Shepshed 2-1 Highgate
Dynamo storm the Gate to extend unbeaten run
By Lucas Monk
Shepshed Dynamo extended their unbeaten run with a hard-fought home victory over Highgate.
Josh Thomas and Liam Hurst struck the decisive goals in the first half.
Highgate replied after the break; Sam Oji hammering the ball home from close range.
But Dynamo held firm for the win to rise to seventh in the Midland Football League table.
Damion Beckford-Quailey made no change to the side that saw off Blidworth last week.
They won that match 3-0 and progressed into the next round of the FA Vase. Celson Patrocinio scored an early goal set the tone and Dynamo did not look back.
And they again got off to a fine start on their return to league action - though their supporters had to wait a little longer for the breakthrough.
The opening exchanges were tepid. Few chances arose. Marco Adaggio curled a tame effort into the arms of Shepshed 'keeper Brandon Ganley. That aside, the ball whirled around in a midfield maelstrom and changed hands as the rain lashed down.
It was a well-balanced battle between two competitive teams. For both the pursuit of a goal was akin to swimming through treacle. Trying to forge ahead, but facing formidable resistance.
At least it was until the 18th minute, when Hurst burst up the left and sent over a whipped cross.
Highgate headed clear, but only as far as Thomas on the edge of the box.
And Thomas hit a scorching half-volley that screamed past Brad Catlow and nestled into the net.
The hosts then created further chances. A serried Highgate wall blocked Karl Whymark's free kick. Thomas then chanced his arm again, firing a well-struck, left-footed shot wide.
Still they pressed and probed in search of a second goal many thought crucial - and they got it on the stroke of half-time.
From a free kick on the edge of the area, Thomas thought on his feet.
He threaded through a selfless ball into Hurst, who stole in behind and guided a low finish home.
Highgate were napping, but the hosts were wide-awake.
After the interval, Dynamo continued where they had left off.
Whymark's superb switch of play found Moore on the right. Moore then delivered a wicked cross into the area that an erratic Oji headed behind for a corner.
From that corner, a chance. Pheasant rose, glancing a header onto the bar. A let off.
And one Highgate threatened to make their hosts rue moments later. Jordan Goddard's free kick sowed panic and Oji somehow fired wide from two yards.
The visitors would, however, reduce the arrears shortly thereafter.
Another free kick, this time from Nathan Pulisciano, wrought chaos with 25 minutes to go. It eluded a scrambling melee of Shepshed and Highgate men before falling to Oji at the back post. He made no mistake this time and battered the ball into the top corner to atone for his earlier miss.
This set up a tense finale. Moore beat the offside trap and curled the ball over Catlow. An opposing defender headed clear. The visitors then began to commit greater numbers forward in attack.
As the pressure intensified, the hosts withdrew into the shell of their own half. A Highgate hammer bashed away, but to no avail. No further cracks appeared despite Jordan Wakeling succumbing to injury.
Richard Bryan then relieved all that pressure. His heavy tackle on Shepshed's Chris Acott earned him a second yellow card. It said much of the game that the home fans cheered it as they did.
For it was, in effect, the final whistle. The home fans acclaimed Shepshed and their battling triumph in muddy and blustery and rainy conditions. And why not?
It may not have been their finest victory, but a victory it was. It made up for a lack of flair with an abundance of spirit, which Zach Hill's performance at right-back typified. It also means that the team are now seventh in the table and unbeaten in 12 matches.
And they will be looking to extend that impressive run even further. South Normanton visit The Dovecote on Tuesday evening. Few will bet on there being an unlucky 13 for the resurgent black and white army, who for now can take great pride in another well-won battle.
Dynamo: Ganley, Hill, Pheasant, Wakeling (Doy 73’), Acott, Hurst, Prenderville, Whymark, Thomas, Moore, Patrocinio (Mwanyongo 80’).
Unused substitutes: Phillips, L. Day.
Highgate: Catlow, Edwards, Oji, Currithers, Pulisciano, Bryan, Smith, Goddard, Adaggio, L. Brown, Deards (A. Brown 53’).
Unused substitutes: C. Day, Barkers, Stokes, Jagroop.