Coalville Town 2
Highgate United 1
HIGHGATE manager Mark Burge must have feared the worst when the opening fixture matched his young charges with preseason favourites Coalville Town in the Midland Football Alliance.
But at the end of the 90 minutes Burge was able to reflect on an outstanding team display from his inexperienced side.
In fact the outcome could have been a lot better for Highgate had they held on to a first half lead and not conceded a last minute winner.
With three first choice players absent - Scott Turner and Jacob Barnes unavailable and Wayne Croft injured - the new man in charge put out a line up with an average age of just 19.
Despite the home side having a threatening duo up front in the shape of Martin Thompson and Nathan Jones, a well organised Gate defence dealt capably with all that was thrown at them.
The first half looked to be heading for a stalemate before the visitors took the lead in the 42nd minute. New boy Anthony Pritchard kept his composure to hit a low shot into the bottom corner of the net.
Clearly stung by the unexpected reverse Coalville upped the pressure after the break, but thanks to some resolute defending and brave goal keeping, Gate hung on to their advantage.
That was until the 67th minute when last season’s MFA golden boot winner Matt Gardner rose unchallenged to head in the equaliser.
Two minutes from time and Highgate scorer Pritchard had a golden chance to grab the winner but somehow blasted wide. The miss was quickly punished up the other end when on 90 minutes Paul O’Mara crashed the ball home from close range.
On Saturday Highgate travel to Bridgnorth Town for an FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round encounter (3pm) and on Tuesday evening they visit Stratford Town (7.45pm).