RYMAN LEAGUE PREMIER DIVISION
Harrow Borough 0
Victor Osobu’s red card was just part of the drama of Harrow Borough’s enthralling goalless draw with Bognor on Saturday.
Osobu was dismissed in the 72nd minute of this absorbing encounter following an incident referee Jonathan Creswick will not remember with any great relish.
The official, was summoned by the stand-side linesman after Osobu handled just outside the Bognor penalty area.
Following lengthy discussions Creswick showed a yellow card to Calum Willock for the offence, so booking the wrong player, and it was only the intervention of the assistant on the dugout’s side which eventually fingered the correct culprit.
Having been booked for dissent in the first half Osobu had to go, but Borough demonstrated the resolve which has served them so well in recent weeks to claim a draw.
Indeed, with a little luck the reds may have pinched it with the 10 men as Simeon Akinola served up a sumptuous cameo from the bench, twice coming close to a winner in the dying stages.
However, on a day when the hosts created the better chances, while the Rocks forced the greater number of openings a draw was the right result.
It is a mark of Borough’s greater squad depth at the moment that Dave Anderson made seven changes – only one enforced – from Tuesday’s league cup win over arch rivals Wealdstone.
Brandon Horner, Michael Peacock, Osobu, Rob Wolleaston, Willock, Saheed Sankoh and Steve Butterworth were the septet to return, while two-goal hero from the cup victory James Frey could not even secure a place on the bench.
The visitors began the brighter with Louis John’s seventh minute header forcing ex-Arsenal youngster James Shea to tip the ball over.
Butterworth missed the target with Borough’s first opening before Wolleaston warmed the palms of Mark Zawadski, while Ollie Pearce forced another save from Shea in a frenetic opening.
The Rocks should have been in front on 28 minutes when an excellent corner from the left was flicked on by Stuart Axten, but John headed over from close range when it looked easier to score.
Craig Robson also failed to hit the target from the next set piece and Borough were indebted to their goalkeeper once more nine minutes from the break when he raced out smartly to deny Pearce when the striker was clean through.
The best chance of the half though fell to the home side on 38 minutes when Butterworth stole possession just outside the box and fed Osobu on the right of the area.
The winger unselfishly squared to Willock who got the connection all wrong allowing Zawadski to save comfortably.
It was a chance the ex-Brentford man in his pomp would have gobbled up, but as it is his wait for a first Borough goal goes on.
There was still time for Terry Dodd to force Shea into his best save of the day yet before a breathless half came to a close.
Lucien replaced a limping Sankoh six minutes after the break to give Anderson’s side even more pace for their counter-attacking threat, but it was Bognor who were close to the breakthrough again when Shea denied Dodd at the end of a sweeping move.
And the custodian was at his best again to keep out Aaron Hopkinson’s low shot with his legs.
The closest Butterworth came to a ninth goal in Harrow colours was a shot on the turn on 63 minutes palmed behind by Zawadski.
It was the former Carshalton striker’s last contribution as he gave way to Akinola.
Osubu’s dismissal soon followed, leaving Borough a man light for the last 18 minutes and it looked like a backs to the wall struggle when Michael Chambers was forced to clear a Pearce cross over his own bar.
However, both sides would come close to snatching victory as the clock ticked down.
With five minutes to play Akinola danced between four challenges to play in skipper Wolleaston, but although he went round Zawadski the angle was too acute and he shot off target.
Then came Bognor’s last chance for a win courtesy of substitute Ben Godfrey’s fierce drive superbly parried by Shea before Danny Leech hacked clear.
The final minute saw Akinola terrorize the Rocks’ back line once more, getting beyond the last defender and poking the ball goalwards, but Zawadski had advanced quickly and deserved the good fortune of the shot sticking in his gloves.
Axten escaped with yellow for cynically stopping the young striker’s next raid in its tracks, but Akinola still almost had the last word deep in stoppage-time heading a long ball over Zawadski only for some great last-ditch defending to clear the danger before he could poke the ball home.
It may have finished 0-0, but dull this was not.