Freddie Ladapo’s last-minute winner was enough to send Ryman Premier Division outfit Grays Athletic into the FA Cup Third Qualifying Round last Saturday.
Ladapo dusted himself down after being brought down in the box by Hastings man Tim Olorunda with just seconds to go – the decision looked harsh, but after a well-struck penalty was saved brilliantly by Josh Pelling, the Grays number 7 was allowed to slot the rebound into an empty net, breaking Hastings hearts and sending a relieved home side into wild celebration.
The hosts started the game the brighter and should have been ahead as early as the 2nd minute. On the terrible Mill Field pitch, Chris Bryan failed to convert Jay Siva’s cross. The chances continued for Grays but they were unable to find a way through the resolute Hastings defence. United could have taken the lead themselves in the 19th minute, but Frankie Sawyer’s shot was cleared off the line.
After being overwhelmed in the earlier stages, the visitors were now growing into the game, carving out a succession of chances, the most notable being an effort from Dave Cook. However, the pendulum swung the way of the home side again as the first half drew to a close, with the eventual goal-scorer Ladapo having a duo of shots saved by Pelling.
The second half started as the first one ended, with Ladapo again testing Pelling, with the stopper coming out on top again, but Hastings hit back once more, with Sawyer’s shot being tipped over the bar by Conor Gough in the 51st minute. With the game now opening up and gaps forming, an end-to-end nature became apparent, with Jamie Guy’s overhead kick hitting the side netting for Grays, before Sawyer missed a golden opportunity for Hastings shortly after the hour mark. When it looked easier to score, the number 10 shot wide, to the amazement of everyone inside Mill Field.
The 65th minute saw the first big decision of the game for referee Mr Forrester, as Ladapo’s burst into the box was ended by the sprawling Pelling. But, with the winger somewhat exaggerating his fall, referee Forrester allowed play to go on, saving the Hastings ‘keeper from a possible dismissal.
With just six minutes to go, Freddie Ladapo was involved in the thick of the action again, but, as he saw the whites of the goal, he was denied by a superb challenge from substitute Bryce Masters.
The tie looked to be heading for a replay at Pilot Field on Monday night as three minutes of injury time were given, but Olorunda’s challenge on Ladapo gave the hosts the opportunity to send themselves into the Third Qualifying Round.
Despite the goal, Hastings were not done and nearly equalised through Ade Olorunda’s header, but unfortunately for the visitors, it crept just over the bar.
The final whistle blew shortly after – Grays Athletic had made their way through to the next round, where they will face a home tie with Bromley.
Grays Athletic: Conor Gough, Ruddock Yala, Jay Siva, Mark Bentley, Manny Parry, Jay Leader, Freddie Ladapo, Kenny Beaney (c), Jamie Guy, Jordan Wilson, Chris Bryan. Subs: Zefara (Yala, 73), Carlos (Guy, 61), Dumaka (Bryan, 82), Marfo, Little, Griffiths, Wootten.
Hastings United: Josh Pelling, Richard Rose, Sam Cruttwell, Tim Olorunda, Jamahl King, Sam Adams, Dave Cook, Ronnie Dolan, Ade Olorunda, Frankie Sawyer, Taser Hassan. Subs: Masters (Cruttwell, 52), Temba, Bankole, Ray.
Cautions: Grays: Bentley, Guy. Hastings: T. Olorunda, King.
Find out how Grays Athletic got in the Third Qualifying Round HERE.
Check out the full FA Cup journey here: https://marklitchfieldblog.wordpress.com/fa-cup-20142015/