GRAYS ATHLETIC 2 HARROW BOROUGH 5
The Harrow following on a cold night at Mill Field experienced the complete gamut of emotions: depression and anger as their side went two down (and it could have been more) inside 13 minutes to the league’s bottom side,
but then delight turning to ecstasy as Borough turned the game round completely after half-time to take away three very valuable points.
The Harrow line-up looked more ‘bare bones’ than ever, with only one fit man among the three substitutes. There was, however, a new face, Danny Hicks, signed on a dual-registration from Slough Town, and in for the absent Steve Brown alongside Shaun Preddie in the only change from Saturday’s starting eleven.
Most keen students of the Ryman League, or merely those who’ve seen Grays-Harrow games in the last couple of years, know that Joao Carlos is a serious threat on the left. But in the first minute, he was given the freedom of Aveley to cross for Menga, who also had too much room, and he turned and fired the ball home with just 58 seconds on the watch. A Grays free-kick led to Brendan Hazlett saving from Ashton, and another rapid break saw the ball moved from right to left where Carlos was again in space. Hazlett was out to him quickly and although Carlos lifted his shot over the Harrow custodian, it also went over the bar. Harrow were in a dreadful mess at the back and it was no surprise when Grays doubled their lead in the 13th minute. Bishop crossed from the right, Menga’s shot was cleared off the line by George Nicholas but alas straight back to Menga who made no mistake the second time.
To describe the mood on the terraces, and indeed in the technical area, as ‘combustible’ at this point would be an understatement, but Harrow were handed a lifeline in the 16th minute. Home keeper Tangara had already received treatment on what looked like a side-strain, and this may have been a factor as he made a feeble, flapping effort to deal with Kurtis Cumberbatch’s cross, which came back off the crossbar, Nicholas first to react to convert from close-range.
Harrow did not immediately get significantly better, but the goal did have the effect of dampening the home fire. Tangara saved well from Nicholas, Joshua Webb following up with a shot past the post. Lewis Driver and Cumberbatch had shots blocked in another attack, and Driver headed a Michael Bryan cross back across the goal and wide of the post. What looked to be a goalbound Cumberbatch shot, from a good move by Bryan and Nicholas, hit Marc Charles-Smith on the back and rebounded wide.
Half-time arrived with Harrow still a goal down, and if Steve Baker needed anything to illustrate what a poor showing there had been up until that point, it came when Hazlett came out to the touchline to take a free-kick, and promptly directed the ball straight out of play. But to their credit, Harrow emerged for the second half with a new purpose and direction, and were level within six minutes. Charles-Smith made a fine turn on the right to see off his marker, and his low cross was converted from very close range by Cumberbatch, for his first goal for the club.
Ashton made a fine clearing header from Driver, but Hicks had to rescue Harrow with a clearance when Mahal’s shot was fumbled by Hazlett. Cumberbatch’s cross found Charles-Smith inside the area, and his low shot drew a good save from Tangara. Baxter shot wide for Grays, and was then denied by a Nicholas block. In the 70th minute, a Josh Webb free-kick was floated into the Grays box, and Ashton was ‘all over’ Charles-Smith in his attempt to stop the Harrow captain getting the ball. Referee Warren pointed to the spot, and with Joshua Webb having been substituted, Driver took the responsibility from the spot. If his confidence has been low lately, there was no sign of that as he smashed the spot-kick past Tangara.
Harrow now had their collective foot on the Grays throat, and in the 75th minute it was 2-4. Another Josh Webb free-kick was cleared, Cumberbatch returned the ball into the box, and with Tangara in no-man’s land, Shaun Preddie’s clever back-header floated over him and found the net before a retreating defender could get back.
Hazlett saved from Kabobola, before Harry Newman set up Andy Lomas for a screaming angled drive that Tangara saved acrobatically. But from the resulting Josh Webb corner, in the 83rd minute, a Preddie shot was turned away by Tangara, but only to Driver who returned it low into the net. There were late Grays efforts by Mahal, over, and Kabobola, saved, but the three-goal cushion remained and Harrow moved up one place, to 19th, and still with games in hand on all bar one of the teams around them.
Next up for Harrow is Saturday’s trip to Billericay, whose manager, Craig Edwards, was among those observing this somewhat bizarre game.
GRAYS ATHLETIC: Amadou Tangara, Ryan Mahal, Barney Williams, Lartey Sarpong, Jonathan Ashton, Luke Wilson, Matthew Baxter, Nathan Campbell, Lheureux Menga, Kieran Bishop, Joao Carlos (sub Etienne Mukanya Kabobola, 76 mins). Unused subs: Jordan Stansbury, Kwabena Osei, Jordan Aghatise, Harry Watkins.
HARROW BOROUGH: Brendan Hazlett, Josh Webb, Andy Lomas, Danny Hicks, Shaun Preddie (booked, 32 mins), Joshua Webb (sub Harry Newman, 58 mins), Kurtis Cumberbatch, George Nicholas, Marc Charles-Smith, Lewis Driver, Michael Bryan. Unused subs: Sahr Kabba, Lewis Ochoa.
Referee: Mr G Warren
by Simon Grigor