Bostik Premier: Merstham 0 Harrow Borough 1
PUBLISHED: 09:00 01 April 2018
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After perhaps the best all-round team performance since the turn of the year, Harrow returned from Moatside with three points thanks to a superb 73rd-minute Kurtis Cumberbatch strike.
After a morning’s forking from some home supporters the pitch was perfectly playable, though a little heavy in one goalmouth.
Injuries meant Harrow lined up in a 4-4-2 formation, restricting George Moore and Chinua Cole’s runs forward somewhat, but they looked comfortable with the change and took the game to the hosts early on.
Lovely play by Michael Bryan took him to the byline, but his cut-back was behind the incoming Ryan Moss.
Merstham’s Tutu Henriques then made an important interception as Moss rose to head on to Charles Banya while the home side’s first threat came when the speedy Alex Addai got past Chinua Cole and was foiled by a good save by Melvin Minter.
Lewis Cole, influential all afternoon, won a good tackle to release Moss but his shot went past the post and Howard Hall then made an important clearance after Addai had again caused problems on the left side of the Harrow defence.
After 25 minutes, Moss intercepted a back-pass and, although his shot beat Ashlee Jones, Liam Harwood cleared it off the line.
In the ensuing scramble, Bryan might have shot but turned back instead and a chance was gone.
Hall made another good interception to stop Alberto Lubango’s quick break, before Harwood headed Cumberbatch’s free-kick away for a corner.
Hall challenged Jones for it and came down heavily on his shoulder, a huge worry for everyone given the awful injury he had suffered at Haringey earlier this season.
He lay motionless for a while in the goalmouth, but Magenta Ross was soon on hand and he eventually departed, walking, with his arm in a sling – a great improvement on that awful night in White Hart Lane when it was by stretcher and emergency ambulance.
Mark McLeod came on and Shaun Preddie, who had been operating in midfield, switched to central defence, and Dan Bennett shot narrowly wide for the Moatsiders as the half closed.
The second half began with Cumberbatch advancing on goal, seeing a shot blocked along with Banya’s follow-up.
Minter saved Tom Kavanagh’s effort after Addai and Lubango had combined on the right, and then made a good tip-over from Bennett’s free-kick.
A rapid break by Bryan led to Jones making a fine save to deny Banya, but Addai then got past Chinua Cole and there were hearts in mouths as the excellent Adam Pepera intercepted the ensuing cross, but diverted the ball towards his own goal, where however Minter reacted well to save.
Moore then got forward, exchanged passes with Cumberbatch, and crashed a shot just wide of the near post as Harrow were beginning to exert control and Moore had another effort blocked, driving the ball over when it came back to him, as Moss shot past the near post from Cumberbatch’s pass.
The breakthrough came in the 73rd minute when, tracking from left to right in the inside right channel, Cumberbatch looked for support but, finding nothing on and perhaps spotting that Jones was just a little off his line, hit a glorious drive that curled and dipped from 20 yards to find the back of the net.
After Moore’s effort last week, it was another goal of the season contender, and a mass of Borough players celebrated it with a decent turnout of Harrow travelling fans.
Tom Collins, with a free-kick, and Addai, after cutting in from the right, put efforts over for the hosts, but Harrow continued to pose a threat and Jones made a good save to deny Moss, and Banya’s effort deflected to safety off Henriques.
Minter saved Bennett’s shot and then substitute Ahmed El-Sahib’s fine run was ended by a crude challenge from Kavanagh, with Moore’s subsequent free-kick well saved by Jones.
Now with 46 points, Harrow ought to be safe and they will hopefully gain confidence from this win and last week’s over Kingstonian and kick-on from here with a mid-table placing should be their not-unrealistic aim.
They return to action at The Rogers Family Stadium with a double-header of games (weather permitting), against Enfield Town on Easter Monday and Lowestoft Town on Wednesday.
Harrow: Minter, Moore, C Cole, Pepera, Hall (McLeod 40, Cumberbatch, Banya, Preddie, Moss, Bryan (El-Sahib 79), L Cole. Unused subs: Bell, Rodriguez, Dawkins.