GATE RUFFLE SWIFT'S FEATHERS
A goal apiece for Luke Fuller and Lei Brown ensured The Gate returned from Stourport with all three points.
Another good night for Highgate on their travels, an excellent all round team performance with every man stepping up to the plate earning a second consecutive win which moves the visitors up to fourth place in the MFA table but with games in hand on Quorn who sit just behind second placed Boldmere St Michaels.
In an entertaining contest Luke Fuller had seen his early goal cancelled out before half time, Gate digging in deep on tired legs before Lei Brown scored an outstanding 70th minute winner to bring to an end Stourport’s recent seven match unbeaten run. Once again though manager Lee Adams was down to the bare bones, still missing the injured duo of Nathan Edgington and Dean Curtis whilst work commitments left Daryl Jones and Tom Lacey unavailable with Sam Hornby, Redditch United’s number two, making only his second appearance of the season in goal in place of regular custodian Chris Jay. Reece Lynch played on the right hand side of midfield just in front of a back three of Craig Hall, Tom Reynolds and Richard Robinson with Fuller making his first full start in central midfield.
Brown, having been rested for last Saturday’s trip to Rocester, returning for a lively display up front. Stourport made a promising start to what was the first meeting of the two teams this season, Joe Adams heading out an early corner at his near post, Calvin Dinsley then seeing a twenty yard attempt deflected behind off the top of Reynolds’ head. At the other end Brown’s deep cross was hit back across the face of goal by Nathan Pulisciano, full back Gary Walker content to concede a corner, Karl King having a shot blocked, Brown then close with a fifteen yard effort curled beyond the outside of the far post.
Shane Benjamin and Brown combined for the latter to sting keeper Sam Hawker’s palms from twenty five yards out, a period of pressure which led to the opening goal after eleven minutes. This time it was a Brown/Adams one two which set up Fuller to turn his marker before firing a crisp twenty yard drive beyond Hawker’s reach. Although the goal was just the tonic which both Gate and Fuller needed it was Swifts who responded in a far more positive manner, Jamie Willetts allowed to run thirty yards unchallenged before dragging what was a good opportunity wide, Robinson then calmly controlling the ball on his chest before clearing the threat resulting from Michael Briscoe’s long pass out of defence. Hornby’s first touch of the game came after twenty minutes, a comfortable save from winger Jamie Hyde, Lynch then back in defensive mode to halt John Griffin’s strong run down the left hand side.
Hyde twice hit efforts high over the bar but with Gate defending in numbers the home side were restricted to harmless shots from long range, Hall though getting in a tremendous block to deny Griffin at close range. On the half hour mark Gate were close to a second goal when Adams’ quickly taken free kick caught Hawker unawares only the considerable alertness of full back Jordan Jones resulting in the ball being kicked off the line. King’s back heel off Brown’s through ball was narrowly off target, but with the hosts enjoying more than their fair share of possession Hornby dived to touch Hyde’s twenty five yarder round his left hand post.
Swifts’ equalised in 33rd minute, Walker carrying the ball forward before unleashing an unstoppable twenty five yard drive which flew in off the inside of Hornby’s right hand post, the keeper given no chance by the ferocity of what was a superb strike. Within seconds of conceding King was close to restoring his side’s lead, an audacious lob almost beating Hawker the keeper recovering late to prevent the ball crossing the line. Brown turned in the box to test Hawker with a shot dinked to the near post Benjamin then out jumping the under siege keeper only for the resulting header to drift off target, the half finishing with a keenly fought contest remaining on level terms but with much to play for after the break.
HT Stourport Swifts 1 v 2 Highgate United
Paul Hurrell set up Griffin for an early chance fired over Hornby’s bar, Gate responding well with Pulisciano despatching a dangerous cross into the box headed out by Willetts, Hawker then standing his ground to come out best in a one on one with Brown. Hall defended his near post in clearing Jones’ low driven cross, Brown then back to help out by sticking out a boot to deflect Willett’s shot over the bar. With Gate lacking any real creativity up front Swifts were in the ascendancy but themselves lacking a cutting edge, Hall having a rare opportunity to venture forward with his resulting drive deflected behind.
Hornby showed his pedigree with another fine save dropping low to keep out Griffin’s shot from two yards distance, Benjamin going close at the other end feeding off Brown before firing narrowly high from the edge of the box. Twenty minutes into the half came what was to prove the winning goal, a long ball out of the visitors’ defence skimming off Willetts’ head Brown pouncing on the ball cutting in from the left before beating Hawker at his far post from a seemingly impossible tight angle. Swifts were now forced to chase the game, Hornby twice clearing threats with firm punches, then stretching to hold on to Hurrell’s looping cross.
Fuller and Lynch worked hard to sweep up bits and pieces at the back and Robinson marshalled Ashley Parsons-Smith’s deeply struck cross out for a goal kick with Briscoe on his shoulder. Despite Dinsley going close with a drive hit a yard wide and Reynolds heading away the aerial danger posed by Griffin, Gate stuck manfully to their task running the clock down before the final whistle blew on what had been a hard earned but deserved win.
Highgate United: Hornby; Lynch; Pulisciano; Reynolds; Hall; Robinson; King; Adams (Joe;) Benjamin (Adams Jordan 88); Fuller; Brown Substitutes not used Rolfe; Pulisciano (Ashley)
Stourport Swifts: Sam Hawker; Jordan Jones; Gary Walker; Michael Briscoe; Jamie Willetts; Paul Hurrell; Calvin Dinsley; Ashley Parsons-Smith; John Griffin; Luke Morris; Jamie Hyde; Substitutes: Rory Curtis; Oliver Long; Luke Orme