1068 And All That: The End of History
HAVE killjoy Boro no respect for history? No respect for the c milestones that mark out the long unfolding drama of this great nation? Have they no feel for the story?
The heartless team ripped up the David and Goliath script and destroy the dreams of an invasion fleet of neutrals - and the majority of the press box - by beating the plucky pyramid part-timers in clinical style.
They also missed a headline open goal when it came to spinning the number of fans.
The travelling support was announced apologetically as 1068. Are they crazy? Surely it should have been gleefully proclaimed with heraldic trumpets as 1066?
It would have nailed on a good PR story and scored some easy back-page coverage after the minnows failed to shape their own fairytale.
They should have got to the landmark click on the away end turnstile then just told the last two stragglers: "Sorry lads, you can't come in. No football colours or trainers."
Boro could have whisked them to the main stand and slipped them under the radar into the directors box. Easy. Or, at a push, just lied about the figure. No one would quibble. Who would spoil that with a Freedom of Information request to check?
Having the travelling fans been recorded as 1066 it would have gone down in history. No schoolboy football fact and trivia potboiler would be complete without the quirky stat.
And it would have salvaged the hopes of lazy hacks everywhere. The headline writers were poised to rattle off "one in the eye" if the giant-killing they yearned for materialised.
Even we at Gazette Towers had a pre-emptive puntastic script written. We were praying for Ginger Messi Luke to score (or Rhys, its doesn't matter really) so we could roll out a 'Williams the Conqueror' headline.
I even scoured every inch of the Boroyeux Tapestry to find an oblique reference to Andy Halliday getting a facial injury and Mogga's mounting crisis.
The TV coverage concentrated on the Hastings fans' long trek to the Northern wilderness. Miles are longer from the down there as you know. And their fans did alright. Considering most of them didn't know who any of the players were.
There was a hardcore of about two hundred at the heart of it who never stopped singing and dancing all game. The ecstatic regulars no doubt, milking their moment of glory for all it was worth. Respect. Good luck to them. I'm glad the cracking goal that they will pin all their memories on happened down at their end. That success is the validation of years of grassroots grind, a once in a generation moment that will warm them through slogs to Staines, Wealdstone and Whitehawk in the winters to come.
The rest - the box fresh day-trippers - started noisily enough then faded after the opener and dipped in and out as the fatigue of a pre-dawn start and lots of beer kicked in and over-rode what was only a peripheral commitment. It was like that army of 40,000 Chesterfield 'diehards' who turned up at Old Trafford never to be seen again.
Fair enough, the cup run has probably got a small town buzzing - it is after all the biggest thing since, er, well, you know - but if they were that proud of their team they would be backing their local team week in, week out.
That would be the real legacy of the Arrows' superb nine game cup run.
And you have to wonder who this lot normally support. There was a loud cheer when the Brighton result was announced - it is the nearest league team to Hastings - but if they were Seagulls fans surely they would have been there to watch them chalk up their annual cup win over Newcastle?
You had to laugh at some of their chants though: "Your ground's too big for you" was rich from a crowd that it seems had largely only been to one home game in their lives. And "We pay your benefits," ... well, let's not go there.
I tried to start a response of "Run from the Normans, you always run from the Normans," but there were no takers in the press box.
The Hastings team did well too. Very well. They deserved their ovation from Boro fans at the end. They didn't try to kick Boro and they didn't hoof it long. They played decent football and on another day may have got something.
Boro dominated but there were the odd tense sixty secs. (Groan.)
In the mandatory spell of heart-stopping minnows pressure they had one pushed onto the post, one disallowed and Jason Steele made a wondersave from Andy Halliday when it was still only 1-0.
But in truth, once Zemmama scored the opener the result was never in doubt - despite the anxious chuntering of the terminally jittery at half-time about "another Burton".
Boro fielded the strongest possible side even if it was distorted by injuries - the three centre-backs in a 343 shape included left winger Andy Halliday and human shield Nicky Bailey.
And they did a professional job, Big Ish's spot-kick aside. That would have been poor in the post-match kids' shoot-out. Boro dominated for long spells, moved well, passed it around crisply, probed and scored a couple of decent goals - Zemmama's opener was real quality - and they never got complacent.
Sure, Hastings goal was the best of the day and they finished on a high but it couldn't disguise Boro's superiority.
Of course, the big boys should win these games - but plenty of other sides slipped up, Newcastle, Cardiff and Wolves included. Boro, playing an unusual shape, made sure there were no mistakes.
Which was a shame for the assembled hack pack. The normally sparse press box was heaving. It was a roll call of the great and good from the national titles and a couple of strange beasts besides. A writer from Sky! A couple of big national blogzines. Clem. Some making their first visit of the season. Or longer.
And they were all charged with writing battle pun packed colour features on the butcher, baker, candlestick maker, waltzer spinner and the naked butler. If Hastings won that is.
As it is Boro eased through and there is no story. Boring. They will get 10 paragraphs now; tops. The story in the regional editions now is Newcastle's annual exit at Brighton.
And it was a healthy enough crowd too. Given the opposition and the general downward slope in early round FA Cup gates it was respectable. Look at some of the others: mighty Leeds drew 11,447 for their clash with Birmingham.
Plus, a couple more lively looking youngsters were blooded too. Five home wins in a row and eight out of nine. Eight goals in two games. A decent day all round.
And a decent fourth round draw too with another home tie against one of the lowest ranked teams possible. You can't argue with that. Aldershot are low on glamour maybe - their fans won't be overly thrilled either - but it is high on the possibility of repeated routine progress into the serious stages of the FA Cup where real juicy games and big bucks await.
Club bean-counters may have preferred the big payday of Manchester United away and 40% of the gate at Old Trafford now. But they'll keep.