Littlehampton Town vs. Hastings United HERO

Rodari rocket fires Hastings into Final

Words by Jamie Spoor
Littlehampton Town 0-3 Hastings United

Last night was one to remember for Hastings United and their supporters, as they put in a near complete performance to edge out a determined Littlehampton Town side at Culver Road, to progress to their first Sussex Transport Senior Cup final in 26 years.

Chris Agutter’s ‘U’s’ were given a significant scare by Littlehampton, but ultimately prevailed to seal their place in the final.

There, the four-time winners will lock horns with divisional rivals Horsham, themselves bidding for an eighth title, in the county’s most prestigious cup competition.

Hastings had found things tougher than expected and needed Rodari’s 82nd minute tap-in and even later 25-yarder screamer to put a comfortable distance between them and the Step 4 side.

In truth, the eventual scoreline was slightly harsh on the Golds. Mitchell Hand’s men fell behind early but recovered to give a good account of themselves only to be thwarted by a combination of good goalkeeping, wasteful finishing and heroic last ditch defending.

Legg had already fired a warning shot in the seventh minute when he thumped an angled effort off a post, but made no mistake with his second chance five minutes later.

The Hastings no.17 collected a ball over the top, took a touch to steady himself and fired it towards goal, and thanks to a more than helpful deflection of a Littlehampton defender, goalkeeper James Binfield was unable to react quick enough.

Coach and captain then combined to almost bring about a leveller for Littlehampton. Player/manager George Gaskin released his captain Dion Jarvis one-on-one but Hastings stopper Charlie Grainger got down well to save.

Jordan Clark was booked for a late challenge as he scythed down the tricky John Ufuah on the edge of the box, and was almost made to pay an even greater price when Rodari’s resultant free-kick beat the wall but was tipped wide by the busy Binfield.

Dave Herbert went close at the other end when he lobbed into the gloves of Grainger, but Hastings had another huge opportunity to increase their advantage just shy of the interval.

Ufuah poked his effort goalwards after a scramble in the box, and the ball looked to have trickled in only for Josh Short to come to his side’s rescue as he cleared it off the line.

That proved to be the last action of a half United had the better of, but Littlehampton belied the gap between the sides with an impressive showing after the interval.

Grainger certainly put the small but vocal band of travelling U’s through the wringer. A string of second-half saves kept the Golds at arm’s length, but only after he almost proved the architect of his own downfall.

A wayward, hurried clearance from the keeper cannoned off Gaskin and rolled inches wide of the upright, much to his and his side’s relief.

Moments later, he redeemed himself for that misjudgment with a fine save from Jarvis and would later tip over from substitute Ollie Starkey’s edge-of-the-box curler.

Nordibek Bobomudurov saw his effort deflected narrowly wide and Clark headed against the post from a corner as Town upped the ante in search of a leveller.

In an exciting, end-to-end encounter befitting of this competition, back came Hastings as they weathered the storm and saw chances of their own go begging.

Binfield saved a Tom Chalmers strike from distance and the dangerous, effervescent Legg flashed over the top on the counter.

It wasn’t until eight minutes from time when the Step 3 side ultimately made the game safe. A raking crossfield pass picked out John Ufuah who turned the ball across goal into the path of Rodari to apply the finish from close range.

The same player then applied the finishing touch in the final minute with a stunning 25-yard strike into the top corner that beat Binfield all ends up to send United into the Sussex Transport Senior Cup Final.

Littlehampton Town vs. Hastings United
Littlehampton Town vs. Hastings United - 12-03-24
Highlights from the Sussex Transport Senior Cup Semi-Final - powered by Your Instant Replay

(A selection of photographs can be found on Facebook - courtesy of Simon Roe Photography)

(Video highlights are available above and on YouTube - courtesy of Your Instant Replay)

Stats (Littlehampton Town-Hastings United): Goals (0-3), Shots (12-11), Shots-on-target (5-7), Corners (3-5), Fouls (8-12), Offsides (2-1), Yellow cards (2-0), Red cards (0-0).

Littlehampton Town: Binfield; Clark, Butler, Ball, Packer; Herbert, Bobomudurov, Layton; Short, Gaskin, Jarvis.
Subs: O.Starkey (Packer 60), Heath (Short 66), Kirkwood (Herbert 74), Powell-Downey (Ball 77), Yoro-Thomas (Butler 80).

Hastings United: Grainger; Chalmers, Walker, Lovatt; Okoye-Ahaneku, Fagg, Gale, Ufuah; Legg, Janneh, Rodari.
Subs:  Labanga (Fagg 75), Harley (Janneh 86), Sterling, Marchant (Chalmers, Lovatt 88), Thompson.

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