ADAMS HAS GATE FLYING HIGH
The Gates' final day victory earned Lee Adams and his team a place in the Highgate History books, finishing in their highest ever position.
Without any kind of fanfare or wildly inaccurate predictions Highgate have completed their best ever season, third place in the Midland Football Alliance being the highest the club have ever been in their 66 year history. Credit must go to Lee Adams and his management team of Tim Guy, Lee Knight and Glen Adams for the hard work put in since the opening day defeat at now champions Tividale, from then on Gate never being out of the top six for the remainder of the campaign and leading the table for long periods up to Christmas.
This though was an overall team effort, the majority of players having stayed loyal throughout a tiring nine months, ably led by captain Craig Hall and with Lei Brown picking up the League’ golden boot award with forty three goals in total. An excellent achievement for a club which thanks to the efforts of previous manager Keith Checketts and his team who 12 months earlier only avoided relegation on the final day of last season thanks to a 2-1 win at Ellesmere Rangers.
With nearest rivals Coleshill Town and Quorn both winning on the same day Gate’s defeat of mid table Swifts was all the more important, goals in each half from Nathan Edgington and Joe Adams ensuring the three points and a creditable third spot. Manager Adams was without the injured duo of Reece Lynch and Richard Robinson making a couple of changes to the line up which drew against AFC Wulfrunians on Thursday, Tom Reynolds returning to accompany Hall in what started as a back three with Leon Blake coming into midfield.
A strong starting eleven but with just Jordan Adams on the substitutes bench alongside a named but unfit Danny Rolfe. Gate were looking for a double over visitors who by their own standards had disappointed throughout the season, the game getting off to an interrupted start when after Reynolds had headed clear from Lewis Pountney the Swifts striker fell awkwardly to be replaced by Luke Morris with just sixty seconds on the clock. Next to go down was the referee who thanks to Guy’s treatment was able to continue, but the game itself was flat with little shape or pattern to the play of either side. Home custodian Chris Jay saved low down from John Griffin, a first attempt on goal during the opening quarter of an hour, Gate’s best opportunity falling to Blake with a twenty yard shot blazed over the bar following good interplay between Nathan Edgington and Brown.
A brief period of Highgate pressure followed, keeper Paul Hurrell spilling Adams’ free kick but recovering in time to smother before Brown could force the ball over the line, a second Adams’ free kick headed behind for a corner by Michael Briscoe at full stretch. Driving rain and a strong cross field wind made conditions difficult, Hurrell doing well in dealing with a free kick which led to Karl King being penalised for a block on the keeper. At the other end Tom Lacey cleared in the box but with defences on top chances were few and far between. Hall knocked a long ball forward Edgington finding Brown outnumbered by yellow shirts and failing with a shot on the turn, but after thirty two minutes another one of a series of Adams’ free kicks led to the first goal, Edgington outjumping Hurrell for a header despatched high into the roof of the net.
Ashley Parsons-Smith cut in from the left hand side to go close with a shot driven beyond Jay’s far post, Hall rising to head clear from Leon Kandekore, the centre half then calmly walking the ball away from danger in his own area. Swifts were enjoying their best spell of the half so far, Lacey coming out on top in a tangle with substitute Morris and Nathan Pulisciano getting in ahead of Kandekore to deny the front man a run on goal, Kandekore close with an effort screwed wide off Morris’ cross, a salutary warning to the home side that the visitors still posed a threat up front. The half finished with Jay doing well to turn Gary Walker’s long range strike behind for a corner, Gate having their noses in front but with a lot of work to do if their aspirations of a top three finish were to be met.
HT Highgate United 1 v 0 Stourport Swifts
Puilsciano got in an early crucial tackle on Jordan Jones in the box, Reynolds then nudging Kandekore out of the way to clear the imminent danger. Gate countered with Jamie Willetts heading out Adams’ kick awarded for yet another foul on Brown wide on the right, Adams then firing a twenty yard dead ball high over the bar. In the fifty second minute Brown set up the second goal, proving unplayable as he broke strongly in from the right hand side picking out Adams at the far post for a shot rifled in between Hurrell and his near post. Hall headed out Calvin Dinsley’s free kick and Jay held on to Griffin’s header, Swifts continuing with some decent build up play but failing where it mattered most, thanks in the main to some commanding play by Hall and Reynolds at the heart of defence and Blake and Luke Fuller snapping at ankles in the middle of the park. Karl King calmly headed Kandekore’s cross back to Jay, the keeper’s long up field kick back heeled by Brown for Edgington’s attempt to be deflected for a corner.
Gate were by now looking comfortable and content to sit on their two goal lead, Brown though seemingly determined to add to the score, delivering an almost perfect pass but fractionally too long for Adams to get a final touch then despatching an audacious thirty yard lob behind off the top of the cross bar. Adams strode forward to force Hurrell into making an excellent save, the keeper then punching a corner away from King waiting to pounce at the far post. In pushing men forward Gate were being stretched at the back, Jones hitting a fifteen yard effort over the bar and Dinsley careless with a cross sent looping beyond the far post. Lacey had a drive charged down, King side footed Edgington’s squared pass off target, Brown then chested down Adams’ free kick before driving the ball into Hurrell’s body.
Swifts continued to work hard but for no reward, although Jay had to be smart in turning Dinsley’s close range shot behind then holding on to Willett’s header. After 80 minutes Willetts did have the ball in the net but clearly from an off side position, Gate finishing the game deserved winners and the stronger of the two sides, Lacey’s run ending with the ball narrowly wide, Fuller stinging Hurrell’s fingers and Brown again just inches too high with an opportunistic curler from the right hand touchline.
Highgate United: Jay; Blake; Pulisciano; Reynolds; Hall; Adams (Joe); Fuller; King; Lacey; Edgington; Brown; Substitutes not used: Rolfe; Pulisciano (Ashley); Robinson; Hayward; Adams (Jordan)
Stourport Swifts: Paul Hurrell; Jordan Jones; Jamie Hyde; Michael Briscoe; Jamie Willetts; Gary Walker; Calvin Dinsley; John Griffin; Lewis Pountney; Leon Kandekore; Ashley Parsons-Smith; Substitutes: Luke Morris; Rory Curtis; Sam Hawker.