The Hares play at Preston Park, just to the South-East of the village of Harefield. The ground has a good sized car park but, beware, it does get filled up on match days and parking around the ground is quite limited. There is a road opposite, Gilbert Road, which has some parking spots but parking on Breakspear Road, on which the ground stands, is almost impossible. There is a fairly large clubhouse adjacent to the car park. Access to the clubhouse from the ground is via the car park. A friendly local on the turnstile took my money and explained that the programme was online. However, he also helpfully pointed out that the teams were already displayed on a whiteboard just inside the ground. He also offered to let me photograph the actual team sheets because there was a bit of glare on the whiteboard from the floodlights. A nice touch. Those little things give good impressions of a club.
The ground itself is surrounded on three sides by trees. The main stand, with covered seating, is on the car park side of the ground just to your left as you enter. On the opposite side, along with the dugouts, is a covered standing area which also has a media tower built in for recording the games. There is a toilet block inside the ground but refreshments are only available back in the clubhouse. The pitch looked to be pretty flat and in good condition. All in all, a tidy and very pleasant example of a non-league ground.
Both clubs were coming into the game on the back of weekend defeats, Aylesbury going down 1-0 at Arlesey and Harefield losing 2-1 at home to Harpenden. The Hares started the eving in sixth spot with 17 points from their 11 games. Seven places and four points below them, in a congested middle of the tabel, sat Aylesbury.
Aylesbury have yet to complete a Spartan Premier season having come into the league on the back of Aylesbury FC's merger with Bedgrove Dynamos in 2019. Harefield, who were promoted back into the Premier League that season have also yet to complete a full season since their return. The sides did not meet at all last season, however there was a 2-2 draw played out in the truncated 2019-20 season. Jake Baldwin scored twice in the first half for Dynamos but goals from Leonard Farhall and Steven Green evened it up for the visitors in front of 201 spectators.
After an initial period of jousting and testing each other out, the teams settled into the game. A couple of early efforts from each side didn't really cause any great issues to either goalkeeper although both had to get their knees dirty.
With 15 minutes on the clock, Harefield loaded one into the home penalty area with home centre-half Romario Warburton-Rowe attacking the ball a little too strongly, sending George Zammit slamming into one of the posts. The home defender was yellow-carded for the challenge. Thankfully Zammit was soon back on his feet with no physio intervention required. Five minutes later Aylesbury were reduced, temporarily, to 10 men when Davis Haule complained too vociferously against a free-kick decision, earning himself a 10-minute sin bin. I didn't catch the entire comment but the swearing part was loud and clear. The referee played it by the book producing the yellow and the 10 minute penalty, showing he was certainly one for the rules. The players needed to take heed of this quickly.
Whilst Aylesbury were still down to 10 players Harefield almost took advantage when Louis Bircham forced Zammit into a superb one-handed save at full stretch.
The home side were starting to take control of the game, even after Haule was reintroduced. On 34 minutes they were again a little unlucky as Aylesbury managed to scramble one off their own goal line. Then, just as it looked like going into the break goal-less, the home side conjured up an opener. A great diagonal pass found Louis Bircham free on the right, he drove in towards the box before absolutely drilling a cross-shot past Zammit into the far corner. 1-0. A great strike. A minute later, in added time, Harefield almost repeated the trick with a carbon copy ball but this time Zammit was off his line quickly to just about beat Bircham to the pass.
HT Harefield United 1 Aylesbury Vale Dynamos 0. A fairly even contest for most of the half but Harefield managed to get on top towards the end of the half and reaped the benefits with their late goal. All to play for in the second period. It was good to meet the AVD (stand-in?) Twitter admin at half-time. Kudos to his running commentary of the game, interspersed with jokes and electrical equipment advice, throughout the game. That's some output, I counted 53 tweets. Chapeau!
Just past the hour mark Aylesbury, once again, made life difficult for themselves by getting a player sin-binned, Daniel murphy this time falling foul of the referee. It was a strange call. As far as I could make out there were no raised voices involved, Murphy claimed he just asked a question, but the referee once again sent a Vale player to cool off. Harsh this time?
From the resulting free-kick Harefield applied some pressure but Aylesbury were able to scramble it away and re-group, goal scorer Baldwin dropping into left-back to cover for Murphy. The expected onslaught from the home side failed to transpire and, whilst still a player light, it was the away team who went ahead. They earned themselves a corner which was delivered perfectly for debutant Chris Stapleton to direct a glancing header into the far corner of the net. 1-2.
With 15 minutes to go both sides thought they could win it but, in actuality, they effectively cancelled each other out for the remainder of the game and before we knew it the referee was blowing for full-time.
FT Harefield United 2 Aylesbury Vale Dynamos 2. Over the 90 minutes this was probably a fair result. There certainly wasn't too much between the sides throughout the game. Harefield had the upper hand in the first half but Aylesbury raised their game in the second. The game was, unfortunately, punctuated by some over-officious refereeing. Was there an assessor in the crowd perhaps?
Next up, Aylesbury are back at Haywood Way on Saturday for the visit of second-bottom Baldock Town. The Hares are also at home as they welcome London Colney, a point and two places below them
Harefield United: Mallett, Bunce, Green, McCorkell, Warburton-Rowe, Mangan(c), White, Pacquette, Ogunsola, Bircham, Underwood. Subs: Watt, Austin, Porcher, Schofield, Krasniqi
Aylesbury Vale Dynamos: Zammit, Mullarkey, Murphy, Byron, Griffiths, Babatti, Pobbe, Haule, Stapleton, Brown(c), Baldwin. Subs: Shortt, Chott, Rivers, Nugent, Munday
Ground Number: 288
Programme: Online Only