Hasler heroics see Hastings through

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Braces from Hasler and Pope enough to beat Harefield

An arduous day of travel up the M25 proved worth it for the U’s as they secured a place in the Second Qualifying round of the Emirates FA Cup. 2 Ben Pope goals either side of a Sam Hasler Brace secured a 4-0 win in the vicinity of the Middlesex clouds. 

The game was kicked into life by the U’s after just four minutes, when summer recruit Dave Martin, who would be a constant threat down the left, put in an inch perfect cross onto the head of Ben Pope, who glanced his effort agonisingly onto the post, before it was scrambled away. An early warning shot from the visitors.

It would continue in this vein for another twelve minutes, with notable chances being created down the flanks by Martin and Chalmers, but coming to nothing.

However, on 16 minutes, the pressure finally paid off as a Martin cross was adjudged by the referee to have been deflected off the hand of the the Harefield defender, and after a moment of hesitation, he blew to give the spot kick. Ben Pope stepped up, and walloped his penalty into the top corner (goalkeepers left) to give the U’s a deserved advantage.

The next few minutes saw somewhat of a resurgence from the hosts, with Tashan Jordan volleying narrowly over from the edge of the box, but the U’s continued to create the best chances, and, with 22 minutes on the clock, Dave Martin was again the architect, playing a ball across the face of goal, which Tom Chalmers was a whisker away from converting to double the Hastings lead. 

It continued to be Hastings pressure dominating proceedings, with Ben Popes hold up play creating chances a plenty. The best of those being a threatening passage of pass n’ move football between him and Martin, but in the end they left it too long to let a shot go and Harefield managed to recover.

However, it wasn’t long before the boys in blue were able to celebrate again – with Sam Hasler adding his name to the roll of honour. The ball came to him inside the Harefield box, and whilst the strike won’t go down as his finest, it had enough on it to escape the goalkeeper Mallets clutches and find the far corner. The lead doubled by the midfield maestro.

And, before there was a chance for breath to be caught, Hasler had his second and Hastings’ third. A much more triumphant finish, as he let a low fizzing effort go from distance, which took a slight flick of a defenders calf as it journeyed into the bottom corner. 3-0 before half time.

And, like after the first goal, it elicited a response from Harefield, who were unlucky not to pull one back just before the break, when, similar to the earlier described Martin cross towards TC chance, when Tasham Jordan put a cross in for Petrit Krasniqi, who narrowly missed the ball for a chance to narrow the arrears.

Krasniqi did offer the final threat of the half, but his near post effort was well saved by Louis Rogers.

Half Time : Harefield Utd 0-3 Hastings Utd

The second half didn’t quite start in a manner as frantic as the first, but it certainly saw a more balanced opening than we’d seen earlier in the day. Harefield had a period of sustained possession and pressure for the first time in the day, and the period ended with a half volley courtesy of Lewis White, which, whilst it didn’t nestle in the net, wedged itself happily between the fence behind the goal and the netting behind it.

White was the main threat of the home side once more, releasing an effort from a similar distance, but this one just over the crossbar. 

And, as the clock ticked over the hour, both sides had great chances to break the second half deadlock. Firstly Hastings, after Hasler and TC linked up well down the right hand side, which resulted in a strike by Chalmers towards the near post, which was well saved by Mallett. Harefield countered, and it took a miraculous last ditch block to deny Jordan a tap in, before the rebound was put over. Although the scoreline still read 0-3, the home side were showing much more than they had in the first half.

It felt as though there was a goal coming, and, to the delight of the traveling crowd, it was courtesy of Ben Pope. From distance, Pope spotted Mallett off of his line, and, with the opener in his system, he tried the audacious long range lob, which Mallett got a hand to, but like Haslers first, it wasn’t enough and soon enough Pope and Chris Agutter were high fiving whilst smiling ear to ear. A brilliant effort to put the tie beyond doubt with 65 minutes on the clock.

The game quietened down after that. The flames of a potential comeback extinguished in style by Pope, it became a much less intense affair – that is, of course, after the customary Harefield chance after a goal. Jordan the threat once more, as he forced an outstanding save out of Hastings stopper Rogers.

There was a controversial moment 74 minutes in however, as Harefields Callum Neal made boot to head contact with Sam Hasler. He received a caution for the offence, a fair decision based on the circumstances. Kenny Pogue also entered the book in stoppage time for a needless altercation after a foul.

Just after the foul, a treble change occurred for the U’s, including the departure of Hasler. But the headline was, without doubt, the return of Lanre Azeez in a U’s jersey. In his signature 17. He came on to the right flank and immediately the pace he injected added a new lease of life to the game. I think I speak for all U’s fans when I say how great it is to see him back on the Hastings wing.

Speaking of Hastings fans, a massive shoutout to the incredible supporters who followed the team to Middlesex. In full voice for 90 minutes as per usual, inspiring the team to victory.

Full Time : Harefield Utd 0-4 Hastings Utd

Harefield – Mallett (GK), Bunce, Green, McCorkell (Porcher 84′), Murphy, Mangan ©, Krasniqi (Pacquette 63′), White, Austin (Alizai 72′), Jordan, Neal

Harefield unused subs – Ballheimer (GK), Ogunsola, Underwood, Grange

Hastings – Rogers, Black, Elphick (Greig 75′), Stone, Chalmers, Adams ©, Dixon, Pope (Pogue 75′), Hasler (Azeez 75′), Jenkins, Martin

Hastings unused subs – Simmons, Penn, Turner, Scott

Hastings goals – Pope, 16′ (P), 65′ ; Hasler, 34′, 36′

Att : 350

Ryan Segal