Hastings United’s footballers were knocked out of the FA Trophy in agonising fashion tonight (Tuesday).
The U’s were edged out 2-1 at home to Merthyr Town, the winner coming from an own goal in the third minute of added time at a windswept Pilot Field.
It was cruel on a United side which had produced a pretty decent performance against higher grade opposition, although Merthyr will no doubt feel they deserved a bit of good fortune after the original meeting between the clubs on Saturday was abandoned at half time with the Welsh outfit leading 2-0.
Both clubs made three changes to their starting line-ups from Saturday’s match, but this was a far more even contest as Ryman Football League Division One South side United held their own against Southern League Premier Division team Merthyr.
United played with the wind behind them during the first half. They fashioned a couple of half chances before Billy Medlock shot straight at Merthyr goalkeeper Cameron Clarke in the game’s first clear opportunity following a lovely Jack Harris lay-off.
The U’s were on top when Merthyr opened the scoring in the 30th minute. Home goalkeeper Josh Pelling did well to keep out Ian Traylor’s back post header from a right wing cross, but Corey Jenkins tucked away the rebound.
Pelling gathered Jarrad Wright’s low drive from outside the box at the second attempt as the first half ended 1-0. United started the second half period positively, despite now playing against the elements, and Medlock’s crisp low drive was well held by Clarke.
Merthyr then spurned a golden opportunity to double their advantage when defender Rhys Baggridge - who was sent-off on Saturday - lifted the ball over the crossbar from barely a couple of yards after a left wing corner was flicked on.
United never looked out of it and got back on level terms in the 72nd minute. Ollie Rowe crossed the ball back into the box after a corner was only half cleared and fellow central defender Sean Ray glanced his header into the far bottom corner.
Pelling produced a good save at his near post to deny Traylor before Ashley Evans rattled United’s crossbar with a superbly struck left-foot half-volley from just outside the box.
United played with three up-front during the closing 10 minutes or so and Chris Cumming-Bart fired over from a tight angle beyond the far post after Harris was whiskers away from getting on the end of Medlock’s inviting cross.
With a replay in south Wales next Tuesday night beckoning, Merthyr won it in the 93rd minute. A left wing corner swung in sharply and was unwittingly glanced in at the near post by United full-back Sam Crabb.
There was still time for Pelling to go up for a United corner, but the ball was cleared and with the home goal unguarded, Traylor’s shot from wide on the Merthyr left rolled just wide of the far post.
It was only United’s second defeat in 11 cup matches this season and Merthyr’s reward will be a third round qualifying tie at home to East Thurrock United on Saturday November 28.
United: Pelling, Crabb, Hall (Cumming-Bart 65), Rowe, Ray, Cruttwell, Medlock, Adams, Harris, Johnson, Hollobone (Temba 82). Subs not used: Foster, Hause, Rose. Attendance: 150.
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