HIGHGATE United manager Russell Dodd said he was delighted to get his tenure underway with an opening-day win against Romulus, after a 2-1 victory in the Midlands Football League Premier Division.
A Stuart Hendrie strike and a second-half own goal were enough to see the Gate through to victory, despite the visitors setting up a tense finale after Shane Benjamin’s goal.
Dodd admits he is already seeing the development of his squad take place after the first competitive match of the season, in a game in which the hosts were viewed as underdogs before kick off.
“I was really pleased with the performance of all of my players who adapted well on the day to the hot and humid conditions,” he said.
“Although it was never a classic, there were signs throughout that a new look side is starting to gel.
“The only disappointment for me was that we were unable to defend what appeared to be a comfortable two goal lead and let Romulus back in, but fortunately we were able to survive a nervous final ten minutes.”
Five debutants made their bow for the Gate, with James Beeson, Joe Cole, Connor Doyle, Connor Wright and Hendrie all named in the starting 11, as Dodd’s new look side stormed into a tenth-minute lead.
Trevor Edwards put the ball on a plate for Hendrie to tap home at the far post to give the hosts a dream start to their league campaign, while Sam Oji went within inches of doubling the lead when sending a header wide.
It took until the 48th minute for the second to arrive, when a long punt downfield by Beeson skimmed off the head of Romulus defender Jay D Llonga and evaded goalkeeper Billy Spink, who was powerless to prevent the ball from rolling into the back of the net.
With late chances wasted, Romulus had a lifeline when former Highgate striker Benjamin finished from close range, though the hosts managed to hold on for a deserved three points.
Highgate are next in action on Tuesday (7.45pm) when hosting Selston at The Coppice, prior to visiting Dodd’s former club Lichfield City in the FA Cup extra preliminary round on Saturday (3pm).