HIGHGATE’s progress in this year’s FA Cup ended in the cruellest possible way as two late goals saw them fall to a 4-2 defeat on the road at in-form Westfields on Saturday.
After causing one of the upsets of the tournament so far by beating Leamington in the previous round, Highgate were unable to repeat those exploits as their run in the famous competition came to an end at the second round of qualifying.
The visitors more than played their part in a typical end-to-end cup clash which was full of incident, but will be left to rueing missed chances having hit woodwork on three occasions.
Manager Ashley Pulisciano gave a start in midfield to new signing Emmitt Delfoneso while Tom Lacey returned to his right-back role and Aaron Brown was pushed up front alongside Marco Adaggio in place of the absent Lei Brown.
The visitors started brightly with Adaggio scuffing an opportunity into keeper Kieron Blackburn’s body before Highgate took a fifth minute lead through a neatly take free kick by Connor Mooney.
Gate were on top for long periods and should have doubled their lead when Adaggio was brought down in the box only to be denied what appeared to be a clear cut penalty.
Protests proved fruitless as well as distracting and following a quick counter attack Richard Greaves smashed in a 30th minute equaliser from a left wing cross.
James Loney thumped a header against Blackburn’s cross bar and Emmit Delfoneso lacked the composure required in hitting his follow up high over the bar.
Once again Gate were to be caught on the counter when in the 37th minute a cross left Jamie Molyneux with the simplest of tasks to roll the ball into an empty net to give his side a somewhat fortuitous half-time lead.
The visitors came out fired up after the break with Brown nodding Hawker’s free kick inches wide but Gate’s patient play was soon to pay off.
After Mooney had scraped the top of the cross bar with a 20-yard lob came a 57th minute equaliser. A push on Macauley Manning chasing through on goal led to a penalty and skipper Hawker cooly slotted home the equaliser.
The goal was no more than deserved but Gate were forced on the defensive when a Thomas cross came back off the far post and a five yard header was too close for comfort.
Brown headed down a Nathan Pulisciano cross for Delfoneso to volley an opportunity over the bar, and with the home defence prone to mistakes Manning set up Hawker for a drive which he fired wide.
Manning was close to what might have been an 85th minute winner with an immaculate 25-yard lob which had Blackburn beaten only to come back off the face of the woodwork to where Adaggio was unable to force home the loose ball.
At this stage Gate were a couple of minutes away from a replay but with just 60 seconds of normal time remaining an unmarked Phil Glover appeared at the far post to head in Jones’ free kick.
And in throwing men forward Gate were to be left exposed at the back and Ben Miller scored number four on the final whistle to end a thoroughly entertaining encounter.