By Anthony Scott
Despite lying 18th in the Premier Division, Ryman League side Hastings United have proved to be this season’s fairytale in the FA Cup.
They are just one game away from travelling to north-east giants Middlesbrough in the Third Round for what would be their first ever appearance in the last 64 of the nation’s most decorated cup competition.
Jamie Crellin’s equaliser after the hour against Blue Square North side Harrogate Town enforced a replay on the 11th December at the Pilot Field, in front of what promises to be a bumper crowd.
Hastings’ FA Cup run began way back in September, beating Chatham Town in the First Qualifying Round 3-1, their first win in the FA Cup since 2006-07.
In the Second Qualifying Round, they travelled to Staines Town, who themselves were the subject of a historic FA Cup run back in 2009 when they reached the Second Round proper.
A Bradley Goldberg brace helped United to a 3-2 win and seal a place in the Third Qualifying Round.
It then took a replay to get past Hitchin Town, who had defeated Whitehawk 5-0 in the previous round, as player/manager Sean Ray scored possibly one of his most important goals in his career with the winner in a 2-1 victory in Hertfordshire.
Attention was then turned to Blackfield & Langley in the Fourth Qualifying Round, where in front of 800 people the U’s progressed to the first round for the first time in 10 years.
Goals from Zac Attwood, Goldberg and Ray in a 3-0 home win.
A tough away trip to Blue Square North side Bishops Stortford awaited for United on November 3rd, but once again the Ryman Premier outfit caused an upset.
After going 1-0 down after just seven minutes, an inspirational last 20 minutes saw the visitors turn around the deficit and courtesy of Ray and an 87th minute winner from Attwood, the club booked their place in the second round proper for the first time in their 118 year history.
Now after Crellin’s equalizer cancelled out Tom Platt’s first half effort, Hastings believe they can cause another upset and set up a tie with one of the north-east footballing giants.