North Greenford Utd 2-1 Harrow Borough. Att:
FA Cup 1st Qualifying Round Replay 2013/14
If we were a professional outfit there would come a time when we had to take stock, reflect on our existence, ponder why we started and take a long, studious look in the mirror. We didn’t do that but we did ponder one of the primary talking points of FA Cup football. The notion of the ‘shock’, the so-called giant killing.
To do this we got a massive wall, a big sheet of paper, some coloured pens and two brains the size of Sepp Blatter’s (irony). We consulted our FA sanctioned book of jargon and did some ‘blue sky thinking’, some ‘running things up the flag pole’ and a little ‘brain-storming’. Then we had a beer, binned it all and just did a hearty amount of procrastinating with a dessert of navel gazing. Our conclusion was the same, giant killings. They are THE thing about the FA Cup. We realised these occasions never happen to us.
We have tried, though, once going to Harrow Borough hoping to see them upset Chesterfield in this very competition. It didn’t happen. That was nearly two years ago. We hadn’t seen a cupset for a while before that and haven’t seen one since, we are a void for giant killers. We are the Barren Knights of Non League FA Cup action. [Ask Yer Dad].
Harrow gaffer Dave Anderson was absolutely livid with his side after the first drawn game so, after a very public hairdryer-ing on The Non League Show, we expected the players would turn up this time. Basically, we didn’t hold out much hope of a shock and visited North Greenford last night more because we’ve never been before.
The Southern League’s second tier is split in two so it’s difficult to say how much further the ‘Blues’ are down the football pyramid than the ‘Reds’ of Harrow (there’s something nice about this game being Reds v Blues, no poncy nicknames like the ‘Squires of Yore’ or the ‘Hurdy Gurdy Men’, just two colours, jostling for position in the FA Cup rainbow – aaahhhh). But, nominally, it’s just one tier. Greenford are hovering in lower mid-table, while Harrow Borough find themselves perched just above the dotted line of relegation. This tie certainly had more shock potential than the night’s other Ryman/Southern League replay, Met Police (above Harrow) v Chalfont St Peter (below North Greenford), or so we thought – and we’ve had plenty of Imber Court so that was never going to happen.
Because we like him, because he’s on the radio and because he was so livid with the team’s performance on Saturday that we thought his head might explode, we decided to keep an eye on Mr Anderson tonight and, after we’d sauntered past the DISCO on the high street, we arrived at Berkeley Fields just as an affable and recovered Dave was filling in his team sheet.
#daveandersonwatch Pre-match. Chirpy but relaxed. Imagine KWS doing a Brotherhood of Man cover version.
But it’s not all about Anderson. His opposite number in the North Greenford dug-out is even more famous. Let’s get this out the way: Neil Shipperley, bean-pole (kind of) striker turned enormo-manager, if you believe the internet. In truth, Neil’s not as large as folk would have you believe, he’s just got an adorably chubby face and the usual girth increase seen on retired footballers. And he’s nowhere near the size of his keeper, who had his own gravitational pull that nearly had my burger out of my hands as I walked past his pitch-side warm up.
After the players had ventured down the beautifully industrial ‘tunnel’, early doors it was pretty even. The first half-chance fell to the ‘minnows’ (got to build up the giant-killer’s part, right?). A fluid move down the right from North Greenford carved Harrow open and the shot (by someone, no idea who) fizzed past the staunchion. They have proper staunchions at Berkeley Fields, the u-shaped metal-work in which, once every 37 years, lies a magical power that captures footballs.
#daveandersonwatch Tense, think the few bars either side of when Hooky kicks in at the start of ‘Sunrise’.
The early exchanges were even, not least on the bench where both managers were trying the old “Berate the ref more than your opposite number can in order to create a sense of injustice among your own players”. This didn’t work but was exemplified by Anderson’s shout at his striker “Benji, be stronger, the referee’s rubbish”, said with that trade-mark knowing wink of mischief. The attritional, competitive ref baiting continued, Shipperley fighting back with “they’ve gone quiet, that says it all ref” referring to the (lack of) reaction from Harrow’s bench after a Greenford penalty appeal.
Bosh, as quick as you could say “thats going to ease the nerves”, Harrow were in front. Longish ball, very quick striker races onto it and tucks it home. It was a breakaway goal that was harsh on the home side after the penalty shout and having some chances of their own. This, though, opened the proverbial door. For the remainder of the half Harrow were excellent at everything but finishing, the nadir of which was a thrice attempted shot that, at the final time of asking, was hooked off the line by a defender who could scarcely believe he was allowed the chance to get near it.
#daveandersonwatch Calm (see bad photo, below, of Dave’s calm head). Put the whole Enigma album on, then some Enya, then have the cheese course, put your slippers on and settle in for the night with an expensive brandy.
It was a fundamentally good half of football for the neutral and, on chances, it perhaps could have been North Greenford 2-5 Harrow Borough. But it wasn’t and the ground filled with cliches about “rueing” and “regretting” “missed chances”.
#daveandersonwatch Half Time. He reckoned it should be 2-6, not 2-5. Slightly agitated by profligacy but otherwise OK. Select your iTunes library and put on anything you have rated 3*, that will just about cover the average mood.
The second half was a glorious half of cup football. Early Harrow dominance gave way to end to end stuff, which gave way to the home side getting impatient, niggly and losing their discipline. At this point Harrow’s rangey keeper Alex Tokarczyk started taking a LOT of time retrieving balls and taking goal kicks. ‘C’mon you ratbag’ was the wise heckle from the lady behind the goal at the Harrow keeper’s repeated time-wasting. Quite right, too.
#daveandersonwatch Relaxed-ish. Kind of happy. Think Opus III’s ‘Fine Day’, the lyrics seem quite positive but the vocal delivery empty, absent of emotion.
And then, just as it looked like North Greenford had run out of ideas and steam, substitute Liam Hind looked up 30 yards out, no one closed him down (a theme Dave and his managerial side-kick had noted on the bench in the first half) and the keeper was on his penalty spot. Hind unleashed the kind of dipping screamer that even Tokarczyk could get nowhere near.
#daveandersonwatch Apoplectic. Think anything with “Rage” in the title, perhaps picture Paul Rutherford shouting “Rage Hard” through raised leather-clad wrists? Odd images of Dave in a Frankie Goes To Hollywood video … (where was I again …)
As is often the way, the goal completely transformed the underdog, all of a sudden they were a team returned, a team with verve, accuracy and attacking intent. And it wasn’t long until this happened.
I got lucky, I only twice turned on Vine during the game, the other time was just as Hind’s shot rippled the net just a few yards to my left.
North Greenford 2-1 Harrow Borough, the gods of giant killing were finally shining on us!
#daveandersonwatch Armageddon. Turbonegro’s “I Don’t Wanna Be Me” turned up to 11. The Non League Show could be funny this weekend.
Shock on, I was now quite excited. Harrow obviously stepped up a gear and there were some last ditch defensive tackles flying in inadvisably close to the Greenford penalty area. But the Blues were also still attacking and several times could have sealed the win instead of having to struggle through the last five minutes.
And there it was, an FA Cup shock witnessed for the first time in ages. It was a relatively minor shock, for sure, but still a shock nonetheless. Neil Shipperley had, as the game wore on, quietly masterminded a second half performance of some quality from his side who, when their tails are up, are a pretty decent side to watch.
And, although we didn’t see the first game, this one didn’t seem to be because Harrow were bad. Overall they had more possession, better chances and really should have won but, the cliched rueing and regretting was now all that was left.
#daveandersonwatch Full Time. Down but seemingly pragmatic. Think “Disappointed” by Electronic. Someone get the man a cigar.