Boro Through to the Middlesex Senior Cup Final
There was high drama at the Sky Ex Community Stadium last night as Harrow Borough edged out Hayes and Yeading United 3-2, in a tense penalty shootout after drawing the match 2-2 in normal time.
In my few years of watching Harrow Borough and I appreciate most fans have been watching them a lot longer than I have, they never seem to make it easy for you. When you think it’s in the bag its invariably not and that’s precisely what happened on a cold dry night in Hayes. It’s exciting stuff and I’m certainly not knocking it.
Borough started with a fluid looking forward line of Bitmead, Moss and O’Connor up front often interchanging positions; with McLeod, Bryan and Cole in the middle with Andrew on the right, Haugh on the left defensively, Oseni and Preddie in the middle with Berkley Laurencin replacing Al-Droubi in goal.
Harrow started the better of the two teams, Mark Bitmead had an early shot deflected wide and then shortly after played Josh Andrew into a good position but smart defending by Michael O’Neil just nicked it of Andrew’s toe before he could pull the trigger. Up the other end United forward Onowai had a shot comfortably saved by Laurencin and another wide of his far post. Harrow were competing well, moving the ball quicker and denying Hayes space, much better than they were at the weekend against Farnborough. On the 24 minute good work by Michael Bryan on the right put Bitmead in and he narrowly shot wide from just inside the box. Haugh crossed from the left and Jack Smith in United’s goal saved well from Moss but Hayes and Yeading are a good side and they haven’t got a 100% home league record for nothing. O’Neil went close with a header and former QPR player Scott Donnelly drew a good save from Laurencin. On 36 minutes there was a big shout for handball in the United penalty area by Boro fans and players alike but referee Neil Morrison waved away claims.
As the half drew to a close Harrow had a great chance when Andrew played a good one-two with Bitmead on the edge of the penalty box, he ran in and drew a one legged save from keeper Smith while United’s Toby Little, who had come on for the injured Liam McDevitt put a shot just over the Boro crossbar which had Laurencin scrambling to his right. So half-time arrived with Boro in good shape and playing well, 0-0.
The second half burst into life straight away, in the 47th minute from a free kick on the Harrow left, Michael Bryan floated in a temping cross and in a reverse of the decision that went against him on Saturday, Shaun Preddie was held by O’Neil and the referee had no hesitation and pointed to the spot. Up stepped Ryan Moss who coolly converted the penalty kick 1 nil Boro. Harrow were now firmly in control. A brilliant break by Ant O’Connor who was starting to find space on the Harrow left, caught the United defence flat footed, he rounded the United keeper squared the ball to Moss who had his shot blocked off the line by a Hayes and Yeading defender. Boro went further ahead though on 67 minutes when Ryan Haugh who I thought had an outstanding game, won the ball in midfield beat off a challenge and hit a speculative shot from 25 yards out, Smith seemed to have got the ball but it somehow squirmed under his body and into the net, 2-0.
Hayes and Yeading were now clearly getting frustrated and when Ed Asafu-Adaye fouled O’Connor on 69 minutes it lead to referee Morrison booking him. This drew sarcastic applause from the United defender and when the ref clearly said to the player to cut it out, the player continued to berate the official and sarcastically clap him all the more, leaving Mr Morrison no choice but to send him off for dissent. However the red card seemed to upset Harrow’s rhythm more than it did United and within four minutes after a breakaway, the otherwise solid Boro defence were caught napping. Onokwai hit the post and Elliot Benyon was on hand to score from the rebound 2-1.
However Harrow missed a glorious chance to finish off the game on 78 minutes, the lively Michael Bryan shot from outside the box with Jack Smith making a fine save but he couldn’t hold on to the ball which rebounded to Mark Bitmead whose shot cannoned back off the crossbar into to the path of Ryan Moss. Normally you would put your house on Mossy to score from where he was but Smith pulled off an equally stunning save and parried the ball away. Needless to say Boro fans were wondering whether they would rue that miss. United were now playing some of their best football of the match and even being a player down they showed exactly why they are top of their division, because Boro conceded again. Kunle Otudeko picked up the ball on the right, jinxed passed the Harrow defence and shot passed Laurencin to square the match 2-2. Bitmead had a free kick but it went way over the bar and McLeod picked up a booking near the end but Mr Morrison blew for time and somehow despite being in control for most of the match, Harrow had let United back into the game 2-2, it was now going to be down to a penalty shootout.
After losing last week against Uxbridge in a penalty shootout Boro fans were left fearing the worst when Michael Bryan’s first shot for Harrow hit the post. Up stepped United’s Scott Bridges who shot was saved by Berkley Laurencin diving to his right. Mark Bitmead put his away and Lee Barney’s was saved, Laurencin diving to his left this time. Ant O’Connor scored for Boro and Scott Donnelly scored for United 2-1. Ryan Moss coolly puts in his spot kick to make it 3-1 and now its effectively sudden death. Onokwai must score for Hayes and Yeading, he does, its 3-2 to Boro after 4 spot kicks each.
Up steps Lewis Cole to win the match. To the agony of Boro players and fans alike he misses. Are we going the same way as our penalty shootouts against Hitchin and Uxbridge this season?
No, up steps ex-Wealdstone striker Elliot Benyon who to the cheers of the Harrow Borough fans blazes his shot high and wide over Laurencin’s crossbar! And Boro win 3-2 on penalties. What a relief, a great team effort from Boro. Why win a match the easy way when you can win it the hard way?
Put a date in your diary - Harrow Borough are in the Middlesex FA Senior Cup Final against Barnet or Brentford on the 16th April at Griffin Park, fantastic.
HAYES & YEADING UNITED: Jack Smith, Joe Wilson, Ed Asafu-Adjaye (sent off), Josh Chamberlain, Liam McDevitt (sub Toby Little), Michael O’ Neil, Scott Donnelly, Scott Bridges, Chid Onokwai, Kunle Otudeko, Elliot Benyon subs: Jeevan Panesar (replaced Toby Little), Lee Barney (replaced Jeevan Panesar) subs not used Ryan Myers, Callum McAllister
HARROW BOROUGH: Berkley Laurencin, Joshua Andrew, Ryan Haugh, Shaun Preddie, Nathaniel Oseni, Mark Bitmead, Ant O’ Connor, Mark McLeod, Ryan Moss, Michael Bryan, Lewis Cole subs not used Mitchal Gough, Max Holland, Frank Keita, Lee Pearce, Excellence Muhemba
Referree- Mr Neil Morrison
By Gary Holderness