A trip to Wembley is edging ever closer in the FA Vase
DEAN Rathbone’s double proved enough for last season’s semi-finalists Coleshill in a muck-and-bullets derby at league rivals Highgate.
A muddy, fragile pitch allied with well-matched sides made for an attritional but engaging contest that seemed destined to end in stalemate for most of the afternoon.
The match gradually opened up as it went along, but chances were few and far between and when they did arrive, both sets of players squandered good positions or picked the wrong option.
Rathbone finally broke the deadlock with 13 minutes remaining, latching on to a Ryan Edmunds ball into the left side of the box before stepping inside his marker and coolly slotting under advancing keeper Brad Catlow.
Highgate, who had arguably held the edge during what had preceded, piled on the pressure and when Lei Brown was felled by Joe Halsall during a scramble at a corner, Josh Hawker stroked low to Paul Hathaway’s right from the penalty spot.
Extra-time would have been a fair outcome but the Colemen had other ideas with Jorna Moulton spreading to Edmunds on the right to cut in and draw out Catlow before centring for Rathbone who could not miss the open net with a minute to go.
Five minutes were added with Rob Evans sliding in to deny Marco Adaggio, the Midland League Premier Division’s top goal scorer, a free hit to level from six yards.
And in what proved to be the last push, ex-Kidderminster Harriers striker Scott Rickards pulled the trigger only for his shot in a packed penalty area to cannon off Catlow who had joined the last-ditch pursuit of a second equaliser.
In the end, the most controversial incident of the afternoon paled into insignificance.
The assistant referee flagged for a foul in the box when Edmunds got tangled with Highgate left-back Nathan Pulisciano after five minutes. Man-in-the-middle David Hunt pointed to the spot before correctly changing his mind after a lengthy consultation with his colleague.
FULL STRETCH! Coleshill’s Paul Hathaway tips an effort over the bar