The FA Cup doesn’t even begin with the Qualifying Rounds. Nor does it begin with a Preliminary Round. It began two weeks ago with the Extra Preliminary Round and Eastbourne United AFC won their match then to set up this tie with near-neighbours and East Sussex big boys Hastings United. Hastings have flashed the cash, relatively speaking, in a bid to escape the Ryman Isthmian Division 1 South but have started pretty poorly whereas Eastbourne sit atop the Sussex First Division unbeaten. It was set up nicely and a crowd of 258 showed up to watch what turned out to be a pretty decent cup tie.
The home side were 2-0 up inside the first 25 minutes. They had soaked up a fair bit of pressure already so it wasn’t exactly a surprise that Hastings found a way back – scoring twice to level the match before the break and fluffing a couple of decent chances to go ahead themselves. That theme continued in the second half as the claret and blue guests created several opportunities and missed more open nets than seemed reasonable. Thankfully they did get a go-ahead goal from a scramble and then held out in the face of some thoughtful Eastbourne attacks. What made this entertaining was that here were two non league sides going toe to toe and yet at no point did anyone just hit and hope. A draw might have been the neutrals’ wish but a win for Hastings was ultimately fair.
I was back at The Oval with my younger. He was properly annoyed that ‘his’ team lost – and even more annoyed that Five Live wanted to talk about ‘stupid Chelsea’ rather than this game. I also had a camera with me and took some photos. They are here.