Wealdstone’s institutionalised penalty shoot out ineptitude cost them once again on Tuesday evening when, ironically, having dramatically restored parity with a Sean Cronin penalty kick in the 89th minute, they blew this league cup time at the sudden death stage, losing 4-3 on spot kicks.
Harrow Borough had no doubt sensed a rare and long awaited ‘derby’ victory with Stones not at full strength and fully focussed on Saturday’s massive top of the table clash at Dulwich. This cup match gave the firm impression of an unwanted distraction, and an atmosphere less Vale only added to the feeling that Stones’ fans lack of interest in even turning up would transmit itself to the performance on the pitch. And it did pretty much. Overall, this was a disjointed and indifferent performance from the home side but made creditable by them snatching an unlikely draw at the end of normal time, but having achieved that parity with ten men after a crazy challenge by Mark Bentley had him sent off with a straight red.
The Borough faithful enjoyed a rare opportunity to gloat at a convoluted win but the reality is that this so called ‘derby’ has lost any edge it had and this game was viewed by most as meaningless. Nevertheless the fact that Harrow supporters made more noise that the indifferent home contingent should still be considered embarrassing.
The fact that extra time was dispensed with appeared to be good news so that the inevitably painful process of the penalty shoot out could be hastened to its inevitable conclusion.
As for the match itself Stones began quite brightly and Scott McGleish spurned an early half chance. But after 7 minutes play Stones should have been a goal down after Shaun Lucien’s excellent free kick smashed off the cross bar with Aldi Haxhia motionless. Fortunately goal line technology hasn’t yet entered the realm of the Ryman League.
A flowing move from Stones almost delivered the spectacular but McGleish’s bicycle kick from Chris Moore went over James Shea’s goal.
Borough looked by far the more threatening and purposeful with bags more pace on offer than the home side with Stones looking increasingly unbalanced and lacking in inspiration. The Reds duly took the lead on 17 minutes with an effort from James Fray.
Stones had surprisingly equalised within 3 minutes when a challenge by Stefan Bailey on Shea resulted in the ‘keeper somehow flapping the ball in. But Borough soon restored their lead when the lively Robert Hastings poked home following defensive blundering on the half hour mark.
The Reds should have sewn the tie up on 43 minutes when Haxhia clumsily brought down Hastings but he atoned brilliantly when he saved the resultant penalty kick from Fray. There is a theme developing here.
The half ended with Moore blasting over at the near post.
Stones did start the second period more positively and assertively and 5 minutes into the half a great cross from Bailey was headed onto the woodwork by a flying but unlucky Peter Dean.
But any possibility of Stones maintaining real momentum was suddenly halted by a rush of blood to Mark Bentley’s head with a hugely rash challenge on sub Michael Peacock and off he went.
Borough failed to turn their pacy possession into further goals that allowed the home side to regroup and with the introduction of the lively Reece Grant they started to attack with some purpose. One minute from time and Moore was upended and this tale of penalties dramatically continued. Cronin smashed home the spot kick to briefly deflate Borough.
But then it was ‘proper’ penalties and after Haxhia had saved one and Boro blasted one into orbit it was Stones that had the seemingly simple task of scoring the winner at the sudden death stage but Moore’s kick was saved and Reece Grant followed suit and defeat was snatched from victory. For the record Godfrey, Cronin and Little scored their pens. Adam Martin also missed.
Wealdstone: Haxhia, Hammond, Siva, Okimo, Cronin, Godfrey, Bentley, Bailey, McGleish, Moore, Dean. Subs used: Martin, Grant, Little. N/u: North.