SAINTS STOP GATE MARCHING ON
Bottom of the table Heather fully deserved their point against a weary looking Highgate side.
Bottom of the table Heather fully deserved their point against a weary looking Highgate side, which for the second time this campaign managed just a draw against their visitors fighting for Midland Football Alliance survival.
Manager Lee Adams will have been disappointed by his team’s flat display against determined opposition but in mitigation point to a long hard run in to a season during which his small squad have been playing a minimum two games a week, a programme which at some stage was sure to take its toll. Heather though had enough chances to have earned a win whilst at the other end opportunities were few and far between with Lei Brown having a frustrating afternoon alone up front in the absence of strike partner Shane Benjamin.
Dean Curtis had given Gate a half time lead quickly cancelled out after the break by Mitchell Woodbine, the hosts having to defend for long periods and work hard for a share of the spoils. Squad rotation has become the name of the game for boss Adams, Chris Jay returning in goal, Curtis and Tom Lacey both back in the starting line up, with Craig Hall and Karl King on the bench joined by Daryl Jones.
The game began quietly on a perfect sun kissed afternoon, later to be spoilt by a strong wind, Lacey the first to go on the attack lifting a ball into the box missed both by defenders and Brown at the far post. A series of Joe Adams’ corners resulted in Luke Fuller having a drive deflected wide, the visitors’ Jacob Wright playing a square ball from which Lacey was back to block Jimmy Slack’s shot at the expense of a corner.
Jay’s goal had a let off when centre forward Jake Healey failed to connect with Woodbine’s cross, Nathan Pulisciano then forced to clear up at the back after Healey’s pace had caused further problems. Reece Lynch’s 18th minute free kick was just too long for Nathan Edgington to get a touch, custodian George Woodward easily gathering the through ball, then following good work by Tom Reynolds in the middle of the park Brown was near with an effort off Edgington’s pass. Neither side had made the best of starts it being 25th minute before Jay had a save to make low down from Healy, Lynch and Pulisciano hooking a couple of dangerous crosses to safety, the lively Healy then carelessly wide with a far post header.
By the half hour mark Heather were enjoying more than their fair share of play, but with Gate defending resolutely, it was Brown who had the next chance with a lob sent drifting off target, defender Hayden John then near to an own goal when clearing under pressure from Edgington and Brown. Woodward dropped the resulting corner with Brown unable to get a final touch on the loose ball, Gate then grateful to Richard Robinson for stretching out a leg to tackle Slack in the box following a quick counter attack down the right hand side. In 40th minute Brown played in Fuller for a drive deflected behind but which was to lead to the opening goal, Curtis directing his header off Adams’ corner between Woodward and his right hand post. Robinson twice did well to clear Wright crosses at the foot of the near post, Jay then saving bravely at Slack’s feet
ensuring a clean sheet for his underperforming team which went in at half time holding on to the narrowest of leads.
HT Highgate United 1 v 0 Heather St John’s
Immediately after the break Lynch broke down the right to test Woodward from long range, but within two minutes of the restart Gate’s lead had been pegged back poor defending allowing a deep cross to be headed back across goal where the waiting Woodbine was to make no mistake with a close range header.
Gate responded with Edgington cutting inside to fire a shot a foot too high and when Brown was brought down on the edge of the box Adams could only hit the resulting free kick into a well organised wall. On two separate occasions Curtis and Pulisciano were forced to back track in thwarting the visitors on the break, Heather’s ascendancy and lively play helped in no small measure by Gate constantly giving the ball away and conceding long periods of possession.
On a rare foray forward Lynch sent Brown clear for a lobbed attempt comfortably held by Woodward, the keeper then parrying a subsequent firmly hit shot from Gate’s leading scorer. Unable to make any headway against a well organised defence Gate were again on the back foot, Woodbine wide from twenty yards and Jay holding on to Slack’s angled drive.
Visiting substitute Matthew Oliver’s first touch ended with a cross headed behind by Slack, fellow substitute Troy Wallen then squandering a good chance to give his side the lead, bursting clear only to panic with the goal in sight and the chance dragged off target. Woodward saved late on from Lynch, but all the pressure was on Jay’s goal, the keeper twice taking the sting out of long range efforts from Woodbine and being relieved to see Wallen head over from a yard out, a miss which allowed Gate the fortune of a draw from a game where the three points should have been back in Leicestershire.
Highgate United: Jay; Lynch; Pulisciano; Curtis; Robinson (Hall 80); Reynolds (Jones 56); Lacey; Fuller (King 56); Adams (Joe); Edgington; Brown Substitutes not used: Rolfe; Adams (Jordan)
Heather St John’s: George Woodward; Jacob Sturgess; Hayden John; Dylon Spiers; Joshua McPherson; Daniel Chapman; Liam Baines; Jimmy Slack; Jake Healy; Jacob Wright; Mitchell Woodbine; Substitutes: Harry Reece; Troy Wallen; Conal Powell; Conor Wright; Matthew Oliver