Who says men can’t multi-task? I was engaged in a delicate three-way operation. Looking up at the electronic screen that would let me know what platform the 18.56 to Gerrards Cross would leave on while simultaneously eating a fragrant Chicken Royale and glancing at my phone for updates on waterlogged pitches. As the Chicken Royale, coated from end to end with mayonnaise, made its final journey from wrapping to mouth, platform 4 appeared on the screen. One final check of my phone. Nothing. The game was still on. There was no turning back now.
Thankfully there seemed to be no suggestion that this game would ever not go ahead, despite plenty of other games falling victim to the afternoon’s deluge. I arrived at Northolt Park and made my way through the quiet residential streets of North West London. My destination, as you may have guessed by now, was the Earlsmead Stadium, my 97th ground for a Chiltern Railways derby between Harrow Borough and Beaconsfield Town.
Competition: Southern League Premier South
Ground: Earlsmead Stadium
Refreshments: £3.40 (two teas and a Mars bar)
Dogs spotted: None
Who are ya, Harrow Borough?
Harrow Borough, known by the locals, as ‘the Reds’ were founded in 1933 as Roxonian FC – a better name if you ask me. You probably didn’t. They joined the Spartan League the following year and changed their name to Harrow Town later in the decade. In the late 1950s, Harrow finally won promotion from the Spartan League and joined the Delphian League which disbanded in 1964.
Harrow were accepted into the Athenian League following the collapse of the Delphian League. They changed their name to Harrow Borough in 1967. Eight years later they were accepted into the Isthmian League. It was the start of a 43-year relationship between the club and the league. The Reds improved rapidly. They were crowned Champions in 1984 and twice turned down financially risky promotions to the Football League.
After the success of the 1980s, Harrow settled into a pattern of mid-table stability with a few seasons of surviving relegation for good measure. They only troubled the writers of promotion play-off previews once in 2011, losing a semi-final 3-2 to Tonbridge Angels after extra time. In the summer of 2018, the Harrow Borough Isthmian League marriage came to an end with a trial separation. The Reds were moved over to the new Southern League Premier South as part of a non-league restructure.
Ground 97: Earlsmead Stadium
The ground is a 10 minute walk from Northolt Park Station. Head for Somervell Road as you exit the station. Then take a right up Carlyon Road and then a left onto Earlsmead. There is also a good sized car park at the ground. It’s one of those grounds that’s hidden away in amongst its suburban surroundings that then expands in front of your eyes as you enter. It’s a well set up ground with a nicely equipped seating area on one side and plenty of covered terracing – a must on a night like this.
Although there was no suggestion of pitch inspections the pitch resonated the kind of squelch that makes the unlucky soul charged with washing the kit quake in his or her boots. ‘Proper football men’, however, tingle with glee at the prospect of a throwback game of wild sliding challenges and kits too muddy to make out the name of the shirt sponsors. One of which, in this case, happened to be UNILAD, the viral publisher that reportedly went into administration shortly before it was bought by a rival viral publisher.
The crowd was below Harrow’s season average, but reasonable considering the weather and the proximity to Christmas. What they lacked in numbers they made up for in vigor. The predictable witty running commentary was mixed with the occasional guttural raw as well as fleeting pleasantries with the home dugout.
The home fans have been slightly spoilt of late. Their last three home games have seen 3-0, 9-3 and 5-0 wins. This run was rudely interrupted by a 7-0 loss away at league leaders Taunton, but Harrow were down to eight men by halftime. The Red are clearly the team to watch for entertainment. Their good run had taken them to sixth in the table. A win tonight would see them go fourth.
The visitors, Beaconsfield, were only two points behind in eighth place. Although I’d never seen them before they’re a familiar name. They’d already visited Got Seats regulars Walthamstow, FC Romania, Aveley, and Leyton Orient in cups this season. In the league, they’d drawn with Hendon and Poole Town as well as defeating Kings Langley in their most recent outings.
Reds tame Rams in wet and wild encounter
The conditions rendered any attempts to play patient passing football obsolete. To their credit, both sides worked this out from the get-go. I shouldn’t be surprised at his considering most of the league play in the damp South West. They moved the ball forward quickly, with purpose, and looked to force errors. The first came early on as a couple of slips led to former Hendon striker Marvin Morgan being clean through on the Harrow goal. He finished well to give the visitors the lead.
Harrow responded immediately and looked to get Bryan and, top scorer, Moss into the game. They were soon level as a sweeping move culminated in Dylan Kearney firing the ball home for the home side. It looked as though the home fans could be in for another goal fest. Harrow had a few chances but Beaconsfield looked just as likely. Their strikers played on the shoulder and nearly sprung the offside trap on a couple of occasions. The linesman came to Harrow’s rescue.
Both sides held out until the break in what was a high tempo first half. The intensity continued in the second half but the quality began to drop as the two sides tired in the conditions. Kearney battled on for the home side in an impressive display. Beaconsfield made a few changes. They also had the best chances of the second half. They both fell to Ajanlekoko. The first came from a cross that he couldn’t redirect with the goal gaping. For the second, he expertly got on the end of a through ball, skipped around the keeper only to slip at the crucial moment and see his shot go agonisingly wide of the empty net.
We appeared to be heading for a draw as the rain finally relented. A few people debated making an early exit for the train in case the precipitation hit back. Luckily, no one did. Harrow then produced one of the best moves of the game. Keita played in Kearney down the left. Kearny then drew in a couple of defenders before returning the ball to the midfielder on the edge of the box. Keita then placed the ball, almost perfectly. It, unfortunately, rebounded back off the bar and was cleared for a corner.
Fans around me let out a resigned sigh that the final chance had passed. It hadn’t. Kearny made some space from the subsequent corner and forced his header beyond the impressive Beaconsfield keeper with pure willpower. Harrow had won the game at the death. They go fourth and are now the top London club in the Premier South. Beaconsfield remain in eighth.