Highgate United 2-2 Hinckley AFC
Hinckley AFC’s unbeaten run now stands at 25 after a 2-2 draw away at Midland League First Division table toppers Highgate United.
A point apiece was a fair result in a game where neither side really did enough to merit all three points. Both sets of central defenders dominated: Hinckley’s pairing of Dom Smith and Alex Morris dealt well with Highgate’s robust style of play, while their opposite numbers James Loney and Scott Turner lost very little in the air all afternoon.
Highgate took an early lead through Tyrone Smith, but Marco Adaggio scored his nineteenth goal for Hinckley to level again on the half hour.
The returning Matt Gardner put Hinckley ahead just ten minutes after coming on as a substitute on his second debut for the club, but AFC’s lead lasted only seven minutes as Martin Crawford’s fine strike earned Highgate a share of the spoils.
Carl Abbott made two changes to the Hinckley side that beat Bromsgrove Sporting a fortnight ago, with Danny Kavanagh and Tyrone Clarke-O’Connell replacing Mitchell Tomlinson and Luke Richards.
Both sides exchanged early half chances, but ‘Gate took the lead with the first real opening of the game. Josh Hawker’s right wing free kick was nodded back across goal by Lei Brown, and the unmarked Smith poked the ball home at the far post.
The opening goal seemed to liven Hinckley up, and shortly afterwards Nathan Walker fizzed a shot narrowly over the bar.
Then, Walker’s shot was deflected just wide with goalkeeper Bradley Catlow beaten, before Hinckley scored a deserved equaliser on 32 minutes. As at Bromsgrove, Isaac Cooper’s long throw was the root of Hinckley’s success: Catlow dropped his launch into the box and Adaggio was on hand to convert into the empty net.
Shorty before the interval, Ricardo Richards headed narrowly wide, and Brown cut inside only to see his powerful strike comfortably saved by Sam Arnold as Highgate finished the half on top.
It was Hinckley who started the second half the brighter, though, and Adaggio saw his snapshot from twenty yards well saved by a diving Catlow, before the same player’s header was comfortably dealt with.
Highgate should have retaken the lead just before the hour mark, but Brown opted to go alone and take on Cooper when Richards was unmarked on the edge of the box, and Cooper’s fine tackle averted the danger. Shortly afterwards, Hawker’s corner led to Smith’s effort being cleared off the line.
Matt Gardner came on as a substitute on the hour, and it took only ten minutes for him to get back to goalscoring ways. Clarke-O’Connell’s fine switch of play found Rob Millington in space at the far post, and his low cross was bravely headed in by a stooping Gardner to give AFC the lead.
The lead, though, lasted only seven minutes, as Highgate capitalised on loose defending to level. From a poor clearance, Crawford drove into the left hand edge of the box and curled a fine strike beyond Arnold’s reach and into the top corner.
Hawker’s set pieces continued to offer a threat for the home side, and Turner headed a left wing corner over the bar at the far post when he really should have tested Arnold. Following that, Crawford’s powerful run saw him beat JJ Melligan but drive wide of the far post.
Hinckley felt they should have had a free kick late on when Catlow appeared to connect with a punch outside his area, but neither side could find the goal to grab all three points and the spoils were shared.
Highgate: Bradley Catlow, Trevor Edwards, Nathan Pulisciano, James Loney, Scott Turner, Martin Crawford, Tyrone Smith, Josh Hawker, Tom Lacey, Ricardo Richards (Liam O’Shea 70), Lei Brown. Subs not used: Shaun Hayes, Nathan Corry, Danny Rolfe, Dean Curtis.
Goals: Tyrone Smith (13), Martin Crawford (77).
Hinckley: Sam Arnold, Danny Kavanagh (Matt Gardner 60), Isaac Cooper, Dom Smith, Alex Morris, Nathan Walker, JJ Melligan, Ross Clarke (Jordan Rushton 73), Rob Millington, Marco Adaggio, Tyrone Clarke-O’Connell. Subs not used: Oli Basham, Mitchell Tomlinson, Justin Nisbett.
Goals: Marco Adaggio (32), Matt Gardner (70).