Football: Three points bring festive joy for Harlow

Lifestyle / Tue 20th Dec 2016 pm31 09:41pm

Ryman Premier

Harlow Town 2 v 1 Merstham

By Luke Henry

HARLOW welcomed Merstham to the Harlow Arena hoping for a winning result after two consecutive defeats. They faced a Merstham side five points behind and six places below them with Harlow 13th and Merstham 19 respectively.

The game has started with a strong pace, and while no side was dominating authority, Merstham were playing some lovely intricate football during the opening proceedings, and were looking to hit Harlow on the counter attack, due to the pace of Dan Hector and Alex Addai on the flanks and with target man Calum willock through the middle. They were happy to soak up possession and let Harlow pass the ball around without any harm. The first chance of the game fell on 15 minutes for the visitors and it was the number 10 Dan Bennett. A direct run skipping past a couple of challenges before playing through a lovely ball towards Kershaney Samuels, who had darted into the box only to produce a solid block from Hughes.

That chance had seemed to spark the visitors into life and was starting to look very dangerous when venturing forward, with Dan Bennett the creative force, dripping deep and orchestrating the play. This match was very even, with goal mouth chances at a premium, Merstham threatened again on 30 minutes, the ever present Bennett again, latching onto a cross from Hector after a lovely flick to the start the move by Willock, who was causing Harlow problems with his physical power and prowess in the hair, but unfortunately couldn’t get his shot on target and drilled it past the post. It could have proved costly moments later on 33 minutes, as the best chance of the game so far fell to danger man Alex Read. Khale Da Costa caught Left Back Antone Douglas in possession on the edge of his box and fizzed in an early cross into the feet of Read. He managed to get a touch out of his feet before firing over the bar from close range. That could of and should’ve been 1-0. The major talking point of the game arrived on 37 minutes, as Merstham were reduced to ten men. Referee Michael Robertson- Tant branded Marc Okoye a red card after a rash and reckless challenge on Harlow left back Layne Eadie. Tempers were threatening to boil over as the Harlow players were not happy with the challenge and rightly so. He was very late into the tackle and can have no complaints with the red card. A needless tackle to make which left Merstham with a real dilemma as they were firmly in this game for the past 37 Minutes. The plan now was to see the game through till half time.
However, on 40 minutes that resolve was already broken and the man advantage for Harlow also became a numerical advantage too as they took the lead thanks to Lawrence Yiga. Quality play from skipper Craig Pope down the right, who crossed it in the Yiga in the box, before taking one touch to set himself and volleying it into the far corner to make it 1-0 to the Harlow. The task was for Merstham was made even harder now. It could have been all square on 43 minutes, two wicked deliveries from Samuels and a Bennett had called Hughes into question, however the keeper who had a quiet half was equal and alert to the task.

The start of the second half was a carbon copy of the start of the first, with both teams playing end to end stuff, Merstham had changed their formation slightly, moving Hector further forward and deployed as the central striker, while Willock was now playing just behind the striker. It was a positive attitude from the visitors, still going in search of an equalizer, which did leave them skeptical to the counter attack of Harlow with Ryan Melaugh slicing a shot a high and wide from the edge of the box after good wing play from Da Costa, who went close himself on 52 minutes, hooking a volley goal bound but was always going wide and never really troubled Smith in goal. Mario Noto was the next person to fancy his chances, dragging his shot wide of the post from the edge of the area. Harlow were starting to look for that elusive second goal, as Merstham were still well and truly in this game, despite being a man down, and were still looking dangerous coming forward even though the attacks were breaking down in the final third.

With the pace of the game slowing down significantly, changes were made in order to add fresh legs and pace, with Harlow introducing Simms and Small, who was nearly the creator for the second goal by Costa and Melaugh. After Read who had worked tirelessly hard throughout the game played a lovely ball out too Small who beat the defender and pull It back for Read, only for it to be behind him and therefore he couldn’t direct his shot on target and the chance came to nothing. But with 11 minutes to goal, the points were sealed as Noto popped up at the back post with tonight’s second. Alex Read holds up the ball really well, bringing in Jared Small on the right after a great overlap before squaring across to Noto who slid the ball home to make sure of the three points. There was still time to pull one back by Merstham in the 89’s minute, which was deserved on their merit of performance. Simon Cooper’s cross-found Tutu Henrique’s who cushioned a lovely header back across goal to Hughes’s right hand post, as the Harlow defence was caught napping and appealing for an offside decision that they weren’t going to get. There was 4 additional minutes left to play, although it didn’t affect the result for Harlow as they held out the late fight back, which turned out to be a consolation.
A 2-1 victory for Harlow maintains a strong home record, winning 8 out of 10 matches, while Merstham leave another away day pointless, but it could have been a different outcome if Merstham weren’t reduced to ten men 8 minutes away from half time, however Harlow capitalized on the decision to preserve Merstham’s winless away run now stretching to 11 matches this season. Next up for both teams are the Boxing Day fixtures with Harlow away at Enfield Town, while Merstham turn their attention to Kingstonian away from home.


Harlow Town: Hughes D, Pope C, Eadie L, Jones B, Sonko I, Muguo S, Da Costa K (Small J 67), Yiga L, (Read A 79) Antoine L, Noto M, Melaugh R (Simms F 67)

Subs not used:Gordon S, Lee P


Smith J, Cooper S, Douglas A, Samuels K, Okoye M, Henrique T, Addai A (Abnett M 26), Kavanagh T, Willock C, Bennett D, Hector D

Subs not used: Wilson P, Folkes O, Campbell K, Fowler

Att: 208

Referee: Michael Robertson-Tant


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