A 5-1 win against Eastbourne Town has taken Wintney into the third qualifying round of the FA Cup for only the second time in the club's history
Beaming Ben Dillon masterminded a record-equalling victory in the second qualifying round of the FA Cup - and then set his sights on taking Hartley Wintney into uncharted territory.
Sam Argent and Ryan Stephens each scored twice in a 5-1 triumph at Eastbourne Town, who are bottom of Ryman League Division One South, one division above The Row.
So a fourth win in the FA Cup this season took Hartley Wintney into the third qualifying round for only the second time in the club’s 116-year history.
Their reward is a winnable home tie against Clevedon Town, from the Calor (Southern) League, on October 12.
The Somerset club have won just one of their first eight matches in Division One South and West, again only one division above Dillon’s in-form side.
Ex-Aldershot defender Clayton Fortune is Clevedon’s captain and scored the opening goal as the Seasiders beat Sholing 2-0 in the FA Cup on Saturday.
Kick-off at Eastbourne was delayed by 50 minutes because The Row’s team coach was caught in traffic after a serious crash on the M25, but it was worth the wait as Dillon’s men took advantage of the Sussex side’s ill-discipline.
Nathan Daly was sent off on 36 minutes after fouling Shane Hollamby, his second bookable offence inside 10 minutes, and James Vaughan saw red for a bad challenge on Argent 20 minutes from time.
The Row were level at 1-1 and then 2-1 up at the time of the dismissals.
Richard Greenfield had the ball in the net for Town but was correctly adjudged offside before Argent opened the scoring on 22 minutes with a low shot from Jack Coventry’s through ball.
Town levelled after a corner by Vaughan 11 minutes later. Dan Pollard met it with a powerful close-range header, Craig Atkinson tipped onto the crossbar and Billy Medlock pounced on the rebound for his seventh goal of the season.
Medlock continued to be Town’s main threat. The former Eastbourne Borough striker forced a fine save from Atkinson just before half time and curled onto the bar 15 seconds after the break.
Greg Nessling acrobatically kept out Max Elward’s 25-yarder, but Argent restored The Row’s advantage from Hollamby’s pass on 68 minutes.
A jinking run by Coventry set up Stephens’ first (80) and the same player struck again five minutes from time, hammering in off the bar after good play by Coventry and Tom Walsh.
Substitute Zac Reynolds completed a stunning success in stoppage time, firing in off a post after Nessling saved from livewire Coventry.
Player-manager Dillon revealed: “I would have taken a draw beforehand, but even in the first half I was confident we’d win the match.
“Ryan and Sam are prolific scorers and we’ll be lucky to keep them. Clubs from Conference South were knocking on the door in the summer, but they both decided to stay.
“A cup run means a lot, financially as much as anything else. I’m over the moon.”
HARTLEY WINTNEY: Atkinson, Walsh, Urquhart, Jones, Elward, Lloyd, Stephens, C Saunders, Argent (Reynolds), Hollamby, Coventry. Subs: M Saunders, Partlow, Hutt, Minton, Dillon, Hobden.
Ref: Tom Ellams. Att: 133.