LACEY'S ROMAN HOLIDAY
Tom Lacey enjoyed the trip to Staffordshire as his 70th minute strike saw Gate defeat a spirited Rocester, fighting for their MFA survival.
An excellent result for an understrength Highgate side which having surrendered an early two goal lead went on to take the three points thanks to Tom Lacey's 70th minute strike. All three goals were scored by players not used to having their names on the score sheet, Reece Lynch and Richard Robinson giving their team a two goal cushion within the opening ten minutes, the home side responding twice with the equaliser coming on the half time whistle.
Battling for MFA survival Rocester ensured the visitors worked hard for the win there being one or two anxious moments in the Highgate defence before Lacey popped up with what was to prove the winner. Gate came into the game on the back of a busy week which had seen them lose to Coventry Sphinx then push leaders Tividale all the way to earn a home point on Thursday evening, such rigours not without taking their toll with Nathan Edgington and Dean Curtis both out injured and leading scorer Lei Brown unavailable. Robinson and Tom Reynolds both returned from injury to earn starts, with Joe Adams and Daryl Jones continuing in their midfield roles.
If manager Lee Adams was looking for an improvement in form then he will have been more than pleased when his side's lively start was rewarded with the opening goal after just sixty seconds. Lacey and Nathan Pulisciano were responsible for Adams picking up the ball on the left by-line to hit a cross hit over the heads of defenders for Lynch to score with a downward header deflected in off the boot of keeper Richard Froggatt. Stung by the early reverse Rocester caused a couple of problems of their own Tom Ellerton forcing his way through but way off target with a shot fired high over the bar, then hitting Liam Shaw's squared pass over by a similar margin. Karl King had an effort blocked then when put through by Jones was well tackled by full back Tom Brown. Pulisciano won a corner which led to the second goal, Adams' flag kick flicked on by Lynch for Robinson to appear from nowhere and head in.
The positive start continued with Froggatt catching another Adams' corner under his bar, Chris Jay's first action coming after fifteen minutes with a comfortable catch from Ellerton's cross from wide on the left. Seconds later though and the arrears were reduced, a poor goal to concede when Shaw rose unchallenged to head home from close range. The goal had come somewhat against the run of play but revigorated the hosts with Michael Machin first driving a twenty yard free kick into a well organised wall then hitting a reasonable half chance wide. Jones was unlucky with a twenty five yard thunderbolt despatched a foot too high Reynolds then glancing his far post header wide off Pulisciano's assist. With the home side pressing in numbers Craig Hall stood rock solid at the heart of the Highgate defence with both Reynolds and Jones making solid headed clearances.
Some good build up play led to King being just a fraction away from getting a touch on Adams' cross, Froggatt making a desperate save to prevent centre half Dan Wain converting an own goal. Lynch broke clear only to finish hastily with a shot blazed over the bar a competitive contest seeing Tyrone Wilson go close with a header despatched over Jay's bar Lynch equally near with a similar chance at the opposite end. But with the referee looking at his whistle to signal the finish of the first forty five minutes of play a needlessly conceded free kick resulted in Brown levelling things with a drive which found its way past Jay at his left hand post.
HT: Rocester 2 v 2 Highgate United
Rocester began the second half looking the more threatening of the two sides, Robinson heading out Wilson's cross and Machin left all alone to head over from two yards out. Hall protected his goal with a characteristic diving header, George Barlow a yard high of the bar with a ten yard opportunity, Rocester in the driving seat with Gate's play lacking any real attacking momentum in the early stages of a half which could go either way.
Not wanting to throw away a two goal lead for a fifth time this season Gate gradually upped their game, Adams forcing Froggatt into a good save low down at the foot of his near post, Shane Benjamin, a work horse all afternoon, then going close with a header of Adams' thirty yard free kick. Jay made an excellent save and follow up punch to keep out a firmly struck twenty five yard free kick but with Gate enjoying their best spell of the half so Adams' 70th minute corner was headed out but only as far as Lacey who from the edge of the box picked his spot with a shot driven low past Froggatt into the bottom corner of the net.
Gate continued to defend well and retain possession but being grateful to Jay for producing an excellent full length save to keep out Barlow's volley destined for the bottom corner. King and substitutes Luke Fuller and Jordan Adams all worked hard in helping out their defence, and although Jay was to save bravely at Machins' feet Benjamin was close to having the final say with an attempted fifteen yard lob which ultimately failed to trouble Froggatt in the home goal, Gate finishing a hard working team team display with a well merited victory.
Highgate United: Jay; Robinson; Lacey; Adams (Joe); Hall; Reynolds; Lynch (Jordan Adams 85); Jones (Fuller 50); Benjamin; King; Pulisciano; Substitute not used: Rolfe
Rocester: Richard Froggatt; Tom Brown; Aaron Dillon; Paul Whalley; Carl Allen;) Dan Wain; Tyrone Wilson; George Barlow; Liam Shaw; Michael Machin; Tom Ellerton; Substitutes: Dan McDonald; Errol Johnson; Ryan Rutland-Jones.