On a cool summer’s eve, Harborough Town went head to head with Daventry Town in their second league game of the season looking to bounce back from their narrow opening day defeat to Cogenhoe United. This was by no means going to be an easy feat against a Daventry side who’d already won their opener by cruising past Holbeach 3-1. Luke Emery was certainly going to be a danger man after he fired home twice in quick succession in that game.
Harborough began the livelier of the two teams when Greg Usher found Jordan Lever, on the left-hand side, who left the right back for dead but just overhit the cross which sailed out for a goal kick. Again, Harborough were applying the early pressure, this time with Harry Henbury foraging down the right flank to earn a freekick which he subsequently took. He whipped in a dangerous low cross which just evaded the toe of Perry Johnson and allowed keeper, Matt Finlay, to gather comfortably.
Daventry then managed to get themselves a foothold in the match when Kieran Fitzgerald shrugged off challenges down the right-hand side to pull it back for Adam Creaney to strike and hit his own forward in the process that neutralised the threat for Harborough.
However, the Bees fortune wasn’t to last as the veteran captain, Adam Confue, played a sublime through ball with the outside of his boot to Taylor Orosz who displayed strength and finesse in front of goal to side foot into the top right corner. 16 minutes played and the score was 1-0 to Daventry.
Daventry began to enjoy the majority of the attacking play as they ventured forward again, with the ball falling kindly to Confue 25 yards out who struck a ferocious effort that was deflected just wide. Daventry were then awarded a free kick on the left-hand side of the area which Creaney stepped up for and curled wickedly into the bottom corner but was quickly chalked off as the linesman had adjudged someone to be interfering with play in an offside position.
Harborough attempted to capitalise on this let off as Henbury broke into Daventry’s half and found Usher on the edge of the area who fired over the bar. However, Harborough’s resilience paid off when Harry Henbury sent in a fine corner to captain Ben Williams who rose imperiously to thunder in an unstoppable header that screamed past the helpless Finlay. With 34 minutes on the clock Harborough, who had merited an equaliser, were back on level terms at 1-1.
Shortly after, Williams was called back into his duties as Creaney burrowed his way into the penalty area but his close-range effort was blocked superbly by the skipper. Daventry continued to file away at the Harborough backline with Fitzgerald again causing trouble and eventually being brought down in the area by Finlay Gray for a penalty kick. Creaney stepped up to the spot and firmly side-footed into the middle of the net to regain the lead for Daventry. The score was 2-1 with 40 minutes played.
Harborough responded positively with a good spell of pressure of their own as Lever worked his magic down the left wing, leaving a defender trailing in his wake and firing a piledriver that was palmed well by Finlay who got up swiftly to deal with the rebound. Lever then showed the tenacious side of his game by retaining possession well in midfield and offloading to Callum steer who fed the ball wide to Henbury. His first time cross was blocked but he followed up with an audacious travella that slammed the outside of the post.
On the stroke of half time, Daventry were awarded a corner that was whipped in towards the near post by Creaney and was latched onto by the head of Tom Mcgowan who thumped his free header onto the cross bar.
At half time, Harborough were dealt a hammer blow as Ben Williams was forced off with an injury, which required Callum Milne to slot in as a make-shift centre back and allowing the introduction of Pernell Taylor-Jacob to try and influence proceedings.
Under velvet red skies, the game was underway again and Harborough set out on the front foot. Henbury was making progress on the right wing and found his way into the box before being felled by a Daventry defender for a penalty to the Bees. Dean Lukeman was then booked for possible dissent and the game was delayed further as they continued to dispute the decision. Callum Milne, who had taken up the responsibility of the armband, had also taken responsibility for this vital spot kick. Despite the delaying tactics implemented, Milne remained ice-cool and finished into the right-hand side, sending the keeper the other way. 5 minutes into the second half and Harborough had drawn level again at 2-2.
Not long after, another penalty was awarded by the referee, this time to Daventry after a smart turn by Fitzgerald forced Taylor-Jacob to bring him down inside the area. Creaney took hold of the ball again and planted it in the same place for the same result, grabbing his second goal of the match. Daventry had reclaimed the lead once more at 3-2 with 54 minutes gone.
Daventry were looking to seal the victory as they piled forward again with the ball being laid of to Confue on the edge of the box who saw his strike saved by the right boot of Tom Cockings. The young keeper was again called into action after Creaney showed quick feet and played a clever threaded pass to Emery who fired fiercely to sting the palms of Cockings at the near post.
However, Harborough were to be undone once more as Confue cut inside neatly and floated an inviting ball towards the back post for Taylor Orosz to attack. His header rebounded off the crossbar and was easily followed up by Emery to give Daventry some breathing space. The score was 4-2 with 69 minutes played.
To try and turn the tide, Stuart Spencer made one last throw of the dice to attempt to salvage something from the game by replacing Henbury with Mohamed Soumah to inject some fresh legs up front. His introduction very nearly became a master stroke as he turned his marker inside out on the edge of the area but didn’t quite get hold of his shot that ran tamely into the gloves of Finlay.
However, Daventry wrapped up the 3 points when Jordon Orosz was in quickly to regain possession in the midfield area and roll a fine ball through to Taylor Orosz who slotted coolly into the back of the net for his second of the game. The score was 5-2 with 2 minutes left to play.
Just before the final whistle, Milne was crudely hacked down by Emery as he tried to surge into midfield, forcing the referee to brandish a yellow card which seemed very lenient indeed.
The final score finished 5-2 to Daventry in an event-packed encounter full of goals, cards and controversial decisions. Harborough will certainly have learned a lot from these tough opening two matches and the management team will now have plenty to ponder going into their FA cup clash on Saturday afternoon.
-Match report by Harry Shephard