• Ryman Premier team head for night out in Newcastle
• Merouane Zemmama puts Boro in the hat for fourth round
Anyone who believes the FA Cup has lost its allure should speak to Sean Ray. The Hastings player-manager enjoyed a fine game at centre half as his Ryman League part-timers gave Middlesbrough a few frights before heading off for a thoroughly deserved night out on Newcastle's quayside. "Some big clubs might not take the FA cup seriously," said Ray. " But it means a lot to our players, our fans, the whole town. It's given us all magic memories."
Considered, passing football, a 25-yard goal by the impressive Bradley Goldberg and the two top-class saves they forced from the England Under-21 goalkeeper Jason Steele ensured Hastings left the pitch to a standing ovation.
"My highlight was at the final whistle," Ray added. "Our supporters were brilliant. This FA Cup run – and we won eight ties to get to Middlesbrough – is for them as much as us. I had my mum and dad in the away end, my sons were up there, my niece, my brother in law, my uncle, my cousins. Seeing them up there and how happy they were, that's when it all hit home. It was a bit emotional."
It is safe to assume that by the early hours of Sunday morning a few Hastings fans might have been just a little tired and emotional. "We'll all go out in Newcastle," Ray said. "We're all in this together. We're not a professional football club, we're run by volunteers who allow us to go out and play, so this is everyone's achievement."
Considering that some members of Ray's squad – containing an ice-cream seller, a teacher, a plumber, a few students and even a naked-butler-cum-South African bushranger – play for £100 a week, the quality of their football was outstanding. At half-time, before Boro's superior fitness levels really started counting, they trailed by only one goal – namely a spectacular 20-yard curler from the exciting Merouane Zemmama.
By then Liam O'Brien, a goalkeeper borrowed from Barnet on Thursday, had also saved a penalty from Ishmael Miller. "I've been injured so this was my first game for four months," Miller said. "I had to leave my house in Harrow at 5.15am on Friday to meet the lads at Hastings and get the coach up to Newcastle."
En route, O'Brien's phone was busy. "I had loads of mates ringing, telling me Miller's last two penalties went down his left. I don't normally listen but this time I did and I saved it. My contract at Barnet runs out in four months and it was the bit of luck I needed."
Although Miller scored Boro's fourth, Ray made a decent job of marking the centre forward, contributing two vital tackles. "It didn't half hurt when he landed on my foot though," joked the player-manager, who saw Andy Halliday and Zemmama put Boro three up before Goldberg reduced the deficit.
"It was what I'd been dreaming about the night before," said the son of the former Crystal Palace owner Mark Goldberg. "I just picked it up, saw a chance, curled it and it's gone in. It was unbelievable. It was what the FA Cup is all about."
Man of the match Bradley Goldberg (Hastings United)