Seventy miles is a long way to go to get beaten in the WFA cup but beaten we were tonight.
It was a narrow 3-2 victory under the floodlights by Herne Bay but it was the rules that sunk Hastings and not the opposition. The Bay team play off the fence in their cage with no kick-ins, corners or goal kicks. And it was a system our travelling O60s had to adapt to quickly or sink without trace.
The Cat was continually bellowing ‘still in play’ to remind his outfielders and he was in action early on making a good save down to his right.
Herne Bay were quicker to the ball in midfield and took the lead after five minutes with a goal by Mr Sweary. The Cat got half a paw to it but couldn’t keep it out and Hastings were behind despite having the better possession.
When Blakey equalised two minutes later with a shot that squirmed through the keeper’s gloves it looked as though luck might be on our side.
Iron Russ was doing his usual job of dictating the game from the back, and Blakey was making some lovely runs but all the on goal traffic was at the wrong end with the Cat forced into four more full-length stops to see the teams go in one each at the break.
After the interval, Hastings were again largely toothless up front. Big goals and a dodgy keeper demanded flurries of shots on goal but none were forthcoming and anything that was on target was straight at the keeper.
Then came a nightmare two minutes. Wingnut was adjudged to have played a rebound save from The Cat in the box and gave away the penalty. Herne Bay’s skipper stepped up and the Cat made a fine stop with his left hand but with the very next attack Hastings’ luck ran out. A hopelessly wide shot bounced off the backboard, rolled into the Cat’s heel and trickled in to put Herne Bay 2-1 up. On tiny moments such as these games are won and lost.
One minute later, Mr Sweary was unmarked on the left and fired home their third.
It still wasn’t over. Blakey did well to score his second of the game to put the score at 3-2 to the home side but further efforts were not troubling.
Legendary Rog shot wide with the best effort and two other chances went begging with shots straight down their keeper’s throat.
By now Hastings were ruefully thinking about what might have been in the first half when the Riddler’s excellent effort was ruled out for a foul.
In recent matches, smaller squads have led to less faffing with substitutes and that might be a lesson learned here. Wingnut, Mick and the Riddler all picked up knocks or strains and Rog scuffed his arm badly in a collision but there were few actual stoppages.
The story is we coped reasonably well with the odd circumstances but never looked like winning. There’s always next year.
MOM: Blakey for a full-throttle performance chasing every ball and keeping us in the hunt with his two goals.