Dec 27 2012 By Jon Batham
RYMAN PREMIER DIVISION Harrow 0 Wealdstone 0
HARROW boss Dave Anderson tipped arch rivals Wealdstone to be title challengers after the Boxing Day derby ended in stalemate.
Borough claimed their first point in the festive clash with the Stones in six attempts – this despite Kingstonian loanees Saheed Sankoh and Charles Ofusu-Hene having to start on the bench after getting caught out by the tube strike and not arriving at Earlsmead until 3:20pm.
Despite the disruption to their pre-match plans the hosts created more chances than their strangely subdued neighbours. However, Anderson was more than happy to take a share of the spoils against a side he believes will be right in the hunt for honours come May.
He said: “Wealdstone are a genuine top six team and one who I think have a real chance of promotion this year, so to give them the run that we did I’m really pleased. I thought we did well. We probably had more chances yet in saying that our keeper has made the best save of the game.
“However Rikki Banks has made a double save in the first half and how he made the second one I don’t know. When you turn up at these games as the underdog which our club is more than it isn’t, of course before kick-off you would take a point.”
On the enforced reshuffle because of his late arrivals Anderson added: “They should have been in a taxi before they were but that’s a case of welcome to non-league management.
“I spoke to the lads this morning by text saying be aware of the trains and to be aware of the A40 because the Greenford flyover is shut. The lads have come from the other side of London and have found it difficult to get here and I wasn’t particularly happy.
“However, their effort to get here is what I will focus on more than the fact that they were late. If you pay £300 a week you can expect players to be sitting here any time you want them, but when you pay them the money we pay them sometimes this happens and it is about your reaction to it. But all that desperately takes away from the real story which is our performance.”
On an Earlsmead pitch which stood up well to all the rain of preceding days, Borough threatened inside two minutes as Frankie Merrifield’s shot from distance forced Rikki Banks to scoop the ball behind.
Stones’ best player going forward on the day Kurtney Brooks responded with a header and a shot, both of which drew saves from Elvijs Putnins in the home goal before Borough came the closest to a goal all afternoon after just eight minutes.
An innocuous looking ball into the box caused confusion and Simeon Akinola reacted quickest to force a fine stop from Banks who somehow recovered to thwart the young striker a second time.
Even so when the ball fell to Shaun Lucien a goal seemed certain, but his well struck shot was somehow blocked on the line by Wes Parker.
The hosts continued to hold sway and threatened again midway through the half when Banks and Akinola contested a ball outside the Stones box, but when it broke to Michael Barima he lobbed wide of an unguarded net.
The miss would have proved costly six minutes later had Putnins not produced his best save of the afternoon to tip Brooks’ dipping 25-yard drive onto the bar and behind in what was the closest Gordon Bartlett’s men came to a goal all afternoon.
The second half saw Stones exert more control, but the visitors rarely threatened to break the deadlock.
The vocal away support screamed for a penalty after Richard Jolly went down in the box under the challenge of Michael Peacock, but there were few protests from the stones players as play was waved on.
Jolly’s one real chance came with 18 minutes left when Chris Moore’s flick on sent him racing clear, but his shot on the half volley was well parried by Putnins.
Bartlett admitted his side were second best, but given defeat for leaders Margate and Whitehawk’s draw with Hastings he was happy to see the positives of a below par display.
He said: “We are in a better position than we were when we arrived here today if you look at other results. We did not perform – it’s that simple and they were probably better than us over the 90 minutes. Our ball retention was poor, we lacked the creativity which has put us in such a good position so far this year and the question we asked in the changing rooms was how many times did we test their goalkeeper and the answer was far from enough. But It’s the old maxim if you don’t play well just don’t get beat, so a point is not the end of the world.”