James McKernan's hat-trick helped Worthing United reach the FA Cup preliminary round at the expense of SCFL Division 1 league rivals Littlehampton Town last night.
As well as McKernan's treble, Jake Luff also netted as United came from two goals down to run out 4-2 victors after extra-time in their extra preliminary round replay at The Sportsfield.
Efforts from Davidson Mendes Borges and Alex Fair - his first Golds goal - inside 15 minutes looked to have put Nigel Geary on his way to a first win as Littlehampton manager.
McKeran's strike minutes before the break gave Mavericks a sniff before defender Luff forced extra-time with his header ten minutes from time.
United were ahead for the first time in the tie after 104 minutes courtesy of McKernan's second and would go on to win it. A frustrating evening was compounded when Sean Culley was shown a straight red card after 115 minutes before McKernan completed his hat-trick less than a minute later - sealing £2,250 in prize money for United and a trip to two-divisions Bostik League South East Hythe Town on Saturday week.
Mavericks player-manager Matt Evans hailed the fighting spirit shown by his team and said: " We showed unbelievable character to come back. To go 2-0 down after 15 minutes at a place like Littlehampton, it would have been easy to thrown the towel in. But I’m so proud of our lads.
"People sometimes say that young players lack the fight and determination to succeed these days. We had three 17 year olds and six 20 year olds make up our squad but they fought tooth and nail to get us in the hat for the next round.
"To a man, they were fantastic. I'm hoping now that we can take this momentum forward."
Manager Geary was left wondering how Golds did not manage to come through the tie and said: "We've lead in each of the three games we've played this season yet not won any of them. For whatever reason we seem to take a lead and want to rush things, we should be slowing things down and playing at our pace.
"It is a new team but the players I've got here are more than capable of picking up results at this level. We just need that first win to breed the belief throughout the squad."
United host Oakwood in the league on Saturday, while Golds make the trip to Southwick. The teams then meet in a SCFL Division 1 clash at Lyons Way on Wednesday (7.45pm).
LITTLEHAMPTON TOWN: Platt; Khan, Haward, Boxall, Culley, Edwards, Borges, Fair, Callaghan, Santos, Elliott. Subs: Hayes (Elliott, 75), Lintott (Khan, 90), O'Regan (Callaghan, 90), Tilley (Haward, 110), McKay, Askew.
WORTHING UNITED: Evans; Nagle, Luff, Webber, Davison, Funnell, Sherwood, Layton, McKernan, Deacon, Robbins. Subs: Hurley (Layton, 65), Kinsman (Deacon, 93).
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