LEISTON 2 HARROW BOROUGH 2
It is, of course, way better than being consistently bad, but what an enigma this Harrow Borough side is! For from out of the depths of dross, seen in last Saturday’s defeat to a very poor-looking Burgess Hill outfit, came this show of character,
commitment and fine football to take a well-deserved point home from the Suffolk promotion contenders.
Steve Baker rang the changes after Saturday’s dire outing. Out went goalkeeper Luke Williams, guilty of one-too-many errors in recent weeks, while the midfield was nearly completely restructured, only Michael Bryan remaining, with Lewis Ochoa, George Nicholas and Alexander Lafleur coming in. Marc Charles-Smith went back to his striking role as Michael Peacock, unavailable due to work commitments last Saturday, returned alongside Shaun Preddie.
And Borough started with purpose. A good move ended with home skipper Bullard having to make a fine interception at the near post to stop Will Turl converting Bryan’s cross. Harrow were pressing their opponents all over the pitch and in the seventh minute this play forced them to go back from the halfway line. The ball reached Bullard just outside the area and he was closed down and dispossessed by a great tackle by Charles-Smith, the skipper going on to beat Jones calmly.
The hosts’ first opportunity came when Michael Peacock missed a header, allowing Blake, the league’s top scorer, in behind him to shoot over from an angle. Brendan Hazlett then made a good save to stop Heath’s shot, before coming off his line quickly to hack clear from Muir, who had been played in by Blake. Francis then shot across goal for Leiston, and Peacock got back to block Blake’s shot.
Ochoa’s free-kick was tipped round the post by Jones, once of Harrow, Josh Webb blocked Blake’s shot on the turn, and Blake flashed a header across goal from Heath’s corner. However, Harrow were looking sharp on the break, and Ochoa rampaged forward to set up Turl, who laid the ball to his left for Charles-Smith to net, but he had strayed offside. The half closed with a brave save from Hazlett, who picked up a bang from Blake in the process of denying him.
Harrow opened the second half with a fine move. George Nicholas sent Bryan away on the right and his deep cross was headed narrowly over by Alexander Lafleur, who was working tirelessly in his new left midfield role. But despite beginning the half well, Harrow succumbed to their regular fault of conceding an early goal. It was the 48th minute that saw Leiston launch a break on the right, and when the ball came in, Muir turned sharply at the near post to fire across Hazlett.
Borough reacted with Bryan again prominent in a move up the right. He found Charles-Smith on the by-line, and the ball was fed to Turl at the near post, who tried to tee up a shot but was dispossessed. However, in the 57th minute, the play-off contenders, seeking to consolidate third place and thus earn themselves a home semi-final, went in front. Not for the first time - despite his much-improved season - Shaun Preddie was guilty of overplaying in a dangerous area, and when he lost possession the ball was transferred quickly to Heath, who ran on to shoot across Hazlett.
Again Harrow heads did not drop. Jones made a fine save, diving on his line amongst some flying boots, to hold a towering Peacock far post downward header from Andy Lomas’s corner. Preddie then made a brave block to get his head in the way of Ainsley’s shot, and Hazlett saved Blake’s shot from Muir’s delivery. The Harrow defence was looking organised, but still Blake was showing why he is such a feared marksman: once again he found the room to turn, on the edge of the box, and this time fired over.
Nicholas forced a diving save from Jones with a 20-yard shot from Charles-Smith’s lay-off, and Ochoa’s drive was blocked after good work from Lafleur and Bryan. Another Nicholas shot was deflected narrowly wide, but in the 78th minute Harrow got a deserved equaliser. Bryan, showing tonight what he can do when he has a positive mindset, was sent clear on the right after good work by Turl and Charles-Smith. With the striking pair having been involved in sending him away, would there be anyone in the middle for his cross? Yes, Lomas arrived at the far post to meet the Ulsterman’s deep delivery and guide the ball back across Jones.
Lomas made a fine clearing header at the other end as Leiston piled forward, but again Harrow threatened on the break, Turl shifting on Bryan’s cross for Charles-Smith to try a clever flick that was blocked. Some late home pressure saw one big scramble in the Harrow goalmouth before the ball was cleared, and Hazlett dropped on the ball as a 93rd minute corner came to nought.
After the last four days, there will be no Harrow supporter who will be willing to invest more than a couple of pence in predicting which Harrow side will turn up this weekend, when they travel to Needham Market on Saturday and host Hendon on Eastter Monday: but all will be hoping it will be the Harrow of tonight, rather than the one seen in the previous two outings!
LEISTON: Ashlee Jones, Ollie Brown (sub Joe Jefford, 90 mins), Seb Dunbar (booked, 64 mins), Jack Ainsley, Jake Hutchings, Tom Bullard (booked, 33 mins), Connor Hubble (sub Joe Marsden, 79 mins), Gareth Heath, Matt Blake, Niko Muir, Joe Francis (sub Regan Pelling, 87 mins). Unused subs: Armani Schaar, Ade Cole.
HARROW BOROUGH: Brendan Hazlett, Josh Webb, Andy Lomas, Shaun Preddie, Michael Peacock, Lewis Ochoa, Michael Bryan, George Nicholas (booked, 67 mins),
Marc Charles-Smith (sub Kurtis Cumberbatch, 88 mins), Will Turl, Alexander Lafleur (booked, 90 mins). Unused subs: Lheureux Menga, Joshua Webb, Harry Newman, Jemel Laazizi.
Referee: Mr C Pearse
by Simon Grigor