Hapless Harwood fall to disastrous defeat



GREAT HARWOOD TOWN’S hopes of promotion from the North West Counties Second Division suffered a severe set-back as they turned in one of their most atrocious performances of the season to go down to a disastrous-and frankly disgraceful-defeat at the hands of lowly Salford.

In their first home league match since November 23 rd, Harwood let themselves down badly and made a mockery of the fact, in the run up to the end of the season, they face twice as many home games as away dates.

Just three days earlier, they had given a sound show against top dogs Kirkby Town in the league cup although that game also ended in a 2-0 home defeat but on Saturday, Harwood were utterly out-gunned by a side they had beaten 3-1 away from home earlier in the season and were second from bottom of the table before the match.

Only twice in the entire match did Harwood create opportunities which remotely looked like bringing reward-once in the second minute when Leroy Allen broke through but shot over the bar and then late in the game when the issue could hardly be altered when Steve Benko saw his attempt end up just over the bar.

Salford, on the other hand, had five glorious opportunities in the first half and scored two of them.

Dave Mottershead in the Harwood goal was forced to make two very impressive saves and full-back Simon Vercoe was on hand to clear one worthy attempt off the line with Mottershead beaten but after 35 minutes, Salford took the lead that their persistence and pressure deserved.

Their lively striker Roy Jones broke into the 18-yard box, went round Mottershead, but the Harwood keeper dragged him down and Quentin Dodd hit home the resulting penalty.

Salford continued to pile on the pressure and within five minutes of that successful penalty, were 2-0 ahead when Jones steered home a close range effort. Vercoe tried to clear it off the line but only succeeded in knocking it into the roof of the net after the ball had already crossed the line.

With the visitors so much in command, by virtue of both scoreline and the number of scoring chances they had created besides, it was vital that Harwood hit back soon after the interval and it was clear that Harwood boss Malcolm Darling had had harsh words for them in the dressing room at half-time.

But they appeared to have little effect, with Harwood failing to create anything of note although they saw plenty of the ball in the opening stages of the second half.

Salford, with their cushion of a 2-0 lead, were happy enough to just make sure that Harwood didn’t score and excursions forward by the visitors were few and far between.

But Harwood’s forages forward were doing them no good at all, and even a change of personnel, with substitute Paul Goldsborough coming on for the out-of-touch Eric Geldard couldn’t bring a change of fortune.

It was the 76 th minute before Harwood had even the semblance of a chance when a 20-yard free kick from Brian Moran fell to Mark Bennett just yards from the Salford goal but the Harwood man just couldn’t turn the ball home.

The home side’s best chance of getting on the scoresheet came six minutes from time when Benko fired over the bar from just outside the 18-yard box, 82 minutes after the only other real on-target chance that Harwood had when Allen shot over in the opening period.

It all made for an afternoon to forget for Harwood-a very disappointing debut for new central defender from Rossendale, Neil Callen, who replaced the injured Mark Jones-and it left Mr. Darling a very angry man.

With Harwood’s fate in their own hands, as the run up to the end of the season is so much in their favour, it is vital that they win their home games but against Salford they looked a very poor second best.

After the game Mr Darling hinted that there were likely to be changes for Harwood’s next game at the weekend, claiming that his side couldn’t afford to “carry passengers”, although he declined to specify who he might be referring to.

“It’s possible that we were suffering from the fact that we had been out of action for so long but we should have shaken that off in the first 20 minutes”, said the Harwood boss.

“It was without doubt one of our worst shows of the season and it looks as though changes are needed. I will be looking at the rest of the first team squad and at the reserves as it is vital that we win our home games, particularly against sides in the lower reaches of the table if we are to stand any chance of promotion.

“Today we got what our performance deserved-absolutely nothing”.

Great Harwood Town: Mottershead, Vercoe, Astin, Martin, Callen, Bennett, Moran, Burton, Allen, Geldard (sub. Goldborough 65 mins.), Benko.

Salford: Hodgert, Bowker, Lockett, McCartney, Irvine, Lees, Bates, Faulkner, Webber, Jones, Dodd (sub. Hatton 83 mins).

Referee: S Williamson (Bolton).

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©2009 J Fenton