Imagine when we are old. Really old. And we tell people we played Tottenham, Leyton Orient and Luton in in a tournament and came within a game of winning it.
A) they won’t believe us and b) mightily bored they’ll be.
But as strange as it sounds, the Hastings United Walking Football odyssey continued with a trip to Cheshunt and a splendid afternoon’s football. The front side reached the end of their semi-final unbeaten by four bigger clubs and only a failed penalty by our day’s top scorer prevented them making the final tie.
The Hornets took a battering all day but clung on like wet clay to a shovel and were dumped out of the plate competition, again by a classy player missing a penalty in the shoot-out.
Imagine if any one of the 14 shots on target in the Fronts’ first game had gone in? Imagine if Big Colin had got a hand to a spot kick in the semi? Imagine if El Jay had not been blue-carded for a crunching tackle?
Imagine if Legendary Rog had decked the Spur who called him a Kent (when he’s clearly a Sussex)? Imagine if Jimbo or Deadeye hadn’t missed those penalties? Imagination is a wonderful thing.
The Hornets kicked things off and took a 6-0 kicking at the hands of home-side Cheshunt. Their first-touch passing game was a sight to behold and it ripped the heart from the H’s. But not the fight. They never gave in. Despite conceding a half dozen, The Nutkin made six good saves – his best the last, finger-tipping a thunderous shot over the bar. Without him it would have been a cricket score instead of a walkover. No point in a post-match inquisition: Cheshunt just played beautiful football.
United entered the fray against Essex giants Billericay and totally dominated them without scoring. They had 14 shots either saved or just off target, hit the post twice and the bar once. Chrissy was unplayable up front but hadn’t got his eye in. It finished 0-0 and The Bills breathed a huge sigh of relief.
The Hornets bounced back to face Bedford in their second game, played much better and lost by a single goal. Jezza made seven brave saves; Puffing Paul Hutton – who was nutmegged in the opening minute – roared back to form, marked the Bedford front two out of the game and it was only a lovely bit of individual skill that beat the Nutkin in the last minute with a deft flick and half volley. 0-1 Bedford.
United played fellow seasiders Clacton in their second game and it looked certain they would score this time. Chrissy went close, Cookie hit the post, El Jay was within a whisker and the best effort was Wingnut’s with a monumental strike saved at the foot of the post. It was just a matter of time before it all clicked into place.
Big Colin had a couple of routine saves to make and Deano was superb at the back, holding his position, pocketing his striker and playing some great balls through midfield. A poor roll-out saw him under pressure right on the ‘D’; Deano side-stepped like a campaigner dodging a bullet and played El Jay in with a phenomenal ball. As cool as a frozen yoghurt. Wearing cool reactolight glasses. And a sharp suit. Another 0-0 draw.
Leyton Orient set about the Hornets in their third match and beat them with four goals before Paul H got a late consolation with a thumping effort. 4-1 Orient.
United were stung into action by the boys of Bounds Green. They scored with their first attack with a shock toe-poke that left Colin clutching the air. But it galvanised Hastings into action and finally Chrissy turned on a sixpence, transformed into Deadeye and equalised.
We went close several times to getting the winner and BC made a flying save to keep us in the hunt but it was a third draw and enough to see us into the quarter finals.
This was a ding-dong affair with our old rivals Tonbridge. Deadeye opened the scoring then went side netting 30 seconds later. Shots by Wingnut, El Jay, Peruvian Mick and Chrissy again all sailed wide and we got overconfident. Tonbridge surged forward and a three-man defensive cock-up (“You go, I’ll go, nobody go” ) saw them equalise. And within half a minute they were ahead with a stunning goal.
Chairs was furious with the collapse from the touchline and exhorted his boys on. His rousing words did the trick, as did his deft substitutions all afternoon, and Chrissy got his second of the match and third of the afternoon to force a 2-2 draw and a penalty shoot- out.
With all six players on both sides scoring, it was deep into sudden death when the goalies stepped up. Colin slotted his but the Tonbridge keeper fluffed his lines seeing Hastings through to the semis 9-8.
The Hornets’ then took on mighty Tottenham and for five minutes they bossed the North Londoners. Puffing Paul was simply magnificent in this one, a rock solid defender putting balls through to Ricky up front. Jimbo had a shot punched away by Hugo Loris’ older brother and Tottenham responded, hitting the bar twice with scorchers from the rangy striker. The H’s were never out of it and deserved their penalty shoot-out.
Jimbo missed the first one and that was that sadly. Ken the Bass came off with the biggest smile of any old man ever, having played his hero team, wearing the Cat’s boots because, in typical old man fashion, he forgot his own.
Roger should have decked the Jose Mourhino lookalike for what he called him but showed restraint and saw his nemesis red-carded for a similar geographical term used to the ref. Sadly, the H’s couldn’t capitalise on the extra man.
It was another 0-0 draw for the front side in their semi-final against Luton. El Jay found Chrissy with two beautiful through balls but Deadeye couldn’t convert the chances. And Luton’s only efforts were high wide and mighty. By now United were knackered. It was showing in every puffed cheek so when it went to penalties, Luton were the fancied side.
When Chrissy – our only goal scorer – hit the post, then the keeper, then the bar with his pen the writing was on the wall.
It was not to be our day. But how far have we come? Taking on much bigger clubs and holding them at bay. Hastings United WFC should fear nothing for the coming season. We are poised. We are ready. Bring. It. On.
Puffing Paul was the lynchpin at the back for the Hornets all day. Shouting, cajoling, begging for more effort. Considering this was just a few hours after standing in The Queue for 14 hours to pay his respects to her Late Majesty this was PP’s finest hour and he wins our Man of the Tournament. Special mentions for Deano and Chrissy in the Fronts and Jezza for the H’s.