In heat like this (the UK record temperature for an August Bank Holiday recorded just a few miles away at Heathrow), it’s unrealistic to expect a high-quality performance, and this was not anything like Harrow at their best. However, the two goals were high quality and if it’s true that it is the mark of a good team to win without playing well, then the loyal Harrow following have reason to be getting a little excited.
Four games in to the season, Steve Baker again selected an unchanged starting line-up. The game began quietly as the teams adjusted to the heat and, in Harrow’s case. to their first outing on a 3G surface this season. First to show was the Stags, Atkinson winning a corner and then narrowly failing to get his head on the delivery to the far post. Jordan Ireland then made a good interception to stop a dangerous home break. Harrow’s first effort came when Frank Keita surged forward to set up Anthony O’Connor, whose shot was saved by former Borough keeper Alex Tokarczyk. Gordon put a free-kick into the side-netting for Walton, and Josh Andrew got across to stop Grant who had burst through the central defence. Harrow were giving away too many free-kicks but fortunately the hosts’ delivery was generally not of the necessary standard.
George Moore set up Keita for a shot well saved by Tokarczyk, before Harrow went ahead in the 38th minute, from their first corner. Michael Bryan played it short to Moore, before hitting a sweet cross from his return ball, onto the head of O’Connor, who scored for the third successive game.
On the stroke of half-time, Walton almost levelled. Hafed Al-Droubi came out for Gasson’s long ball downfield, but succeeded only in presenting it to Ward. The home forward twisted on it but put it past the post. And the hosts went close again as the second period began, Gordon stretching for a left-wing delivery but flashing his effort wide. Pilbeam then turned on the edge of the box to hammer a shot that Al-Droubi turned over the bar. The keeper then tipped another effort over, and saved at his near post from Ward. At the other end Moore blocked a Gasson clearance, the ball screwing wide, Adam Pepera glanced a Bryan free-kick across the goal, and Keita’s shot was blocked.
In the 65th minute Baker made a double change, with Moore and Keita being replaced by Ryan Moss and, making his debut, summer signing Kunle Otudeko. It didn’t take long for the new boy to announce himself, four minutes in fact. Kensley Maloney played a delightful ball through to him and he strode on confidently, throwing a defender and a keeper with a swivel of his hips before stroking the ball left-footed into the far corner.
The Stags showed spirit, and Al-Droubi had to go full-length to his right to turn away Gordon’s low drive, before saving again from the same player. Maloney drove wide from the edge of the box after great work on the right by Excellence Muhemba, but Walton pressed again and after Andrew had made a great tackle on Grant, Al-Droubi made a good save from Capela. Three minutes into stoppage-time Walton got the consolation they deserved, Amu running through the Borough defence on the right and firing across Al-Droubi.
One of only two teams still unbeaten, Harrow face their toughest test so far this season this Saturday when last season’s runners-up Taunton Town, fresh from beating this morning’s leaders Tiverton, come up to North-West London from Somerset.
WALTON CASUALS: Alex Tokarczyk, Manolis Gogonas, Jude Mason, Joseph Morrison, Jay Gasson (booked, 61 mins), Michael Atkinson (booked, 90 mins), Cheyce Grant, Nathan Webb (sub Brendan Murphy-McVey, 83 mins), George Pilbeam (sub Goldy Capela, 86 mins), Rohdell Gordon (booked, 41 mins), Stephen Ward (sub Arel Amu, 65 mins). Unused subs: Keaton August, Ollie Swain.
HARROW BOROUGH: Hafed Al-Droubi, Josh Andrew (booked, 21 mins), Chinua Cole (booked, 58 mins), Shaun Preddie (booked, 23 mins), Adam Pepera, Jordan Ireland, Kensley Maloney, Frank Keita (sub Kunle Otudeko, 65 mins), Anthony O’Connor (sub Excellence Muhemba, 70 mins), Michael Bryan, George Moore (sub Ryan Moss, 65 mins). Unused subs: George Fenton, Lewis Cole.
Referee: Mr M Smith