AN INJURY-ravaged Highgate United remain on target for a top six finish in the Midland Premier League after Lei Brown’s goal ten minutes from time proved to be the difference at Walsall Wood on Saturday.
A forgettable first half was followed by a remarkable turn around after the break that saw Gate record a well deserved win which could and perhaps should have been far more convincing.
Highgate manager Ashley Pulisciano was down to the bare eleven after being without James Cosgrove, Connor Mooney, Curvin Ellis, Brendan Murphy, Declan Attenborrow, Brad Frain, and Aaron Brown for the visit to a Wood side sitting two places above in ninth.
Although the home side had by far the better of proceedings during the period when Gate were down to ten men, they failed to make the most of the advantage.
It took a full 30 minutes for a display of quality from either side as Wood’s Louis Harris hit the top of the crossbar with a spectacular 30-yard shot, while at the other end Brown failed to trouble keeper Andy Hughes from 15 yards out.
Brown’s 35th minute free kick bought a late reaction save from Hughes in turning the ball behind for a corner and centre half Anthony Juxon then went unpunished for what appeared to be handball just seconds before Brown again tested Hughes from the edge of the box.
The so far untroubled Bradley Catlow was alert in tipping Lewis Taylor-Boyce’s 38th minute drive over the bar ensuring the half finished goalless.
Gate took the game to the opposition after the break and came close when Nathan Corry waltzed his way through a packed defence for a finish which failed to match the previous few seconds of magic.
A rare period of Wood pressure saw Catlow save well from Corey Carruthers and Craig Beckett sliced an attempt from 12 yards out high over the bar but it was Gate in the ascendancy and so near to opening their account.
An excellent Brown cross was just too long for Loney to get a final touch and when Karl King returned the loose ball Hughes only just managed to fumble Brown’s powerful header over the bar.
Brown set up Tom Lacey for a well struck attempt hit narrowly over and Brown had a penalty appeal waved away by the referee.
Gate continued to look comfortably in charge as Brown touched home Corry’s low shot at the far post but from an offside position, while Lacey warmed Hughes fingers from distance and somehow King squandered a very good 78th minute chance by lifting Turner’s headed pass high over the bar.
Within a minute though justice was to be seen to be done when Loney was tripped inside the area and Brown stepped up to crash home the resulting penalty in defiant fashion.
There was to be just one slight scare late on when Catlow held on to Carruther’s awkwardly bouncing shot before the final whistle blew.
On Saturday Highgate are home to Bardon Hill (3pm) and they finish their season on Tuesday evening when Brocton are the visitors (7.45pm).