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Heartbreak as late penalty condemns Highbury Korfball Club to third successive defeat

12:31 11 February 2014

Highbury Korfball Club's Simon Mackie

Highbury Korfball Club's Simon Mackie

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Highbury Korfball Club led for the majority of their match away against Croydon’s second team but suffered a heartbreaking last-minute 15-14 defeat which consigned them to a third successive loss.

Highbury Korfball Club's Matt DoddsHighbury Korfball Club's Matt Dodds

Highbury, who have been training at Swiss Cottage Leisure Centre this season, spent Christmas at the top of the London Regional League One table after just one reverse in their opening nine games – but a run of back-to-back defeats continued at the weekend as they lost out to a late penalty.

Despite another setback, the north Londoners are still on course for a place in the play-offs and a shot at promotion to the national league.

Six out of the nine teams in the division are reserve sides, such as Nomads II, Nomads III, Bec II and Bec III – and since their senior teams are already in the top flight, they cannot be promoted.

Highbury must therefore ensure that they finish above Mitcham and basement boys Supernova in their final four games to seal a spot at the Champions Trophy – a two-day tournament which will be held in Croydon on April 27-27.

The play-off competition features the top team from each English korfball region as well as the side who finishes second bottom in the national league, with the winners playing in the top tier next season.

Highbury are still the favourites to qualify from the London league, but their latest defeat was another blow.

Coach Andrew Speck recalled Simon Mackie and Morven Masterton to his line-up, and Martin Petrie got the visitors off to a good start with a long-range effort.

However, Croydon equalised and, although Mackie scored on his return to the side, the hosts got their noses in front with two goals in quick succession.

A see-saw first half continued as Petrie levelled to make it three apiece before Croydon re-established their advantage – but Moses Hutchinson-Pascal, Niccola Hyslop and Rachel Dixon then found the net to put the visitors 6-4 ahead.

Croydon reduced the deficit to one just before the break, but the second period started well for Highbury as Masterton and Matt Dodds both scored from range to put their side 8-5 up.

Croydon weren’t resting on their laurels though and they hit three of their own to bring the scores level again at 8-8, and when Dodds scored another long-shot it was swiftly cancelled out by a similar effort at the other end.

Highbury attempted to break away again and three unanswered goals from Ana Rocha, Masterton and Hyslop put them in control.

However, their failure to capitalise and put Croydon to bed would ultimately cost them.

The hosts hit two goals in a row and, although Hutchinson-Pascal responded, a quick double made the score 13-13.

Mackie put Highbury back into the lead, only for Croydon to equalise once more and, with time ticking away, the tension was obvious as both sides searched for a winner.

Just as it looked like the game was heading for a draw, Croydon were awarded a penalty – and, with seconds left and despite the intense pressure, it was converted.

Highbury will look to get back to winning ways against Bec III on Sunday.

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