, Chalmers, Pool)
Weymouth: Ward, Harfield, Camp, Ngalo, McCarthy, McQuoid, Baggie, Murray (26’ Wakefield), Odubade (83’ Wells), Brooks, Hobson (Unused subs: Prodomo, Zubar)
Next game: Tuesday 26th November, away to East Grinstead Town in the Velocity Trophy, kick-off 7:30pm.