Harrow Borough 0 – 0 Wealdstone
0 - 0
It was a case of Derby day disappointment at a soaking wet but surprisingly playable Earlsmead on Boxing Day as the two local rivals served up a turgid turkey of a game.
Stones have emerged as the victors in so many of these Christmas clashes in past seasons – going back as far as 2005 – that a poor performance or even a reverse, statistically at least, would sooner or later be on the cards. But the high flying away side only have themselves to blame for this stuttering performance. And although Borough also displayed a distinct lack of invention and nous in the forward areas they did at least get strikes in on goal and were the better side in the first period.
Brave and brilliant last ditch defending courtesy of skipper Wes Parker and the rock that was Sean Cronin were key players for Stones along with Rikki Banks in a distinctly off colour day for the visitors.
True, conditions were far from great with both sides having to adapt quickly and contend with a slippery, difficult surface in driving rain but it was the home side with their nippy front men that adapted better.
Other bright spots for Stones were the performances of Kurtney Brooks who had a positive first half and Chris Moore who cleverly held up play and brought players in but opportunities of real threat were consistently few and far between for the 661 crowd, 500 of them Wealdstone fans who were out in force trying valiantly to urge their troops on in the surrounding gloom.
Despite the draw, Stones can actually reflect on a point gained as other table toppers slipped up and failed to take advantage – all sides are entitled it seems to occasional off days!
As for the game itself, Borough gave Banks a fright within the first few minutes as he could only scoop away a Frankie Merrifield strike from distance but nothing came from the resultant corners – a feature of set pieces during the entire afternoon from both sides.
Clever play from Moore brought Brooks into striking range and he was unlucky to see his shot arrow in nicely for Elvijs Putnins to claim the ball with ease.
The home side broke quickly and on the 14 minute mark gained four corners in succession but couldn’t make any kind of breakthrough. But Harrow’s dominance during this spell should have brought reward as their top scorer Simeon Akinola had two well hit goal bound strikes that were saved by a combination of Banks’ brilliance and then Parker off the line.
Stones tried hard to up the anti – Richard Jolly headed into the side netting from a Scott McCubbin cross and then at the other end Michael Barima contrived to clip the ball wide as it held up on the sodden surface to evade Banks.
The away side’s best effort in the half came from Brooks on 30 minutes as he collected from another intelligent Moore flick-on but Putnins was equal to the vicious strike with an excellent tip over.
Stones midfield engine was clearly not firing on all cylinders with both Alex Dyer and Tom Pett struggling to make a telling impression when able to gain space.
The game briefly flared up as a few strong challenges came in as befits a derby with a booking apiece the end result – O’Leary for Stones, Rob Wolleaston for Borough
The second half followed the pattern of the first, with Stones trying to play their passing game in conditions that for once suited the big boot with a forwards haring after the ball on the flanks to turn defenders on a distinctly uncertain surface.
Finally Stones started to gain greater possession as Borough’s forward play became more and more sporadic. Jolly’s shot was saved but the corner as a result was of frustratingly poor quality.
A flurry of less than totally convincing late attacks and corners – particularly for the Reds – didn’t break the deadlock as both sides had to be content with sharing the points. Stones will perhaps have to think again about their tactics on wet surfaces as much precipitation remains on the forecast for upcoming fixtures over the remainder of the festive period.
Wealdstone: Banks, McCubbin, Chappell, Parker, Cronin, Dyer, Brooks, O’Leary, Moore, Jolly, Pett. Subs used: Webb, Dean. N/u: Tumwa, Hammond, North (GK)
By Nick DuGard