United striker Ben Pope opened his account for the season with a precise snapshot into the bottom corner, and with United in total control the lead was doubled by Gary Elphick’s bullet header from a corner just before half-time. FC Romania’s aggressive start to the second-half was then extinguished by Tom Chalmers rifling in United’s third just before the hour. Even on the back of a first league win FC Romania proved no match for a confident free-scoring United on their home turf, with the ‘U’s running out 3-0 winners.
Saturday 17th October, dry yet chilly with a gentle breeze and therefore good conditions for the game. United looking sharp in their claret shirts with white shorts and socks, whilst FC Romania are in full-blown yellow. There is a predominance of white boots amongst the Wolves players, all except Cristi Arotaritei (number 3) who didn’t get the memo and is wearing bright orange boots instead.
From the kick-off United are on the march. After only four minutes a deep corner is headed back across the six-yard area where Jake Elliott stretches to thrash a volley narrowly over the bar. It’s a warning shot which the visitors cannot heed because the ‘U’s are in no mood to hang around and take the lead after seven minutes. Ryan Worrall’s pass to Chalmers is played onto Elliott 25 yards out who slips a pass into Pope. With his back to goal Pope swivels as the ball approaches and hits a first-time shot, right to left, across the goalkeeper into the bottom corner. It’s Pope’s opening goal of the campaign and a striker’s instinctive finish. Everyone is delighted for the guy who does so much more than score goals.
Five minutes later and Craig Stone’s long ball frees Kenny Pogue down the left. There’s little on but Pogue cuts inside the defender and with space running out tries to squeeze a shot inside the near post only to be thwarted by the goalkeeper standing tall.
So, with only fifteen minutes on the clock, United are one goal to the good and could have had two or three. They are bossing possession and it’s looking like a long afternoon for the visitors. Repeatedly the ‘U’s are stringing a dozen or more passes together, seeking an opening. FC Romania have no option but to bide their time, soak up pressure and hope for breakaway. Which comes along on cue. United are caught playing 0ut from the back which gives the Wolves a free-kick on the right edge of the penalty area. It’s a chance they waste, a direct shot high and wide doesn’t pose any danger to the United goal.
United double their lead after half an hour. Elphick, Elliott and Pope exchange slide-rule passes down the right resulting in a corner. Worrall drills over the cross and Elphick powers a header goalward, its maybe going in but a deflection diverts the ball into the corner anyway.
It’s time for FC Romania to go direct. A ball over the top is laid back by Vladut Sighiartau to Adrian Hurdubei who shoots over and not so far wide. A good chance and a decent effort.
Though it is the home side who continue to look the more likely to trouble the scoreboard. Sam Adams has a shot saved after more good work from Pope and Pogue. And Pogue himself goes close when Pope picks up a loose pass and frees Pogue who finds himself in space 12 yards out but fires over aiming for a precise finish into the top corner. The final action of an entertaining first-half.
Half time: Hastings United 2 – 0 FC Romania
The opening ten minutes of the second-half are more frantic than any of the previous forty-five. FC Romania have nothing to lose and set about trying to knock United out of their stride.
It doesn’t work. Worrall’s ambitious long ball down the left leaves Ollie Black with a lot to do, indeed he’s second favourite but industrious enough to turn the tables and win the ball. His low cross finds Adams who taps into the path of Chalmers to hammer a shot into the roof of the net from eight yards. United are three goals ahead and there’s no way back for the visitors.
The ‘U’s continue to hog the ball but without creating anything of note until Adams nearly hits a fourth but sees his shot tipped over the bar.
With fifteen minutes to go there’s the welcome sight of United’s Davide Rodari coming on as a substitute for Pope. Rodari, who has been a long-term absentee due to a knee injury, receives a rapturous round of applause as he takes to the field.
And Rodari is immediately into the action using his pace to nearly latch onto a through ball. And in the final minute its almost the perfect reintroduction. Dixon, Adams and Elliott manoeuvre their way down the right allowing Dixon to cross to Rodari whose downward header from ten yards is palmed away by a full-stretch goalkeeper.
The fourth goal remains elusive but it is of no concern, the game is won and United are in the hat for the next round. The draw takes place on Monday 19th October at 1pm.
Full time: Hastings United 3 – 0 FC Romania
United continued where they left off after last week’s two winning games and never looked in danger of slipping up. FC Romania seem a decent team and at times put together some neat passing moves. But United are intent on keeping their momentum going and their performance more than warranted the win.
Man of the match: Ollie Black with the much deserved award. He’s the player you’d least like to play against; aggressive as a defender, dynamic as an attacking wing-back. Created the third goal through his tenacity and was absolutely rock-solid at the back.
Hastings United: Rogers, Black, Worrall (59’ Dixon), Elphick, Stone, Elliott, Pope (76’ Rodari), Adams, Chalmers, Pogue (57’ Capon), Ward (Unused subs: Goldsmith, Scott)
FC Romania: Darabant, Filip, Arotaritei, Dabquah, Izuchukwu, Follea (63’ Rita), Hurdubei, Taban, Sighiartau, Manesio (71’ Campbell), Mendy (57’ Michaelides) (Unused subs: Iacob)
Next game: Home to Three Bridges in the league on Tuesday 20th October, kick off at 7:45pm. Tickets are available here... United vs Three Bridges
Bob Quinn @BobJQuinn