Honours even in the battle of the Borough’s

Harrow Borough manager Steve Baker (pic: Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo)

Harrow Borough manager Steve Baker (pic: Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo) - Credit: Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo

Southern League Premier South: Gosport Borough 2 Harrow Borough 2

Although they were absolutely outclassed in the first 35 minutes and on another day could have been three or four down at that point, Harrow showed huge commitment and application to come back into this game, eventually capturing a hard-earned point, their first on the road this campaign, thanks to Liam Ferdinand’s stoppage-time goal.

With George Moore having dropped an RSJ on his foot at work (there’s no break, but blackened bruising) and with Marc Charles-Smith awaiting his wife giving birth, Steve Baker was forced into some changes.

Right-back Bradley Empson, newly-signed from Hullbridge Sports, made his debut with Kensley Maloney switching flanks to operate on the left.

Frank Keita returned to the side, playing behind a twin strike force of Anthony O’Connor and Ferdinand.

Harrow weren’t in the game for the first half hour. A silly free-kick was given away in the first minute, which Williams curled narrowly past the post.

Kavanagh drove over before Dan Purdue pulled off a wonderful save, diving low to his right to push Lewis’s header round the post. An acrobatic leap from Purdue tipped over McCreadie’s shot.

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Giant centre-back Casey then rose to head Suraci’s corner over the bar, and Lewis headed wide at the far post. The inevitable goal arrived after 23 minutes.

An attack built up on the left, and Williams played an astute ball through to Lewis. Purdue spread himself and stopped Lewis’s first effort, but the ball came back to Lewis who lifted the ball over Purdue despite Ben Tricker’s desperate attempt to hook the ball back from the goal-line.

The only threat from Harrow had been an attack that broke down when Keita got in O’Connor’s way as he moved onto Ferdinand’s pass, and so no-one was more surprised than a sizeable travelling following when the visitors equalised out of the blue in the 41st minute. Ferdinand’s clever pass cut open a square back line and O’Connor advanced to calmly finish for his first goal of the campaign.

For a couple of minutes the tide turned completely. Maloney picked up a clearance to his a fierce 20-yarder that O’Flaherty batted away. Ferdinand then got the ball on the left and cut inside to batter a powerful shot that went millimetres over the angle of post and bar. But as the game moved into first-half stoppage time, the hosts regained the lead.

A clever one-touch build-up ended with Suraci’s shot turned away by Purdue, but Kavanagh picked up the ball and lifted the ball to the far post where Lewis nodded in his second.

Despite going in a goal down, Harrow had gained confidence from the closing minutes of the half, and set about Gosport as the second period began.

Tricker’s raking pass picked out Ferdinand on the left, and he cut in to fire over with his left foot. Empson then found Keita, who played a one-two with Ferdinand and curled the ball wide.

At the other end, Babs Jarra made a very important interception of a low cross at the near post. Why Harrow didn’t then get a penalty is a complete mystery: Michael Bryan, having another great game, got round the home defence on the left.

His cross was headed up in the air and, as it dropped, keeper O’Flaherty came out and flattened O’Connor.

It was extraordinary that referee Mr Bartlett gave a foul the other way, all the more so when O’Connor was later flattened in exactly the same way by an opponent near the halfway line, and this time was rightly given a free-kick.

Harrow had a scare when Purdue came a long way from his goal to intercept a through ball and ended up losing the ball near the touchline. Fortunately, Carter’s attempted lob from distance was off target.

The Harrow following’s sense of annoyance with the referee wasn’t helped when he gave a goal kick when a Lewis Cole shot clearly deflected off a home shirt, and also by Mr Bartlett’s failure to clamp down on increasingly blatant time-wasting by O’Flaherty.

Purdue pushed away a shot by Oxlade-Chamberlain (Christian, brother of Liverpool’s Alex) following a scramble, and a curler by Suraci was deflected over, but Harrow were looking good with Ferdinand and O’Connor showing good understanding and clever movement. With minutes to go Ferdinand tracked from right to left across the home box before swivelling to drive a right-footer just too high.

When only four minutes of stoppage-time were announced (and with five second half substitutions, two and a half of them should have been for the changes) there was yet more annoyance from the travellers, but three minutes into them, O’Connor got into the six-yard box and was tripped by Casey. What pressure there was on Ferdinand, but he coolly tucked away the penalty to cue loud and long celebrations.

Harrow now have nine days to prepare for their next game, the league visit to Beaconsfield Town on Monday 26th. Finally, with the club’s finances seriously wounded by the overnight move of all London Boroughs into Covid ‘Tier 2’, one had to wonder whether some at Gosport had even heard of Covid.

Yes, there was the app to scan on entry; yes, there were signs about social distancing around the ground; yes, there were announcements to that effect.

ut there was no attempt made at stewarding the overcrowding locals to comply with that social distancing (especially outside the bar), and no sign of the half-time sanitising of goalposts and corner-flags that we at Harrow had been instructed was a necessary condition of the return to football.

Referees have, we have been told, been instructed to include issues of Covid compliance in their match reports: it will be interesting to see whether Mr Bartlett will bother.

GOSPORT BOROUGH: Patrick O’Flaherty, Matthew Casey, Rory Williams, Michael Carter (sub Gerard Storey, 61 mins), Ryan Woodford, Aaron McCreadie, Bradley Tarbuck, Theo Lewis (sub Jordon Ragguette, 67 mins), Christian Oxlade-Chamberlain, Patrick Suraci, Harry Kavanagh (sub Joseph Lea, 83 mins). Unused subs: Henry Lander, Marcos Pavlou.

HARROW BOROUGH: Dan Purdue, Kensley Maloney, Bradley Empson (sub Shaun Preddie, 70 mins), Ben Tricker, Babs Jarra, Jordan Ireland, Lewis Cole (sub Brendan Matthew, 70 mins), Michael Bryan, Liam Ferdinand, Anthony O’Connor, Frank Keita. Unused subs: Matthew Hall, Joseph Barnieh.

Referee: Mr C Bartlett

Att. 490

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