Hastings United vs AFC Dunstable – FA Trophy First Qualifying Round
Three second-half goals saw Hastings United sweep aside AFC Dunstable who had goalkeeper Jamie Head dismissed on the stroke of half-time following an altercation with United winger Dave Martin. The home side, who had dominated possession without creating a clear-cut opportunity, broke the deadlock seven minutes into the second-half courtesy of a Ben Pope penalty awarded for a foul on Tom Chalmers. A decision which further incensed the visitors. Pope doubled the lead on 68 minutes sweeping home from eight yards. Moments later Sam Hasler smashed a third from 18 yards after a swift breakaway to end Dunstable’s chances and put United into the hat for the next round.
Saturday 25th September, a 3pm kick-off in warm sunshine, players shadows on the pitch and the lightest of breezes. Pretty much perfect conditions. The ‘U’s are in their home kit of claret shirts with white shorts and socks while our visitors, the OD’s, are kitted out top to bottom in royal blue.
Dunstable do the honours, but it is United who are swiftly into their stride maintaining possession before twice Craig Stone sets Lloyd Dawes away down the right. On six minutes United win a corner, the cross bounces around before landing at Stone’s feet and his shot on the turn from 12 yards is tipped over the bar by Head. Not sure how much he knew about it, but either way the ball hit his glove and flew over.
United are so much in control they seamlessly switch to three at the back with full-back Marcus Goldsmith making himself the extra man in midfield. Time with the ball though doesn’t equate to chances with Dunstable holding their own at the back. United only have Hasler’s shot, deflected narrowly wide with Head rooted to the spot, to show for their positive start. Indeed Dunstable conjure their own opportunity when they break down the right and a cross falls for Jervon Campbell who shoots on the turn but over.
A decent chance then does arrive for Pope. Hasler’s brilliant pass inside the full-back releases Martin down the left wing and his cross is headed wide by Pope. To be fair, United’s centre forward had to check his run slightly which put him off balance.
Dawes is proving to be a thorn in the visitor’s side. He superbly controls a ball dropping out of the sky before he turns and drives at the defence where he is upended, earning a caution for Sam McClelland. Hasler’s freekick though hits the wall. Minutes later another freekick is struck sweetly by Dawes and literally whistles a foot over the bar.
With ten minutes to half-time the game is yet to be set alight, let’s say it is smouldering. The ‘U’s are forcing the pace while Dunstable are biding their time, soaking up pressure and looking to hit United on the break. That may be their tactic or perhaps it’s the game plan they are being forced to adopt.
Ollie Black, who has scored in consecutive games, goes on an unexpected barnstorming run. From inside his own half he travels 50 yards before unleashing a 25-yard shot, it’s on target but straight at Head who saves. That would have been some goal. A third in succession and the club may have had to erect a statue of United’s marauding left-back.
The half ends in dramatic circumstances. A long ball bounces into the Dunstable area and the ball is there to be contested. Martin and Head come together, the goalkeeper catches the ball and if there’s contact it looks to be minimal. Head reacts like a hibernating bear being woken with a poke from a sharp stick, and red mist descends in the September sunshine. A hand on Martin’s throat, a fistful of shirt with pushing and shoving narrow the referee’s options when it comes to meting out punishment. Martin sees yellow while Head’s card is the colour of an early bath. There’s five minutes of shenanigans while Dunstable argue the decision and work out who is going to take over in goal. It appears they do not have a replacement goalkeeper on the bench and in the end the gloves are handed to their biggest substitute, Ryan Fraser.
Half-time: Hastings United 0 – 0 AFC Dunstable
United get us underway for the second-half. The visitors will be playing 45+ minutes with ten men so they’ll be hoping to keep it tight, defend for the lives and take the game to penalties. A ploy which goes awry after four minutes. Hasler’s pass into Chalmers’ feet allows him to twist and turn in the penalty area before he’s hauled down. The referee immediately points to the spot leaving Dunstable incensed. They surround the referee and his assistant and almost three minutes have passed before Pope puts the ball on the spot then scores in the bottom corner. The ‘U’s in front.
There’s a brief lull while United enjoy the lead and Dunstable get themselves under control. Dawes is still proving to be a handful, he has a shot blocked and then a header saved as United look for a second. Which arrives via a stunning 50-yard ping from Stone toward Kenny Pogue. The defender does well to stretch but his header back toward Fraser isn’t quite strong enough. Pogue is able to challenge and the ball falls to Pope who sweeps home from 10 yards.
Two minutes later and the game is out of sight. United break with pace from their penalty area through Jack Bates who frees Hasler on the right. He has one thing on his mind, cuts inside onto his left foot and slams a strike into the bottom corner from 18 yards. Stunning goal from a man in form.
The final period is attack versus defence. Fraser makes a good full length save from Bates and though Pope looks favourite to seal a hat-trick following up, he’s on the stretch and pokes wide. Chalmers almost caps his own terrific performance with a 60-yard jaunt through the heart of the pitch, à la Ollie Black! Chalmers gliding over the turf like a thoroughbred before thumping a rising drive over the bar.
Credit to Dunstable, they have kept plugging away even though it hasn’t been their day, and they no doubt feel aggrieved by some of the decisions which have gone against them. Even so, when the final whistle blows Louis Rogers in United’s goal hasn’t had to make a save.
United have won six on the bounce and scored at least three goals in each of the last five games. Form they will hope to take into Tuesday nights much anticipated league game against Ashford United.
Full-time: Hastings United 3 – 0 AFC Dunstable
Man of the match: Ben Pope for his two goals and (as always) a tireless display leading the line.
Hastings United: Rogers, Black, Elphick (75’ Penn), Stone, Chalmers, Dawes (66’ Bates), Dixon, Pope, Hasler, Goldsmith, Martin (67’ Pogue)
AFC Dunstable: Head, Collins, Okito, McClelland, Ferrell, Carney, Campbell (45’ Fraser), Ann (71’ Hamilton), Christie, Farrell (73’ Lauder), Harvey
United goals: Pope (52’, 68’), Hasler (70’)