Allen shoots down Hastings United
Monday 16th September 2013, 5:00PM BST.
Hastings United 2, Guernsey FC 3
EVEN among their extraordinary achievements of the past two years, Guernsey FC had never left it quite this late to win a thriller.
The Green Lions have already created quite a stir in their various cup runs so far, but after Danny Ellis screamed in an 85th-minute equaliser for Hastings United, it seemed as though this FA Cup first qualifying round tie would need a replay.
But when Akwasi Fobi-Edusei inexplicably handballed from a corner deep into stoppage time, Ross Allen had the chance to complete a brilliant hat-trick and create his own brand of cup magic.
With some of his team-mates and even his manager looking away, he showed the calmest nerves in the Pilot Field ground to bury into the bottom corner and send the Green Lions and their fans into delirium.
It was another incredible GFC experience, one that will live long in the memory and another that they thoroughly deserved, against a side who reached the third round proper a season ago.
Although those lofty heights are still several rounds off, there will be much excitement this lunchtime as the draw is made and GFC potentially close in on a plum draw or two of their own.
They created enough chances to win this game well before they were eventually required to, but a strong home side, with only one of the XI who performed heroics a year ago, pushed them all the way.
Fobi-Edusei, who had only been on the pitch a matter of minutes, may never quite work out why he handled with everything at stake, but on the balance of play, the final scoreline reflected GFC’s control on the afternoon.
Twice they led, through two clinical Allen finishes, which were cancelled out by Bailo Camara and Ellis respectively, before Fobi-Edusei stuck out his arm from an overhit corner with three of four allotted additional minutes already played.
It was GFC’s last roll of the dice and paid dividends, although early on it looked like it might be a more routine day’s work, after a bright start by the visitors led to the opening goal after just 12 minutes.
Both sides had shown purpose up to that point, without creating any clear-cut openings at either end, but that changed when Allen picked up the ball deep, beat one man and slid it into the feet of Dom Heaume.
Heaume made a bit of space for himself under some pressure and returned the favour, feeding Allen perfectly and, after one touch to get it out of his feet, he fired emphatically past Josh Pelling.
It could have got even better when Heaume came close, curling straight at Pelling, all the while the Lions looking defensively sound, albeit without ever really being brilliant in possession.
That wastefulness came back to haunt them after 27 minutes when, after pouncing on a mistake in the middle of the park, Ellis passed across to Camara and, after an excellent step-over, he fired across goal from an angle.
Chris Tardif may have hoped to do better in the GFC goal, but the accuracy of the effort beat him and nestled in the far bottom corner, despite the best efforts of the retreating Tom Strawbridge.
It was a cruel blow for the visitors, with the equaliser coming against the run of play and they were even more aggrieved when Ryan-Zico Black, starting for the first time in 10 months, had a justified shout for a penalty turned down.
That was on the end of a lightning-quick counter-attack, one of many and, in truth, the Lions looked like scoring every time they went forward and Hastings were short of answers at times.
Allen went close to doubling his own tally, curling wide, although Matt Maclean showed Hastings were still up for the battle by producing a sharp stop out of Tardif.
But if the sides had gone in level at the break, it would have been fortunate for the hosts and the scoreline better reflected the game when Allen struck again in the dying seconds.
Glyn Dyer was fouled on the halfway line and with Hastings setting themselves up defensively, Jamie Dodd’s quick thinking and brilliant 40-yard pass put Allen in on goal out of nowhere.
The finish was every bit as good as the assist, the No. 10 firing first time into the corner with his supposed weaker left foot, another stunning strike from GFC’s go-to man.
His strike partner, Marc McGrath, could have made it three just seconds later, but was caught in two minds over whether to cross or shoot. It was still a good end to the half.
But when play resumed, it was all Hastings as they pinned GFC back for the vast majority of the second 45 minutes, albeit with the visiting defence, led by the exceptional Sam Cochrane, always looking unlikely to be breached.
Angus Mackay’s return in place of Black also shored things up, with Ellis’ off-target effort the only one of note for Hastings, who are right up there in the mix at the top of Ryman South.
They must have thought they had squandered their best opportunity of another leveller when Camara, the sole survivor of last year’s defeat at Middlesbrough, spurned a glorious one-on-one effort, after latching on to Sam Adams’ wonderful through ball.
Matt Loaring could have sealed it for GFC with a wonder goal if his finish had matched his lengthy cross-field run, but it was left to Ellis to score the goal of the game and send the home fans wild.
Picking the ball up 30 yards out, he unleashed a brilliant strike into the top corner, achieved with no back lift and it gave Tardif no chance.
But then came the dramatic period of added time and a series of GFC corners.
From one well-worked routine, Dodd came close with a rasping drive and that looked like it might be that.
But when Loaring floated in another, it was about to fall to the feet of Mackay until Fobi-Edusei intervened and gave referee Elliot Kaye the easiest decision he will ever have.
It was left to Allen and possibly the cleanest he will ever strike a ball to beat Pelling’s desperate dive.
Even then, that was not it for the drama as, with time now over, Fobi-Edusei was fouled on the edge of the GFC box offering Adams the chance of a draw-or-bust free-kick.
His powerful low effort was goal-bound and it required a great save from Tardif to keep it out, finally marking the end of another pulsating cup tie but maybe just the beginning of a cup run beginning to build real momentum.
Hastings United: Pelling, Henson, Darby, Judge, Richardson, Camara (Fobi-Edusei 84), Kelly, Ellis, Maclean, Pogue (Crone 71), Adams.
Guernsey FC: Tardif, Isabelle, Cochrane, Strawbridge, Dodd, Loaring, Black (Mackay 57), Heaume, Dyer, Allen, McGrath (Hutton 73).
Referee: E. Kaye.