Churchmen stun Highgate

Alvechurch 3 Highgate United 0

Before kick-off there had been little Christmas cheer in evidence as the Alvechurch fans contemplated the task ahead against a Highgate side which topped the Midland Alliance table with a strike force that had mustered 51 goals between them.

“4-0 to Highgate,” confidently stated one Lye Meadow regular when asked for his prediction.

But 90 minutes later, the home fans were celebrating noisily after watching Ross Thorpe’s work-in-progress side confidently dismantle a Highgate team whose goalscoring chances amounted solely to a Lei Brown glancing header that took the ball away from the better-placed Shane Benjamin in the first half and a powerfully hit but straightforward Benjamin effort after the break.

By the time that second effort fell to the former Church forward, in the 77th minute, the game was over and the visitors were down to ten men to boot, thanks to a moment of madness from panto villain Nathan Edgington.

Alvechurch’s Rico Taylor had announced the home side’s intent early on with a low drive that had United keeper Chris Jay scrambling across goal to turn the ball around his post before left winger Dale Edwards scored the first of two goals that capped a dream debut.

Highgate stopper Dean Curtis’ heavy touch surrendered possession in a dangerous area as teammate Richard Robinson was only able to slice the ball into the path of the advancing Edwards and the winger, signed from neighbours Studley last week, confidently fired home left-footed into the bottom right-hand corner via Jay’s glove, in the 17th minute.

The goal-laden visitors offered nothing in response apart from that header from 32-goal former Studley hitman Brown which denied the bulky Benjamin, a forward who appeared for all the world to have had his shirt sprayed on after some festive over indulgence.

The hosts too had struggled to extend their lead with impressive lone forward Luke Shearer dropping deep to pick up the ball only to find, repeatedly, that no yellow shirt had advanced in front of him but another Highgate error led to a second goal on the stroke of half time as Chris Hughes won a bottled challenge on the halfway line to leave the hosts three on one. Hughes fed Shearer, whose shot was blocked by Jay with the rebound falling to Edwards, who confidently bent a shot home around the grounded keeper.

If there were still nerves among the home supporters at half time, they were settled seven minutes into the second half when the hapless Curtis clumsily felled Shearer on the edge of the area as the rangy forward meandered his way towards goal for a clear penalty, which the forward nonchalantly slammed home.

Edgington’s rush of blood four minutes later meant it was game, set and match to the hosts. The Highgate midfielder should have seen red in the 41st minute when he elbowed Edwards in the head yards from a linesman who obviously fancied a quiet Boxing Day and, as a result, was heckled by the home fans when he lost out to Hughes in a challenge on the touchline and responded by stamping on his opposite number in clear view of the referee, who flashed a straight red.

And it could have been worse for ex-Studley manager Lee Adams’ side when Brown put in a reckless, sliding two-footed lunge on Edwards three minutes later on a Christmas pudding of a surface, but the referee let it go.

The addition of a second super-size former Church player in the weighty form of Danny Rolfe did nothing to pep up the visitors as Jack Cresswell and Shearer blazed wildly off-target for the hosts before a glancing header from the latter dropped inches wide late on with Jay beaten.

Alvechurch manager Thorpe, who was forced to name himself on the bench, saw his thrown-together side continue to progress and although Alvechurch won’t win the league this season, on the evidence of that performance, they will finish higher up than Highgate.

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