For the second successive Saturday, Hastings United Football Club came from 2-1 down at half time to pull off a 3-2 victory.
An 89th minute winner from Sam Cruttwell following a superb solo equaliser by Antonio Walker gave Hastings a narrow success at home to VCD Athletic in the FA Cup preliminary round.
Hastings manager Chris Agutter made three changes to his starting XI from the previous weekend’s win at Ramsgate. Sinnkaye Christie, Emmanuel Mensah and Walker came in, with Tom Climpson, Cruttwell and Ansu Janneh making way.
In a clash between two teams who had won their opening two Bostik League South East Division matches, Hastings carried the greater goal threat during a scoreless opening half-hour.
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After Daniel Ajakaiye had a penalty appeal waved away when he went down under the challenge of Junior Baker, Jack Dixon’s powerful header at a corner was well saved by away goalkeeper Joseph Mant and Kelvin Ogboe shot wide from a great position inside the area.
A decent strike from outside the box by Alastair Gordon was well dealt with by Hastings stopper Charlie Horlock before Ajakaiye’s low drive following a good pass from Adam Lovatt was held by Mant diving to his right.
VCD drew first blood in the 34th minute only for Hastings to level a minute later. The visitors went ahead when Leon Lalor’s inviting cross from the VCD left was headed into the bottom corner by Dominic Odusanya.
As they did in their previous home fixture this term against Thamesmead Town a fortnight previously, Hastings responded swiftly. A VCD defensive mistake allowed Ogboe to race to the byeline and pull the ball back for Ajakaiye to guide home his fifth goal in three matches.
Whereas Hastings took the lead against Thamesmead in first half added time, this time they fell behind. A good low cross from the away right was turned in at the near post by one-time Charlton Athletic man Charlie MacDonald.
Hastings again levelled quickly - and in some style too in the fourth minute of the second half. After Christie brought the ball out of defence and found Walker on the left, Walker skilfully got the better of two defenders and did well to stay on his feet before neatly rolling the ball past Mant.
Golding fired over from Ajakaiye’s cut-back and Christie blasted over from just outside the area, while Sam Beale was in the right place to clear at the other end following a long throw.
Golding’s cross-shot from the tightest of angles was held by Mant, while at the other end, Aymun El-Moyhalbel eventually had a goal chalked off for offside after players stood around in anticipation of a referee’s whistle which never came.
The game rather meandered along for a while before livening up again in the closing stages. Hastings were almost caught on the break when MacDonald’s ball across the box was just too far in front of Ali Fuseini and moments later Beale’s low cross was turned wide by Adam Lovatt.
MacDonald had the ball in Hastings’ net only to see the offside flag raised shortly before Hastings swooped for the winner.
Cruttwell won possession midway inside VCD’s half and exchanged passes with Ajakaiye before hitting a shot which took a significant deflection off VCD defender Temi Eweka, giving Mant no chance and prompting a pile of celebrating Hastings players on the pristine Pilot Field turf.
Hastings: Horlock, Beale, Howlett-Mundle, Christie, Golding, Lovatt, Ajakaiye, Walker (Cruttwell 71), Ogboe (Dullaway 71), Mensah, Dixon (Vickers 90+1). Subs not used: Climpson, Fielding. Attendance: 428.
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