United Counties League
Harrowby United 2
Rushden & Higham United 1
Harrowby United entertained Rushden and Higham United at a rain-soaked Dickens Road, the pitch having passed inspection earlier in the day.
The Arrows ran out winners by the odd goal in three as both teams overcame a heavy surface to provide an entertaining encounter.
Harrowby had a glorious chance to claim an early lead when new signing Kevin Hemagou sprang a high ‘Lankies’ defensive line, remaining onside to get on to a hopeful punt forward. With keeper Kyle Swails off his line in no-man’s land, the striker took a touch before lobbing the ball over Swails with the goal gaping, but his effort narrowly cleared the cross bar.
The Arrows did not have long to wait for an opening goal, however, as after five minutes a ball out of defence by Tawanda Bilson found Jawanza Grant who played Sam Grouse in on goal. With work still to do, Harrowby’s top scorer took the ball on before finding the far corner of the goal with a composed right foot finish.
The lead lasted only three minutes as Harrowby’s defence switched off completely when defending a free kick. The ball crossed into the box from the right was headed home from just inside the six-yard box by an unchallenged Mitch Blande, with Arrows custodian Sam Andrew rooted to his line.
Lankies striker Dylan Wilson went close to giving the visitors the lead on 16 minutes when he tried a chip from long range that cleared the cross bar.
Harrowby regained the lead after 24 minutes when, after winning a free kick out on the left, the ball was played into the penalty area where Grant out-jumped everybody to nod the ball into the roof of the net.
Ten minutes before the break, Harrowby almost snatched a third goal when a through-ball from Bilson found Grouse in behind the Lankies defence, but his shot was struck straight at keeper Swails.
The visitors went close to a leveller two minutes from half time when, from a free kick, Bilson did well to charge down Wilson’s shot before the ball was played back into the box and headed wide of the goal from a good position.
Rushden started the second half well and Jory Mann shot just over the cross bar three minutes after the restart. A few minutes later, manager Wayne Abbott, filling in at centre back for the visitors, headed straight at Andrew from a corner.
After 54 minutes, Harrowby went close as a good ball from Hemagou found strike partner Grant who shot just wide.
Just before the hour mark, Harrowby introduced young striker Ewan Fieldhouse, on loan from Peterborough United’s youth set-up, from the bench, replacing Grant.
Heavy legs on a deteriorating pitch saw the teams contest a stalemate for the last 20 minutes, the resolute Arrows defence nullifying any threat from the visitors.
The Arrows did have what looked a stonewall penalty turned down by referee Mr Dodds when Grouse was felled in the penalty area by a late tackle, with seemingly the official the only person in the ground to not actually see it.
Harrowby skipper Chris Spencer brought a smart save from Swails with just under 10 minutes remaining, with a low drive from the edge of the penalty area. The final chance of the game gave Fieldhouse a good chance to open his scoring account a minute into stoppage time but the youngster, having picked up a poor clearance, rolled his shot wide of an empty goal.
An excellent three points for the Arrows kept them on the tail of the promotion hopefuls, with games in hand, to get right in the mix with 14 games remaining.
Harrowby United: Andrew, Spencer (c), Phillip, Bilson, Briers, Browne (Sambor 83), Ofushine, Large, Grouse, Grant (Fieldhouse 57), Hemagou. Subs not used: Whyley, Currall, Grouse.