Hastings United failed to capitalise on a composed, positive opening thirty minutes with Aveley gradually gaining a foothold in the match and going on to inflict a first defeat (in normal time) of the season on the ‘U’s. The Millers broke away to score the only goal of the game early in the second-half and while United had the time, possession and chances to equalise they could not find that critical killer ball in the final third. When they did break through, they came up against Aveley goalkeeper, David Hughes, in fine form and United’s frustration was complete as even when Hughes was beaten the ball rattled against the crossbar from Kenny Pogue’s last-minute header.

Tuesday 8th December, a chilly dry evening with light cloud and little breeze. In any case, Aveley’s 3G pitch is impervious to the weather. United are in their claret shirts with white shorts and socks. Aveley wear white shirts with blue stripes, blue shorts and socks.

United kick-off and are into their stride immediately, retaining possession and moving the ball around well, seeking an opening. Five minutes in and Marcus Goldsmith threads a pin-point pass through to Ben Pope who is onside and bearing down on the penalty area before losing his footing at an inopportune moment.

The ‘U’s start again, recycling the ball where necessary. Craig Stone seeing a lot of the ball in the early stages and dictating the play. It is Stone who drives into the area and his cross is half-cleared to Sam Adams twenty-five yards out, however his low shot slides wide. Minutes later Stone is again involved with a foray forward and taking advantage of Goldsmith’s dummy run to cross for Pope to head goalward but without troubling the goalkeeper.

After dominating proceedings the game shifts its momentum as we reach the half-hour mark. Aveley break quickly down the right and out of nowhere create the best chance of the half. A sharp cut-back bypasses defenders and attackers but falls perfectly for the onrushing Morisi Gelashvili who leans back and blasts over from eight yards.

Following this let-off the remainder of the first-half is more even although it is still predominantly United on the front-foot. Tom Chalmers thinks he’s opened the scoring for United, but he’s flagged offside and the game remains scoreless. As the half draws to a close Goldsmith shoots from twenty yards which is straight at the goalkeeper.

Half time: Aveley 0 – 0 Hastings United

Aveley restart the game and are immediately on the offensive, winning a corner which comes to nothing but there is a directness to their play which has carried over from the final fifteen minutes of the first-half.

Twice in succession they swing the ball into the United area at the first opportunity. Then just before the hour mark Aveley make the breakthrough. A lightening attack down the right is worked deep into the corner from where an excellent cross is met at the far post by Mitchell Gilbey who heads down and in, giving Louis Rogers no chance.

United shuffle their pack with Lloyd Dawes and Knory Scott entering the fray. Immediately Dawes is into the action getting the ball out of his feet and taking aim from twenty-five yards, it looks to be arrowing toward the top corner and is theatrically plucked out of the air by the diving Hughes.

The ‘U’s keep plugging away. Dawes tricks his way past two defenders but is crowded out in the area, a Jake Elliott piledriver is blocked before another final ball fails to find its mark after a period of possession.

Into the last ten minutes and Scott has a shot saved low down by Hughes before penalty shouts for handball are waved away. From the resulting corner Gary Elphick sees his header also land within Hughes’ range before another corner is swung in and hacked away for yet another corner as United pile on the pressure in the closing minutes. This one is met by a powerful Pogue header which thuds against the underside of the bar, bouncing down and away. And even then, United created one last chance. Stone and Scott combining for Stone to whip in a tantalising cross which Davide Rodari glanced goalward but agonisingly the wrong side of the post, which proved to be the last touch of the game as the final whistle blew.

Full time: Aveley 1 – 0 Hastings United

Given this was the first competitive match for five weeks, credit goes to both sides for their performances. Fair play to Aveley who harangued and harassed throughout and took their chance when it came along, good luck to them in the next round. Even so United will be desperately frustrated not to be in the hat for the next round, especially as league fixtures continue to be paused. Nine times out of ten this is a game they win. Unfortunately on this occasion it was not to be. To end on a positive note, two long-term absentees in Dawes and Scott both looked fit and sharp when they entered the fray.

Hastings United: Rogers, Worrall, Elphick, Stone, Elliott, Rodari, Dixon (66’ Dawes), Pope (78’ Pogue), Adams, Chalmers (66’ Scott), Goldsmith (Unused subs: Mapstone, Peacock)

Aveley: Hughes, Ring, Goode (46’ Mochalski), Witherspoon, Gelashvili, Sheehan, Donovan, Gilbey (77’ Clark), Gard, Knight, Russell (Unused subs: Hossack, Ogunrinde)

Next game: Home to Newhaven in a friendly on Saturday 12th November, kick off at 3pm. Tickets available here... United vs Newhaven tickets

Bob Quinn @BobJQuinn