Heroics at Leiston, now it’s another 220-mile round trip to Hitchin

It’s not often that a team has three players sent off in a match, yet receives universal plaudits across the country for its performance. That was the case in the encounter between Hastings United and Leiston on Saturday 22 September in the FA Cup 2nd qualifying round. United, who play in the Bostik League South East, the eighth tier of English football, were making a 300-mile round trip to their Suffolk hosts, who play a tier above in the Evo Stik League South Premier Central. The ‘U’s’ 4-3 victory was a fine result in itself, and one which would have earned great credit for a team of their status. But the manner in which they outplayed their supposedly superior hosts to go two goals up, then held out for almost 40 minutes with captain Sam Adams donning the goalkeeper’s jersey following the dismissal of Charlie Horlock, and ended up with only eight players on the field as first Sam Cruttwell, then Jamie Fielding were given second yellow cards, was truly exceptional: “the craziest game I’ve ever been involved in”, according to manager Chris Agutter; Talksport’s Tony Incenzo nominated Hastings as ‘Non-League Team of the Week’.

Agutter, while not making any direct criticism of the referee in the aftermath, describes all three dismissals as “very soft”, and indeed the decision to send off Horlock for a supposed ‘deliberate’ handball outside his penalty area was subsequently proved wrong. The club appealed the red card to the FA, on the basis of video evidence, and had the decision rescinded.  Not only was it doubtful whether Horlock had played the ball outside the area, the video clips showed that he had chested it and not handled at all. But of course that means only that he will not serve any suspension (Cruttwell and Fielding have each received one-match bans, so were not available for last Saturday’s FA Trophy match at Waltham Abbey). The outcome of the match remains as played.

Adams has performed as substitute goalkeeper two or three times over the course of his career with United and, according to Agutter, Leiston’s third goal was the first he has conceded overall. As for the tactical adjustments which were required in front of him, Agutter persisted with two players up front while a man short, hoping to take advantage of Leiston pressing forward, and indeed the ‘U’s did get further half-chances on the break. Only when reduced to nine men and then to eight were United forced to adopt a wholly defensive rearguard.

Agutter praises the character of the team, but also draws attention to their fitness levels which have enabled them generally to prove stronger as each game plays out.

The prize for victory turned out to be another away tie, to be contested tomorrow (Saturday 6th October) at Hitchin, who play in the same league as Leiston: a mere 220-mile round trip this time. The ‘U’s    now boasting ten league and cup games won out of 11 played  – will be travelling with a full squad and high expectations.

Leiston v Hastings United: The Craziest Game

5th minute:
Daniel Ajakaiye puts United ahead following a corner

14th minute:
Leiston equalise, also from a corner

19th minute:
Leiston go 2-1 up

30th minute:
‘U’s make it 2-2 with long distance strike from Sam Adams


52nd minute:
Kelvin Ogboe scores for the ‘U’s to re-take the lead at 3-2

55th minute:
Sam Adams scores from the penalty spot: 4-2

57th minute:
‘U’s goalkeeper Charlie Horlock sent off for what referee sees as ‘deliberate’ handball outside the penalty area. Sam Adams takes his place in goal. Jack Dixon substitutes for Antonio Walker as ‘U’s adopt 4-3-2 formation

68th minute:
Leiston pull goal back: 4-3

76th minute:
Sam Cruttwell given second yellow card and sent off, the ‘U’s now down to nine and adopting a 4-4-0 rearguard action

90th minute:
Added time of six minutes

93rd minute:
Jamie Fielding receives second yellow, the ‘U’s now down to eight

96th minute:
Final whistle, United win 4-3.

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