HIGHGATE have been drawn against Nottinghamshire-based Radcliffe Olympic in the first round proper of the FA Vase following Saturday’s defeat of West Midlands (Regional) Premier League side Wolverhampton Casuals.
But they were only able to impose themselves on a keenly fought contest after the visitors had been reduced to ten men in the 66th minute following dismissal of full back Craig Radford.
Despite Gate being well on top during the opening 45 minutes they were forced to share four goals at the break but after a far more evenly balanced second half went on to record what ended as a comfortable 5-2 win.
Gate boss Ashley Pulisciano was once again forced into changes with absentees including the cup tied Dave Yonwin and Joe Adams, Jamie Cosgrave and Avun Jephcott both suspended and Dale Taylor subject to a late call off owing to a wrist injury.
Nathan Pulisciano and Tom Lacey returned to a line up which included Karl King alongside Scott Turner at the heart of defence.
A bright start began with Lacey’s cross-field pass allowing Brown to feed Connor Mooney the midfielder’s shot fired into Liam Stanton’s body before Benjamin gave his side a fourth minute by beating the keeper with a low down at his left-hand post.
Home custodian Bradley Catlow saw his first action in 16th minute tipping Jay Holdcroft’s close range header over the bar but Gate found themselves back on level terms when Jay Holdcroft came out on top in a 20th minute one on one with the keeper.
The lead was restored seven minutes later when Brown raced into the right hand channel releasing Mooney for a low cross diverted into his own net by unfortunate defender Ian Boswell.
King ghosted in on Brown’s header only to stroke a golden opportunity straight at Stanton a miss which was to prove costly when Mark Habbershaw kept his nerve on the stroke of half time to beat Catlow for a second equaliser with the most delicate of lobs.
Casuals were fast out of the blocks after the break with Catlow saving Holdcroft’s close range header whilst at the other end Stanton did well to spoon Brown’s low drive to safety. Then came what was perhaps the defining moment. Brown burst into the box and Radford was red carded for a foul challenge and Brown fired the resulting spot kick high over the bar.
The long awaited third goal came when Lacey’s 74th minute pass released Benjamin on the right hand side of the box a cross driven low to the foot of Stanton’s left hand post turned in by the predatory Brown.
Still the spirited Casuals refused to lie down but the visitors’ resistance ended when Edwards and Smith combined to set up Benjamin for his 83rd minute brace.
A minute later Smith deservedly got his name on the score sheet from a clinical twelve yard finish.