HARROW BOROUGH 0 HENDON 4
Having finally broken their long-running Boxing Day hoodoo last year, Harrow reverted to their Christmas tradition of gift-giving and neighbourly kindness, with a second-half horror show
as bad as anything that’s been seen in a – let’s be frank – truly awful 2017. The calendar year has perhaps seen a single dominant home display – against Wingate & Finchley – but otherwise, those Harrow supporters who don’t travel away have been served a diet fitting of the early chapters of ‘A Christmas Carol’.
How can Harrow look a decent team at this level on their forays away from home, yet time and time again surrender the initiative to the opposition at The Rogers Family Stadium? One reason is the pitch. Bumpy and sticky once again here, it does not help the Michael Bryans, Charles Banyas and Sahr Kabbas of this world who like to run with the ball. It needs a serious rolling, urgently.
However, the playing surface is the same for both sides and there were other, bigger problems in evidence here. The side was vulnerable and error-prone at the back, out-thought and out-muscled in midfield, and toothless in attack where a quality strike partnership has been put together but continually has to feed off the barest of scraps. The opposition here, Hendon, were a high-quality side, but the same cannot be said of, for example, Tooting & Mitcham, Thurrock, Brightlingsea, Harlow and Dorking, just five of the sides Borough have fallen to in this dismal, dismal last couple of months.
Greig Stewart came in for his first league start. His performance as a substitute at Folkestone and in the cup-tie against Haringey had suggested this was due, but he performed badly – although he was not the only one. Shaun Preddie dropped back into central defence to accommodate him. The game started evenly, with Muir turning Chinua Cole but finding Adam Pepera moving swiftly across to cover. The Borough no.5 then popped up at the other end to have a header blocked from Kurtis Cumberbatch’s free-kick. Cole then found Charles Banya on the left with a perceptive pass, the subsequent driven cross just eluding the incoming strikers. Harrow suffered a blow when Michael Bryan had to limp off with a back injury, although it was pleasing to see Howard Hall come on as substitute: those who witnessed his injury at Haringey will have been staggered to see him returning to action less than two months later.
It was a surprise that Hall did not immediately go to right-back and have George Moore move forward to midfield. Moore has tried valiantly as Hall’s deputy, but he is not a natural right-back, and he was exposed in a move that saw Muir cut in from the left and let rip a right-foot drive that dipped over Melvin Minter and crashed off the bar. Reprieved on that occasion, Harrow were not so fortunate after 38 minutes. Walker got past Moore, cut inside, and hit an angled shot that deflected onto the post. The ball shot across the goalmouth and, in his attempt to clear it, the unfortunate Cole sliced it into his own net.
Hendon’s Cole, Keagan, crashed into the far post in a vain attempt to touch in Muir’s cross-shot as the half ended with the visitors on the up, but Harrow still well in the game. That changed just three minutes into the second half as a corner from the right was touched on and, with the home defence slow to react, Diedhiou slid the ball in from close range.
Minter saved from Joseph, with Cumberbatch’s effort saved by Lovelock at the other end. Cumberbatch then wasted a free-kick with an effort way, way over, but that was nothing compared to a total mess Harrow made of another free-kick, taking it so quickly that Sahr Kabba, its recipient, was immediately flagged for offside. In the 62nd minute Hendon got their third. Joseph broke forward on the right, and although Hall blocked his effort, Walker was on hand to crash home the ball.
Lovelock had to make his only serious save of the afternoon when Kabba got past Lee and hit a hard, low, angled drive. But Hendon were now rampant, Harrow’s midfield had surrendered and it was a question of how big the margin would be. Muir won the ball from Cole and played it wide to Eggleton, racing forward to meet his cross with a shot just past the post. A clever free-kick from the visitors saw Minter react well to save from Bray, with Diedhiou just off target with the follow-up. In the 83rd minute Walker ran at Cole, twisting him both ways, the Harrow left-back eventually felling him in the area. Muir blasted in the spot-kick. Muir might have made it five when he headed in a corner, but referee Mr Smith had seen an infringement.
What seems increasingly to be an unfolding disaster moves forward to a double-header of games this weekend, at home to an improving Leatherhead on Saturday and away to Enfield Town on New Year’s Day.
HARROW BOROUGH: Melvin Minter, George Moore (sub Anthony O’Connor, 67 mins), Chinua Cole, Shaun Preddie (sub Tayo Davies-Coker, 52 mins), Adam Pepera, Kurtis Cumberbatch, Charles Banya, Greig Stewart, Ryan Moss, Michael Bryan (sub Howard Hall, 29 mins), Sahr Kabba.
HENDON: Tom Lovelock, Jake Eggleton, Luke Tingey, Dave Diedhiou (sub Malachy McGovern, 84 mins), Rian Bray, Arthur Lee, Keagan Cole (sub Matt Ball, 76 mins), Michael Corcoran, Zak Joseph (sub Ashley Nathaniel-George, 66 mins), Niko Muir, Josh Walker. Unused subs: Daniel Purdue, Cameron Currie.
Referee: Mr M Smith
by Simon Grigor