RUSSELL Dodd says his Highgate United side were always up against it on their unsuccessful trip to South Normanton Athletic in the Midland League Premier Division last weekend.
The Gate were beaten 3-1 at Lees Lane on Saturday after conceding twice early on to Kenan Layton and Eric Graves goals, before goalkeeper James Beeson was shown a straight red card.
Substitute Connor Doyle gave the visitors some hope from the spot with 25 minutes to go, but Dylan Garnett’s strike five minutes from time put an end to United’s revival.
Dodd was bereft of positives following a performance which made it back-to-back defeats for Highgate.
“We were missing at least three regular starters, but with the players brought in we should have done far better,” he said.
“From the start there was a feeling throughout that this was going to be one of those days, and so it proved with us going two goals behind then losing goalkeeper James Beeson to a straight red.
“There was no way back after that. A fortuitous penalty gave us hope, and although we struck the woodwork, chances for us were few and far between.”
It was the Shiners who adapted first to the blustery conditions, taking a tenth-minute lead through Layton, who took advantage of Highgate’s indecision in defence by robbing the ball, going past a couple of players and then burying a shot low into the far corner.
A second followed 15 minutes later when Graves latched onto a misplaced pass across the edge of United’s penalty area and blasted high into the net past a helpless Beeson.
While Highgate responded positively, striking the crossbar through Corey Currithers’ 25-yard attempt, they failed to string together any clearcut opportunities for the remainder of the half.
Matters went from bad to worse when Beeson rushed out of his area to close down an opposition player and, in attempting a tackle, brought down a forward to earn a straight red card.
With no substitute goalkeeper on the bench, Ryan Conlon strapped on the gloves for the remainder of the game.
The woodwork was struck a second time by the visitors after the break, this time when Shay Palmer swung a corner against the frame of goal, before Doyle fired home from the spot to reduce the arrears after a foul on Stuart Hendrie.
Further misfortune was suffered by Dodd’s men, however, when Garnett’s late effort spun out of Conlon’s hands and towards the goal line.
Despite the makeshift goalkeeper eventually smothering the ball, a consultation between the match officials decided that the ball had crossed the line to spell defeat for United.
Highgate, now 11th, head to rock-bottom Selston on Saturday (3pm).
THE TOP two in Division Two both recorded wins on Saturday as the race for the title continues.
Leaders Solihull United were 2-1 victors over local rivals Hampton at the Trevor Brown Memorial Ground, thanks to Stanley Anaebonam and Rivel Mardenborough goals, while Louis Bridges and Charlie Griffiths both found the net in second-placed Knowle’s 2-1 win at FC Stratford.
It means the story remains the same at the summit of the table for another week, with United four points clear on 43 points, albeit having played a game more.
Sam Manoochehri’s side took an early lead just two minutes after the first whistle, when Anaebonam headed Kobe Chong’s centre into the net from close range.
It was an advantage that lasted all of 12 minutes, after loanee Aon Abass buried a show-stopping strike from distance to level for Hampton.
An open encounter ensued, with the next goal 18 minutes from time proving the winner.
Fortunately for Solihull, it was Mardenborough who provided it, prodding the ball home after the Hampton goalkeeper clawed a curling effort from Harry Eden into his path.
Over at the Arden Garages Stadium, Bridges gave Knowle an early lead by rounding Luis Sone and tapping into an empty net.
It was enough to keep the visitors in front at the break, although they were pegged back in the second half by Ashley Wilkes’ stunning free-kick into the far corner.
Knowle found a winning goal when Griffiths volleyed home on the rebound after Sone had made an initial save, giving Clive Seeley’s team the chance to celebrate a 12th win of the season at the final whistle.
On Saturday, Solihull face a tough test away to fourth-placed Feckenham, while Knowle host ninth-placed Barnt Green Spartak (both 2.30pm).
Hampton, who are 11th, will welcome third-placed Northfield Town to Field Lane at the same time.
EARLSWOOD Town were out of action after their trip to Bolehall Swifts was postponed.
Tom Reynolds’ team sit 13th at present but are in the process of making up for lost time, having played just eight league games all season.
They welcome Alcester Town to the Pavilions on Wednesday night (7.45pm), before preparing for the visit of seventh-placed Coton Green on Saturday (2.30pm).
A run of three home games in a row is then completed when Barnt Green Spartak come to town on Tuesday night (7.45pm).
The Earls will be boosted going into their extensive fixture list by the additions of midfielder Jamel Wilson and forward Gordon Swain, who both arrive from Division Four outfit Bartley Reds.
SUTTON United silenced FC Shush with a clinical display of finishing in a 6-0 rout to advance to the quarter-finals of the Les James Challenge Cup.
The hosts were put to the sword at Lugtrout Lane, going into the break 2-0 down after Leighton Hines struck twice in the space of 14 minutes.
A goal-laden second half followed, with Jonathan Grigg, Nick Bell, Joseph Delaney and Josh Duggan all striking for the visitors to compound Shush’s misery and set up a clash with Knowle in the last eight.
Fifth-placed Shush aim to get back to winning ways on Saturday (2.30pm), when hosting Upton Town, currently 11th, in a Division Three fixture.
THERE WAS further cup heartache for Birmingham Tigers, who bowed out at the same stage in a 4-0 defeat at home to Coventry Plumbing.
After a goalless opening half, the Tigers were blown away in the second, with Joe Gardner firing a hat-trick and Kyle Jaynes notching the other for Plumbing.
The Tigers, ninth in the league, hope to regain their pride when visiting bottom side Shipston Excelsior on Saturday (2.30pm).
AFC Solihull also tasted defeat, this time in a league fixture, at the hands of Inkberrow.
Callum Davies, Brad Hands, Ben Thomas and Nathan Davies were the hosts’ goalscorers in the 4-1 rout, with Oliver Priestley firing the response for AFC.
Solihull manager Jon Hill expressed positive sentiments despite the loss and said: “I was pleased, especially after the first half and with it being 1-1 at the break.
“We played on the counter and defended really well. However, after 60 minutes, we looked tired mentally and stopped reacting to the second ball and they capitalised as top sides do.”
Solihull, in 12th, meet second-placed Inkberrow in Saturday’s reverse fixture (2.30pm) at Tudor Grange Leisure Centre.