Well, three actually – but four points as a consequence.
The corpse twitched on a wet and windy evening at Earlsmead as Harrow ran out worthy winners against a Gosport side who began the evening sitting in third place in the table – with the best defensive record in the division.
The life of a football fan is a rollercoaster ride with more downs than ups – unless you are a supporter of one of the elite clubs. Harrow were on a wretched run of form the last time I sat down to write a report, after Totton away. One win in thirteen and 7 consecutive defeats – with only one goal scored in those unlucky seven.
My season long streak of not missing a game was interrupted by the better half inconsiderably having a birthday in the middle of January. A weekend away had been agreed long before the wretched form began. By the time the weekend arrived, it felt like weekend release from the asylum. Destination, The South of France. It could have been anywhere on the planet – the Hayes game was still on my mind. On Friday afternoon we found ourselves in the Basilica of Saint – Nazaire and Saint – Celse. Built over 900 years ago. The better half – a devout church going Catholic was in awe of the building. The agnostic boyfriend spending his time trying to match the characters on the stained-glass windows to celebrities. There was definitely an angel who looked like Geoffrey Boycott. Desperate times call for desperate measures and working on the theory that if you don’t ask – you don’t get, it was time to see if divine intervention could put a halt to Borough’s poor form. At various points around the Basilica, you could buy a candle and light it to go along with a prayer. Prices went from 1 euro for a tea light sized candle up to 5 euros for the largest size. Only the 2-euro candles came in red, so the choice was made. 2 red candles and one white (I always preferred us in white shorts)
Candles lit. Request made. The better half simply rolling her eyes as we walked away to continue our afternoon. I was half expecting a shadowy figure to appear at the end of the bed in the middle of the night and speak to me in hushed tones…’God has received your request for Harrow Borough to win against Hayes and having watched the highlights of the last 7 games, he asked me to ask you if there were any sea’s you would like to be parted instead?’
Alas, no figure appeared.
It doesn’t matter where you are in the world. A woman will always find a clothes shop to peruse until she has removed every single item from the rails, held them up, wrinkled her nose and put the item back. I believe we were inside shop number 17 when Borough kicked off against Hayes. Refreshing twitter and scanning the Borough group chat for updates whilst being quizzed on which shop were we in several hours earlier when she held up the green jumper with the slightly rounder neck, would even have tested Rain Man.
An audible tut inside shop number 20 when Hayes took the lead just before half time. We continued our tour of French fashion stores and added a hippy shop full of candles, wind chimes and herbal teas made from the petals of flowers that only bloom every third year in a valley in the Dordogne.
Then it happened. As the decision-making process about which flowery tea to purchase went past ‘They’ve elected Popes quicker than this’ stage, the WhatsApp alert flashed on my phone. After 567 minutes, Harrow had scored a goal. I believe!
The Hayes game finished 1-1 with Theo Ofori missing a one on one in injury time to win it for Harrow. Theo left the club after the Hayes game and has (seriously) signed for a team in Kosovo.
Sunday morning and I agreed to accompany the birthday girl in her new fingerless gloves, that were one of only 2 items purchased from the 850 that were looked at on Saturday – to mass at the Basilica. The last time I attended any sort of church service was when I got married in 2007. The marriage lasted about as long as the average Borough run in the FA trophy. Initially refused entry by the elderly woman on the door as ‘no tourists allowed’ it took several typed messages on Google translate and a minute of mime that would have impressed Lionel Blair and Una Stubbs before she finally allowed us in. She put up a much sterner defence than most of her countrymates had done several generations ago.
An hour of mass in French, not understanding a single word and not being allowed to go up and get ‘one of the wafery biscuits’ gave me the chance to spot a couple more celebrities on the stained – glass windows. Noel Edmonds and Lennie Bennett were on the same pane.
Back in blighty it was a dawn call for the 250-mile drive to Plymouth last Saturday. Hadn’t rained since Wednesday until 20 minutes of light drizzle at midday resulted in the match referee deeming the pitch unfit at 2pm. Absolute, nonsense. A very light sprinkle of rain would not have made the pitch worse. It was in much better condition than when we played them last March and got smashed 4-0. There were people harvesting rice on one side of the pitch at half-time that day.
Game off. Harrow down £1400 on a coach. The man with the pen having already booked and paid for a hotel, spent Saturday night watching crap tv in his ‘seaview’room drinking tea. Such glamour.
Finally, it’s back to Gosport, who arrived entrenched in a playoff position. The conditions were atrocious. Heavy rain and a gale force wind that was firmly at Harrow’s backs as the game kicked off. Straight from the first whistle, Harrow were up for it. Every player looked sharp, committed and aggressive. Sahid Nallo and Nagheeb Ibrahim winning nearly every ball in the centre of the park. Ronny Mfinda shielding the back four. The wind was so strong in the first half that a well-connected clearance from the edge of the six-yard box by a Gosport defender, blew back and landed level with the penalty spot.
Despite the conditions, Gosport were still trying to play 40-yard cross field balls. It wasn’t the night for that. Harrow played short passes to feet and when in doubt a ball into the swirling wind, turning the visitors around was the order of the day.
In the 13th minute, Reece Mitchell found himself the beneficiary of a pass that picked up speed and was in on goal 35 yards out. Toby Steward in the Gosport goal, rushes outside his area and clatters into Mitchell, 5 yards outside his area. A Gosport defender was on Reece’s right shoulder as the foul was committed. Mr Fletcher immediately brandished a yellow card. Nailed on red, every day of the week.
Gurteen’s free kick when play eventually resumed was easily saved by the very fortunate Steward.
Harrow then had a very strong penalty appeal turned down in the 16th minute. Muhemba’s goal bound header appearing to be pushed around the post by the arm of the visitors right – back Kavanagh, but neither the referee or assistant were in a position to see or give it.
Reece Mitchell had a fine opportunity in the 18th minute. Dribbling deep into the Gosport area, he waited too long to take a shot and was crowded out before getting a strike on goal.
2 minutes later in the 20th minute, Harrow were awarded a free kick on the touchline in front of the tea bar. Reece Mitchell stood over the ball. As the dearly departed Terry used to shout constantly from his spot next to the main stand, Reece ‘put it in the mixer’. The ball caught the wind and gathered speed as it neared the Gosport goal. Flying past the despairing left hand of Steward and into the top corner to give Harrow the lead.
It was no more than Harrow deserved as they were playing the better football – despite the conditions. Lucias Vine looked the visitors most threatening player all evening, with constant raids down the Harrow right. In fact, it was Vine in the 31st minute who connected sweetly with a shot on the Harrow goal from 25 yards out. For a millisecond it looked as though it was going towards the top corner. However, such was the strength of the wind at this point, that the ball almost stopped mid-flight. Tobin having to run forward to the edge of his six-yard box to catch the ball at his knees. The ball was at this point heading back in the direction it had come from.
Excellence Muhemba shot into the chest of Steward in the 38th minute and Reece Mitchell forced Steward into a full length save to his left in the final minute of the half as Harrow went in with a well-deserved lead.
Maybe it was that third candle or the 8 Euros I put in the collection pot at the Sunday mass… as the second half began, the wind that had been gale force and directly behind Harrow in the first half, became a gusty, swirling wind that despite favouring the visitors, was nowhere near what it had been a short time ago.
Gosport were clearly getting frustrated as their passing game was broken up by a combination of Harrow challenges and gusts of wind. Referee, Mr Fletcher had a very poor game for both sides. A couple of extremely high and crude challenges from the visitors that deserved a caution were deemed not even worthy of a talking to. It wasn’t all one way. A Harrow defender cleared out Tarbuck on the Gosport right – off the ball as he was screaming for the ball to be played into the space in front of him. It was right in front of the referee and 10 yards away from his assistant ref. Nothing was given and play continued. Clearly, winner takes all. These were the tip of the iceberg as blatant corners were given as goal kicks for both teams and throws appeared to be awarded on a rotational basis.
Not sure why the referees ‘coach’ in the stand – a former premier league referee himself then decided to try and pick a verbal fight with Peter Rogers about the standard of refereeing.
The game was pretty even as the second half reached its midway point. Neither keeper being forced into significant action. Gosport came closed to an equaliser in the 77th minute. The ball is cut back from the byline on the left hand said of the Harrow area to Dan Wooden, 10 yards out. The Gosport captain smashed the ball first time. The ball cannons off the top of the post to Tobin’s right and away to safety. Sahid Nallo became the only Harrow player cautioned during the game (plus an obligatory booking for one of the Harrow backroom staff in the first half) for a well thought out foul to stop Gosport attacking.
In the 81st minute the water finally turned into wine. Harrow had a free kick 35 yards from goal in front of the home dugout. Lonit Talla delivers the ball with pace, towards the Gosport penalty spot. Reece Yorke has escaped his marker. Reece meets the ball with his head and the ball flashes to the left of Steward and into the net. Harrow have only scored 2 headed goals in the last 2 seasons. Kai Brosnan at Swindon in October 2022 and Harlem Hale at home to Poole last August. Both players are ‘diminutive’ and even then, both had to stoop to score from inside the six-yard box.
This was a real header. A captain’s header in a monsoon on a Tuesday night. The captain is mobbed by his teammates. Gosport look shell shocked, and they have no fight left in them. Harrow easily see out the remaining 9 minutes plus stoppage time for a thoroughly deserved 2-0 win.
Lets not get carried away. This is only the 5th league win of the season and Harrow have lost their next game after every previous victory. The corpse did indeed twitch and their season is still very much hooked up to a life support machine with relatives around the bed.
However, this performance showed what they are capable of. The question needs to be asked – where was this attitude and effort in the last couple of months? If they can take this level of commitment into the remaining 13 league games… there might be a candle shortage in the Harrow area towards the end of April.
Bottom club Didcot are the visitors to Earlsmead this Saturday in a another simply must win game for Harrow.
Harrow Borough: Tyler Tobin, Barsa Mirtahmasebi, James Gurteen, Ronny Mfinda, Reece Yorke ©, Harry Seabrook, Nagheeb Ibrahim, Sahid Nallo, Reece Cameron, Excellence Muhemba.
Used Subs: Lonit Talla on for Ronny Mfinda 73 mins. Henry Lukombo on for Reece Cameron 73 mins. Harlem Hale on for Reece Mitchell 82 mins.
Unused Subs: Tyrique Clarke and Florian Ada.
Yellow Cards: Sahid Nallo 78 mins.
Gosport Borough: Toby Steward, Harry Kavanagh, Joseph Morrison, Corey Jordan, Samuel Hookey, Dan Hollands, Bradley Tarbuck, Lucias Vine, Daniel Wooden, Pedro Borges, Antonio Diaz.
Used Subs: Gerson Da Costa Ramos on for Samuel Hookey 52 mins. Harvey Rew on for Antonio Diaz 52 mins. Zak Sharp on for Harry Kavanagh 64 mins.
Unused Subs: Jake Scrimshaw and Liam Miller.
Yellow Cards: Toby Steward 13 mins. Samuel Hookey 41 mins. Joseph Morrison 57 mins. Harry Kavanagh 61 mins.
Referee: Matthew Fletcher
Weather: 47f heavy rain and gusty wind.