In-form Elis keeps Town in the Trophy as late Watts brace beats 10-man Westfield
Hungerford Town needed a late brace from substitute Elis Watts to help them come from behind to beat 10-man Westfield 3-1 and book their place in the second round of the FA Trophy on Saturday.
The Crusaders had looked to be heading out of the competition with a quarter-of-an-hour remaining after Quincy Rowe had given the Isthmian League side the lead, only for Sam De St Croix to draw the visitors level before two goals from Watts, including a spectacular strike from distance to make it 2-1.
Perhaps the decisive moment of the game came eight minutes before half time when the referee brandished a red card for Jacob Breckon following a clash of heads with Joe Shepherd, a decision both Town boss Danny Robinson and Westfield manager Ian Selley felt was harsh.
Hungerford's reward is a home tie against National league South side Truro, who will make the long trip from Cornwall on Saturday, November 18.
"It was always going to be difficult. Going to a side in a lower league, at their home ground, teams tend to raise their game," boss Danny Robinson said.
"The chances Westfield had were created by some bad defending, especially at set-pieces. Their goal came from our failure to clear a corner, and then pretty much every set-piece they had, we struggled with.
"The sending off was harsh, I didn't see anything wrong with it personally. I think it was an honest challenge, and the lad's just caught Joe Shepherd with the back of his head. I'm not going to moan about it, it obviously worked in our favour.
"We had a few choice words at half time, it was a bit of a rollicking, but we turned the screw and it felt like there was only really going to be one winner."
Robinson opted to rest both his in-form wingers, replacing Elis Watts and Adulai Sambu with Sean Moore and Slavi Spasov, with former Weston-Super-Mare man Watts coming on and providing a telling contribution.
Sam De St Croix, who signed last month from Bognor Regis, capped an excellent week with a well-taken goal. Having announced he and his partner were expecting a baby earlier in the week, the goalscoring midfielder marked his return to the side with the equaliser.
Robinson said: "I agonised a bit about the team selection, but we wanted to give Slavi and Sean a game, and they both did really well. It's important to utilise our squad.
"Elis is a top player. Most importantly, he's a great young man with a wonderful family. He's got a bright future and we're delighted to have him.
"Sam has been brilliant, he's another I wanted at the start of the season. He's technically brilliant, has an eye for a goal and a real knack of arriving in the box late. We can't just rely on a certain Irishman that plays up front for us, and Elis and Sam can help us spread the goals out."
Hungerford, who are now unbeaten in their last four, turn their attention back to the Southern Premier League ahead of a difficult trip to sixth-placed AFC Totton on Saturday. The Crusaders have struggled on the road, losing six of 11 so far, but have managed positive results in three of their last four on their travels.
"We're getting there. We've just got to make sure we go there believing we can get a result," Robinson said.
"We knew it would take a bit of time. We've only really got Matt Berry-Hargreaves and Rhys Tyler left from last season.
"Totton are a good side, they're going to be there or thereabouts. They're very well-backed, so it'll be difficult, but we're going to go there full of confidence."