Leiston celebrate goal number three
Hungerford Town 1 Leiston 4
WHAT a giveaway it was as Hungerford handed Leiston a £7,500 cheque and a place in the Fourth Qualifying Round of the Emirates FA Cup at a stunned Bulpit Lane.
Home supporters were staggered after their side was seemingly coasting into the next round with 17 minutes to play, and the visitors as they were able to celebrate a win that had never looked like happening.
It all hinged on a poor back-header from skipper Matt Day that handed Matt Blake an equaliser, and two minutes later full back Patrick Brothers put the visitors ahead with the Hungerford defence shredding.
It was in pieces when Byron Lawrence struck a third after 87 minutes and Blake rounded it off in stoppage time to complete the astonishing turnaround.
“It was so embarrassing it’s a joke,” said manager Bobby Wilkinson. “It wasn’t Matty Day’s goal, but the manner in which we conceded one and then conceded four.
“We had the best 75 minutes of football we’ve played all season. We destroyed them for 45 minutes and the first 25 minutes of the second half.
“They deserved to win in the end, and I’ve no problem with that, but the way we crumbled is just a joke.”
If there was one flaw before that finish, it was that Hungerford failed to make the most of their near-total control. Rhys Tyler and Luke Williams had early efforts with the latter missing the target when well-placed, and Hungerford won a string of corners and other set pieces that came to nothing and they had to wait for than an hour for the goal that finally cracked the visitors’ defence.
It was a quick break from a rare Leiston raid that saw Williams find Stefan Brown, who swept the ball through for the supporting Tyler to lash home from an angle.
Only after that did Leiston show some attacking threat and defender Joe Jefford put the ball into George Legg’s arms, but Hungerford were still well on top after 73 minutes when Day got under Gareth Heath’s hopeful up and under with no real pressure, but dropped his weak back-header well short of Legg and Black accepted the gift.
And suddenly one became two when Blake got away down the right and crossed to the back post when Lawrence got the ball back for full back Brothers to drive home, and although Williams had a chance he put over the angle, Leiston were bubbling and when Heath’s free kick again set Black free, Legg could only parry his cross-shot and Lawrence pounced.
Blake’s walk-in fourth completed the remarkable about-turn and left a mixture of head-scratching and head-banging at Bulpit Lane.
Hungerford Town: Legg; Tyler, Boardman, Day, John; Clark, Rees, Williams; S. Brown, Goodger, Soares. Subs: Jarvis, Jones, Preen, Bignall, Herring, Fragata, Strudley.
Leiston: Marsden; O. Brown, Jefford, Bullard, Brothers; Lawrence, Heath, Ainsley, Francis; Blake, Finch. Subs: Saker, Winter, Dunbar, Schaar, Pelling, Potter.