The 1,000 Mile Cup Trail

Hastings United players and travelling fans go to Maidenhead tomorrow (Saturday) on their renewed quest for FA Cup glory. It’s the fifth successive tie in which they’ve been drawn away this season – one preliminary round, four qualifying rounds – adding up to a trail of 1,000 miles. Four times they’ve returned victorious. Can they do it again?

Victory at Chippenham in the last round on 2nd October was achieved against the odds.  On a day of sweeping rain, ‘U’s manager Chris Agutter had to shuffle his selection at the last minute when both Dave Martin and Lloyd Dawes failed to survive the pre-match warm-up. Their replacements, veterans Kenny Pogue and Sam Adams, both put in excellent performances, and the host team, who play in the Vanarama National League South, two tiers above Hastings, found themselves on the receiving end of some sharp attacks. Jack Dixon, Adams and Tom Chalmers pulled the strings in midfield, and Sam Hasler and Craig Elphick each came close to scoring in a first half in which the visitors very much held their own.

Champagne moment at Chippenham: Pogue’s shot finds the corner as Ben Pope looks on
CREDIT: Scott White

The match turned on action in respective penalty areas in the first few minutes of the second half. Up at the top end of the sloping pitch, Chippenham penetrated the ‘U’s’ left flank and substitute Adam Mann appeared to have the goal at his mercy only to find his shot smothered by onrushing goalkeeper Louis Rogers. Then, down the other end, a trademark long throw from Ollie Black produced a melee in front of the Chippenham goal, the ball squeezed out to Kenny Pogue on the left, and he produced a stunning volley back across goal and into the far corner.

From then on the hosts had the lion’s share of the play but couldn’t make it pay against the accomplished Hastings defence. Elphick and Craig Stone remained dominant in the air, and Rogers’ handling in the sodden conditions was exemplary.

Manager Chris Agutter embraces Craig Stone on final whistle at Chippenham
CREDIT: Scott White

As legs tired and tempers frayed, the foul count rose. Pogue was perhaps lucky to remain on the field after making some heavy challenges before being substituted by Ryan Worrall; Ben Pope, who had competed tirelessly up front all afternoon, was not so fortunate, being given a straight red card for a late tackle that did not appear dangerous or malicious. The ‘U’s had to defend for the final ten minutes with only ten men, but did so with some aplomb.

Now Maidenhead United stand between the ‘U’s and a place in the draw for the first round proper, along with the likes of Sunderland, Ipswich Town and Sheffield Wednesday. Besides boasting a historic past – see below – the Berkshire club play in the top tier of the Vanarama League, a division above Chippenham. They are managed by former West Ham and England midfielder Alan Devonshire. Chris Agutter, ‘U’s boss, wasn’t even born when Devonshire was picking up an FA Cup-winners medal for the Hammers at Wembley in May 1980. But there’s always new history to be made.


Maidenhead: A Place in Football History

While Maidenhead United have never attained Football League status, they can boast a notable FA Cup heritage of their own: they were one of the 15 clubs to play in the first ever version of the competition in 1871-72 and have missed only one season (bar war time) in the 150 years since. Only Marlow, the club they hosted – and beat 2-0 – in the first round at their York Road ground on 11th November 1871, can make an equivalent claim. The match against Hastings this Saturday will take place at the same ground. No other senior club in English football (very probably world football) can claim a longer continuous home.  


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