BIGGLESWADE TOWN 2 HARROW BOROUGH 1
The book of Harrow Borough FA Trophy disasters is already a long one, but it had another significant chapter added to it on a bitingly cold and wet afternoon in Bedfordshire.
Leading from the first minute, Harrow contrived to concede two bad goals in the final eleven minutes to exit the competition at the first hurdle.
There was one change to the starting line-up from last Saturday’s win over Dorchester: with George Fenton unavailable, Mark McLeod came in to play in front of a back-four in a deep-lying midfield screening role.
The game got off to an electric start as Harrow scored in the 14th second. Taking the kick-off, the ball was played right to George Moore, then to Mitchal Gough, and his ball downfield was chased down by Ryan Moss, who held off former Harrow centre-back David Longe-King to loft the ball over keeper Donkin, who had hesitated in coming off his line to meet the threat.
And it was oh-so-nearly two in the third minute, as Moore spotted Donkin off his line and tried an audacious effort from the halfway line that hit the post full-on. The Waders then settled and first Shaun Preddie and then Gough had to make excellent challenges to stop White when he threatened to get clear of the Harrow defence. Preddie made a fine clearing header when Biggleswade won consecutive headers from a corner, and then stopped McNamama with another fine tackle.
Harrow attacks were coming to little as time and time again they failed to take into account the very strong (and freezing cold) wind that was heavily in their favour, with far too many passes, and especially dead-ball kicks, going way beyond the forwards. However, Moss’s cross nearly produced an own goal, as Bradshaw’s clearance wasn’t far wide of the near post, and then Anthony O’Connor angled a shot over following a fine pass inside the full-back from Frank Keita. Gough headed a Moore free-kick wide as a half closed in which both sides might have been reduced to ten men, referee Mr Smith showing leniency in merely showing McLeod, and The Waders’ Forbes, yellow cards for what were pretty awful challenges, the latter especially so: Michael Bryan appeared to ‘see it coming’ and probably avoided serious injury only because he did so.
The second half opened with a Bryan cross that clipped the top of the bar, and an O’Connor driven effort from an angle over the bar, but Biggleswade threatened when White controlled a left wing cross, spun, and shot over. Donkin saved Moore’s deflected shot, with substitute Clark off-target for the hosts.
With neither team mastering the difficult conditions (for it was now raining heavily too) Hafed Al-Droubi had not been called into serious action, but in the 78th minute Steve Baker took off McLeod, maybe worried about that earlier yellow card, and brought on Dylan Kearney. The screen in front of the central defenders wasn’t replaced and within a minute Biggleswade were level, as McNamara chased after a lofted through ball and lifted the ball past Al-Droubi.
Harrow had to reorganise and protect their back line, but the opposite happened instead. In the 83rd minute another long ball downfield found three home attackers up against just two Harrow defenders. White worked the ball on to McNamara, who found Clark, who had time and space to bury his shot. Complaints about a handball somewhere in the move fell on deaf ears.
With the game in stoppage time, Harrow created one chance to take the tie back to The Rogers Family Stadium for a replay. A free-kick saw O’Connor’s overhead kick beat Donkin but blocked by a defender. Substitute Excellence Muhemba’s follow-up cannoned off the crossbar and Preddie then had a goalbound drive blocked, before the ball was hacked clear.
And that was that. To compound the woe, Gough was red-carded after the final whistle for abusing the officials, so will miss three games: the back-three that has been the foundation of Harrow’s successes this term, broken up by Fenton’s absence today, will now have to wait a further three matches before being reunited.
For the second season running, Harrow have failed to take a single penny of the riches that are on offer for FA Cup and FA Trophy successes. This time around, there will no doubt be moans that AFC Hornchurch (in the FA Cup) and Biggleswade were both very tough draws. That’s perfectly true, but those who saw both the games will feel that had Harrow brought the ‘A’ game that’s been seen in their away league fixtures, they’d have progressed in one if not both.
Elsewhere, a draw for Metropolitan Police in their FA Trophy tie means that Harrow will not be travelling to the Met in the league this Tuesday. Instead their next fixture will be on Walton Casuals’ 3G surface next Saturday.
BIGGLESWADE TOWN: Sam Donkin, Jack Bradshaw, Ben Walster, Kieron Forbes (booked, 45 mins), Tom Smith, David Longe-King, Jonny McNamara, Solomon Nwaboukei, Joe White, Matt Ball (sub Peter Clark, 27 mins), Martel Powell (sub Bradley Bell, 57 mins). Unused subs: Josh Urquhart, Robbie Buchanan, Lucas Kirkpatrick.
HARROW BOROUGH: Hafed Al-Droubi, George Moore, Ryan Haugh, Shaun Preddie, Mitchal Gough, Frank Keita, Anthony O’Connor, Mark McLeod (booked, 30 mins; sub Dylan Kearney, 78 mins), Ryan Moss, Michael Bryan (sub Excellence Muhemba, 90 mins), Lewis Cole. Unused subs: Keval Patel, Samuel Olanrewaju, Shpat Ismajli.
Referee: Mr M Smith
by Simon Grigor