Kings Langley passed up a golden opportunity to advance to a financially rewarding FA Cup Third Qualifying Round when they were dumped out by a last minute winner on Saturday from a Hadley side ranked two steps lower in the pyramid.
In-form striker Lewis Toomey was ruled out, but Kings began promisingly with Sean Coughlan and Immanuelson Duku causing problems up front, while Connor Toomey cleared off the line at the other end.
The first controversial decision came on 18 minutes when the lively Duku kept the ball in play with a header, while his feet were the other side of the touchline, ran onto his own pass and was felled as he entered the corner of the box.
The striker dispatched the penalty himself and Kings turned on the style with one touch passing that resulted in a Connor Toomey volley just over, a Gary Connolly shot just wide and a Ryan Plowright effort tipped behind.
Hadley survived without further damage and came back into the game when a cross from Bilal Sanchez saw Danny Boness smother the ball at Ivan Machado’s feet nd the latter’s ball across the face of goal had no takers.
The pendulum had swung and it was all Hadley for the last 15 minutes of the half, but suddenly Kings broke, the otherwise immaculate Sam Lyon and goalkeeper Charlie Mann missed a cross, but the latter recovered to brilliantly block a point blank effort from Duku.
Was that the pivotal point of the match? Probably, as Hadley picked up where they had left off and the seemingly inspired introduction of Dom Petrucci after seven minutes saw his first touch as a control of the ball and his second a volley that bulged the back of the net.
Then came the second controversial incident as Manny Duku took advantage of a misunderstanding between Charlie Mann and Harry Sedgley to have a clear sight of goal before being hauled down.
It was a far more obvious misdemeanour than the first half incident, but was waved away by the official.
Both sides battled for the decider as incident piled upon incident with Connor Toomey blocking what seemed a ‘must score’ moment from Machado, a Kyle Anthony header inches over for Kings and further brave blocks by both Anthony and Boness as Kings lived dangerously.
The last minute of normal time arrived (no extra time, straight to replay), but a decision still looked likely and so it proved with a disputed free kick seeing Machado’s looping back header orbit perfectly over Danny Boness and under the bar to send Hadley into ecstasy and Kings into despair.
Kings head to Banbury in the Southern League Premier on Saturday and visit Kings Lynn on Tuesday, September 27.