HARROW BORO 3 LEISTON 1
If the Harrow playing staff were annoyed at a 280-mile round trip last Tuesday to find the game at Leiston postponed, they took out their displeasure in the best possible way by securing three valuable points
in what should have been the ‘return’ fixture at Earlsmead. Two goals in the last ten minutes swung a pulsating game their way and opened up a little more space in the climb away from the table’s lower reaches.
Brendan Hazlett has performed well as Luke Williams’s deputy, indeed well enough to be voted the Vice-Presidents’ Association’s Player of the Month for January, but it was still good news to see Williams fit again to resume between the sticks. Marc Charles-Smith’s battering at Billericay last Saturday had left him just short of full fitness, so he was on the bench while Sahr Kabba and Lewis Driver formed the attacking spearhead.
Kurtis Cumberbatch put an early shot over the bar, but Harrow nearly, once again, conceded early on when, first, Brown took too long to get his shot away when latching onto Andy Lomas’s poor pass, and then when Leiston left-back Dunbar was afforded far too much room to get into the penalty area and hit a low drive that Williams finger-tipped onto the foot of the post. At the other end, Leiston skipper Bullard misdirected a clearing header from a Cumberbatch cross and it flew just past the post. The resulting corner, in the 14th minute, was delivered by Joshua Webb to the far post and met with a mighty header by Steve Brown to open the scoring.
Lomas set up George Nicholas for a low shot saved by Marsden, Heath then firing over for the visitors. Michael Bryan, employed today in a more central role, nevertheless returned to his normal ‘home’ to cut in from the right and hit a left-foot shot over, and he drove over again, from 25 yards, at the end of a flowing Harrow move. Kabba and Driver then combined to set up Cumberbatch, whose curling shot was turned away by a diving Marsden. Joshua Webb’s low 20-yarder was saved. Blake, the league’s top scorer, put a header wide, but Harrow were enjoying a great spell, and Bryan won a tackle, allowing Kabba to spot Cumberbatch in space, and he fired over from 20 yards. Joshua Webb’s inswinging free-kick beat Marsden but came off the far post, and then Cumberbatch, Bryan and Nicholas combined for Kabba to arrive at the near post with a neat effort that was blocked for a corner.
Driver had limped off after 31 minutes, his ongoing knee problem the issue, and thus Charles-Smith was called into action somewhat earlier than was probably planned. But he opened the second half with a superb glancing near-post header from Lomas’s cross that just cleared the bar. Leiston substitute Francis burst between two home defenders to send a shot just wide, before Kabba’s mazy run ended with an effort from a very tight angle, blocked by Marsden on his near post. The visiting custodian then first saved Nicholas’s header from a Josh Webb free-kick and then a low drive from Kabba. Williams was in action at the other end to save Hutchings’s poked effort.
It was an afternoon of tactical poker between the two benches, and the first to throw down a card was Leiston boss Glen Driver, withdrawing defender Hutchings to put on an extra midfielder, Lawrence. And though, immediately, Kabba’s shot and Lomas’s effort from the rebound, were both blocked, the move paid off in the 66th minute when Joshua Webb missed a tackle, putting his colleagues in trouble, and when Brown’s attempted clearance cannoned into Shaun Preddie, the ball fell nicely to Francis, who calmly drew Williams and shot home.
Harrow nearly fell behind when Cumberbatch’s mistake allowed a quick left-wing attack and a cross that was a whisker too far in front of Blake. But Borough regrouped, with renewed determination, and Marsden saved well from Cumberbatch after a fine exchange between Bryan and Kabba. Charles-Smith had a shot blocked, the ball rebounding to Kabba who was foiled by Marsden. At the other end, Heath had a shot saved by Williams, and Hubble curled another one just over.
In the 80th minute, it was Steve Baker’s turn to put on his gambler’s hat. Off came Joshua Webb and Bryan, both of whom had been performing ably in central midfield, and on came wingers Francis Babalola and Harry Newman. Although Francis put a dangerous free-kick just wide, the move paid off as Harrow went back in front in the 83rd minute. Preddie performed wonders in, first, intercepting Marsden’s throw out and, then, getting round the visiting defence on the right. His low cross was controlled with one touch by Kabba, who gleefully fired it high into the net with his second.
Harrow weren’t going to let their lead slip a second time, and in the 88th minute, Nicholas brought the ball forward, mishitting his shot, but Newman reacted brilliantly to redirect the ball with pace into the corner of the net.
Next up for Harrow is a Tuesday night trip to Worthing’s 3G surface, before they return to Earlsmead next Saturday to face a Grays Athletic side who may be foot of the table but who beat in-form Billericay in this round of fixtures.
HARROW BOROUGH: Luke Williams, Josh Webb, Andy Lomas, Shaun Preddie, Steve Brown, Joshua Webb (sub Harry Newman, 80 mins), Michael Bryan (sub Francis Babalola, 80 mins), George Nicholas (booked, 87 mins), Sahr Kabba, Lewis Driver (sub Marc Charles-Smith, 31 mins), Kurtis Cumberbatch (booked, 81 mins). Unused subs: Brendan Hazlett, Lewis Ochoa.
LEISTON: Jacob Marsden, Ollie Brown, Seb Dunbar, Jake Hutchings (sub Byron Lawrence, 64 mins), Joe Jefford, Tom Bullard (booked, 82 mins), Conor Hubble (booked, 67 mins), Gareth Heath, Matt Blake, Niko Muir, Patrick Brothers (sub Joe Francis, h-t). Unused subs: Joe Marsden, Ade Cole, Jack Ainsley.
Referee: Mr B Gill
by Simon Grigor