A riproaring and rumbustious start to 2023 saw Harrow denied a win in the 90 the minute. Nevertheless, it was a point that any Borough follower would have taken before the game, and all the more so after an opening ten minutes after which they could easily have been three or four down.
Borough began the game without two players who Steve Baker would have expected to start with: George Moore and Shaun Preddie, both absent due to pressing family matters, the latter having to withdraw minutes before kick-off. Jaden Sharman came in for the club captain, not even having the time to change out of the No.16 shirt he was expecting to wear as a substitute.
And when the game kicked off, Harrow initially and understandably looked like a team that had seen some late changes to its line-up. Liddle’s low cross flashed across the visiting goalmouth before Nasha fired over when the ball dropped to him. Wassmer rose to head a free-kick just wide, before winning a header from another free-kick, setting up Odelusi to fire just over. Emmanuel then spun past Prince Kandolo, placing his shot past the near post, and the same player flashed a header across goal from Miles’s corner. Cameron Green shot over when Ahmet Biler gave the ball away, all this happening before Harrow had threatened Byrne’s goal. A few corners and free-kicks had seen disappointing deliveries, but all that changed in the final moments of the half.
Billy Leonard arrowed a lovely crossfield ball to Kai Omoko Brosnan, who cut in from the left and hit a fierce shot that Byrne turned into the side-netting, some of those behind the goal thinking it was the opener. The resulting corner was a better delivery, and the home defence was only able to half-clear it. Leonard crossed again, and the ball found its way to Brosnan, just beyond the far post. His first touch wasn’t brilliant, but he reacted sharply to poke the ball past Byrne. A Hayes defender desperately tried to hack the ball away, but the assistant referee deemed that it had crossed the line. Harrow supporters behind the goal weren’t convinced, while those watching from the grandstand were. Hayes was incensed: skipper Wassmer was immediately booked for his protests, and Nasha was also shown yellow for a nasty tackle on Johnny Allotey as soon as the game restarted.
Expecting a second half on the back foot, Harrow instead opened with a super run from Leonard, who picked out Allotey whose shot was blocked, Biler firing over with the follow-up. How a member of the Hayes management team then remained in the dugout was a mystery, as he ran out of the technical area to manhandle the referee’s assistant in a rant about an offside decision. Brosnan won a tackle and ran on to hit a shot-cum-cross that was just in front of Allotey. Harrow doubled their lead in the 54th minute, a wonderful solo effort by Allotey, cutting in from the left, leaving two defenders on the deck as he twisted both ways, before shooting low past Byrne and celebrating with a full back-flip.
Allotey nearly got another immediately, as Brosnan’s deep cross found him at the far post, but Byrne saved. He then shot wide following Leonard’s break forward. Harrow’s three musketeers, Brosnan, Leonard and Allotey, great friends off the pitch, were by this point posing a huge threat to Hayes, and Brosnan was next to go close, only stopped by a wonderful tackle by Cameron Green. The barest of touches by Wassmer was then enough to stop Isiah Noel-Williams’s cross reaching Brosnan, and Montel Brown’s drive was saved by Byrne.
But Harrow were possibly tiring and were starting to give away too many cheap free-kicks, not least when getting caught offside too often. Another one was launched into the Harrow box in the 69th minute. It was initially cleared, but Wassmer returned the ball into the goalmouth, Liddle headed it on, and Emmanuel turned it in at the far post.
The hosts upped the ante, and Jalloh sent Miles in on goal, his effort with the outside of his foot going just a fraction wide. But Harrow went close again, Leonard’s corner leading to a Kamon-Sherell Assidjo shot that was deflected just wide. Liddle then broke through the Harrow defence and, just as it seemed that he had got around Jacob Knightbridge, the young Harrow keeper responded with a tackle that any defender on earth would have been proud of.
With the game in the 89th minute, Baker introduced the returning James Taylor for his first appearance since his August injury. There were raised eyebrows among the visiting supporters – wouldn’t the planned couple of Under-23 appearances be a better reintroduction than the maelstrom of a defence under huge pressure? And when another free-kick was conceded, it was again launched towards the Harrow penalty box. Taylor mistimed his header, missing the ball altogether, and Danny Green was on hand to ram home the leveller.
Despite the disappointment of the late equaliser, the level of the performance ought to give the Harrow squad huge confidence. Hopefully, Moore and Preddie will be back in the fold on Saturday when league leaders Weston-super-Mare visit The Rogers Family Stadium.
Result: Hayes & Yeading Utd 2-2 Harrow Borough