UXBRIDGE 2 HARROW BORO 2 (Uxbridge won on Penalties)
A mass brawl that would not have been out of place at an ice hockey game, following Hafed Al-Droubi’s missed shoot-out penalty, and the three red cards that followed it, is likely to overshadow what was alas the latest in a lengthening sequence of very
poor Harrow performances.
Having done very little in the first 35 minutes, Uxbridge’s opener shook Harrow into life and they led at the interval, but instead of kicking-on from that, they went back to slumbering in the second period and could have no complaints at the way the tie ended.
Steve Baker was recovered from illness to oversee events and he made two changes to the side that had succumbed in Dorset on Saturday, Josh Andrew and Michael Bryan coming in for Frank Keita and the injured George Fenton. On a very tightly mown pitch, the hosts settled much the quicker and Harrow survived an early scare when a deep corner was headed back across goal by Wiseman, leading to a huge scramble in which three home shots were blocked. Harrow’s first decent move forward saw Anthony O’Connor win the ball on the right, and he found George Moore, operating in a midfield role here, and he shot across the goal. Al-Droubi had to go full-length to his right to push away Stefanoaica’s drive from the edge of the box, and Nathaniel Oseni blocked a shot from Sinclair, who then had far too much room to cut in from the left and unleash a low shot that was well held by Al-Droubi. Uxbridge continued to pose the more significant questions and in the 35th minute they were again given too much room on the left, but the subsequent cross did not look especially dangerous. However, Oseni handled it, and Thomas buried the penalty.
However, the concession stung Harrow into action and within a minute they were level, as Bryan’s floated through-ball saw Ryan Moss hold off a defender and hit a first-time driven lob over McCarthy.
Al-Droubi made a double save from Stefanoaica and Sinclair, both given far too much room, but in the 40th minute Harrow went in front. A neat exchange on the left put Anthony O’Connor into the penalty area on the left and he pulled the ball back for Moore to clip firmly across McCarthy into the far corner. Moss crossed for Moore’s shot to be blocked on the line by McCarthy, the home keeper reacting quickly to stop O’Connor’s follow-up too.
So, half-time arrived with the visiting contingent expecting Harrow to continue in the manner they had closed the first half, but instead they reverted to what had been seen earlier. Two half-time substitutions didn’t seem to work either, with the team shape a mystery to spectators and, more importantly, seemingly to some of the players too. Maguire got past Moore and shot over and although O’Connor created a half-chance for Moss, driven into the side-netting, the hosts were on top again. Peden got forward to curl a shot inches wide and then, in the 66th minute, Max Holland lost the ball and Uxbridge drove forward on the left. The ball was played inside where Stefanoaica had bags of room to turn, and play the ball aside to Bounyafe, who beat Al-Droubi at his near post.
Again the Uxbridge forwards had acres of room when Stefanoaica got clear on the right, and found Sinclair whose shot was well-saved by Al-Droubi. Harrow then had their first decent spell of the half as McCarthy saved Bryan’s angled curling effort, Holland got past his full-back and crossed for debutant Mark Bitmead to be denied by McCarthy. Bitmead then turned provider, laying a Bryan cross into the path of Moore whose fierce drive was batted away by the home custodian. Maguire’s low cross flew across the Harrow goalmouth after the right-side of the Harrow defence was exposed again, but the match finished with Harrow going close to a winner, Bitmead’s far-post cross headed into the side-netting by Shaun Preddie.
So to spot-kicks, Uxbridge going first, with the first ten converted, by M’Bengui, Thomas, Tomkins, Maguire and Sinclair for the hosts; and Bryan, Moss, Keita, Bitmead and Lewis Cole for Harrow. When Bounyafe’s kick, Uxbridge’s sixth, was well saved by Al-Droubi, it gave Oseni the chance to send Harrow into the semi-final, but his stabbed effort was all-too-easily held by McCarthy. McCarthy took the next Uxbridge kick himself, driving it past his fellow keeper. With Josh Andrew, Moore, Holland and Preddie all available, it seemed a strange decision when Al-Droubi reversed the process to take the next Harrow kick, and alas his effort was last seen flying high towards Heathrow.
There had certainly been a fine spirit between the two keepers during the shoot-out, which made what happened next all the more bizarre. Handshakes between the two sets of players turned suddenly into a huge fight, with fists flying. Some players were trying to restrain colleagues, but others were ‘hard at it’. The two benches and the officials eventually restored some order, and red cards were dished out to Moore, Al-Droubi, and Thompson of Uxbridge (who’d been substituted before the final whistle).
UXBRIDGE: Paul McCarthy, Ben Peden, Justin Thompson (sub Craige Tomkins, 90 mins; Thompson sent off, after f-t), Mitchell Wiseman, David Thomas, Charlie Malin, Tyrone Pink (sub Hafid Bounyafe, 62 mins), Prince M’Bengui, Radu Stefanoaica, Matt Sinclair (booked, 90 mins), Luke Maguire. Unused subs: James Burgess, Dragos-Constantin Stefanoaica, Kevin Warner.
HARROW BOROUGH: Hafed Al-Droubi (sent off, after f-t), Josh Andrew, Ryan Haugh (sub Max Holland, h-t), Shaun Preddie, Nathaniel Oseni, Mitchal Gough (sub Frank Keita, h-t), George Moore (sent off, after f-t), Anthony O’Connor (sub Mark Bitmead, 56 mins), Ryan Moss, Michael Bryan, Lewis Cole (booked, 48 mins). Unused sub: Lee Pearce.
Referee: Mr M Smith
by Simon Grigor