Boss Loizou hails Haringey Borough
- Credit: Archant
Haringey Borough 2 Norwich United 1
Tom Loizou was a relieved man after Haringey Borough’s victory over Norwich United saw the club through some nervy moments to set up a play-off semi-final with second-placed Maldon & Tiptree in Ryman North.
Haringey were quick out of the blocks and went ahead after five minutes through Anthony McDonald, who placed a powerful strike in off the post after being set up magnificently by captain Dan Aristidou, who dribbled through the Norwich midfield before sending a diagonal ball to his team-mate in the box.
The hosts continued to peg the visitors back with some fantastic attacking moves, but a lapse in concentration allowed Norwich forward Christy Finch to slot in an equaliser in the 22nd minute.
ith Borough needing a draw to confirm their place in the play-offs, tension at Coles Park grew as they missed chance after chance, and came mightily close when centre-back Coby Rowe’s free-kick hit the crossbar.
But the hosts got their reward late on, as Ralston Gabriel rose to head in McDonald’s cross with four minutes of normal time remaining.
It was the striker’s fourth goal in three games and ensured Haringey fans didn’t have to endure the heart-wrenching finale witnessed the week before against Bowers & Pitsea.
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“I’ve dropped two of my best centre-forwards recently, and Ralston’s a central midfielder by trade, but he’s showing them the way at the moment,” said Loizou.
“He suits us up front, and the attacking formation we play with him there suits us as well.
“The last three games have been very hard for us. All credit to Norwich – they came all this way and gave us a good game, didn’t pull any punches, and their keeper was the man of the match.
“I think we were a little bit nervous to start, but once we settled down we had full control of the game.
“We got the jitters a little bit because we missed so many chances, and the longer the match went on the harder it was because of the intensity of the game against Bowers & Pitsea last week.
“Even after we scored the second, they went and hit the bar, so it could have been a much more nervous last five minutes.”
The eye-catching performances on the day came from wide men Aristidou and McDonald, who caused Norwich problems all afternoon, and the centre-back pairing of Rowe and Ramil Sheriff, who kept it tight at the back.
“They [Aristidou and McDonald] give us a lot of balance, and when they’re playing together the whole team plays better,” added Loizou.
“For me, Dan was our best player and Anthony scored a beauty.
“To do what Coby’s done the in the last four games, after being injured all season, is a minor miracle, and Ramil was outstanding as well – he’s probably the best centre-half in the league.
“We’re training travelling up to Maldon for the play-off on Wednesday. I feel pretty confident – out of the three other teams in the play-offs, they are who I wanted to play.
“They’ve beaten us and we’ve beaten them this season, so it’s got the makings of a good game. If we go out there with confidence, I think we’ll win it. We’ve hit a purple patch at the moment, and we’ve just got to keep on doing what we’ve been doing.”
Saturday’s victory took Haringey’s goal tally up to 108 for the season, just six behind champions Brightlingsea Regent, a statistic which Loizou feels gives his side as good a chance as any of succeeding in the play-offs.
“We’ve stayed under the radar up until the last three games, but no one wants to face us in the play-offs,” added Loizou.
Haringey Borough go to Maldon & Tiptree for the play-off semi-final on Wednesday and the winner goes on to contest the final at either Hornchurch or Thurrock on Sunday April 30.