Harrow Borough 1 Lowestoft Town 1
Lowestoft control most of the game in a 1-1 draw at Harrow Borough but are denied the three points when a clear penalty isn't given.
Harrow Borough: Shea, Barima, Louth, Sankoh, Peacock, Maissiat, Butterworth, Wolleaston (Berry 31 mins), Hawkins (Osobu 69 mins), Lucien, Akinola
Subs; Osobu, Horner, Berry, Kakulu
Lowestoft Town: Jones, Williams, Gaughran, Gleeson, Smith, Osei (Frew 68 mins), Fisk, Jarvis, Okay, Henderson, Reed
Subs; Frew, Bailey, Haizel, Jessup
Lowestoft control most of the game in a 1-1 draw at Harrow Borough but are denied the three points when a clear penalty is given by the linesman but ignored by the referee.
Lowestoft went into the game fully aware of Harrow player Lucien with his dangerous, high quality deliveries and his ability to score from deadball situations, as Lowestoft found out when he scored a sweetly struck free-kick against them last season. The Lowestoft defence also went into the game with memories of Akinola from last season and would undoubtedly be trying to stifle his pace and skill down the flanks and across the front line.
This fixture had always contained goals with Lowestoft securing an enthralling 4-2 win two seasons ago, before fighting back from 3-1 down last season to end up drawing 3-3, in a game they very nearly won in the end. So goals were in the offing but Lowestoft had to make changes with Eagle, Jack Ainsley and Stuart Ainsley serving one match suspensions after picking up five bookings each. However, Fisk and Reed both returned to the side.
The game kicked off in good conditions, under a clear sky but on a pitch that would no doubt cut up from the off.
Early chances came for both sides with Fisk glancing a header wide for Lowestoft and up the other end a Harrow corner was flashed across the Lowestoft area by Lucien but nobody in a red shirt could get on the end of it.
Lowestoft had gone with five in midfield and as the first ten minutes approached they took hold of matters and started to press confidently. Williams and Osei were already looking like being the main outlet, combining well down the right but it was Harrow who very nearly drew first blood. Lucien picked out Butterworth on the left and with him finding Hawkins in the box and just a few yards from goal, it looked like Lowestoft would go behind but with the ball appearing to have gone over him, Jones made a great save to deny Harrow.
Lowestoft hit back, breaking away from a harrow free-kick and piling forward in numbers with Osei being found and cutting into the area from the left, only to see his bending effort go inches past the upright. Osei was in the thick of it again as the half progressed, backing into the defence well and laying it off to Okay, who's low drilled shot flashed past the foot of the post.
The Lowestoft midfield three of Fisk, Okay and Jarvis were really running the show now and following a sweet pass from Fisk, the forward running Williams was in on goal and looked certain to send the blues ahead but keeper Shea made a great save to deny him.
The half hour mark had passed and the Lowestoft midfield were controlling matters and playing some great passing football on a surface that was now starting to cut up.
Harrow were forced into their first change with Berry replacing the injured Wolleaston and just two minutes after the change, Lowestoft found themselves behind against the run of play. Akinola had been found up field against Gleeson and with him shaking the Lowestoft captain off, he appeared to be grounded by Jones but a tough decision for the referee wasn't required, as Akinola steered the ball home while on the deck for 1-0 (33 mins).
As halftime approached Lowestoft were continuing to control possession but their tempo had dropped off a bit and on the stroke of halftime Henderson showed his frustrations and went into the referees book for back chat.
The second half started with Lowestoft pressing from the off but the pitch was now cutting up badly and making the task ahead of them even sterner. Lowestoft were doing all the hard work and doing it well but the final ball or decision wasn't quite going for them and was all that was standing between them and a goal.
Much like the first half, Harrow were under pressure but always looking for a chance on the break and with the dangerous Lucien getting in behind, Jones showed great alertness and reactions to come out, stand up well and deal with the danger.
The Lowestoft defence looked fairly comfortable in dealing with the Harrow counter attacking tactics and with the Trawlerboys continuing to retain possession there was a sense that if Lowestoft could just find an equaliser, they would go on to win it.
Just over twenty minutes of the match remained and with the tempo slightly dropping in the Lowestoft play, Frew was introduced on the right flank for Osei. A minute later Harrow introduced Osobu for Hawkins but they couldn't stop the continued pressure by a determined looking Lowestoft.
Henderson was again looking like getting back to his best with a number of bursting runs through midfield. It was one of his bursting runs that ended with him sliding a ball to his right to find Jarvis, who produced a lovely touch to get past the player and lay the ball back across the box but frustratingly nobody was there in a Lowestoft shirt to convert.
The only negative on the day for Lowestoft had been the quality of delivery from corners and it was from one of these that Harrow pounced on the counter attack in numbers but they were unable to force an effort on goal as the Lowestoft defence closed ranks.
It finally looked like Lowestoft were going to get a deserved equaliser when a quickly taken goal kick by Jones found Henderson high up the pitch and in on goal but with just the keeper to beat he got too close to Shea and a golden chance went begging.
Lowestoft were pushing numbers forward and had the bit between their teeth but Butterworth caught them on the hop, latched onto a loose ball in midfield and burst past a few blue shirts to head in on goal but steaming over from the left at pace was Williams to make a superb and well timed tackle to stop the threat and player in their tracks.
The final fifteen minutes of the match were upon us and with the exception of being guilty of not pulling the trigger from distance at times, the effort of the Lowestoft players was unrelenting.
A delicious cross from the left by Okay picked out Reed at the far post and with his header hitting the back of the net, Lowestoft thought they were finally level but waving on the touch line was the flag for offside to deny and frustrate them.
Harrow were having to defend and were showing good resilience by blocking a number of balls and efforts in their box. Lowestoft were desperate to score though and with Reed showing great strength to come inside from the right, he was bundled to the floor inside the area. The linesman immediately waved furiously for the foul and Lowestoft looked set to draw level from the spot, only to see the referee incredibly ignore his linesman and the clear penalty, much to the shock of the players, bench, supporters and even a number of Harrow fans.
It was an incredible decision which led to understandable frustration and a booking for Gleeson, as the Lowestoft captain vocally questioned the decision.
Just as Lowestoft looked like they were going to be cruelly denied anything from the game, Henderson worked a shot and even though a great block shut out the effort, the ball found its way back to Henderson, who shaped the ball towards the far post and into the net for 1-1 (88 mins).
As the game entered stoppage time Lowestoft looked hungry for what would have been a deserved win but as the whistle sounded they had to settle for a point and swallow the penalty decision that had denied them a possible chance of victory.
It was another solid performance with some good football played on a very tricky surface by a Lowestoft side who at present are in good spirit and playing with confidence.
There were strong performances by Henderson and the impenetrable, focused and highly impressive Williams. However, I thought today was all about Lowestoft winning their battles in midfield and dominating possession, which must have been at least 70/30 in their favour. Therefore the midfield three of Fisk, Jarvis and my Man of the Match Erkan Okay deserved the plaudits today, as Lowestoft now look to prepare for a lengthy trip to Bognor Regis on Tuesday night.