HAVANT & WATERLOOVILLE 3 HARROW BOROUGH 1
Harrow returned pointless from Hampshire, but having put in a performance that brought great pride to their travelling support as they pushed the title-contending Hawks every inch of the way in a gripping encounter.
There were selection problems at full-back for Steve Baker, with Josh Webb deemed unlikely to play again this season and Andy Lomas out after his injury on Saturday. Lewis Ochoa continued at right-back while into the left-back berth came Alexander Lafleur, a youngster from the Harefield Academy tie-up. Although he was targeted continually by the Havant offense, he didn’t wilt and should look back proudly on his debut.
On a pleasant Spring evening, Harrow opened well with Havant looking a little nervous. Lheureux Menga headed wide of the near post from George Nicholas’s cross, before Harrow shocked the home support by taking a fifth-minute lead. The high-intensity pressing with which they opened paid off as Marc Charles-Smith held up the ball in midfield, it was then played forward, and Menga won it from a hesitant defender, took the ball on, and stroked it past Young’s right hand from 20 yards.
Menga tried his luck with a dipping shot from an acute angle that went past the near post, before Havant threatened for the first time as Prior drifted an angled shot from a right-wing cross just over the far post. Michael Peacock made a great tackle on Lewis, before a super Joshua Webb free-kick drew Young off his line, and there was a thudding collision between him and Peacock, with both players needing lengthy attention and referee Simpson deciding ‘offside’ and thus avoiding the pandemonium of a bounce-up six yards from goal. A great challenge by Shaun Preddie launched a rapid counter-attack by Harrow, but when that fizzled out attention was drawn to the other end where Tarbuck, scorer of Havant’s goal at Harrow the other week, was prone on the turf. He departed on a stretcher, to be replaced by Hayter, a move that was to prove significant.
Strugnell headed over from Stock’s corner, before a moment of controversy in the 37th minute. Again it was an incisive Harrow counter-attack, Michael Bryan bringing the ball forward before finding Kurtis Cumberbatch on the left. Menga dummied over his low delivery and Charles-Smith controlled the ball before driving it in. The celebrations were cut short by the assistant’s raised flag: it was a very, very tight call. Another nice move ended with Menga’s shot past the post, before the Hawks upped their game in the lead-in to the interval. Preddie made a great clearing header, and Luke Williams saw a free-kick through a crowd of players very late but still got down to push it away. Nicholas was in very much a defensive role and won an important header, Rose lifted a shot over the bar, and Woodford missed a good chance to level as a deep corner was returned back into the middle for him to fire over.
More pressure was to be expected in the second half, which began with Nicholas making a fine block but with the ball running to Hayter, who shot over. In the 52nd minute, the pressure told as a long crossfield ball set Williams against Ochoa. He beat the Borough right-back in a race along the by-line, and pulled the ball back for Fogden to drill past Williams.
There were chances at each end as, first, more fine Harrow passing ended with Ochoa finding Cumberbatch, breaking into the box only to have the ball taken off his toe as he shaped to shoot. Young’s goal-kick was then flicked on for Fogden to hold off Joshua Webb but shoot wide. Menga was in action at his own end with a clearance to a scramble that resulted from a deep corner. In the 65th minute, Havant went in front as the ball was delivered deep from the left, Williams elected to stay on his line, and Harris rose at the far post to direct his header back over the Harrow custodian.
Another home diagonal ball set Swallow up against Lafleur. He beat the youngster and crossed to the back stick, where Prior’s floating header dipped onto the top of the bar. Harrow hit back with Bryan beating two defenders and finding the supporting Ochoa, whose effort went into the side netting. Young made a good save to pluck Joshua Webb’s curling free-kick from under his crossbar. Swallow was beginning to torment Lafluer and his subsequent pull-back saw Hayter turn sharply to draw a fine save from Williams. The Harrow defence was now having to cope with a barrage of crosses, and in the 76th minute a couple were cleared before the ball was delivered from the left for Hayter to head in the third at the near post.
Lewis headed a near post cross wide but Harrow heads hadn’t dropped. The referee waved play on when substitute Francis Babalola was felled as he moved into Cumberbatch’s pass, and a late spell of pressure saw Babalola drive a great ball across the home goalmouth that just needed a touch from a colleague.
So, Havant remain second, with an Easter Monday showdown with table-topping Bognor Regis looking increasingly likely to determine the Championship. Worthing’s win at Merstham drops Harrow to 14th, and Borough’s next assignment is a trip to the micro-climate that is Canvey Island this Saturday: ignore any warm weather forecasts for April 1st, it’s always b****y freezing there!
HAVANT & WATERLOOVILLE: Ryan Young, Dan Strugnell (sub Ben Swallow, 66 mins), Rory Williams, Brian Stock, Jordan Rose (booked, 55 mins), Ed Harris, Wes Fogden, Ryan Woodford, Jason Prior, Theo Lewis (sub Mike Carter, 78 mins), Bradley Tarbuck (sub James Hayter, 33 mins). Unused subs: Lee Molyneaux, George Barker
HARROW BOROUGH: Luke Williams, Lewis Ochoa, Alexander Lafleur, Shaun Preddie, Michael Peacock, George Nicholas (sub Francis Babalola, 77 mins; booked, 85 mins), Michael Bryan, Joshua Webb (sub Harry Newman, 77 mins), Marc Charles-Smith, Lheureux Menga, Kurtis Cumberbatch. Unused subs: Jemel Laalizi, Tumba Bokula.
Referee: Mr D Simpson
by Simon Grigor