Opportunity knocks for Hastings

OPPORTUNITY knocks for Hastings United as they continue their FA Cup adventure on Saturday October 16 with a tricky clash at Spalding United.

Hastings travel halfway up the country into the wilds of Lincolnshire for a third qualifying round tie that on paper looks too close to call.

There is plenty at stake because as well as pocketing a cheque for 5,000 the winners will join the Nationwide Conference clubs in the hat for the next round - the last before League clubs join the competition.

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"Everybody knows what the consequences are on Saturday if we can get a good result," said manager Steve Lovell. "Who knows who we will get in the fourth qualifying round, it could be a Conference side and if we were to get through that the League clubs come into it so it's a good opportunity for the boys to have a go on Saturday, hopefully get a result out of it and pit their skills against a team further up the football ladder."

Spalding lie 14th in Northern Premier Division One and the home draw against a team who play at the same standard in the Non-League pyramid means that, like Hastings, they will fancy their chances of progressing. "That's the most exciting thing about it," said Lovell. "They'll be thinking the same as us. They'll be thinking they've got a chance of overturning us.

"I had them watched on Saturday. I know a little bit about them. They play 4-4-2, they've got two good lads up front and I think the main forward is the leading scorer in the league so they know how to score goals but they are very slow at the back, so I will be working on getting in behind them and trying to get them turned."

Since beating Belper United 5-4 in the previous round Spalding have lost their last three matches, conceding 10 goals in the process but scoring seven themselves.

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Hastings have also been up and down over the past few weeks, pulling off a superb win at Carshalton Athletic in the previous round of the FA Cup before tumbling meekly out of the FA Trophy against East Thurrock United, but Lovell believes last weekend's defeat was due to the players having one eye on Spalding.

"The week before is an anti-climax because your mind is on the big one. I've been through it before and I can understand the players and I knew that perhaps I might get that reaction," he said. "Hopefully we will be in a positive mind this Saturday to give this team a good game because if we play as we can do there are not many teams in this standard we have to worry about."

The experienced Alan Tutton returns to the starting line-up in place of David Henham and Steve Hafner, who did so well against Carshalton, will also play provided he comes through training. The team will be Danny Knowles, Jimmy Elford, Russell Eldridge, Richard Bolton, Sean Ray, Steve Hafner, Alan Tutton, Jon Wallis, Ryan Peters, Carl Rook, Chris Honey.

Any replay would be on the following Tuesday (kick-off 7.45pm) which would mean the scheduled league match at home to Burgess Hill Town would have to be postponed.