Harrow Borough 2-0 Tonbridge Angels - We've got to start putting the ball in the back of the net because that was the story of last season, says Justin Luchford

Saturday 26th August 2017
Harrow Borough 2 – 0 Tonbridge Angels
Location Earlsmead Stadium, Carlyon Avenue, Harrow, Middlesex HA2 8SS
Kickoff 26/08/2017 15:00

Bostik Premier Division
Saturday 26th August 2017
Stephen McCartney reports from Earlsmead Stadium

TONBRIDGE ANGELS coach Justin Luchford says his goal-shy players must start taking their chances after a disappointing defeat away to surprise leaders Harrow Borough.

Steve Baker’s side are three points clear of big-spenders Billericay Town on 12 points from four games after grabbing a 2-0 win over Tonbridge Angels, who slipped down five places to eighth with seven points in the bag.

With Tonbridge Angels boss Steve McKimm away in Abu Dhabi, preparation for the game suffered as Bank Holiday weekend traffic on the M25 delayed their arrival to Earlsmead Stadium until 60 minutes before kick-off.

Harrow Borough became the first side in the Bostik Premier to score against Tonbridge Angels this season with Michael Bryan scoring from an acute angle inside the opening nine minutes.

Baker’s side sealed their victory just before the hour-mark through a beautiful volley from striker Will Turl, but the Kent side created many chances, mostly headers, to get something from the game.

“Disappointed.  I thought we’ve dominated the game, if I’m honest. I don’t think they had a lot,” admitted Luchford.

“They’ve scored with two, the first goal isn’t a bad goal to be fair to him. He done the right-back and decent finish and the second one, opportunist, a great finish from him, from the edge of the box.

“I think they only got in our half three times in the second half, so disappointed but we’ve got the chance to bounce back again on Monday. We’ve got to get points at home this season.”

Harrow Borough finished fourth-from-bottom last season and were given a reprieve from relegation and find themselves as the early pacesetters.

Luchford said: “It’s four games, the league table don’t mean anything, let’s be honest.  They’ve had a great start and fair play to them. They’re big and strong.  We knew what we would come up against.  They’re quite lively going forward. It’s away from home, it’s a tough place to come, the M25 was an absolute joke !”

When asked their lateness had a part to play in this defeat, Luchford replied: “You just don’t know! They’ve scored after nine minutes so they’ll probably be a part to play in it maybe, a little bit. The fact that we might’ve started a little bit slower than them, although I don’t think we started that slow.  I thought we done alright for the first five or six minutes.

“Are you mentally ready? We didn’t get out there until half-past-two, we’re back in there at ten-to-three, everyone’s rushing around and it’s not very good preparation.  

“We can’t leave any earlier, we left in plenty of time but it’s Bank Holiday weekend on the M25.  Everyone likes to go on holiday (driving) on the M25, obviously.”

Tonbridge Angels started the game with four at the back, a diamond in midfield and with two up front, with Nathan Elder his usual dominant self in the air as the target-man.

But Harrow Borough opened the scoring with eight minutes and 21 seconds on the clock.

Anthony O’Connor threw the ball down the line to Bryan, who cut inside past Craig Stone to reach the by-line, cut along the line and somehow squeezed his well-struck drive past Jonathan Henly at his near post from a very tight angle.

“I can’t see from where I am if it’s Jonny’s (mistake),” said Luchford. 

“Craig’s got to do better at right-back, he’s better than that. He can let him go down the line but he shouldn’t let him get across him. He’s let him get across him. He’s put his hands up at half-time. We know what we’re going to get out of Craig Stone. He’ll give everything every week so I’m certainly not going to pin him against the wall. He can do better than that!”

Harrow Borough cleared the ball long out of defence, the ball was flicked on by Charles Banya to put Turl through on goal.  Last defender Sonny Miles, however, made up ground, slid in and the ball bounced past the right-hand post.

Luchford claimed: “There were a few strange decisions on offsides today. We felt, Sonny felt certainly Turl was a yard offside when he went through. Sonny’s done very, very well to get back and then the referee’s given a free-kick, which is quite ironic so one of those dodgy decisions. There were a few tight offsides today that could’ve gone either way.”

Tonbridge Angels took 19 minutes to fashion a worthwhile chance as Stone cut inside Kurtis Cumberbatch to feed Andre McCollin down the right. His hooked cross went over everybody inside the box and was retrieved by Jeysiva Sivapathasundaram, who clipped the ball towards the far post for Elder to rise to head over the bar from 10-yards.

Harrow Borough had another chance to extend their lead when Banya played the ball into Bryan, who cut inside Miles to stroke his left-footed angled drive towards the bottom far corner from 25-yards, which Henly held comfortably, low to his right.

“He was lively, they played 4-2-3-1, the three lads and one we’re lively when they got on the ball and we gave them space,” Luchford said of Bryan.

“I think for the first 20 minutes, it was nip and tuck really for both sides.  I still thought we had the best opportunities but although he had a few good runs and all that, Jonny did not have a save to make.  It’s not as though he’s had to tip them around the post and kept us in the game. He had one shot to save in the first half and one shot to save in the second half.”

Tonbridge Angels then enjoyed a dominant spell where their direct brand of football gave them some glorious headed chances.

Joe Turner floated in a free-kick into the penalty area, Elder flicked the ball on and McCollin outmuscled his marker, Harrow’s left-back Howard Hall, to plant his header past the right-hand post from the corner of the six-yard box in the 25th minute.

“I think we had a spell, I think it was 10 minutes when we had two or three chances,” said Luchford, who has seen his side score only three league goals in four league games this season.

“As much as we’ve got to do better defensively with the first goal, we have to put the ball in the back of the net and the gaffer (Steve McKimm) is probably on a flight at the moment and he’s not going to hear that one when he lands tomorrow. We’ve got to start putting the ball in the back of the net because that was the story of last season. We’ve got to put our chances into goals !”

Stone then clipped the ball up into the box for Thompson, who chipped the ball over the advancing keeper Melvin Minter, only for the ball to drop just over the crossbar from 12-yards.

Tonbridge Angels’ best chance, however, arrived on the half-hour mark.

Stone advanced into the final third and whipped in a quality cross towards the near post, but Elder powered his header agonisingly past the right-hand post from six-yards.

“I don’t want to say too much because the gaffer is probably going to read it,” added Luchford.

“Great ball from Stone, Nathan does what Nathan does well, he gets across the man and he’s got to score!”

The impressive Bryan, who sat in behind Turl, picked up the loose ball and went on a solo 40-yard run before stroking his left-footed shot from 20-yards, which Henly made another comfortable low sae to his right.

Turner chipped in another free-kick into the Harrow Borough box and Miles knocked the ball back across goal and Stone’s header was comfortably caught by Minter.

Tonbridge Angels won the corner count by 6-2 and Turner floated in their second corner towards the far post and Elder was wrestled to the ground by Curtis Ujah after getting his head to the ball and planting the ball wide from inside the six-yard box.

When asked his thoughts at the break, Luchford said: “It’s not like we’re out of the game ! They had the one chance early doors and scored the goal and we should’ve had a couple of goals. 

“We just said to them at half-time to keep going, just up it another five or ten percent because we thought they would be blowing.  They were blowing because we looked at them second half with 10 to go and they were leaving five up front because they couldn’t get back and they were trying to nick us on the counter but we said keep going at half-time and you’re chances will come and they did come and we didn’t take them !”

Tonbridge Angels bossed the possession after the interval and were camped in the Harrow Borough half for the majority of the half.

Chris Kinnear played a low pass inside to Turner, who cut the ball onto his right-foot before unleashing a right-footed drive from 35-yards, which whistled just over the top of the left-hand post.

Luchford said: “Not too much to trouble the goalkeeper, they were decent efforts from Joe. We knew he’s got that in his locker.  I thought he did well again today, his work rate, he’s a fit lad.”

There was then a messy passage of play as the league leaders nullified their opponents threat, but Kinnear found a pocket of space just outside the box to dink the ball onto Elder’s head, his looping header was caught by Minter.

Harrow Borough, meanwhile, grabbed a two-goal lead, with 12 minutes and 40 seconds on the clock.

Central defender Adam Richards hit a long free-kick forward and intended to reach O’Connor inside the box.  The ball dropped down to Turl, who cracked his volley across Henly into the far corner of the net from 14-yards.

“Andre McCollin’s not offside when the ball’s gone over the top and it’s from that free-kick that they’ve put into the box,” said Luchford.

“I need to speak to Craig but I thought he was slightly the wrong side of the forward and because he’s the wrong side, he’s had to put his wrong foot around the ball to make a tackle but straight out to the middle of the pitch where Turl’s made a great finish, you can’t knock the finish, good finish.”

It was then a case of shut-up-shop for Baker’s men as nothing seemed to fall for Tonbridge.

Whitnell played the ball in from the right to Turner, who drove a low left-footed drive towards goal from 30-yards, which was comfortably saved by Minter in the Harrow goal.

Tonbridge Angels played more football on the deck as soon as they brought on substitute Alex Akrofi on in the 64th minute and they ditched the diamond to put three men up front in search of getting back into the game.  They kept the ball on the deck more with McCollin causing a nuisance down the right wing.

But Harrow Borough captain Ujah had his defence well-marshalled and they snuffed out Tonbridge’s chances of mounting a comeback.

“We probed and we probed.  We didn’t really have many gilt-edged chances after that. We probably had one where we probably should’ve scored,” said Luchford.

Harrow Borough then enjoyed a spell of keep-ball inside the Tonbridge final third in the final nine minutes and Banya slipped the ball into O’Connor, whose right-footed drive from the edge of the box deflected off Miles and behind for their first corner of the game.

Both sides created a chance each inside stoppage time. Elder swept a shot straight at Minter for Tonbridge, while at the other end, the much-travelled striker Richard Pacquette dragged his shot wide from outside the penalty area in what was a rare attack for the home side.

Tonbridge Angels were knocked out of the Kent Reliance Senior Cup by Vanarama National League side Maidstone United 2-1 in midweek so this was their second defeat on the bounce.

Neil Cugley brings his Folkestone Invicta side to Longmead Stadium on Bank Holiday Monday (28 August, 15:00) and they went down to a 2-0 home defeat to Needham Market and go into the Kent derby in fifteenth-place in the table with five points on the board.

Luchford said: “We’re not going to get too down-beat about it because we worked hard. We didn’t get bullied away from home at Harrow and I thought we were the better side on the day.  Did we deserve to win? That’s arguable but I don’t think we deserved to lose.

“Folkestone will be tough. I know Cugs probably better than most.  I know what Neil brings to the table. He’ll get the boys up for it.  You probably don’t need to get up for it to come to play us. It’s a Kent derby, it’s Bank Holiday Monday in August.

“They’ll be six, seven, eight hundred there and it will be a great day. I believe the suns meant to be shining and hopefully that sun will shine on us on Monday and we can get the three points and if we can get three points and we can have 10 points out of the first five games, I think the gaffer will sit on Monday night and have a beer and be fairly happy.”

Harrow Borough: Melvin Minter, Shaun Preddie, Howard Hall, Kurtis Cumberbatch, Curtis Ujah, Adam Richards, Charles Banya (Richard Pacquette 85), Mark McLeod, Will Turl, Michael Bryan (Alfred Cain 82), Anthony O’Connor.
Subs: Omotayo Coker, Brian Testolin, George Moore

Goals: Michael Bryan 9, Will Turl 58

Booked: Michael Bryan 23, Anthony O’Connor 45, Kurtis Cumberbatch 76

Tonbridge Angels: Jonathan Henly, Craig Stone, Jeysiva Sivapathasundaram, Chris Kinnear, Sonny Miles, George Beaven, Tommy Whitnell (Luke Blewden 75), Dan Thompson (Alex Akrofi 64), Nathan Elder, Andre McCollin, Joe Turner.
Subs: Dominic Welsh, Callum Adonis-Taylor, Liam Smith

Booked: Jonathan Henly 86, George Beaven 90

Attendance: 203
Referee: Mr Tristan Greaves (Godalming, Surrey)
Assistants: Mr Jonathan Bollard (Egham, Surrey) & Mr Alastair Higgs (Windlesham, Surrey)

Coverage Sponsored by: