FOOTBALL: Denied At The Death
Ebbsfleet United 2, Hastings United 2
(Ebbsfleet win 4-1 on penalties)
Hastings United came within a couple of minutes of a notable FA Cup scalp last Saturday, only to concede a 30-yard belter in added time and then lose in the subsequent penalty shoot-out. Opponents Ebbsfleet United, playing two tiers higher in the Vanarama National League South and with home advantage, were trailing 2-1 to goals by Kenny Pogue and Sam Adams before a late strike by Ben Chapman from a half-cleared corner brought the equaliser.
PICTURE: Scott White
With no extra 30-minute period to be added, and no replay, the match then went virtually straight into penalties. Ebbsfleet, who had earlier scored from the spot for the opening goal after a handball by Craig Stone, converted all four in the shoot-out. Ben Pope netted his kick for the ‘U’s, but Ryan Worrall and Tom Chalmers both failed.
The match was played without spectators because the ban which affects all games in the Premiership and English Football League also extends to National League grounds. Ironically, if Hastings had been drawn at home, they would have been allowed a gate of up to 400 at Pilot Field, as in the previous Cup-tie a fortnight ago when they beat Chesham United.
Most (of the few) who witnessed the contest felt that Hastings deserved an outright win on chances created
On the other hand, the ‘U’s did have the advantage of playing a team for whom this was their first competitive match of the season. The National League had, up to a few days before, insisted that their clubs could not afford to start the season unless either the ban on spectators was lifted or they were otherwise compensated for the lack of gate receipts. Just in time, the government were persuaded to offer a general compensation package that allowed the tie, like others, to go ahead.
PICTURE: Scott White
One consolation for ‘U’s manager Chris Agutter was to see his side score two goals, both from open play, for the first time this season after three successive 0-0 draws. The first was notched by veteran striker Kenny Pogue, surprisingly preferred to Pope in the starting line-up, after a shot by Ollie Black was blocked; the second by captain Sam Adams from a cross by Jake Elliott.
Most (of the few) who witnessed the contest felt that Hastings deserved an outright win on chances created. They now need to turn this form into league success, starting at Haywards Heath in a fixture to be played this evening (Tuesday).
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