HARROW BORO 2 BASINGSTOKE TOWN 1
Popular football cliché No.1: ‘That was a game of two halves’. Popular football cliché No.2: ‘It’s a mark of a good side if they can win when not playing well.’
Both those, and the growingly popular Harrow Borough cliché: ‘This team is pretty hopeless with a back four; this team is wonderful with three at the back’ were all very much in evidence during and after a highly-entertaining game played in dreadfully wet conditions.
Although Mitchal Gough had completed his suspension, Steve Baker kept the same starting eleven from Saturday’s win in Wiltshire. The game began late after a wait for the Basingstoke kit man to arrive, and a minute’s silence for Alan Turvey, who did so much for non-league football but who was also the President of Basingstoke.
Although George Moore fired an early free-kick way over, it was immediately obvious that, although a back four might have worked at Swindon, against slick-passing, quick-breaking opposition it was going to give Harrow problems. Hafed Al-Droubi saved low down from Akers and then made another stop from McKnight. His long kick downfield caused McAdden to rush from his goal but he was beaten in the air by Ryan Moss, a brave challenge by the Harrow skipper who would have seen he was going to get ‘clattered’. His header drifted just wide.
On the wet surface Basingtoke’s swift movement of the ball was by-passing the Harrow midfield with ease and in the 14th minute Deadfield’s through-ball split an oh-so-square Harrow back line and McKnight ran on to lash the ball past Al-Droubi.
Sod the embarrassment of an early substitution, surely Harrow had to reorganise? No they didn’t, and two minutes later it should have been two, as Mark McLeod’s awful pass was intercepted by McKnight who put Parker clear on goal. He clipped the ball past Al-Droubi, but it hit the outside of the post.
As the rain intensified, a Moore cross just eluded Moss and Dylan Kearney, the ball arriving at Lewis Cole’s feet beyond the far post but, maybe unsighted, he scuffed it wide. Harrow were square again as Akers ran through on goal, Al-Droubi saving. The Harrow custodian must have felt isolated time after time, and once again Akers came through the middle unopposed. This time he lifted the ball over Al-Droubi, but it went over the bar too. Parker then shot over after another lovely Basingstoke passing move.
Michael Bryan’s turn and shot from the edge of the box finally forced McAdden to make a decent save. On the stroke of half-time came perhaps the game’s key moment. With Moore stranded upfield, holding his side, there were two visiting players totally unmarked at the far post as Parker cut in from the right side. A ball squared across to them would surely have been a goal, but instead the forward shot, and it fizzed past the far post.
So, so lucky to be only a goal down, Harrow did reorganise at half-time. Gough came on for Frank Keita and the 3-5-2 was back. Moore departed with his injury, later noted as a hip flexor issue, and his replacement was debutant Josh Andrew, newly-arrived from Egham. His 45 minutes were to earn him the VPs’ Man of the Match honours, such was his impact. Immediately he made a great challenge to dispossess McKnight in his right-back role, but then in the 47th minute Kearney and Bryan got the ball wide to him and he hit a delicious cross that Moss met with a clever glancing header to level the scores. Deadfield hit a 20-yarder wide for Basingstoke, but the initiative had changed. George Fenton played a lovely one-two with Ryan Haugh and his resulting cross would have done a conventional winger proud. It was well intercepted by Philby. Kearney’s fine turn and cross was bravely saved by McAdden at Moss’s feet, and when a corner was half-cleared, Gough turned gracefully on the ball and floated the ball just over the bar from the edge of the box. Kearney’s determination then forced a visiting defender into an error, McAdden saving well from the resulting shot.
In the 65th minute Harrow took the lead. Again Bryan played the ball wide to Andrew, who motored past Gerrard to lift the ball into the six-yard box. There it was Moss against two defenders and the keeper, but it was the Harrow man who leapt highest to head the ball home.
The stunned visitors rallied, and Fenton blocked Parker’s shot, McKnight’s shot deflecting wide from the following corner. Al-Droubi saved well from Stow. Harrow briefly thought they had doubled their lead when Haugh’s shot was parried by McAdden and Kearney converted the rebound, but the assistant’s flag was raised for offside. Gough made a classy interception under great pressure in his own area before a great Al-Droubi ball downfield sent Bryan away on the left, Filby cutting out his dangerous cross. Substitute Shpat Ismajli shot across goal from Moss’s pass, and Kearney and then Moss were denied by brave McAdden saves at their feet. With time ticking on, Al-Droubi made a super reaction save from McKnight and, even better, recovered to drop on the loose ball. Gerrard headed a free-kick over, Al-Droubi made one final save, Haugh made a fine clearance, and three more points were in the bag, lifting Harrow to a heady sixth place.
Borough now have a week and a half’s rest before hosting Farnborough on 1st December.
HARROW BOROUGH: Hafed Al-Droubi, George Moore (sub Josh Andrew, h-t), Ryan Haugh, Shaun Preddie (booked, 45 mins), George Fenton, Frank Keita (sub Mitchal Gough, h-t; booked, 78 mins)), Michael Bryan, Mark McLeod (sub Shpat Ismajli, 80 mins), Ryan Moss, Dylan Kearney, Lewis Cole. Unused subs: Anthony O’Connor, Lee Pearce.
BASINGSTOKE TOWN: Colm McAdden, Edward Jim Orvis, Robert Gerrard, Dan Collier (booked, 38 mins; sub Charlie Kennedy, 74 mins), Harry Philby, Dan Bayliss, Dean Stow (booked, 55 mins), Jack McKnight, Mitchell Parker (sub Ben Wright, 69 mins), Sam Deadfield, Zidan Akers (sub Sam Argent, 62 mins). Unused subs: Cameron Kennedy, Shane Hollamby.
Referee: Mr A Bennett
by Simon Grigor