Speedy Stratford Whites Eclipse Stuttering Stratford Blues At Highgate’s Coppice Hothouse…
Highgate United 3-2 Stratford Town
Arriving at the Coppice on a warm, balmy July evening was a rare thing, for I always associate the ground with drizzle, cold winds and mist and strange sounds and movements emanating from the woods. The large models of African mammals don’t help either, casting shadows upon Tythe Barn Lane from ‘Akamba’ which is always worth a visit for food, drinks and a, let’s say, ‘unusual’ experience…
|FINALLY READY TO GO...|
Stratford boss Darren Byfield brought two squads to the Coppice, the Blues and the Whites but in truth, Highgate’s keen first period display found the Blues rather wanting on a hard pitch, covered by harsh, coarse, dry grass. Only a couple of skied shots at the close of the half by Bako and Bradley-Jones lifted the visitors a little, for United’s defence had stifled the occasional threats of Olukai, Evans and particularly the eager, quick-footed Bako. Edwards, Pulisciano, Bryan and the tall, commanding Turner were rarely disturbed by their higher ranked guests, if truth be told.
|TREV SMELLS CHIPS...|
(JUST TAKEN A THROW, ACTUALLY...)
The Gate created just a few chances but the best effort was a 20 yard shot by impressive forward Adaggio, whose curler passed the upper reaches of the right stick, following an assist by Lei Brown. Lei himself dropped two free-kick shots over the crossbar and miscued twice from left byeline centres courtesy of Pulisciano and Manning, before shooting low, straight at Town ‘keeper Jezeph too. The half was lightened though by a fine piece of control on the touchline by Darren Byfield which appeared to please him personally. I noticed though, Darren…
|LOTS OF STRATFORD BENCH MEMBERS...|
|FEWER ON THE GATE BENCH...|
|ASH PULISCIANO IMPRESSES HIS CO-MANAGER SMUDGER SMITH BY USING HIS HEAD AS A CAR WHEEL...|
|DARREN BYFIELD TELLS A WILLING LISTENER ABOUT HIS TIME AT THE VILLA...|
However, The Gate took the lead when a pass from the left side of the penalty box by Adaggio fell to the feet of midfielder Bunn, who had looked rather useful for the hosts and his right-booter from 25 yards rose and faded slightly towards the right side of goal. Jezeph leapt but was unable get a glove to the ball as it flew deep into his net…
|"A GOAL DOWN, A HARD PITCH, HOT WEATHER.|
GODS, I WISH I WAS ON A BEACH SOMEWHERE..."
The Stratford defence had been hurried and harried by Lei Brown and Adaggio, whose holding up of the ball was typically effective and although it took time for him to settle, Curry’s midfield touches for United were often smart too. The neat Manning worked fairly well with Pulisciano on the left and Currithers farmed the field industriously.
|"HEY, 'KEEPER, SHOULDN'T YOUR NAME BE CAT-HIGH, NOT CATLOW?"|
|CURRY (11): MADRAS HOT A FEW TIMES...|
Highgate had limited Town’s intentions well for 45 minutes but things changed after the interval when the Whites took the field in front of Jezeph…
|ADAGGIO: "BETCHA WE SCORE FROM THE KICK-OFF..."|
THEY DID, TOO...
Oddly though, the kick-off brought Highgate’s second goal: Adaggio back to Bryan, a short pass for replacement Wilcock, a high pass forward over the new Town defence and away went substitute Seabourne, who lobbed the ball over the out-racing Jezeph and chased it goalwards, just managing to take it on his instep as it fell and guide it into the net from a yard or so, just in case the bounce messed up the opportunity, I guess…
|CHRIS COX, EX-CAGEMAN FROM COVENTRY...|
Shocked Stratford rallied and it was good to see Chris Cox playing in the Town defence, after his years skippering Coventry United. Soon it was evident that Powell, Dias and Grocott were going to cause problems for The Gate with their speed of thought and movement, whilst striker Shariff looked lively too. Indeed, a decent attack ended with Town left-back Westwood dip-volleying just too high from distance and yet United broke with aplomb and after a strong challenge by Lei Brown at the far post saw Jezeph tip his header over the crossbar, Wilcock’s left-side corner caused real damage. The flag-kick was nodded back across goal by Turner and somehow, with Jezeph going down under pressure from Lei Brown, the ball bounced into the net. The referee seemed happy, Stratford not so…
The Whites struck back though from a short, right-flank corner, which led to a cross by Hussain and with Highgate struggling, maybe the ball appeared to touch Shariff as Lei Brown’s efforts to stop it saw his goal-line slice hit the net. Hussain was immediately replaced by Evans, who was just heading for the dressing-rooms after his first 45 minutes of industry!
Straight from the restart, replacement midfielder and last year’s Gate skipper Aaron Brown shot from behind the half-way line but Jezeph watched the effort drop over the target. Pulisciano made way for Yahiya Todd but Powell then began to make a real impression for the guests, taking a pass from Evans, drifting past Currithers and shooting only just wide of the left upright. Dias drove too high, a clever dummy by Grocott freed Powell to deliver a low centre across the United goalmouth, another short right-side corner saw Powell’s right-footer with the outside of his boot swerve past the far left angle of post and crossbar and then Shariff was just unable to direct a far post header from Grocott’s smart clipped centre.
|FRY (4): "THE WEATHER IS CONDUCIVE TO MY NAME..."|
A low angled drive from Aaron Brown, stopped by Jezeph, was a rare chance for The Gate, for Town were looking the brighter performers and certainly the more likely to score, although one or two long passes by the hosts did put pressure on Cox and Francis in the visiting defence, for Lei Brown and Adaggio were ever willing. Finally, a Powell free-kick was palmed away for another right-wing corner, taken long this time by Grocott and with a nudge into Bryan’s back, Shariff gained enough space to plant a close range header past Catlow in the Highgate goal.
Subsequently, The Gate did well to survive a real scare but following that, they coped with the Stratford threat well enough until the close. However, Catlow and Courtney had been the saviours when Dias and Grocott combined to free Shariff for a low shot from the right side of the 18 yard box. Catlow saved the initial drive with a plunge right but Courtney managed to block Westwood’s angled effort at the left post too, before Dias drove wildly high from the next phase of attack. The Gate introduced ‘keeper Dan Farr for the closing minutes, before a tricky and nippy Powell run ended with another shot wide of the left upright.
|FARR, SO NEAR TO THE WIN...|
Highgate remained resolute though and indeed might have netted a fourth goal when grim determination by Adaggio took him past an aghast Cox from the left flank, before his pass found Seabourne on the right side of the penalty-box but the forward’s rising cross-shot flew wide of the target.
Players in socks trudged away from the concrete-like playing surface, some with blisters no doubt, some with sweat swilling in carried boots but at least the spectating groups had been treated to a keen encounter, five goals and enough praise from both clubs to suggest decent seasons…
CATLOW, EDWARDS, PULISCIANO, CURRITHERS, TURNER, BRYAN, LEI BROWN, BUNN, ADAGGIO, MANNING, CURRY, WILCOCK, AARON BROWN, BATCHELOR, COURTNEY, YAHIYA TODD, SEABOURNE, FARR.
THE WHITES & BLUES FROM STRATFORD TOWN:
JEZEPH, SUMMERFIELD, MARTIN, BRADLEY-JONES, COATES, GALLINAGH, OLUKAI, HANCOCKS, WILSON, BAKO, EVANS, BELMONTE, WESTWOOD, FRY, FRANCIS, COX, POWELL, DIAS, SHARIFF, GROCOTT, HUSSAIN.