HARROW BOROUGH 1 ERITH TOWN 1, Harrow won 4-1 on pens
Not for the first time, Harrow found opponents from the Southern Counties East League to be obdurate ones as, on a night of mixed form, they eventually prevailed in a penalty shoot-out.
No doubt very annoyed by the chronic performance at Staines, Steve Baker selected a strong starting eleven, although there was a debut for defender Harry Tucker, from the FAB Academy, and a first start for Brian Testolin. Harrow started like a house on fire, and Mitchell had to tip a low shot from Anthony O’Connor round the post, before Tucker headed across goal for Richard Pacquette to see his header batted away by the visiting keeper. The resulting Alfie Cain corner saw O’Connor flash a header over at the near post. A nice exchange by Pacquette and Reis Stanislaus saw Mitchell tip over a shot from the latter, and the busy goalie then saved Pacquette’s low shot on the turn. O’Connor then set up Testolin who ought to have scored but was denied by Mitchell, and O’Connor then headed another corner wide.
All this had been in the first 20 minutes, but with their first attack it was Erith who should have opened the scoring, a free-kick dropping to Keizer-Burrows who poked the ball wide of the post. That familiar fault of the Harrow defence of failing to attack balls before they drop was again in evidence, and again it was centre-back Keizer-Burrows who was free at the far post, this time having a goalbound header blocked. Tucker and Melvin Minter got in a mess, leading to a free-kick for handling a back-pass, and that was deflected wide. When referee Mr Warren spotted some manhandling at the resulting corner, he pointed to the spot, and Golding put away the spot-kick despite Minter getting a hand to it. The time, 23 minutes.
Tobon nearly doubled the lead, stretching to meet Ramadan’s cross at the far post but just failing to get sufficient contact on the ball. Harrow levelled in the 29th minute, as Cain’s pass sent O’Connor racing into the box on the left. As he checked back, he was brought down by Fitchett, and Stanislaus drove home the penalty.
O’Connor took just too long to shoot after a build-up between Pacquette and Cain, but the visitors’ confidence had not evaporated and Fitchett’s free header was saved by Minter, who then tipped away a powerful drive by Golding. Adam Richards cleared another effort off the line and Jeffery’s header was tipped over. Arinse Uade stood off Ramadan too long, allowing a shot that was saved by Minter. Harrow at least regained some initiative before the break, with O’Connor’s control letting him down as he moved onto Stanislaus’s pass, and Stanislaus then heading wide from Cain’s deep cross.
That had been a very lively half, and the second period was a quiet one in comparison. Mitchell saved from O’Connor, with Palfrey’s clever free-kick going narrowly wide at the other end. Mitchell dived full-length to his left to turn away a 25-yarder from Pacquette, while Ramadan cut in from the left to curl a right-footer narrowly over. A quick Erith break saw substitute Brimah shoot wide at the near post from a right-wing delivery, before Harrow substitute Charles Banya forced a save from Mitchell after cutting in from the right. Harrow finished strongly with George Moore, who had performed well in an unfamiliar right-back role, exchanging passes with Banya and firing just over, and another substitute, debutatnt Tiernan Fitzgerald, having a shot blocked, O’Connor bringing a good save from Mitchell in the follow-up.
So, it went to, as Andy Turner likes to say, ‘kicks from the penalty mark’. Harrow went first, and Stanislaus and Cain scored while Minter saved well from Brimah and Ramadan. That comfortable position was not worsened as Banya for Harrow and Tobon for Erith both netted. That left O’Connor with the fourth penalty and the chance to send Harrow through, and he took it.
There were aspects of this performance that will have pleased Baker but, with a difficult away game at Margate and an equally-difficult home game with Dulwich coming up in the next week, he’ll have seen lots that needs addressing too. The return of a couple of the injured may help, but Harrow need to improve their organisation and decision-making if they are to aspire to the heights of the early weeks of the season again.
HARROW BOROUGH: Melvin Minter, Harry Tucker, Arinse Uade, Adam Richards, Brian Testolin (sub Charles Banya, 69 mins), Alfie Cain, Anthony O’Connor, Mark McLeod, Richard Pacquette (booked, 60 mins; sub Tiernan Fitzgerald, 78 mins), Reis Stanislaus, George Moore. Unused sub: Michael Bryan
ERITH TOWN: Lewis Mitchell, Lewis Scotter, Dan Palfrey, James Day, Myles Keizer-Burrows, Ben Fitchett, Andres Tobon, Osman Proni, Ryan Golding, Aaron Jeffery (sub Leithan Brimah, 61 mins), Adem Ramadan. Unused subs: Kieran Lovatt, Cameron Lovatt, Samuel Evbouma.
Referee: Mr G Warren
by Simon Grigor