MET POLICE 1 HARROW BORO 1
It was a point gained at a ground where Harrow’s league record is awful, but it really should have been three. Harrow dominated the first half, but a flat second half performance, and a calamitous error, allowed the Met to get a draw.
Steve Baker again selected a 3-5-2 line-up on a pitch which had thawed out but, from the way it cut up, was clearly still very firm below the top inch or so. Sogbanmu put a free header wide from an early home corner, but Borough’s first corner saw Marc Charles-Smith’s header crash off the underside of the bar from Joshua Webb’s whipped delivery. Brendan Hazlett made a brave save at Michael-Percil’s feet, while home keeper Daly had to race off his line to head clear with Sahr Kabba closing in.
Michael Peacock’s early injury saw the formation have to change. George Nicholas came on with Borough reverting to a back four. But Harrow adjusted very quickly and enjoyed a great spell. A nice move ended with a Joshua Webb 20-yarder saved by Daly. Michael Bryan then made space for himself and forced Daly to dive to save his shot. Charles-Smith turned a defender, broke on the right, and hit a low cross that Kabba met with a first-time effort at the near post that forced a fine save with his foot by Daly. Bryan then finished off another lovely move by beating two defenders and poking his shot just wide.
The Police then threatened when Michael-Percil cut across the area from right to left, beating two visiting defenders, and hit a low shot that was brilliantly turned round the post by Hazlett. Hazlett then had to save at Michael-Percil’s feet after Smith had slipped him through.
Harrow went in front after 40 minutes. Kurtis Cumberbatch’s fine cross put Charles-Smith in on Daly, the ball going out for a corner. Daly punched Joshua Webb’s delivery up in the air, and Shaun Preddie beat the goalkeeper to it as it dropped back down. Robertson cleared Preddie’s header off the line, but the danger hadn’t gone. Bryan picked the ball up on the right edge of the box, drove forward a few yards and slammed a low cross-shot that Daly, diving at his near post, could only help into the net. It was a deserved reward for the little Irishman’s excellent first-half performance.
So, half-time arrived with Harrow deservedly ahead and probably unlucky not to be so by a bigger margin. But, no doubt having been torn off a strip by their long-serving manager Jim Cooper, the Met emerged sharper in the second period. Bryan and Joshua Webb, who’d been running the show, were closed down in midfield and pressed deeper and deeper. Borough had an early scare when Macklin held off Steve Brown to whip a shot across the goalmouth. There weren’t too many more alarms but the home side were pressing Harrow further and further back, and in the 69th minute Borough hit the self-destruct button. Hazlett bowled the ball left to Preddie. There may not have been options for him downfield but he chose to play an incredibly dangerous ball back across his own penalty area. Macklin intercepted it just before Hazlett, who brought him down. The Borough keeper was booked, quite probably benefiting from the ‘double jeopardy’ rule in avoiding a red card, but Michael-Percil calmly sent him the wrong way from the spot to level the scores.
For a while, it looked as if the hosts might go on to win it. Sogbanmu flicked Michael-Percil’s cross over at the near post, and when Hazlett was drawn out of his goal by Bartley’s punt downfield, Macklin won the ball off him and put in a low cross that none of his team-mates could convert. With a back four to be part of, instead of roaming forward as wing-backs, neither Andy Lomas nor Josh Webb was getting forward in support of their colleagues, and it was no surprise when Baker introduced width again by bringing on first Harry Newman and then Francis Babalola. The changes wrested the initiative back Harrow’s way for the closing ten minutes. Babalola’s low cross was met by a first-time Kabba shot that went past the post, a Babalola run ended with a vicious shot past the near post, Joshua Webb clipped a free-kick just over, and Lomas’s deep cross led to a half-clearance met by a Joshua Webb drive that was charged down.
With three winners today from the five teams below them, Borough dropped to 20th place, though they’ve played fewer (in some cases, considerably fewer) than all the teams around them. They face South Park in a League Cup tie this Tuesday, before entertaining league leaders Bognor Regis Town, surprisingly beaten at home by bottom side Grays today, next Saturday.
METROPOLITAN POLICE: Brannon Daly, Will Salmon, Tommy Cooney (sub Sam Williams, 62 mins), Steve Sutherland, Olli Robinson, Rob Bartley (booked, 82 mins), Luke Robertson, Ola Sogbanmu (sub Jon Nurse, 89 mins), Lloyd Macklin, Orlando Smith (sub James Harper, 70 mins), Roman Michael-Percil (booked, 43 mins). Unused subs: Scott Tarr, Mekhail McLaughlin.
HARROW BOROUGH: Brendan Hazlett (booked, 69 mins), Josh Webb, Andy Lomas, Shaun Preddie, Michael Peacock (sub George Nicholas, 19 mins; booked, 90 mins), Steve Brown (booked, 55 mins), Michael Bryan (sub Francis Babalola, 82 mins), Kurtis Cumberbatch (sub Harry Newman, 74 mins), Marc Charles-Smith, Sahr Kabba, Joshua Webb. Unused subs: Lewis Driver, Lewis Ochoa
Referee: Mr J Simpson
by Simon Grigor