Wingate & Finchley 1 Harrow Borough 3
Two hoodoos laid to rest on the same evening! A first win at Wingate & Finchley's ground and a season opening with wins from the first two games for the first time in Harrow’s 39-year tenure in the Isthmian Premier,
And this was a very impressive performance, full of crisp passing and lively attacking on a slick Summers Lane surface.
There was one change to the starting line-up. Arinse Uade had served his suspension and came in for his debut. Howard Hall switched to right-back and Shaun Preddie went into midfield, with Mark McLeod dropping to the bench. Harrow began very much on the front foot, and early domination culminated in their taking the lead after 10 minutes. Kurtis Cumberbatch cut across the edge of the home penalty area from right to left, before unleashing a sweet low left-foot shot past Gore’s right hand into the corner of the net.
Harrow’s onslaught continued. A short Michael Bryan corner was delivered by Charles Banya to the far post, where Adam Richards met it with a header across goal that Gore parried away at full-stretch. The home keeper then made a fine save, getting a touch to turn Anthony O’Connor’s angled shot from the left onto the far post, the loose ball getting cleared. A great move ended with Bryan’s cross just eluding Will Turl and O’Connor, and Turl and Bryan combined for the latter to fizz in a dangerous cross that was hacked away.
But Harrow were only a goal to the good, and it only takes a moment for a situation like that to change. In the 33rd minute, Melvin Minter could not prevent Preddie’s loose back-pass from going for a needless corner, and when Ifil swung that in, there was former Harrow skipper Marc Charles-Smith glancing home a near post header, the referee’s assistant confirming that the ball had crossed the line.
That was the cue for a change in the pattern of the match in the run-up to half-time. From another corner, Charles-Smith again got to the near post before the Harrow defence, this time shooting over; Obafemi shot over the bar; and Minter saved when Beckles-Richards broke clear on the right. Half-time arrived with the Earlsmead travelling faithful, present in good numbers, concerned that a familiar pattern at Wingate-Harrow matches was being played out once again.
That pattern has usually involved an early Wingate goal once the second period begins. But here Harrow emerged from the break with a renewed energy. As on Saturday, Bryan was again hugely impressive here, and after 52 minutes he made a great run from the right, cutting in past three opponents. Banya picked up the ball on the edge of the box, feinted to his right, and struck the ball low to Gore’s left and into the goal.
O’Connor was probably relieved to see the assistant’s flag raised when he spooned the ball over the bar, after Gore parried a Banya shot back into his path. Beckles-Richards threatened briefly with a mazy run and off-target shot for Wingate, but Harrow got a third goal in the 66th minute. O’Connor was fouled just outside the area on then left. Bryan and Banya combined with a clever free-kick that saw Banya get past the wall on the left to hit a fierce angled drive, that Gore pushed away. The ball bounced up and O’Connor brilliantly adjusted his body position and stretched his neck muscles to head the ball back over the keeper and into the far corner.
Turl cleared a home header off the line from a Sharpe free-kick, but Harrow were in command, while on the terraces, a party mood had taken over. Harrow kept possession superbly, and the home side began to get frustrated. Cronin, once of Wealdstone, picked up a booking and then in the 88th minute felled Preddie with an awful tackle, one hopes merely mistimed, but one for which he received a second yellow card. The big defender has taken special delight in baiting the Harrow supporters after the many Wingate wins over Harrow, but this time he had to take both barrels of it from the travellers as he took the long march to an early bath.
League tables really don’t mean anything after two games – Hull City last season a perfect example – but nevertheless all Harrow followers will surely have had a look at the Bostik Premier when they woke up on Wednesday morning, with Harrow Borough sitting at its summit.
WINGATE & FINCHLEY: Shane Gore, Ola Williams, Nathan Mavila, Joe Kizzi, Sean Cronin (booked, 81 mins; sent off, 88 mins), Ahmet Rifat, Luke Ifil, Joe Sharpe, Marc Charles-Smith, Reece Beckles-Richards, Afolabi Obafemi (sub Rob Laney, 62 mins). Unused subs: Ben Pattie, De’reece Vanderhyde, Kweku Lucan, Antoine Akinola.
HARROW BOROUGH: Melvin Minter, Howard Hall, Arinse Uade, Adam Richards, Curtis Ujah, Kurtis Cumberbatch (sub Mark McLeod, 76 mins), Charles Banya (sub Alfie Cain, 87 mins), Shaun Preddie (booked, 86 mins), Will Turl (sub Richard Pacquette, 80 mins), Michael Bryan, Anthony O’Connor. Unused subs: Tayo Davies-Coker, George Moore.
Referee: Mr S Cheek
By Simon Grigor