Colney Heath stretch their advantage again with narrow win over Harpenden
PUBLISHED: 21:52 04 February 2020 | UPDATED: 08:27 05 February 2020
A week is a long time in football and so is three days - just ask Colney Heath and Harpenden Town after the Magpies claimed a 1-0 win at the Recreation Ground.
The hosts came into the game on the back of their first home league defeat in over 12 months, a 1-0 reverse against Leighton Town on Saturday.
It wasn't enough to knock them off the top of the Spartan South Midlands League Premier Division but it did allow Tring Athletic to close the gap.
Harpenden meanwhile maintained their fourth position after being on the other side of a 1-0 result, a victory away at Aylesbury Vale Dynamos.
However, Tuesday's results, which included Tring's 2-1 loss at Wembley, meant the eight-point gap was quickly restored.
It was a win that came in typical Colney Heath fashion, with plenty of determination and desire to grind out a result.
But Harpenden will point to a number of good chances to have gained something out of the game and while no doubt disappointed with that, there is plenty for head coach Mickey Nathan to be happy with.
The first-half was as close as predicted. Harpenden enjoyed the better chances but Colney probably shaded the territorial stats, getting into some good areas.
The closest either side came to scoring was after just six minutes. Ryan Plowright was afforded far too much time in the centre of midfield and he used it to advance on goal before hitting a wicked dipping shot that dropped over Charlie May but rattled the crossbar.
The visitors also finished the better with Plowright getting flagged for offside as he went in one-on-one and then Joe Devaney hitting a volley just wide.
In between there was an almighty scramble following a Tarik Dallas header. He wasn't far out and didn't get much power on it but the ball still needed cleared after another swing and miss from a Harpenden boot.
At the other end the Magpies enjoyed some good possession and had one spell midway through where the ball flew from one side to another but without anybody getting a definitive touch.
Chris Blunden and Josh Humbert, both moving back to the Recreation Ground recently after spells with the Harps, both had half chances in that period and Blunden also sent a free-kick well over the top.
It was a fast and frenetic game too that had some firm challenges but little to cause the referee trouble.
What it needed was someone from either side to put their foot on the ball and take the match by the scruff of the neck.
That never came and from being quiet the referee was soon the busiest man on the park as he cautioned both Spencer Clarke-Mardel and Plowright inside the opening five minutes of the second half.
He should have awarded a goal for Harpenden too but somehow Nathan McGreevy's poked effort beyond Charlie May ran in front of the forwards without any of them getting a touch.
And the hosts made them pay instantly.
Great passing between Clarke-Mardel and Dominic Knaggs down the right ended with the latter putting in another teasing cross.
It caused both Dallas and Joel Nkeita to get in a muddle and when the ball ran loose Brett O'Connor thumped a beautiful effort into the far corner.
It gave the home side a visible spring in their step and yet Harpenden still found themselves creating good opportunities.
Sean McMonagle should have really turned in an inviting cross almost on the goal-line but he couldn't get a good enough touch and then McGreevy, after sending a couple Colney defenders completely the wrong way, found his shot deflected behind by a determined Danny Fitzgerald who flung himself in front of the ball.
Colney could have gone two goals ahead after Danny May pinged a free-kick low into the box but somehow it bounced off bodies and came out.
The game became even more fractious in the closing stages with Harpenden sure Clarke-Mardel should have been sent-off for another foul.
One final chance did come for Harpenden deep into stoppage time but it went as well with McMonagle firing a shot straight at May.
IT was another frustrating moment for Harpenden but it could prove a massive three points though in Colney Heath's race for the title.
Colney Heath: C.May, D.May, Knaggs, Dudrenec, Doolan, Humbert (Cobb 90), O'Connor, Fitzgerald, Clements, Clarke-Mardel (Devine 83), Blunden.
Subs (not used): Shuttlewood, Griffin, Anthony.
Goal: O'Connor 55
Booked: Clarke-Mardel 48, Fitzgerald 89
Harpenden Town: Desmond, Nkeita, Devaney, Robinson, Palmer, Dallas, Collins (Standen 74), R.Plowright, McMonagle, Dance (W.Plowright 84), McGreevy.
Subs (not used): Mawhinney, Naismith.
Booked: R.Plowright 49, Dance 64, Nkeita 71
HT: Colney Heath 0 Harpenden Town 0
Referee: Nick Fuller (Bedford)