Harrow Borough boss David Howell is urging fans to turn up in their droves for next Wednesday's final pre-season game against Championship contenders Queens Park Rangers as a bumper crowd could aid his side's fortunes in the new campaign.
Howell is operating on one of the lowest budgets in the Ryman Football League Premier Division and cash generated by a sizeable crowd for the visit of Iain Dowie's side to Earlsmead would help loosen the shackles on the manager's hands.
More than 600 fans, many of them Hoops followers based in Harrow and the surrounding areas, attended last season's pre-season fixture, which the visitors won 3-0, but this time the friendly falls on a somewhat awkward date for Borough.
QPR open their new league campaign with a home clash against Barnsley on Saturday before travelling to face Swindon Town in the Carling Cup on Tuesday, 24 hours before the Earlsmead contest.
However, with QPR then facing another away trip, a league clash at Sheffield United on the following Saturday, it could tempt fans who are Loftus Road regulars to see their heroes at close quarters on Wednesday without the need for an arduous 10-hour round trip.
"The budget is very limited at the club," said Howell. "It relies on contributions from the vice-president and other bodies to keep it alive. Money is so incredibly tight that I've got to get a
return for anything I pay out. Running costs include coach travel to away games, to hiring training facilities at Northolt School.
"The calibre of players is also affected; I've had some managers keen to offer me players but they know we have no money. They don't want to push players our way as they know
they can't get anything for playing.
"We don't have the strength and depth and what I need is players who can deliver more on a consistent basis rather than flashes of brilliance now and again."
Howell, a staunch Hoops fan, was delighted with the turnout for the corresponding fixture last year and is
hoping for a repeat next week.
"If we get anywhere near the gate we had last season I will be happy," added the Borough boss. "The money from that game took us up to Christmas on the budget, covering our £1,000-a-week running costs. If we can do that again this year it would be brilliant.
"There are a lot of QPR fans in the
area and this will almost be more of a home game for them than at Loftus Road. It is just unfortunate the game comes after they have started their season, but it was the only date we could both play on.
"It doesn't matter whether they bring a team with players for the future or include players returning from injury. You can see the size of their squad and the quality of players they are signing. It will be a relaxed atmosphere at Earlsmead and the fans will be able to get autographs at the end."
Meanwhile, Harrow lost 3-0 at Chesham United on Tuesday night while another XI drew 1-1 at Rayner's Lane earlier that day. It followed on from their 3-1 win at Hayes on Saturday with Lee Hall, Zimzon Lelo and Jerome Hall on target. That was the perfect response to the midweek 2-4 reversal to Albert Adomah's Barnet.
Howell has trialled a new tactic in the pre-season games, with some players ordered to pressurize the opposition and refrain from tackling.
"It reduces the chances of bookings and injuries," explained Howell. "You want players to play with their heads and have more control on the game. I think it is something that is foreign to the players and will take a while to drum into them.
"Some players can sometimes over-commit in a tackle and get sent off, and that can be the difference between three points and nothing." [25a0] Entrance to the match is £10 adults and £5 OAPs and students.