PENALTIES were required to ensure Highgate United’s progression in the FA Vase on Saturday, following a thrilling 3-3 draw with Hellenic League side Wellington.
The Step Six visitors from Herefordshire proved stern opposition at The Coppice, holding a 3-2 lead until Romario Martin’s equaliser with two minutes to go forced spot-kicks to decide the first qualifying round contest and set up a meeting with Racing Club Warwick on October 10.
Making a first start of the campaign on Saturday was Corey Currithers, while Luke Barlone and Guy Clark formed a partnership at the heart of the defence and Lewis Fenney resumed his place in goal following injury.
Kobe Jae recorded the first attempt on target of the game with a free-kick from range, before Martin opened the scoring on six minutes to give Highgate a just reward for an encouraging start.
Being picked out by full-back Andre Gonzales, the striker escaped the attention of three defenders closing in on the edge of the box before crashing home a shot that flew into the roof of the net.
And nine minutes later he almost had a second, only for his goal-bound strike to be cleared off the line.
Despite their early promise, Highgate were pegged back after a spell of pressure from the visitors resulted in a leveller.
After Fenney denied Luke Griffiths and Brendan Hackett twice went close to hitting the net, a free-kick whipped into the box was too inviting for Matthew James to turn down, as the Wellington man turned the ball home before the break.
An equally entertaining second period followed with chances continuing to fall at regular intervals.
And just as United had started the first half, they replicated in the second, restoring their lead just seven minutes after the restart through Barlone.
Again though, lack of clinical finishing proved costly for the chances that the Gate enjoyed, with Alex Price’s effort that beat the visiting goalkeeper ruled out for offside before Jake Robinson’s stunning equaliser with 20 to play.
Wellington switched momentum after the leveller and went ahead for the first time when substitute Matty James pulled off an audacious lob over Fenney to stun the hosts.
It was not a position that Highgate wanted to be in with just seven minutes remaining, but they did have the answer in the form of Martin’s drive that was lashed past Matthew Apperley to take the game to the distance.
Clark was the man to send Highgate through with the winning penalty, after Wellington had missed their third of the shoot-out, capping off an enthralling afternoon of football.
United now have some downtime of sorts, with no fixture scheduled in midweek or at the weekend.
Instead, they will next host Tividale in a Midland League Premier Division clash on Tuesday, September 29 (7.45pm), as the two mid-table clubs hope to ignite their league campaigns.