STAINES TOWN 2 HARROW BOROUGH 1
The golden start to the season is alas becoming a forgotten memory, to be replaced it seems by performances that bring more to mind the late travails of last season.
On a wet and windy night at Wheatsheaf Park, Harrow were disorganised in defence, second-best in midfield and toothless in attack. Had it not been for a couple of world-class saves from Melvin Minter, the margin of defeat would have been greater, and deservedly so.
With Kurtis Cumberbatch having collected a knee injury on Saturday’s draw with Merstham, there was one change to the starting line-up from then, with Alfie Cain coming in to his midfield berth. Staines featured two Harrow veterans, Josh Webb and Lewis Driver, in their line-up.
Although Staines kicked off it was Harrow who had a glorious chance to score after only twelve seconds, as Reis Stainislaus intercepted a poor pass and bore down on goal, but his shot lacked sufficient power to beat keeper debutant keeper Driscoll. Worsfold was off-target for the hosts, and Charles Banya stumbled as he moved on to Michael Bryan’s cross, the ball going wide. Ahmidi missed his kick when presented with a great chance to open the scoring, and Adam Richards made a fine tackle to stop Brown after a misdirected pass by Mark McLeod had presented him with the ball. Bettamer’s 25 yarder was tipped round the post by Minter, who then made his first wonder-save of the evening as he somehow kept out Gough’s far post effort from the resulting corner. In the follow-up the ball was netted but referee Mannix ruled out the ‘score’, the ball having it seems gone over the by-line in the build-up.
Driscoll held Banya’s free-kick, which curled over the wall but lacked the speed to trouble him. Then came Minter’s second moment of magic. Driver got into the Harrow box on the right and drove the ball low across goal. Minter stretched to tip the ball away, but then reacted astonishingly, throwing up his hand to finger-tip D.Brown’s effort over. Taurean Roberts’s shot was held at the second attempt, and Bryan shot wide from Cain’s pass, but these were efforts very much against the run of play. However, it looked as if Harrow might survive to the interval. No. In the 44th minute, Staines got a free-kick on the left and Minter was screaming at his defenders to organise themselves. Worsfold powered in the delivery, low and hard, and Richards turned it into his own net.
If you were at Hendon on Bank Holiday Monday and thought that a 24 second goal would take some beating, well it took just a couple of weeks to do so. Borough kicked off the second half and the ball was lumped aimlessly downfield. Staines picked up possession, attacked down the left, and Bettamer’s cross to the far post was headed in by Driver. 17 seconds had elapsed. Last season the concession of early second-half goals was a constant failing: let’s hope we’re not going to suffer the same way this campaign.
Roberts, very disappointing again, outpaced a defender but shot wide, but Staines were now in full control. Martin’s powerful free-kick was parried by Minter, with D.Brown’s follow-up header hitting the top of the bar. If you’d seen Harrow perform so well defensively at Leatherhead, you’d have thought it had been addressed, but another failing that looks like it’s returning is the inability to deal with dead balls: Martin arrived totally unmarked to head a free-kick over, and then a corner shot straight across the six-yard box with the Harrow rearguard playing statues.
Anthony O’Connor’s introduction sparked a bit more life into Harrow attack-wise, but he looks a red card waiting to happen. He was booked within eight minutes of arrival and, not for the first time, trod a tightrope with a couple of challenges later. Cain too was very lucky to remain on the field: another of the six Harrow players yellow-carded, referee Mannix was content to lecture him alongside his captain when he did another tackle that looked worthy of a booking. And of those six yellow cards, were any for tackles made in key positions, ‘taking one for the team’, perhaps? No, every one of them a needless foul. McLeod, in particular, seems to have developed the habit of getting booked early on, from which point his effectiveness reduces dramatically.
With Roberts removed in favour of Richard Pacquette Harrow gave themselves a 78th minute lifeline. A Bryan free-kick appeared to have been wasted but George Moore did really well to retrieve it on the right, and his far-post cross was headed home by Preddie.
As always in such situations, the previously-dominant Staines suddenly became a tad jittery, and Bryan tried his luck with a free-kick and saw his effort hit the top of the bar. Minter had to turn away Tyrell-Rodney’s shot, before a late scramble in the home goal could have seen the ball end up in the net, but alas it went the wrong side of the post.
Harrow now have a blank Saturday and, I would hope, the opportunity to practice defending dead-balls and non-fouling midfield jockeying. They’re at home to Erith Town in the London Senior Cup on Tuesday 19th before returning to league action with a trip to Margate on Saturday 23rd.
STAINES TOWN: Liam Driscoll, Josh Webb, Tyrell Miller-Rodney (booked, 90 mins), Bayley Brown, Ben Martin, Mitchell Gough, Lewis Driver ,Wadah Ahmidi, Daniel D.Brown, Mohamed Bettamer, Max Worsfold. Unused subs: Jonathan Hippolyte, Brannon Daly, Elliot Baptiste, Tommy Brewer, Tom Gilbey.
HARROW BOROUGH: Melvin Minter, Shaun Preddie (booked, 34 mins), Arinse Uade, Adam Richards, Curtis Ujah, Alfie Cain (booked, 76 mins), Charles Banya (sub Anthony O’Connor, 61 mins; booked, 68 mins), Mark McLeod (booked, 25 mins; sub George Moore, 69 mins; booked, 75 mins), Reis Stanislaus (booked, 59 mins), Michael Bryan, Taurean Roberts (sub Richard Pacquette, 78 mins). Unused sub: Tayo Davies-Coker.
Referee: Mr J Mannix
by Simon Grigor