Highgate Albion, who reached the FA Sunday Cup final in 2022, continued their latest run in the competition, with a home 4th round match on Sunday last 21st January, against Flaunden at the New River Stadium and your roving team was there.
Albion had reached this stage of the competition by beating Sungate (away) 3-2 in round 1, SE Dons 2-1 (at home) in round 2 and The Wall 4-1 (at home) in round 3.
Flaunden had been drawn away in each of the previous rounds and had won through via a penalty shoot-out each time. Their results were: Round 1 v North Watford 3-3 (pens 3-2), round 2 v Luton Celtic 1-1 (pens 4-3) and Clapham Rovers 3-3 (pens 4-1).
Despite the increasingly strong gusty wind, the quality of football was very good. Highgate Albion adopted well to the tricky conditions, dominated possession and goal chances. However, their victory was eventually achieved in a penalty shoot-out. Albion took the lead midway through the first half. Flaunden equalised on the hour but Albion regained the lead 6 minutes later. Flaunden took the tie to penalties with a second equaliser, with 7 minutes of normal time remaining. The ensuing dramatic penalty shoot-out was of the highest quality. I cannot remember a better one.
Both sides made a cautious start and serious attempts on goal were limited during the first 15 minutes. In the 7th minute, Matt Batemen shot over the angle of the home goal, after being put through by Alex Marsh. Then, in the 17th minute, Albion’s Luke Alfano let fly from 25 yards and rattled the visitors’ crossbar.
Flaunden’s James Powell was released by a pass inside the full back and he dashed into the Highgate penalty area, where he fell sprawling. The referee waved aside suggestions of a penalty.
Flaunden keeper, Dan Nash kept out a shot by Excellence Muhemba with his legs. Then Tage Kennedy set up Excellence, who was brought down by the keeper. Again, the referee turned down the penalty appeals.
Almost immediately, in the 23rd minute, Solomon Ofori burst through the defence and drove the ball home to give Albion the lead.
Solomon Ofori gives Albion the lead
The Flaunden keeper pushed a close-range effort from Albion skipper, Ian Maitland onto his post and then turned a drive from Excellence over his crossbar.
Dan Nash turns Excellence's drive over his crossbar
In the 32nd minute, Ian Maitland had to leave the action with what looked like a hamstring injury. Tage Kennedy took over the captain’s armband.
Some trickery by Teddy Stacey set up Excellence, who fired wide on the turn. Then a shot from Teddy was charged down.
At the other end a good move was finished by Ed Canham, whose shot was safely gathered by Charles Taylor.
Tage Kennedy worked through the defence and passed to Lonit Talla, whose shot hit the bar.
Half-time score: Highgate Albion 1 Flaunden 0
Lonit Talla's (4) shot hits the bar
Teddy Stacey’s long free kick into the Flaunden box was headed behind by a defender. This started a sequence of 3 successive corners, which ended with Excellence Muhemba blasting his shot over the bar.
Flaunden successfully defend a corner
A low shot from Excellence was deflected for a corner. Dan Nash parried Luke Alfano’s angled shot.
In the 60th minute, Flaunden broke away and equalised, when James Powell set up Alex Marsh to score from close range.
Alex Marsh (hidden by 3) equalises for Flaunden
Albion regained the lead in the 66th minute, through Luke Alfano, who headed Solomon Ofori’s cross home.
Luke Alfano heads home to restore Albions lead
Albion continued to create chances. Dan Nash saved low down from Teddy Stacey. Tage Kennedy’s shot was stopped on the goal line by Ed Canham.
Solomon Ofori went past couple of defenders but his shot was blocked for a corner. This started another succession of testing corners, made more dangerous by the gusting wind. The Flaunden defence did well to survive the onslaught.
Another Albion corner tests the Flaunden defence
The visitors broke out to equalise again in the 83rd minute, through James Potton, from close range following a corner kick.
James Potton (red on right) makes the score 2-2
Both sides had chances to score a winning goal in the closing minutes. James Powell was released by Matt Bateman and was clear through on goal but was thwarted by a heroic save at his feet by Charles Taylor.
Charles Taylor saves at James Powell's feet
Then a header from Luke Alfano bounced on top of the Flaunden bar.
Score after 90 minutes: Highgate Albion 2 Flaunden 2
Flaunden went first in the penalty shoot-out. The first 3 penalties for each side were impeccably struck. Matt Bateman, Ben Davis and Ryan Anthony (Flaunden) and Teddy Stacey, Hermes Gbio and Harry Gallagher (Highgate Albion) were all successful.
James Powell hit an upright with Flaunden’s 4th penalty and Excellence Muhemba scored to put Albion ahead.
James Potton converted Flaunden’s 5th shot and then Dan Nash restored equality by diving to his left to save brilliantly from Tage Kennedy.
We went to sudden death, with the pressure now on the Albion takers, going second.
Both of the 6th pair of penalty takers, Ed Canham and Luke Alfano were successful. The 7th pair, Tom Brice and Lonitt Talla also converted their kicks.
Charles Taylor tilted the balance of the game back into his sides’ favour, by diving to his left to make a superb save from Luke Marsh’s kick.
Charles Taylor saves Luke Marsh's penalty
Richard Ennin then stepped up to send Dan Nash the wrong way and win the tie for Albion.
Penalty shoot-out score: Highgate Albion 7 Flaunden 6
Richard Ennin hits the winning penalty
: Charles Taylor, Hermes Gbio, Teddy Stacey, Ian Maitland (capt) (Harry Gallagher 32 min), Alvin Kyeremeh, Solomon Ofori (Hamza Semakula 79), Pele Riley (Richard Ennin 86), Luke Alfano, Lonit Talla, Excellence Muhemba and Tage Kennedy.
Alexandru Gavriloaia (gkpr), Shehzad Anwar and Aaron Scott.
: Adam Shahein Assistant Manager: Paul Leach Coaches: Jake Cass Physio: Dane Christie.
: Dan Nash, Ryan Anthony (capt), Sam Wiltshire, Ed Canham, Alex Marsh, Ross Adams (Tom Brice 84), James Powell, James Potton, Matt Bateman, Haydn Cassidy (Luke Marsh 79) and Tom Franklin (Ben Davis 87).
: Alex Thompson, Jack Heaslip, Matt Dean and Adam Moulster.
: Paul Fidler Assistant Manager: Paul Maloney Coach: George Loosely Physio: Joe Welton.
: James Keane Assistant Referees: Dan Smith and Daniel Merrell
Highgate Albion are now scheduled to visit the eventual winners of the postponed 4th round tie between St Josephs (South Oxhey) and Market Hotel, in the quarter final, on 18th February.
Report: Jim Taylor
Photography: Chris Benn