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Football: Harlow suffer from Leiston smash and grab!

Lifestyle / Sat 18th Mar 2017 at 10:15pm

Ryman Premier

Harlow Town 0 v 2 Leiston

By Luke Henry

Play-offs slip away as dominant display from Hawks not enough

HARLOW welcomed fellow play-off hopefuls Leiston to the Harlow Arena hoping to build on their success from last week against Met Police and close the gap on the final playoff spot. The visitors arrived into this match on the back of a terrible run of form, only winning one out of their last night, losing seven, and were out to make amends here.

The game started very evenly with both teams just feeling each other out in the opening stages. Leiston could’ve taken an early lead if it wasn’t for David Hughes smothering an effort from Nico Muir on 3 minutes after a whipping set piece delivery from Gareth Heath. Harlow then thought they had taken the lead a couple of minutes later through their danger man Alex Read. Mario Noto route one ball over the top gave the forward something to chase, bringing the ball down, shrugging off the defender in the process before firing a sweet volley that seemed destined for the corner, however the agility of keeper Ashlee Jones proved decisive as he sharply got down to push it away. Most of the Arena thought it was in, a great one handed save. The game was being play at a good tempo early on with Harlow having more of the ball in their opponents half, as the visitors look to hit them on the break. Leiston looked assured when in possession, but apart from that earlier chance, they weren’t a threat to Harlow. Conor Hubble couldn’t get enough power on his header on 14 minutes, straight into the arms of Hughes, before Junior Dadson volleyed one high over the bar after a wicked delivery from the left by Layne Eadie. The play had now been firmly situated in the Leiston half, with their threat of prolific striker Matt Blake being marshalled well by centre halves Charlie Dickens and Ibrahima Sonko and was lacking service. Despite the majority of the possession, there was no real clear cut chances from the Hawks, although they did look dangerous from set pieces, especially corners. Ibrahima Sonko had a couple of goalbound efforts that were cleared by the Leiston defence. The Hawks were starting to knock on the door, even though both defences nullified any real potent attack during the first half. On 41 minutes, the away side drew first blood much against the run of play, and it was Matt Blake notching his 25th of the season. A couple of Ricochets fell perfectly for the number nine, who on the turn swiveled a right footed shot into the corner to give his side the lead going into halftime.

The second half carried on in the same vein as the first as the Hawks were comprehensive in terms of their possession during the first half, but were just looking for that elusive equaliser. Seven minutes into the second period, Harlow were close to levelling the scores. From another dangerous set piece, Syrus Gordon saw a shot cleared before the goal line, a shot that had kepper Ashlee Jones beaten. Harlow still dominating and putting pressure on their opponents, but still no goal to show for their dominance. Substitute Billy Jones saw a rasping effort kept out again by Jones just after the hour mark, whose handling had been impeccable all game. The visitors finally forayed forward and produced their first shot of the second half, although this time Blake couldn’t replicate his earlier finish slicing this one high and wide. Finally on 71 minutes, the resilience from Leiston had been broken and Harlow were level deservedly, with who but Alex Read with the finish. An Harlow attack broke down, the ball fell invitingly for the striker to take a touch a bury a shot from outside the area into the bottom corner past the hapless Jones. Harlow were deservedly level and now had 19 minutes to go in search of the winner. Approaching the final knockings of the game, Harlow had been pushing and probing without really creating anything clear cut. Countless deliveries, which were dangerous weren’t fashioning any real chances. Alex Read then went close after an instinctive effort in the edge of the box after being found by captain Mario Noto. The striker held off the defender before trying to squeeze a volley in the near post. Layne Eadie then thought he won it right at the death, however his shot whistled over the bar.

Harlow pure dominance was taken away by the cruelest of endings. A Free kick from inside the visitor’s half saw the ball find the feet of Matt Blake who turned Sonko before slotting past Hughes with virtually the last knockings of the game. Leiston hadn’t really turned up in the second half but thanks to the top scorer in the division, the visitors look like they have got out of jail here. The Harlow players look deflated and stunned, which is no real surprise as they dominated all game, two shots two goals for the visitors.

The referee blew his whistle to signal the end of full time, this was the only the third time at home this season that Harlow haven’t won at home and they were very very unlucky today. They had the lion share of the possession all game and looked comfortable against Leiston, but a late sucker punch from Matt Blake ensured that Leiston’s playoff push continues, while for the Hawks, their faltering hopes takes another blow. They will aim to put things right when they visit Burgess Hill Town in midweek, while Leiston entertain Worthing at home.

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