HASTINGS UNITED (0) 3 HARROW BOROUGH (0) 1
Harrow’s recent run of good form came to a shuddering halt in an absolutely vital relegation six-pointer on the Sussex coast.
Ryman League Premier Division, Saturday 14 April 2012
by Simon Grigor
Harrow’s recent run of good form came to a shuddering halt in an absolutely vital relegation six-pointer on the Sussex coast. In an afternoon that didn’t see Borough win their first corner until the 93rd minute, they were second in every respect to their better-motivated and better footballing hosts, who drew level on points with the men from Earlsmead, with two games now left in the season.
A broken hand ruled out Michael Barima, Rickelle Christian coming in, for the only change in the line up to Wednesday’s hard-fought draw with Wealdstone. But, on an immaculately-maintained playing surface, the commitment that had been seen then appeared sadly lacking from the off, as the hosts set about recovering the gap on their visitors.
An early scuffed Garry Jones free-kick, collected easily by Armstrong-Ford, was Harrow’s only effort on goal in the opening period. This was not the same at the other end. Ray’s header from a right-wing free-kick drew a good save from Jamie Jackson, who then saved from Attwood who had muscled past Wayne Walters and Danny Leech to reach a long punt forward from Armstrong-Ford. A good Walters tackle stopped another break, Goldberg angled a shot across goal, and Leech blocked another effort picking up a head injury in the process.
After 35 minutes Dave Anderson had had enough, hooking Ashley Watson, although there were already a number of other candidates for early removal. This did not stem the home attacking, with Attwood going close again, Danny Buckle making an important clearance in his own area, and Ray putting a header over the bar.
Harrow might have got away with it in the first half, but their luck ended after 48 minutes. Walters and Christian might both have got the ball clear before the unfortunate Leech trod on it, Attwood profiting from all the hesitation by driving it past Jackson.
Lee Woooton had a shot saved comfortably by Armstrong-Ford, and Jones put a left-foot effort across the goal having cut in from the wing, but Hastings looked the likelier to add to their goal, with Ellis and Crellin off-target and Camara’s shot saved by Jackson. A fierce effort from Dixon then clattered off the stanchion. After 70 minutes, Attwood had far too much room to cut unmolested through the Harrow rearguard and place the ball past Jackson.
Two minutes later, Harrow got an undeserved lifeline, Tristan Toney working the ball to Jon-Jo Bates, who angled a shot past the advancing Armstrong-Ford to make it 2-1.
Hopes that this might signal a late Borough siege were forlorn. The disappointing Buckle, suffering from a neck injury, was withdrawn after 74 minutes. His replacement Marcus Rose had no time to adjust to the pace of the game before Goldberg was running at him, beating him all ends up to curl the third home goal past Jackson.
Rob Wolleaston, twice, and Toney had shots blocked but this attacking was far too late, and Anderson must find answers, immediately, to why a side that had played so well in the previous three games should put in such a limp display in such a huge game.
Harrow remain three points ahead of Leatherhead but now lead Hastings only by the slenderest of goal difference margins. The next two Saturdays could see Borough followers’ fingernails bitten down to the quick: first up is AFC Hornchurch, still with a mathematical chance of the title, at Earlsmead next Saturday.
HASTINGS UNITED: Matt Armstrong-Ford, Jack Dixon, Matt Whitehead, Lee Carey, Sean Ray, Josh Jirbandey, Danny Ellis, Jamie Crellin, Bradley Goldberg, Zak Attwood, Bailo Camara (sub Scott Manning, 80 mins). Unused subs: Nick Gonsalves, Ross Sutton, Harry Stapley.
HARROW BOROUGH: Jamie Jackson, Rickelle Christian (booked, 82 mins), Garry Jones, Wayne Walters, Danny Leech, Lee Wootton, Steve Ferguson (sub Yassine Fehmi-Gil, 90 mins), Rob Wolleaston, Danny Buckle (sub Marcus Rose, 74 mins), Tristan Toney, Ashley Watson (sub Jon-Jo Bates, 35 mins). Unused subs: Quincy Rowe, Peter Morales.
Referee: Mr I Fissenden
photos by Lesley Jones