FA Cup agony for Hayes & Yeading as they throw away 2-0 lead in dying moments of a classic tie
FA Cup First Round
Hayes & Yeading United 2 Carlisle United 2
(After extra-time: Carlisle win 4-3 on pens)
It was a classic of its kind, but that will be of no consolation to Hayes and Yeading, who ended up blowing a 2-0 lead with two minutes of extra-time remaining against League Two Carlisle.
It seemed almost inevitable that the non-league side would be made to suffer for their failure to close it out after playing so well for so long and they duly succumbed on penalties.
Skipper Liam McDevitt, of all people, was the man who effectively brought the curtain down on a beautiful dream. His bellowing voice of encouragement was heard all afternoon as he cajoled and coaxed a battling performance from his team-mates.
But there was only silence after he blasted his kick wide – the first of the sudden-death kicks.
Gavin Reilly then beat keeper Jack Smith with Carlisle’s sixth kick of the shoot-out and it was all over.
McDevitt was not alone in suffering from the spot as Jack Williams’ stuttering run-un was easily saved by Carlisle stopper Marcus Dewhurst, who also diverted Keano Robinson’s effort onto the underside of the bar.
Smith saved from Josh Kayode to keep the Southern League Premier Division South outfit in the hunt after both sides had completed their set of five – Carlisle’s Lewis Alessandra having also missed by striking the post - but it was not enough.
Really, the penalties disappointment should not have been in the script. It looked like being one of those classic cup ties where the minnows ride their luck and then plunder a giant-killers' strike.
The hosts did get lucky, as their more illustrious opponents, 73 places above them in the league pyramid, twice hit the woodwork – Joe Riley cracking the underside of the crossbar and Gavin Reilly hitting a post when it seemed easier to score.
And despite the fact a heat map of the game would have shown excessive white-hot zone activity 20 yards from the Hayes goal, the Cumbrians’ efforts became increasingly desperate.
They had the superior talents and passing, but a determination to keep fighting and clog up the spaces outside the box kept Paul Hughes’ men in with a puncher’s chance – especially with the prolific goalscorer Francis Amartey always willing to chase those long breaks out of defence.
And so it proved. With a minute remaining of the first half of extra time, Omar Rowe set off on a brilliant run from half way, leaving players trailing in his wake. He eventually ran out of space, but was fed the ball back by Bay Downing and he gleefully swept home.
Then, three minutes after the turn-around, following a corner, sub Amos Nasha's swift turn and low left-foot shot arrowed into the bottom corner.
Everything in extra time suggested Carlisle’s race had been run, but somehow, they scored twice – moments of sheer agony for the hosts.
Jon Mellish popped up to sink a left foot shot low into the bottom corner and the same player spun onto that same left foot moments later to find the same corner of netting – Hayes having failed to deal with a long throw.
So, agony for Hayes at the SkyEx Community Stadium, as they missed out on reaching the second round for the first time by the narrowest of margins. But it was a tie deserving of an audience. The drama was totally in keeping with the history of this amazing old competition.
Hayes boss Hughes, who kept his distraught players in a five-minute huddle after the game, had to think long and hard when asked if it was the worst disappointment he had suffered in his time as a football manager. Eventually, he said: "The first year I was here we had a relegation, and nothing is worse than that. But I have never known a game like that.
"I'm immensely proud of the players. Going into extra time, you'd have thought we'd be the side to slow down but we didn't. So that makes our defeat difficult to swallow.
"We're down but I'm happy because we have taken a very good league two side to the wire. We were tired at the end but we will come back stronger from this. We'll take a huge, huge amount of credit for this."
Hughes, whose side would have been allowed to stay in training for the second round had they gone through,rather than sit it out during the lockdown, added: "That makes it a double whammy for us that we have gone out. "
Hayes & Yeading: Smith – Downing (Johnson-Schuster 116), McDevitt, Robinson, Norville-Williams – Rowe, Williams, Sheppard (Gafaiti 110), Odelusi – Cunningham (Donnelly 69, Nasha 95) , Amartey. Subs not used: Lavin, Bajja, Hanlon.