The Hills Are Alive…

HARROW BOROUGH – 2  [OG 27. McKenna 58]  SUTTON UNITED – 4  [Watson 9.40. Gray 68. Bolt 78p]

RYMAN PREMIER DIVISION | Att: 110

Thank god for foreign holidays. Whilst I was away relaxing in Austria last week, the lads had 2 games which presented a decent opportunity with picking up at least 4 points & getting the season back on track after the recent stumbles. Well, that was the plan anyway.

An apparently abject 3-0 home defeat against Purfl…er…Thurrock was followed by a 2-2 home draw against Bishops Stortford. The Stortford result made all the worse by the fact that the U’s had a 2-0 lead against 10 men going into the last couple of minutes and still managed to drop 2 points.

Actually, if you’re in the Salzburg area in the near future, listen carefully. You may find the hills are alive not with the Sound of Music, but my reaction to Gareth’s SMS informing me of that Stortford result. Basically the word “BOLLOCKS!” echoing eerily amongst the mountain tops.

But, I’m back now, just in time for the Harrow away game. The Harrow that are bottom. Without a win.

Oh for fucks sake.

Amazingly, the public transportation system of the United Kingdom doesn’t let me down for once and I wander into the Hobgoblin at Marylebone disgustingly early. Bob is even earlier than me, with a fair bit of his opening pint already down. Chalmers soon joins us and even stands a round. Good man! Couple of beers could be needed to soften the blow of this one.

After the super quick journey up to town, the train back out to the suburbs is of course delayed. Leaving us a very very brisk stroll to the ground at the other end, with us just making it through the turnstiles in time for kick off. Timing!

For tonight’s line up, I’m glad to see Bolty & Watson out there. Hamlin also gets a start, with a new bloke, Ronnie Fletcher (a good old English footballers name if ever I’ve heard one!) making his debut in defence, replacing the injured Hodges. We later find out he’s an ex-West Ham junior. Matt Gray gets another start up front.

The lads start quite brightly, moving the ball around well. The home side make a bit of progress, but fail to make an impact in the final third.  5 minutes in and our first chance. A ball in from the left is nodded back to the edge of the box. But Corbett’s first time effort is a  to the edge of the box. But Corbett’s first time effort flies over the bar.

Couple of mins later & some further Sutton pressure wins 2 corners in succession. Bolt plays the second of the 2 short to Akuamouah on the left corner of the 18 yard box. He chips the ball towards the back post and Watson jumps unmarked to nod the ball into the bottom far corner. 1-0! That’ll do for starters lads.

Harrow are to their credit, trying to play the right way, but their defending is pretty awful at times and you can see why they’ve struggled so far this season. They’re even making us look positively well organised at the back! A prime example is a couple of minutes after we go ahead. Bolt plays a ball into the edge of the box from the left. It goes straight to a defender, but rather than thump it clear, he falls over the ball and it breaks to Watson on the 18 yard line. With the goal at his mercy, he tries his luck, but instead his shot only hits an eager Matt Gray who is also trying to snap up the chance.

On around 20 minutes, new boy Fletcher plays a very good angled ball out of defence that Watson nods down on the edge of the box. Bolt snaps up the chance but his shot is slightly deflected and the ‘keeper is able to gather without too much trouble.

The U’s are starting to really get going and play some really good stuff. One great ball into the channel from Bolt finds Bailey. His first effort is just blocked, but he manages to pull the ball back across the area, but between Watson & Gray. But, just as the confidence and the good stuff starts to appear, within 60 seconds, our hosts are level and somewhat against the run of play. Unlike us that.

A foray down our right results in a deep cross into the box. Palmer is challenged by an attacker and the ball deflects off his head completely wrong footing Iga just behind him. The U’s ‘keeper can only make a token effort at a save as the ball loops over him & into the net to make it 1-1.

Oooh lovely. Another piss poor goal in the ‘against’ column.

This unlikely equaliser lifts the home side & they grow in confidence with their passing & movement having a little more purpose about it. But it’s still the U’s who are creating the real chances. On the half hour, Bolt breaks from midfield and plays a pass to Eddie out on the left. He puts the ball back into the box, but Bolt is blocked out from collecting the return. The ball runs loose and Watson picks up, driving the ball wide of the post. Shortly after, Bailey goes on a foray and plays a ball into the centre of the area, forcing Hook off his line to smother at the feet of Akuamouah.

Thankfully however, this pressure pays off with about 5 to go before half time. Bolty plays a ball out to the left for Bailey to chase. He collects and easily holds off the challenge of the much bigger defender, before pulling a great pass back across the 6 yard box for Watson to stab home unmarked at the back post and restore the lead.

A couple of minutes later, Gray goes close to making it 3. A run down the left sees his low cross cut out, but the ball rebounds to him and he thumps in a low curling shot that Hook just manages to parry and then recover enough to punch the ball off the arriving Watson’s boot almost virtually on the line. Then right on the whistle, a great bit of footy ends with Gray hooking the ball over the defender Gazza/Euro96-esque style, but unlike Gazza with Colin Hendry, Matt’s effort is actually blocked by the sprawling defender.

Right, 2-1 at the break. I think a trip to the bar for a livener might be in order. Gentlemen, shall we? And who’s fucking round is it by the way? Mine? Ah bollocks….

Harrow start the second 45 with a burst of activity. An early corner presenting a free-header, but the ball just clears our bar. Then a couple of minutes after, a speculative looping effort from 25yards or so out catches Iga off his line, but thankfully drops over the crossbar rather than under it. We respond as Bailey then shoots wide of the goal just short of the hour mark after Bolt collects from a throw in and plays him into space around 20 yards out.

Dead on the hour though, another bit of slack defending once again lets our advantage slip. Another cross in from the right finds McKenna completely unmarked around 10 yards out & he guides his header beyond the exposed Iga and inside the near post. For fucks sake.

But again, Sutton come roaring right back and within 10 minutes have regained the lead. Another ball out to the left again sets Bailey off on a run. He scampers easily past the sluggish full back and once again pulls the ball back across the 6 yard box where Matt Gray pops up and crashes the ball into the top near corner. Hurrah! 3-2.

The third goal seems to knock the stuffing out of the home side & their irritating number 4 finally goes in the book for one of his persistent niggly challenges that the ref has completely ignored up until that point. On 72 minutes a surging run by Bolt from deep ends with his shot being blocked for a corner. The resulting flag kick from the left drops to the far post where it is rather comically left by 2 Harrow defenders for Palmer to chip back into the danger area. Corbett heading the cross back across goal & just over the bar. With all these chances, we really should be not so much out of sight here, but back home with our feet up reading the paper.

Despite the previous warnings we’ve had, we don’t learn and with about 15 left, another cross, this time from the left is met with yet another free-header. Fortunately, this time the attacker meeting it is unable to guide it in onto the target and we breathe a sigh of relief before muttering something about “fucking marking”.

Despite the late hour, Watson is still roughing up the home defence, sticking to his task well and still sniffing around for his hat-trick. One of his trademark bulldozing runs on 78 minutes forces a defender to bundle him over on the left side of the area, leaving even this half interested ref with little option but to point to the spot.

As Bolty lines up his kick, a Harrow defender calls out some ‘encouragement’ to his ‘keeper. “This cunt got two on Saturday, he’s got to miss one soon!”. Yes, it’s a shame you won’t be around to witness that however mate.

Unimpressed, Dan of course sends Hook the wrong way and if to prove a point, slams the spot kick high to the ‘keepers left where he’d never, ever have got to it anyway. Game over. Hopefully. Maybe. Of course, as the players head for the centre circle for the restart, Mr ‘Miss one soon’ is waved off in the traditional coffee-bean shaking style by our good selves behind the goal. Sorry fella, set yourself up for that one.

Harrow keep plugging away, but with little effect. Although with time running out a good little pass into the box does force Iga off his line to make a very good 1 on 1 stop from the advancing forward.

The last real event of note in the match is an amusing almost-own goal by our hosts. A defender, under pressure plays the ball back to Hook. The ‘keeper misjudges it and it bobbles under his foot, trundling towards the completely unguarded net. His blushes are saved though as the ball trickles the wrong side of the post (for us anyway!) and into the side netting. Bugger.

But at the end, the three points are in the bag and we’re that little bit closer to those scummy Bobbins again.

With the boys congratulated on the victory, it’s then quick march and back to the Hood for our by now customary midweek last orders dash to celebrate the win.

TEAM : Iga, Palmer, Fletcher, Gonsalves, Hamlin, Akuamoah, Bailey, Corbett, Bolt, Watson, Gray. SUBS : Honey, Hanlan, Collins

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