Asbestos rocks!!!

Isthmian League Premier Division – Harrow Borough FC v Wealdstone FC
Wednesday, 11th April 2012, 7.45pm
Earlsmead Stadium
Distance 16 miles, Attendance 617

Driving past a wall of corrugated asbestos cement, into the overflow car park behind the goal at the Earlsmead Stadium, reminded me just how much this sight has meandered through my life. Granted nostalgia is not what you’d expect of such a poisonous material, but when reminiscing about this part of North West London asbestos is right up there in the still-warm memory charts; along with concrete, pebble dash, rough red brick, and yew hedges. I’ve been here before of course but, not as often as I once did and, never to admire the architecture that I find so evocative.
Following the two world wars, to rectify a huge housing shortage, the government sanctioned a three-pronged course of action. The city centres got tower blocks, the outskirts got new estates, and public transport was improved to serve both. With precious little money spare however, function took preference over form, and the resulting boom in the burbs gave rise to huge population growth in both Ruislip and Harrow, and a hell of a lot of pebble dash.

Emerging from impoverished East End dwellings, my family pitched up in Middlesex at about the same time the foundations first went down for Earlsmead Stadium, for Roxonian FC* to play in. Looking about, it wasn’t just the materials used in the build but, even down to the programme shed and tea bar; everything about the design of the ground, and how it nestles into the surrounding streets, reminded me of trips to see my late grandparents. It was fitting therefore that I stood pitch-side, to watch this game, with my uncle (who has a few tales about his playing days in non league football but I’ll save those for now).

On the pitch it was hard to pick a team to root for. Both were Middlesex clubs, both have taken developing Watford players on loan this season, and both were desperate for the points; Harrow to stay up, Wealdstone to get into the play-offs.

A large enthusiastic crowd had turned up and both sections were in fine voice. Kicking off Harrow immediately went on the offensive, pressuring the Stones and their nervous looking stand-in keeper, Ashlee Jones, into a handful of close calls. The first one, a poor punch, when defending a corner resulted in a goalmouth scramble and a timely clearance off the line from Kurtney Brooks. “COME ON YOU REDDDS!!!!!!” screamed a small group of Boro fans nearby, prompting my uncle to demand we move further up the touchline. Then, on more than one occasion, we witnessed Jones failing to command his area leaving defenders to play the ball out instead. Clearly the loss of Jonathan North to injury is a big one for Wealdstone, and Jones’ hasn’t has time to build enough confidence to replace him yet. Whilst the outfield players seemed evenly matched he was clearly the weak link. Dropping a routine catch on 18 minutes the ball bounced between his legs and behind him. A second goalmouth melee ensued, before Chris O’Leary desperately scooped the ball away. The home team, sporting a really fine dark red kit really should’ve been ahead (though I think it prudent I point out, Tristan Toney, that The Red kit really doesn’t go with the orange boots).
Moving away from the thought of fans running off to the local hardware store for a tin of BORO RED Dulux paint, the Stones’ outfield were beginning to find their feet which in turn gave Jones time to find his. From then on his game improved. The entertainment just kicked on from there. With the game being played out at a furious pace, the usual local-derby-red-mist was thankfully absent, giving both teams an equal opportunity to succeed.

It was nearly 30 minutes before the visitors’ first chance of note. Collecting the ball in the area the division’s top goal scorer, Richard Jolly, left two defenders stranded with a fine pull back and then unleashed a fierce shot which Jamie Jackson parried. “C’MON, BIG WINNERS FROM HERE!” yelled Jackson buoyed by his proficiency in a fine open game which the crowd clearly enjoyed. “COME ON YOU STONES!” encouraged the larger away section. “UP UP BORO… …UP UP REDS!” chanted the home faithful (As the big game of the night I wasn’t surprised to find familiar faces dotted amongst the clubs’ singing supporters). Jolly soon found another opening; from a poor corner, pulling the ball down but shooting wide of the left hand post. Harrow were still in the game and remained so when James Mulley missed the target after a Jolly head down. Like a good cup match this derby was evenly swinging one way then the next, though the chap next to us seemed convinced Wealdstone were clearly on top. Going in at half time at 0-0 was totally fair, though it could just have easily been 2-2.
Finding a team sheet during the break, left us stood in a different place for the second period and annoyingly meant as the game started, we had to endure Chelsea fans bemoaning the fact they have to play two games in three days (just get on with it, plenty of other teams have managed in the past, and if Callum Davies can cope so can you...). Boro left back, Garry Jones mercifully bought this night back into focus with a rasping drive, on 53 minutes, which Ashlee Jones did superbly well to push over for a corner. Again Harrow were having the better start, though Danny Buckle put his shot over (amusingly, a suggestion that Torres could have done better was ignored by all around). Twenty minutes in and Wealdstone hit the cross bar after Mulley challenged the keeper during one panic-filled moment in Jackson’s box.

Scott Fitzgerald’s arrival signalled the start of “substitutes’ half hour” though little advantage was gained, for either side, on the pitch. Both sides were still hampered by players losing crossing opportunities as the ball was on the wrong foot, and what shots they did have were squandered; the next of which was a Wealdstone free kick from the edge of the box which sailed wide. As the Stones pushed on, up piped the away support “Oh when the stones go marching in” (though obviously they don’t march, they roll, just ask Bob Dylan). Then with Reds’ keeper Jackson stranded Tom Pett miss-controlled, when falling at the ball would’ve probably put it in. Soon Fitzgerald set free Lee Chappell whose fine cross from the left was wasted by Jolly. Next up was a Wayne Walters back header which nearly undid all the good work of the steadfast Boro defence. Amongst others, Jon-Jo Bates, Scott McCubbin and Peter Dean also all had chances, but with minutes left it was clear neither team would come out on top.
On the final whistle fans made for the exit knowing they’d seen an evenly fought game, though the points shared was probably better for Harrow’s cause. Bidding my uncle farewell, I left knowing I’d had a great night, seen an assured performance from Tommie Hoban, and seen a lesser-spotted homemade acrylic and gaffer-tape programme protector, with, my, own, eyes. Even though I know Ruislip and Harrow so well, it’s still the little quirky things that have always made this area of London special for me. This trip was my first to Earlsmead, and my first to the Middlesex derby; a thoroughly entertaining match which (despite the chips, the inexplicable “GREASE” signs, the echoing PA system and the unfashionable asbestos creations) I’d happily come back and see, over, and over again.
 
(*original name of Harrow Town FC & then Harrow Borough FC)
This entry was posted in 2011-2012, Isthmian League and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Asbestos rocks!!!

  1. Pingback: Bow Street Runners | putajumperon

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