However, before we get onto the game, a little about Bowdens Park. It's always good to get to new stadia and this was a first visit to Harborough Town for BotP. The stadium is part of a larger sports complex on the outskirts of Market Harborough. There is ample parking pretty much in front of the new-looking clubhouse and main building with very clear signs directing supporters down the side of the building and players into the other entrance. A single turnstile brings you into the ground right next to the left hand corner flag of the clubhouse end. The ground itself is very typical of the newer non-league, purpose built stadiums. It's very neat and tidy, completely surrounded by fencing with all of the facilities being in the clubhouse complex. There are two covered seating areas on the right hand side of the pitch with a further covered standing are in the far right hand corner. The dugouts are opposite the two main stands and hard-standing surrounds there sides of the ground. There is no access for spectators to the left-hand side of the ground, behind the dugouts.The pitch looked in pretty good condition and the surface was slick from some rain during the day. Unfortunately, as kick-off approached, the heavens opened and we had a fairly heavy downpour for the first 10-15 minutes of the game.
With Kirby boasting a 100% away record and Harborough having already lost 2 out of 3 at home, it was something of a surprise when the home side immediately took the game to their opponents. In fact, for the first 10 minutes Kirby barely managed to get out of their own half. However, despite their dominance, The Bees rarely forced the Kirby keeper into action, with just one good shot turned over the bar being the only real chance.
As the half progressed Kirby did start to get themselves back into the game a little and you had the feeling that the home side may have missed their opportunity. Kirby looked especially dangerous when playing the ball down the flanks. Pradeep Bahrey, on the left especially looked like he may be the way for Kirby to break through. Having said that, Harborough continued to have the lion's share of possession and looked the more likely to score. Towards the end of the half they got into a good position down their right-wing and, when the ball was played across, it was somehow scrambled clear.
So the teams went in all square at half-time and I would imagine the away side were much the happier to have gone in still on level terms.
As an aside from the game, a point of note for supporters. If you make use of the facilities that are next to the entrance to the clubhouse then be aware of the lighting. The automatic timer does not stay on for more than 15 seconds and the PIR does not reach the urinal. Therefore you will be plunged into darkness mid-stream and no amount of hand waving will make the light come back on. A small thing but it made me smile at the time.
Sure enough though, just eight minutes into the second half, Kirby went 1-0 up against the run of play. A cross field ball to the right hand side of the Harborough box was headed back across goal for Verrall to head in. It was a nicely worked goal and showed that with possession it's all about quality, not quantity.
The rest of the half, pretty much, followed the same pattern as the first half. Harborough battled away, causing a lot of problems down the Kirby left but soften the final ball just wasn't quite there. They did force the Kirby keeper into a couple of decent saves, tipping another over the bar and getting down sharply to block a one on one effort. Kirby, for their part, looked fairly dangerous when they did break but seemed content to hold on to what they had. They slowed the game down to a crawl at every given opportunity, frustrating the home side with their tactics. This did spark a certain amount of fairly light-hearted banter between the home support and the visiting keeper. This is very much a part of non-league football in my opinion and something to be cherished so long as it does not get out of hand. It makes the game feel that much more accessible to the supporters, unlike the modern day professional game.
So, Kirby maintain their unbeaten start to the season and, with Leicester Nirvana only drawing with Oadby, sees them open a two point gap at the top. I'll be honest, I can't see them staying there but, having said that, they found a way to win a game that they really shouldn't have won. That is the mark of a good side, so they could well prove me wrong.
Harborough, I felt, were a little unlucky on the night. They played some good football and with more luck and more ruthlessness around the box, they should start picking up points.
A final note. Harborough have some of the most appreciative supporters I have seen at this level. They have the vociferous group of youngsters who stand behind the goal that they are attacking plus a general public who applauded each player as they were substituted, as well as showing their appreciation of the effort shown by their team.
Harborough Town - @htfc75official
Kirby Muxloe - @kirbymuxloefc