FOOTBALL: TEN man Rugby let a two goal lead slip out of their hands at Butlin Road on Saturday, writes Jon Venner.
David Kolodynski’s quickfire brace in the opening ten minutes had put the hosts in a great position, but the dismissal of Valley midfielder Sam Belcher not long into the second half altered the game’s dynamic.
Despite their numerical disadvantage, Town still looked like they had enough to see off the higher placed visitors, but United then struck twice in six minutes late on to earn themselves a point.
Rugby made the perfect start on eight minutes, when Kolodynski headed home Jeff Woodward’s cross from the left, after Highgate had failed to properly clear their lines from a corner.
It was two nil almost immediately after Wiggins-Thomas had seized upon a sloppy United pass, and the striker teed up his partner – who applied a confident finish past Bradley Catlow into the bottom left hand corner of the net.
The shell-shocked Solihull-based opponents offered little in response to Kolodynski’s two goal blitz, although Luke Barlone did have a shot blocked in the Valley box.
Meanwhile Josh Ruff had two decent efforts at the other end, with the first also diverted away by a defender and the second drawing a good save from Catlow.
Ruff was then adjudged to have fouled Duane Courtney in the penalty by referee Adam Glenaghan, but Gary Roberts blazed the resulting spot-kick high into the stand behind the goal.
Hendrie’s strike was then deflected wide after an incisive run by Ben Ashby, as Town rounded off a comfortable first half good value for two goal advantage.
Roberts put one wide for Highgate just after the restart, before Glenaghan’s highly contentious decision to send Belcher from the field on 51 minutes, after he had tangled on the floor with United full-back Nathan Pulisciano.
If anything, Pulisciano had looked the culpable party in the proceedings, but on the advice of his assistant, the referee produced the red card for Belcher and Town were forced to play out the remainder of the game a man light.
Danico Johnson lifted one onto the top of the net as the away side looked to capitalise on the situation, although Woodward’s downward header to Ruff’s free-kick nearly set Kolodynski up for another Rugby goal.
Highgate continued to edge possession and territory, but Town were holding on with relative ease – with Niall Cooper comfortably gathering efforts from Scott Rickards and Barlone in this passage of play.
Cooper’s long delivery then played in Kolodynski over the top of the United defence, but his decision to take a touch and cut inside before shooting ultimately gave Catlow the opportunity to deny him.
Craig Kelly cleared Aaron Brown’s header from his goal-line, before United pulled one back on 76 minutes when Barlone looped one over Cooper from twenty yards.
Town missed out a great chance for an immediate response when Ruff’s excellent pass again found Kolodynski in space behind his marker, but he chose to square the ball to Wiggins-Thomas instead of shooting and the chance went begging.
They were made to pay for this when substitute Marco Addagio headed home Roberts’ cross after 82 minutes for the equaliser.
There was still time for another near miss by Valley however, when Aiden Print shot straight at Catlow from a good position after Ashby’s cross from the left had picked him out.