In another sign of these unprecedented times Hartley Wintney hosted this Emirates FA Cup 1st Qualifying Round tie on a Tuesday evening with the opposition Erith & Belvedere having travelled up from Kent.
The hosts had reached this round with a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Hamworthy United, whilst The Deres had been taken to spot kicks by Alford FC, so both knew how to dig in for the victory.
There were no real surprises on the team sheet for The Row, but a bit of research revealed that the visitors had travelled without their main threat up front which could blunt their attack.
The home side had the opening chance when Ben Wright headed a cross fractionally wide of the goal.
Henry Dasafunjo did manage to run into some space, but his attempt to get the ball into the box was too weak and didn’t beat the first defender. The next attack saw The Deres win a free-kick, and from that, the ball broke to Matt Neary in the box to give him a chance as he spun and shot, but it went straight into Luke Williams’s gloves.
Hartley Wintney stepped up the pressure winning a corner kick, and Shane Hollamby headed the ball down into the ground only for it bounce back of the bar. Matt Drage fizzed a volley just over the bar, and then on the 26th minute, Hollamby put a free header straight into the net past a helpless Rilwan Anibaba to make it 1-0!
Anibaba pulled off a great save to prevent Sam Argent scoring with a header, and Dominic Griffiths sent a header wide.
The pressure told further as the half ran down with Mitch Parker running onto a ball in the box on the 41st minute and some intricate work in the area allowing a far-post cross which Wright slammed home on 48th minute to give Hartley Wintney 3-0 lead at half time.
The second half saw Anibaba pull off an incredible save from Tyron Smith’s deflected free kick to keep the score as it was.
A golden opportunity to get a goal back opened up for Malik Nosike as he broke into the area looking certain to score, only for Williams to save at his feet.
As quickly as that chance had come and gone it was 4-0 because on the 62nd minute Wright got his second of the game nipping in to fire past Anibaba into the net.
The match had been lively, to say the least, and I was beginning to wince every time two players came together for a tackle, and on the 63rd minute, The Deres were reduced down to ten men when left-back James Hawkins picked up his second yellow card and was dismissed from the pitch.
Lukas Burt found space and managed to round the keeper, but the defender got back to clear his shot off the line. However, on the 85th minute, Burt did beat Anibaba from Stow’s cross to make it 5-0!
There was still time for Anibaba to make one blinding save to prevent Stow from adding his name to the scoresheet as well, and even though he was on the losing side I think that I would say that The Deres keeper would get my MoM award in front of a socially distanced crowd of 254 on this Tuesday evening.
So it’s Hartley Wintney who will have their eyes scanning the FA website on Friday lunchtime to see who they draw, which Erith & Belvedere go back to focusing on league fixtures this season.
Hartley Wintney: Williams, Smart (Capt), Bird (Eatwell), Drage, Hollamby, Smith (Stow), Griffiths, Nuuir, Argent, Parker & Wright (Burt). Unused Subs: Harris, Gater, Burden & Webb.
Erith & Belvedere: Anibaba, Adeyemo, Hawkins (Dismissed), Patterson (Capt), Curtis, Barrett, Dasafunjo (Springett), Allassani, Neary (Anderson), Taylor & Nosike (Diakieesse). Unused Subs: Oldfield, Teeley, Abatan & Gayle.