FAT'LL DO NICELY
Lei-thal Lei Brown grabbed a second half hat-trick in the Bank Holiday Derby as The Gate comfortably beat The Church 3-0
Highgate reacted to back to back defeats in the best possible way, an accomplished performance leading to what turned out to be a comfortable local derby win, Lee Adams’ men carrying far too much weight for a visiting side which was second best throughout a contest totally controlled by the hosts.
Lei Brown came off the bench to complete a remarkable second half hat-trick, bringing his tally for the season to an average of a goal a game, although the end result was not just about one man but a good all round team display which was what boss Adams was looking for after the disappointments of the past week.
Gate could also point to a first half “goal” which never was, denied by officials who appeared to be among the few at Tythe Barn Lane who failed to see Reece Lynch’s deflected shot ripple the inside of the side netting before spinning back into play, a bizarre moment which fortunately had no affect the final score.
As well as Brown being rested, boss Adams was without Shane Benjamin and Daryl Jones, recalling Leon Blake and Karl King to the starting line up, with Jordan Adams, who had enjoyed an excellent ninety minutes at Causeway on Saturday, a substitute alongside Danny Rolfe and Nathan Edgington.
King began alone up front with Lynch providing a more than willing foil, an early cross from the wide right man headed out by full back Halpin Brogan. Richard Robinson, later to be replaced by Brown, suffered an injury following a tangle with Dominic Perkins, Nathan Pulisciano then releasing Tom Lacey down the left hand side, too much pace allowing a covering defender to find touch.
What looked a fair Tom Reynolds’ challenge on Connor Deards ended in a harshly awarded free kick from which Alvechurch’s Rico Taylor failed to trouble custodian Sam Hornby, but most of any meaningful play was in the opposite half, King heading down Blake’s cross but Jesse Race reacting smarter than Lacey to clear the danger.
Craig Hall and Reynolds were both commanding in their box, the former rising to head away Chris Hughes’s thirty five yard free kick, then on thirteen minutes came the moment of controversy. Lynch intercepted Race’s poor defensive clearance breaking clear to round goalkeeper Stuart Parsons, the resulting shot seemingly deflected over the line into the netting before bouncing out, appeals for a goal firmly waved aside. Despite the apparent injustice Gate responded positively, Adams firing over the bar from twenty yards distance, Lynch then getting free of his marker to drag his shot over the face of goal.
Piling on the pressure, Adams glanced Pulisciano’s delivery off target and Parsons stretched to palm another threatening cross from Blake away from King at the far post. Luke Fuller and Lynch set up Pulisciano for a shot blazed over, and with Parsons catching Lynch’s header under his cross bar Alvechurch were looking uncertain at the back and struggling to deal with a series of King headed flick-ons. Compared with recent games Gate’s defenders were enjoying a relatively quiet afternoon, there being little threat when Alvechurch did venture forward, Hornby comfortably dealing with half hearted efforts from Taylor and Dale Edwards. Lacey stung Parsons’ fingers off yet another cutting Lynch pass, King then twice having half chances the first a shot on the turn well blocked in a crowded goal mouth the second when feeding off Lynch to side foot straight into the former Highgate keeper’s body. But with forty five minutes up and despite having enjoyed far the better of play Gate went in at the break on level terms, but wary that there might be far better to come from the visitors who had disappointed throughout the whole of the first half.
HT Highgate United 0 v 0 Alvechurch
Lynch sprung in the air for a header lacking the force to trouble Parsons then lashed the ball high over the bar following good interplay between Fuller and Robinson. Although failing to pose a threat Alvechurch won their first but wasted corner after fifty minutes, Gate continuing in search of what at this stage was proving an elusive goal, Perkins getting his body in the way of King’s powerful close range header, a second opportunity falling to the replacement striker with a half volley off Adams’ pass hit into Parsons’ hands.
After fifty six minutes Brown came on for the struggling Robinson, his first touch a header despatched wide, but with the contest having become somewhat tighter Hornby, never to be seriously tested all afternoon, was quickly off his line to snatch the ball away from Kyle Morrison.
King headed Lynch’s looping cross behind and from an Adams’ corner sent a backward header into the keeper’s gloves. The long awaited and much anticipated opening goal came after 69 minutes, Pulisciano tripped on a strong run into the box leaving Brown with the relatively easy task of placing the resulting spot kick beyond former colleague Parson’s reach.
A quick counter attack ended with a perfectly timed but forceful Hall tackle denying Deards a run on goal, Gate’s captain then beating substitute Keith Rostill in an aerial challenge with similar to follow from fellow central defender Reynolds. On the right hand side Blake swept up at the feet of Edwards and Rostill, the latter clearly intent on making his presence felt.
Gate continued to look solid at the back, industrious in midfield and resourceful up front, Edgington replacing Lynch to immediately set up Brown for a left footed drive charged down. The second goal came off Hornby’s long 84th minute kick up field, Parsons coming off his line to gather at the edge of his area but with Brown bearing down failed to hold on to a ball fairly nudged out of hands, Gate’s and the League’s leading scorer well in the clear to run the ball into an empty net.
Few would have expected a quick brace to turn into a twenty minute hat trick, and after sending a header marginally wide off Edgington’s cross the two combined again, this time Brown collecting the ball off his fellow substitute to hit a low 88th minute drive into the far bottom corner of Parsons’ net, the third goal completing a rewarding afternoon after all hard work put in by Adams and his management team and a richly deserved and satisfying win for his much rejuvenated players.
Highgate United: Hornby; Robinson (Brown 56); Pulisciano; Reynolds; Hall; Adams; Blake; Fuller; Lynch (Edgington 75); Lacey; King; Substitutes not used: Rolfe; Adams (Jordan)
Alvechurch: Stuart Parsons; Halpin Brogan; Dominic Perkins; Kyle Morrison; Scott Smith; Jesse Race; Lewis Hayden; Chris Hughes; Connor Deards; Rico Taylor; Dale Edwards; Substitutes: Gareth Howells; Jamie Andrews; Keith Rostill; Jamie Wilcock; Ross Thorpe.