Hastings United’s FA Cup journey has finally come to an end, but what a ride it was.
As club chairman Dave Walters said after the second round replay victory over Harrogate Town last month, nobody could ever have envisaged anything like this when it all began back in September.
It’s been well documented by now that United hadn’t won a single match in the world famous competition since 2006 so the initial aim was just to get through that first round qualifying tie against Chatham Town.
That they did and further victories away to Staines Town, Hitchin Town and at home to Blackfield & Langley put Sean Ray’s men through to the first round proper for the first time in a decade.
A comeback win at higher grade Bishop’s Stortford meant the present day United were through to round two for the first time in the club’s 118-year history.
United’s second round clash away to Harrogate Town, like Stortford from Blue Square Bet North, was selected for extended highlights on ITV and the U’s again came from behind at half time to earn a 1-1 draw.
The television cameras came to The Pilot Field the next day for live reaction to the third round draw and the replay against Harrogate was broadcast live on ESPN.
Tickets, nevertheless, sold out within days of going on general sale and a capacity crowd of 4,028 (easily beating the club record for a competitive fixture) watched United triumph on penalties.
That set up yesterday’s trip to Championship high-flyers Middlesbrough and although the game wasn’t chosen for live television coverage, the club was attracting all sorts of national media coverage in the build-up.
United again gave a splendid account of themselves at The Riverside Stadium, highlighted by a super goal from Bradley Goldberg, and thoroughly deserved the plaudits that have come their way.
With the spotlight now off United, things will return to normality. Games against the likes of Wealdstone and Enfield Town in front of a few hundred spectators may well come hard on the back of playing in front of more than 12,000 at The Riverside Stadium, but let’s hope there will be no FA Cup hangover and United can start to climb the league table.