SALISBURY 0 HARROW BORO 6
By Harrow Borough
What a way to finish off the campaign! The best performance of the season - maybe even the best of Steve Baker’s time in charge? - and the best result too, as Harrow grabbed seventh spot in the final Evo-Stik Southern Premier South table
with a complete dismantling of play-off bound Salisbury.
Baker juggled the line-up to play with a 4-2-3-1 system, with Michael Bryan, George Moore and Frank Keita operating fluidly behind lone target man Ryan Moss, while Mark McLeod and Lewis Cole did the dirty engine-room work in front of the back-four. Anyone complaining pre-match that Harrow should have begun with two strikers was eating their words come the end of the game!
‘Storm Hannah’ was still very much in evidence when the game kicked off, and the strong wind was at the hosts’ backs. But, looking for a win to secure a home play-off spot, they looked nervous and time and time again long balls downfield floated on the stiff breeze beyond their strikers. They did have an early opportunity when some over-casual play by Shaun Preddie forced McLeod into giving away a free-kick, which was swung into the box for Herbert to volley over from eight yards out. Harrow were soon on the attack and Keita found Moore, who cut in from the left to fire a right-foot shot past the near post. Moss then broke forward, slipping the ball to Moore whose low drive was heading for the corner until it was finger-tipped round by Hallett. Salisbury broke an otherwise effective Borough offside trap, and Dawson’s shot went across goal with a stretching Fitchett unable to keep the ball down at the far post. A fine Preddie challenge then stopped Herbert as he pressed forward. Shepherd was very lucky to stay on the field for a two-handed shove on Cole, escaping with a booking, before Al-Droubi was off his line quickly to stop Fitchett running on to Whelan’s pass.
Harrow opened the scoring in the 32nd minute, as Keita played a sweet ball through to Moore, who ran on to calmly stroke the ball wide of Hallett’s left hand. The nerves increased in the home ranks and after Al-Droubi had comfortably held Benson’s free-kick, they had a let-off when Partridge’s attempted clearing header from Moore’s cross crashed off Keita, with Hallett reacting sharply to dive and save. Some home pressure saw Al-Droubi save from Whelan, and then bravely come through a crowd of players to punch clear Partridge’s header back into the goal area from a deep corner. The Harrow custodian then got down at his near post to foil Shephard, and saved Downing’s shot from the edge of the box as the half closed.
Adam Pepera came on for an injured Preddie at the interval, and Harrow had a scare when the second half opened as Ryan Haugh got back to clear an effort that had got past Al-Droubi, but got no distance at all on the ball, and his keeper had to save from Herbert’s close-range follow-up. The hard-working Moss then turned sharply but dragged his left-foot shot wide. At that point he looked still to be struggling to get on the scoresheet but, the saying that ‘form is temporary, class is permanent’ was going to be proved in the final half-hour of the game! Moore’s 25-yarder was held by Hallett, and at the other end Dawson headed wide from a right-wing free-kick. In the 59th minute Harrow doubled their lead. Keita again burst through from his forward-midfield role. His effort was half-cleared, but Moore bravely headed the ball forward, picking up a bang in the process, and Moss redirected the ball with a header over Hallett from ten yards out.
Salisbury pressed forward, with Al-Droubi and Pepera combing to stop one attack, and Nathaniel Oseni making a fine tackle to stop another. The back four and their screening midfield duo were working tirelessly, with Al-Droubi saving at Sommerton’s feet when they were breached. Fitchett had the ball in the net but was denied by the assistant’s raised flag. In the 73rd minute, a rapier of a pass from Michael Bryan from right to left picked out Moore, and he ran on to shoot home, Hallett getting a hand to the ball but unable to keep it out. Two minutes later, it was four, as Moss ran on to another precision pass and guided the ball calmly past Hallett. Each goal was now being joyously celebrated by a mass of players and fans behind the Salisbury goal.
Hallett pulled off a wonder-save to keep out Keita’s close-range strike, but in the 82nd minute he was beaten again as Moore played a left-wing corner to Jordan Ireland, who’d replaced the tiring McLeod. He looked up from the corner of the box, picked his spot, and hit a sublime right-foot shot across Hallett into the far corner.
Sparkes was off-target twice for the Whites, while the Harrow following was highly amused when the sponsors’ man-of-the-match award went to Hallett. He’d already picked the ball out of his net five times, and it was six come the first minute of stoppage time as Keita and Moss broke through and bore down on his goal. Keita unselfishly slipped the ball to Moss, who consigned his goal-drought to history by walking the ball in for his hat-trick, the third by a Harrow player this week, and to cue a huge love-in between players, management and travelling support on the final whistle.
So, it wasn’t the play-off spot that was looking highly likely at the start of the year, but seventh is the best finishing position for Borough for some years, while the 97 league goals they scored was jointly the best in the division. The vast majority of fans will be hoping that the side can be kept together for next season, maybe with an addition or two to strengthen further. Meanwhile, the last week has ensured that this coming Friday’s Awards Night is likely to be conducted in a very happy atmosphere!
SALISBURY: Jake Hallett, Claudio Herbert (sub Elliot Wheeler, 74 mins), Josh Sommerton, Tom Whelan (sub Jack Sparkes, 81 mins), Matthew Partridge, Bay Downing, Lewis Benson, Aaron Dawson (booked, 39 mins), Daniel Fitchett, Darren Mullings, Chris Shephard (booked, 24 mins). Unused subs: Charlie Searle, Danny Young, Charlie Rayfield.
HARROW BOROUGH: Hafed Al-Droubi, Josh Andrew, Ryan Haugh, Shaun Preddie (sub Adam Pepera, h-t; booked, 86 mins), Nathaniel Oseni, George Moore, Frank Keita, Mark McLeod (booked, 68 mins; sub Jordan Ireland, 69 mins), Ryan Moss, Michael Bryan (sub Anthony O’Connor, 80 mins), Lewis Cole. Unused subs: Max Holland, Excellence Muhemba.
Referee: Mr L Sandoe