Match Report – Saturday 26th January 2019

Desborough Town FC v Harborough Town FC

Harborough return to winning ways against local rivals Desborough.

After a tough start to 2019, Harborough were looking to put in a positive performance before an enforced 2 week layoff, with next week’s opponents, Leicester Nirvana in the last 16 of the FA Vase. Harborough made one change from the midweek defeat against high flying Deeping Rangers, with Taras Petranyuk coming in for a rested Alex Morris. This meant Dan Forbes pushed up alongside Aaron Preston with Petranyuk lining up just behind the front two.

The game started in a typical derby fashion with both teams coming out of the blocks quickly and one or two niggly free kicks being conceded, which slowed the game up. It took about 15 minutes to get going and it was the home team that created the first neat interchange of football which ended in a deflected shot going out for a corner. The corner however was well dealt with by Harborough’s defence and any chance of an early goal was stifled out by Giles in the Bees goal. Harborough did their best to get a foothold in the game and were neat and tidy in their build up play but the final pass was missing on a couple of occasions when they broke quickly. Tony Bartlett was getting high up the pitch and causing some problems down the Desborough left flank. On 22 minutes, a neat interchange saw Preston shoot venomously at the home keeper who made a good stop, but the ball looped up and it looked as if the ball would drop into the goal only for a Desborough defender to head off the line. Harborough continued to press and forced a couple of corners which came to nothing, but the visitors were now looking to take control and had more of the possession. Next a cross from Finlay Gray on the left just eluded the outstretched Forbes and Desborough cleared again.

Harborough were getting good control of the game and Steer and Milne in midfield were getting on the ball much more and bringing both wide players into the game. However, it was Desborough who nearly took the lead on 32 minutes when again, good interchange found Jake Bettles 20 yards out who let fly only to see Giles in the Harborough goal get a hand to the ball and help it onto the crossbar, the ball rebounded to an on rushing Desborough player whose shot beat Giles only for Josh Walsh to clear off the line to preserve parity. Harborough were creating more chances at the back end of the half and another corner from Bartlett found Skipper Ben Williams at the far post and his looping header was cleared from under his own cross bar by a Desborough defender under pressure from Petranyuk.

Half time 0-0

In the first minute of the second half and whilst Harborough were appealing in vain for the linesman’s flag Desborough nearly took the lead. A cross from Luke Stevens found Liam Boath unmarked at the far post but the on rushing Desborough player could not quite get to the ball to make the contact needed to open the scoring and the ball went wide of the visitors goal. This seemed to spur Harborough on and they took control of the game, starting to dominate possession and looking to break quickly at every opportunity. On a heavy, sticky pitch the visitors started to carve out a few chances of their own. Preston who was having a good game with his hold up play and neat work with the midfield was next to be thwarted by the home keeper, Chris Jones. He cut in from the right and fired a fierce left footed strike but the keeper was well positioned to save comfortably. A couple of corners followed and again Harborough looked dangerous from these set plays but again the home keeper stood strong. In a rare Desborough attack, Jake Bettles was fed on 60 minutes with a neat through ball but good covering defensive play from Callam Traynor snuffed out any opportunity. Harborough made a change on 62 minutes with Alex Morris replacing Petranyuk, with Morris going up top with Preston and Forbes dropping into the vacated no. 10 position by Petranyuk.

From the start of his introduction Morris looked lively and his pace was catching the tiring home defence with runs in behind. On 66 minutes Morris was fouled and a free kick awarded to Harborough centrally about 40 yards out from the home goal. The ball was clipped forward and Milne, falling backwards somehow managed to get his header on target and back across the keeper and what looked like a certain goal was unbelievably stopped by the impressive Jones in the Desborough goal. It must be said that this was an absolutely stunning save by the home keeper, who impressed all afternoon. Gray down the left was starting to get more joy going forward and was forcing his opposite number in to a lot more defensive duties. Harborough looked strong and looked to press home their possession advantage. They forced 3 or 4 corners in quick succession and on 73 minutes one corner was cleared by the home defence but Walsh picked the ball up just inside the Desborough half and ran at the home midfield passing 2 of his opposite number, as he entered the penalty box he looked to round Cooper only for the centre back to bring Walsh down, penalty Harborough. Ben Williams coolly slotted home into the keeper’s top left corner, who made a valiant effort to keep the ball out, getting a hand to the penalty but the power with which the ball was struck was too much and Harborough led 0-1.

Harborough controlled the last 15 minutes superbly well with Preston being replaced up top by Harry Henbury on 80 minutes and Milne replace by Taylor on 88 minutes. Morris and Henbury ran and chased everything never letting the Desborough defenders settle and causing real problems with their pace, getting in behind the home defence, time after time. Desborough were clearly tiring and with time running out and pushing for an equaliser in the 94th minute the home team forced a corner. Everyone was up for Desborough, including the keeper, the corner was headed clear to the edge of the box by a Bees defender, the ball fell to Bettles, who was immediately closed down by Forbes and Morris, with the former racing clear from the edge of his own box unchallenged, nearly the full length of the pitch to score in an untended Desborough goal. 0-2 and the points were heading back up the A6 to Harborough.

It has to be said that this was a great all round team performance from defence to the forwards and the substitutes who came on. Harborough thoroughly deserved the win, a point also magnanimously conceded by the home Management team. Consistency is now the key word for Harborough and with an enforced break next week, I am sure the Coaches will keep working hard to instil the right virtues and will hope to keep this momentum going into the next game, away at Sleaford on Saturday 9th February 2019.