1. Let’s face it: this was a real smash and grab. A very welcome win, yes – but not as the result of a coherent, dominant performance. There could’ve been no valid complaints from K’s had the 3-1 scoreline been reversed, in all honesty. But that doesn’t mean this was a poor effort: this was a dogged, resolute and determined 90 minutes from K’s, and that counts for a lot, especially when performances so far this season have been the definition of fair-weather. Aaron Goode and Alan Inns in particular were like a human wall between Rob Tolfrey and Harrow, protecting the K’s goal with any limb they could. The one moment that best summed up K’s industry and desire was when Aaron Hopkinson chose to dive headlong at a ball being shielded out by the giant Harrow centre half near the byline for a goal kick, nearly injuring himself in the process. If I can’t see good football for my tenner, that’s the sort of lunatic commitment I want to see instead.
Aside from the backs to the wall effort from K’s, though, there were two major reasons for the result: the two goalkeepers and a controversial refereeing performance.
2. Don’t you wish your keeper was Rob Tolfrey? Harrow certainly must have been left thinking that at 5pm on Saturday. This was a vintage Tolfs masterclass: assertive and commanding from crosses, unbeatable from shots and perfection with his left boot in getting the ball clear. The Harrow keeper, on the other hand, had an absolute shocker, the sort of afternoon that makes a season of watching non-league football worthwhile. After only a few minutes, he somehow managed to let a weak Ty Smith shot from 20 yards squirm through his grip and into the net. Under the usual questioning from the away support – “did you win your place in a raffle, mate?” – and some new lines of enquiry – “can I lend you a couple of these foam hands, keeper? You look like you need them” – he managed to get worse and worse. He’d already spooned one backpass out of play when a few minutes later he chipped another straight up in the air to Pico, and that led straight to our penalty and second goal. He should even have done better for K’s third, beaten at his near post from a tight angle by Jake Kempton’s shot when Kempo had in all honesty pushed himself far too wide to look like scoring. Even better, he’d brought two mates down to the game to watch him play, and best of all they chose to stand behind his goal, right next to our fans. They called us “a bunch of f*cking pricks” throughout, but didn’t actually have either the balls to kick off or the brains to walk off and stand somewhere else. They had a terrible afternoon.
3. The referee? His decision to award K’s a penalty was certainly a mistake: in trying to turn, Pico tripped himself up and went down rather than being tripped by the Harrow defender. Later in the first half, a Harrow goal was disallowed in controversial circumstances, but as this happened at the other end I only know it was controversial due to the volley of abuse directed towards the ref and linesmen by the amusingly irate home support. Conceivably, it could have been 1-1 at half time rather than 2-0.
4. On the point of the home fans: what has happened to Harrow Borough FC over the Summer?! A ground that is normally so eerily silent that you can carry out a spoken (not shouted!) conversation with the fans at the other end was transformed for a period of the second half into, if not quite the Ali Sami Yen or the Westfalenstadion, a place with some genuine hostility and atmosphere. At one point there was shouting coming from three sides of the ground, something I’ve never seen in all my visits to Earsmead. More, please – this was the first time I’ve ever enjoyed a visit to what is normally a deathly dull football ground.
5. Barring the (slightly weird) 7-0 win there’s not been a lot to cheer about K’s performances so far. Max Hustwick is making mistakes and getting punished for them; we’re not dominating games through central midfield as we’d like; we’re looking too predictable and slow going forward; Ricky Sappleton looks off the pace. Work to do. Yet despite another average performance this was a fun day out, and it carried on the theme of K’s season so far: not great on the pitch, but pretty good off it. Behind the goal it feels like there’s been a concerted effort to just have a laugh – not really at anyone’s expense, but in general. It’s working, with new chants and foam hands galore. Let’s keep up the momentum, whether we improve on the pitch or not.
Player Ratings: Tolfrey 9; Goode 9, Hustwick 5, Inns 8, Casey 7; Bennett 7 (Hopkinson 7), Smith 6, Sweeney 6, Dean 5; Sappleton 4 (Kempton 8), Gomez 7