FA Cup joy – United march on after King Kenny’s stunner

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Chippenham Town vs Hastings United – FA Cup Third Qualifying Round

A superb Kenny Pogue strike at the start of the second-half secured Hastings United a one-nil away win at National League side Chippenham Town. Against a side two divisions higher, this was a thoroughly deserved victory to put the ‘U’s into the hat for the next round of the FA Cup. United created the better chances in a scoreless first-half with Gary Elphick and Sam Hasler both going close, but they were indebted to goalkeeper Louis Rogers’ save in the first minute after the restart for maintaining parity. Then came Pogue’s wonderful goal and although the home side huffed and puffed for the remaining 40 minutes, United kept them at arm’s length to assure themselves of a seventh straight win, and a continued cup run in this year’s competition.

Saturday 2nd October, a 3pm kick-off in persistent rain which continued throughout game, flowing between torrential downpour to light drizzle and everything in between. The ‘U’s are in their home kit of claret shirts with white shorts and socks while the Bluebirds are in a smart royal blue. The pitch has an obvious slope, and a former Chippenham player tells me it’s best to play uphill in the first-half to save your legs for the second-half. Well, United must win the toss because they switch ends to turn the tables on the home side who will indeed be running uphill after the first 45 minutes.

United’s day doesn’t start well as they lose both Lloyd Dawes and Dave Martin in the pre-match warm-up. The starting line-up is swiftly amended with Sam Adams and Pogue promoted from the bench.

Chippenham kick-off and both sides exchange early possession before the home team win a corner which is played low across the box but the shot is skied well over the bar for the first effort of the match. Six minutes in and the floodlights are turned on, not sure why they weren’t on beforehand as the sky has been leaden for hours.

On ten minutes Ollie Black, with a thunderous tackle, creates a chance for Hasler to shoot from 25-yards but he doesn’t catch it and the ball swings wide of the near post. Yet, it’s a clear sign United are not giving Chippenham time to settle on the ball. Jack Dixon follows suit with a tackle in midfield and though the home side are having early possession they are repeatedly bypassing their midfield with long balls which United’s back-four is happy to mop up. As the minutes tick by the ‘U’s are growing into the game, ball on the floor, passing their way forward.

The opener almost arrives via a trademark Black throw-in when the ball is met by the head of Elphick eight yards out and is goal bound without a good fingertip reaction save by the home goalkeeper. From the resulting in-swinging corner the ball is hacked off the line and into the keepers’ hands.

Midway through the half and it is a Black throw again which causes havoc in the penalty area. This time Craig Stone collects the loose ball, laid off to Hasler who shoots low and hard from the edge of the area but straight at the goalkeeper who saves.

As the rain turns heavy and the stopwatch moves to 32 minutes, Rogers is finally called into action. A 25-yard swerving shot has United’s stopper at full stretch to parry the ball away from goal. Soon after Hasler shoots from distance again, this time from a free-kick in an attempt to catch out the goalkeeper who was expecting a cross. Hasler scored with the same good idea against Whitehawk, but this time he doesn’t quite have the execution and the keeper collects.

As half-time approaches Chippenham switch tack and begin to play the ball on the deck, and they make some inroads but without creating a chance. The whistle blows and the ‘U’s go in at half-time having had the better of the opening 45 minutes.

Half-time: Chippenham Town 0 – 0 Hastings United

As the substitutes from both teams warm up in the teeming rain, the stadium DJ plays U2’s ‘Beautiful Day’ before following up with Green Day’s ‘Holiday’ which has the opening lyric, ‘Hear the sound of the falling rain’. What a wag!

The Bluebirds are out early perhaps asking themselves whether they fancy a midweek replay in Hastings? And they almost catch the ‘U’s napping. Within the opening minute a swift break down the right is crossed low into the box for the arriving Adam Mann, a half-time substitute. Mann is unmarked and his first touch is a shot from 12 yards which is brilliantly saved by an onrushing Rogers.

A save that is worth its weight in gold minutes later. Another Black throw causes a melee in the Chippenham area, Stone has a shot blocked and the ball ricochets to the left edge of the area to Pogue. He’s actually running backwards but with a swipe of his right foot he sends a stunning strike arrowing across the goal and into the far top right corner. One of those goals worthy of winning any game. United’s supporters raise the decibel level and rightly so.

With United having deservedly got their noses in front the onus is now on the home team to try and get back into the game. As they push on, United attempt to hit them on the break, so we have a period of half-chances for both sides. Chippenham’s Marlon Jackson heads over the bar before Ben Pope tries a cheeky lob from 30 yards, but his effort drops wide. Then the Bluebirds’ Ross Silarn shoots over from distance before Hasler goes close again. His powerful drive is parried by the goalkeeper and when it drops to Hasler again he’s put off by the defender and kicks nothing but fresh air. The home crowd cheer but it is more from relief than Hasler’s misfortune.

Just after the hour mark there’s the welcome sight of Ryan Worrall returning from injury for goal scorer Pogue. Worrall slots in like he’s never been away, a stabilising influence adding another option as the ‘U’s confidently knock the ball around.

With 15 minutes remaining and the rain a diminishing drizzle, Stone has a shot saved after a Black cross picked him out at the far post. Along with Dixon and Hasler, Tom Chalmers and Sam Adams in midfield have stuck to their task. Tenacious in the tackle, swift to close down and first to the second ball. The home sides frustration continues, and their only option is to still punt long balls down the flanks but without joy. United’s full-backs Black and Marcus Goldsmith have been immovable and impassable today, with Elphick and Stone equally stubborn in the centre of the defence. And when Chippenham do get the ball into the area Rogers gathers or catches everything. He’s wearing gloves of course but even so his handling in atrocious conditions has been top notch throughout.

There’s a sour note for Pope. He’s ploughed a furrow all game and run himself into the ground, but then he mistimes a sliding tackle when tracking back and catches a player late. No disputing it’s a foul worthy of a yellow card but the referee upgrades the punishment to a straight red and United face the remaining seven minutes plus added time with ten men.

No matter. The ‘U’s have delivered a highly accomplished performance today and the home side have been restricted to mostly pot-luck efforts. When they have threatened the United area the defence has stood strong, or they’ve come up against Rogers. Epitomised by Chippenham’s final effort with minutes remaining, a glancing header from a free-kick is on target but nonchalantly plucked out of the air by United’s goalkeeper.

The visiting supporters (amazing throughout the game as always) count down the clock as United force two corners and keep the ball well away from their own penalty area. The final whistle blows, and Monday’s FA Cup hat has a ball inside with a number representing Hastings United.

Full-time: Chippenham Town 0 – 1 Hastings United

After a narrow defeat to Weymouth in 2019 and a penalty shoot-out loss to Ebbsfleet last year, you could say it was third time lucky for the ‘U’s against National League opposition. However, there was no luck involved here. The better team won, simple as that.

Man of the match: Louis Rogers. The team overall were magnificent but Louis’ tremendous save 30 seconds into the second-half to keep the scores level proved to be the catalyst which saw us go on and win the game. Cool, calm, and collected throughout.

After the game I had a brief word with the scorer of the winning goal, the evergreen Kenny Pogue. I asked him whether he’d scored many better than today’s effort? A smile and a chuckle. “Yeah,” he replied. “When I was younger.”

Hastings United: Rogers, Black, Elphick, Stone, Chalmers, Dixon, Pope, Adams, Hasler (90’ Azeez), Goldsmith, Pogue (62’ Worrall)

Chippenham Town: Henry, Elechi (68’ King), Parselle, Richards, Gunner (Hamilton 28’), Jackson, Griffiths, Bunker, Hanks (Mann 46’), Stearn, Russe

United goal: Pogue (49’)

Attendance: 340


Bob Quinn
Twitter: @BobJQuinn