Elphick the hero as U’s progress

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Late drama in the Cup as U’s win in stoppage time

The FA Cup on Saturday gave us an emotional rollercoaster as the U’s got over the line away at Broadfields Utd. A second in two games for our newest goal machine, Ollie Black, and a Gary Elphick brace were enough to send the U’s through on a sweltering Surrey afternoon.

The U’s got the game underway, courtesy of Lanre Azeez, wearing number 15 today due to the return to the squad of Lloyd Dawes. And, I’d barely had the chance to set a timer going when Hastings won a free kick just inside the Broadfields half. Dixon lofted in the free kick, and it was flicked back by Gary Elphick, before a wonderful manoeuvre by Ollie Black meant he was able to get an effort away, which found the bottom corner and sent the U’s fans behind the goal into raptures. The perfect start to the afternoon for the boys in claret.

Just a few minutes later they came agonisingly close to a second – and showed their teeth in regards to their back to front play. An expert sliding challenge by Gary Elphick won the ball back deep in the U’s territory, and after a counter attack was half snuffed out, Black stepped up to release one of his monster throws, which was half punched by the goalkeeper, and met by Hasler, who drilled off of the far post and out. The chance to be two up after ten denied by a matter of inches.

And they were made to pay a few minutes afterwards. The hosts knocked the ball around and released a through ball that caught the U’s backline flat footed, and Rico Clarke-Rowe calmly finished into the far corner to equalise and leave Hastings to ask questions of how they were allowed to create and finish an opportunity like that.

Whilst the U’s were the better team for the time after the equaliser, Broadfields showed a renewed sense of self belief, with loose balls and second balls ending up with the hosts more often than not. The U’s continued to pose a clear and present danger when in the final third, with Hasler having a deflected free kick saved by the Broadfields stopper Lincoln. Martin was also his usual tenacious self, linking well with Azeez on the opposite flank, whose cross was intercepted with Ben Pope lurking in the six yard box.

And, with ten minutes until half time, the U’s were made to rue their missed chances. A foul by Craig Stone (which saw him booked) just outside the box halted the Broadfields attack, but Rhys Ellis stepped up to bend the free kick into the top corner, leaving Rogers no chance and the visitors in a state of shock as Ellis reeled away in delight. The hosts leading the tie for the first time.

Before the interval the U’s had two more chances, both courtesy of Ben Pope. The first was more of a half chance in all honesty, as a bouncing through ball was hit on the half volley from distance and an unfriendly angle, and ended up in the barrier between the goal and the fans. In stoppage time Pope took over free kick duties, and his effort was well hit, but rattled the pole holding up the net, as opposed to the net itself.

And with that, the U’s went into the dressing room knowing they had a big task on their hands.

HT : Broadfields Utd 2-1 Hastings Utd

The second half started differently to the first, as was to be expected with the scenario that was being faced. The U’s started with a much higher line than 45 minutes prior, trying to ramp up the pressure on the hosts early on in the half. This meant that Broadfields were able to play long balls for their wingers to chase, but fortunately the U’s defensive coverage was good enough that, when they succeeded, they were just as quickly defended.

However, at the other end, things just weren’t clicking as we’ve seen them do so many times. Haslers trademark through balls were being read and intercepted every time, the touches were that inch too far ahead and were being intercepted and Broadfields were generally playing better football and looking more dangerous. It started to feel like it just wasn’t going to be the U’s day, particularly when substitute Lloyd Dawes headed over from close range. They were huffing and puffing as Broadfields sat back to try and complete the cupset.

But, where there’s a Pogue, there’s a way. King Kenny was brought on for Marcus Goldsmith to bolster the numbers in the box, ahead of the influx of balls we knew we were going to see in the final few minutes. He was brought on just before an Ollie Black throw, and immediately made a nuisance of himself, which meant Gary Elphick was able to get his experienced head to the ball, which connected perfectly and hit the side netting, but the right side of the woodwork. Level. Celebrations from the supporters (who were, as usual, unreal), but the ball was raced back to the centre spot, as the U’s wanted to avoid a Tuesday FA Cup night under the lights at the TGS Pilot Field in their already hectic schedule.

And then, it came. The anger. The pressure. (Yes, that is a line from Paralyzed by Dream Theater. Couldn’t resist.) A Dave Martin corner, a slight scramble, the roof of net bulges. As Hastings celebrated, there was mass confusion, as the linesman’s flag being raised had coincided with a Broadfields player hitting the deck. However, the linesman was flagging to confirm the ball had crossed the line, and not for an infringement. Gary Elphick and his beautiful bonce had done it.

It had been one heck of a tie. And the U’s were the victors.

FT : Broadfields Utd 2-3 Hastings Utd

Broadfields Utd : Lincoln, Tango, Brown, Dubovecky, S Blennerhassett ©, Watson (O’Keefe 10′), Aliu, Ellis, Jarraz (Spinks 78′), Clarke-Rowe, Smith

Unused subs : R Blennerhassett, Walcott, Burgess, Davey, Faley

Broadfields booking : Aliu

Broadfields goals : Clarke-Rowe, 14′ ; Ellis, 35′

Hastings Utd : Rogers, Black, Elphick, Stone, Goldsmith (Pogue 84′), Dixon ©, Chalmers, Hasler, Martin, Azeez (Dawes 65′), Pope

Unused subs : Simmons, Legg, Adams, Bates

Hastings bookings : Stone, Pope, Martin

Hastings goals : Black, 2′ ; Elphick, 84′, 90+’

Next Fixture : AFC Dunstable (H), Buildbase FA Trophy, 3pm KO, 25/9/2021

Ryan Segal