Hastings United vs Ashford United – FA Trophy Second Qualifying Round
Hastings United secured a place in the FA Trophy third qualifying round with a comfortable 2 – 0 victory over local rivals Ashford United. Ashford began brightly and went close twice in the opening minutes. First when Rhyle Ovenden drew a save from United’s Louis Rogers and then Thomas Fagg struck a 30-yarder a foot over. From there United grew into the game with James Hull forcing a good low save from Ashford’s Tyler McCarthy, a short reprieve as only five minutes later Kenny Pogue opened the scoring, following up after his initial shot had been saved. The second half was in its infancy when United’s Tom Chalmers took a boot to the head resulting in a penalty, confidently scored by the youngster Hull. McCarthy produced two further saves to keep United in sight, before the majority of 1,014 spectators headed home happy.
Saturday 9th October, a 3pm kick-off in the deceptive October sunshine. It is not as warm as it looks. The ‘U’s are in their home kit of claret shirts with white shorts and socks while Ashford wear canary yellow shirts and socks with green shorts.
Young James Hull leads the line for United in place of the suspended Ben Pope. Otherwise United are unchanged from the team which started in last weekends win over Chippenham. Hull’s brother Dan, a former ‘U’, is Ashford’s left back.
United get the game underway though it is the visitors who are the busiest in the early exchanges. Ashford forwards and midfield push high up the pitch, not allowing the United back four any time on the ball. It’s a busy start from the Nuts & Bolts and United are being hurried.
Even so it is the home side who create the first chance. Sam Hasler picks up the pieces in midfield and frees Pogue down the left, his first-time low cross is cleared to Dixon who tries his luck from twenty yards but shoots over.
Looking to maintain their momentum Ashford come straight back. A shot is deflected for a corner which is cleverly played toward the edge of the area, the first man throws a dummy allowing the ball to run to Ovenden who shoots on target and it requires a flying save by Louis Rogers to finger-tip the ball away for another corner. Ashford go close again on 13 minutes. There looks to be nothing on when Fagg turns and hammers in a strike from 30 yards. The ball flies only a foot over the bar, watched all the way by Rogers who (I think) had it covered. It was some hit.
Having spent the opening 20 minutes on the back foot United start to move the game forward on their terms. One scintillating passage of play turns the tide. Hasler on halfway gives Hull something to chase into the corner, the young lad gathers and goes back to Jack Dixon, onto Sam Adams then Marcus Goldsmith who frees Craig Stone galloping on the overlap down the right. Stone’s cross is overhit, but the impetus has noticeably switched sides.
Stone’s next pass is long toward Tom Chalmers and wins a throw-in very much in Ollie Black territory. The throw reaches the area and breaks for Hull to sweep in a shot from eight yards which calls McCarthy into action for the first time. Then on 28 minutes United have the breakthrough. Goldsmith and Chalmers make inroads down the right before Adams picks up the mantle with a driving run into the area. His low cross is mishit by Hull but the ball falls to Pogue whose first shot is saved but he’s quickest to react and slots home the rebound from close range.
The force is now firmly with the home team. Chalmers almost pressurises a defender into an own goal with low near post cross, then after another Black long throw is half cleared, Hasler strikes a low shot through a crowd of players which hits McCarthy’s legs to prevent a second goal. Not sure how much Ashford’s goalkeeper knew about his ‘save’. From the corner Black’s header deflects of a defenders head and lands on top of the crossbar.
Ashford though are not yet done with this first half and in the final minutes threaten to draw themselves level. Dan Hull plays a great ball wide to Tariq Ossai and it takes a brilliant block by Dixon to prevent his shot working Rogers. Moments later and Roberto Ratti turns his defender some 40 yards from goal, he runs at pace into the United area, cuts inside and goes down under the challenge. You’ve definitely seen penalties given for this scenario but on this occasion the referee asks to him to ‘get up’. In the last minute of added time there’s a final scare. Ovenden hits a free-kick into the area from wide out on the left, Rogers starts to come and is almost deceived as the breeze carries the ball further than expected. He backtracks and grabs the ball at the last moment to preserve the ‘U’s slender lead.
Half-time: Hastings United 1 – 0 Ashford United
Ashford restart the game seeking the elusive equaliser and they have a chance after four minutes. A freekick 25-yards out, left of centre with Fagg standing over it and he’s already shown he can strike a ball. This time though Rogers is well positioned and it’s a straightforward save.
United immediately go down the other end and put the game firmly in their control. Another Black long throw into the area causes some chaos, Stone has a shot blocked resulting in shouts for handball, but the bouncing ball is still there to be won. Chalmers attempts to get his head to the ball but instead receives a boot in the face from a raised foot. This time the referee does point to the spot and in fairness to the Ashford players they take this on the chin without too much complaint.
While Chalmers and Fagg receive treatment United’s Hull retrieves the ball and places on the spot. He’s playing in place of the suspended Pope and it seems he’s also taken on his penalty taking duties. The three minutes of waiting don’t unnerve him, and he coolly scores into the bottom corner for United’s second goal. Every outfield United player goes over to congratulate the young lad on his first goal.
United doubling their lead takes the wind out of Ashford’s sails and though Fagg works Rogers again with a shot from the edge of the area, it is the home side who look the more likely to alter the scoreline. Adams releases Dawes to toe-poke a shot which is saved by the legs of McCarthy before Adams himself tries his luck from 20 yards which McCarthy theatrically turns around the post for a corner. From which Pogue has a chance for his second but is off-balance and his volley flies over the bar which proves to be the final meaningful action. United progress to the third qualifying round.
Full-time: Hastings United 2 – 0 Ashford United
Man of the match: Sam Adams. Created the first goal and almost scored United’s third. The fulcrum in midfield keeping the team ticking over.
A mention in dispatches for James Hull and Marcus Goldsmith who were both exceptional. Hull led the line impressively displaying strength and a good first touch. Defensively Goldsmith was once more impassable and continues to improve the timings of his forward forays.
Eight straight wins for the ‘U’s and with Tuesday’s league game against Whitstable Town now postponed (due to Whitstable’s involvement in the Kent Senior Cup semi-final), United should be well rested for next Saturday’s FA Cup fourth qualifying round trip to the National League’s Maidenhead United.
Hastings United: Rogers, Black, Elphick, Stone, Chalmers (Azeez 58’), Dixon, J Hull (Dawes 69’ – Worrall 83’), Adams, Hasler, Goldsmith, Pogue
Ashford United: McCarthy, Ossai, Diallo (Burdon 68’), D Hull, Gorham, Friend, Ovenden, Fagg, May (Ter Horst 68’), Ratti, Wisson (Kwayie 68’)
United goals: Pogue (29’), Hull (54’)