Football: Harlow lose despite brave fightback

Football / Sun 25th Feb 2018 at 09:08am

Bostik Premier

Harlow Town 2 v 4 Staines Town

By Callum Hibberd

STAINES scored 15 minutes into either half to gain a perhaps unjust 2-0 lead. The first was from Max Worsfold, the second from Lewis Driver.

Harlow responded well, substitute Alex Read and Jared Small scoring within four minutes of eachother to even up the game and give Harlow the chance to grab a rare and emphatic win.

It wasn’t to be though, with Driver scoring again almost immediately, before Mohamed Bettamer secured three points for the visitors in the 84th minute.

The defeat sees Harlow remain in 23rd, two points above but having played two games more than Burgess Hill, who also lost today. The Hawks remain four points behind Tooting and Mitcham, and five behind Worthing.

This game was important to both teams for different reasons. Staines had not won in two and were keen to keep up their play off push. Harlow were keen to stop them though, defending well and putting good pressure on Staines’ prolific front three.

Elliot Buchanan was limited to a long shot three minutes in, his effort was slightly deflected off Paul Rodgers, but the visitors failed to produce anything from both corners.

It could be said an even start was made to the game, both teams looking to play it forward, but both unsuccessful with their air and ground through balls. Matt Foy almost latched onto one in the 5th minute but opposing goalkeeper Connor Hudnott beat him to the ball.

Staines upped the pace a bit from here, but it was still Harlow who controlled possession. Foy almost pounced upon a headed backpass, while Charlie Edwards failed to connect with a pinpoint low ball from Christian Scales. Scales crossed into Edwards again, but Edwards’ neat lay-off to debutant Harry Honesty was adjudged to be a handball.

Then, in the fourteenth minute, the game would be harshly turned on it’s head. Driver produced some good trickery wide left and had to be stopped by Simms. From the resulting free kick, the ball eventually found Max Worsfold. He then crossed from about 20 yards out and in line with the corner of the box. Amazingly, his cross found the top right corner, the luck involved in the goal proven by Worsfold’s lack of celebration.

Harlow had started the game well, and this was a clear sucker punch for them, particularly Syrus Gordon, who should’ve done better to slip the ball to Foy when he was just outside the box. They kept knocking though. Foy released Small on the right with a crossfield pass, from which Small did well to win a throw. Although the following play came to nothing, Small’s pace and determination on the wing was a clear message to Staines that Harlow weren’t going down without a fight.

Just a minute later, Paul Rodgers found Honesty on the opposite side of the box. With the small bit of space that he had, Honesty managed to take a controlled touch and shoot on the volley with the outside of his foot. Hudnott made a good save at his near post though to deny the dual-registered player. Rodgers vs Worsfold was undoubtedly the key battle of the first half, the two trading runs at each other at almost every opportunity.

Harlow got themselves in another good position with 25 minutes on the clock: Edwards and Small linked up yet again on the right, and the latter’s deflected cross almost went into the net, with Hudnott tapping the ball over his crossbar at the last moment.

Harlow continued to absorb Staines’ pressure, and after some end-to-end football, camped for a few minutes in Staines’ half. However, the home fans were beginning to wonder if their team would ever score, with Rodgers, Joshua Pollard and Christian Scales all wasteful when crossing or shooting.

Staines mustered a few poor shots in return themselves, Sam Hatton shooting straight at the keeper when he had space outside the box during the 39th minute. Harlow had their best chances of the first half not long after. With three minutes until half time, Edwards won a free kick about 25 yards out on the left touchline. His looping ball was met by Ugo Udoji, who would’ve been relieved to see his defensive header go out for a corner, rather than gift a tap-in to Small.

Edwards, clearly buoyed on his so far impressive crossing, put in another delightful ball, this one low and curling dangerously. Hatton and Hudnott both left it, allowing Honesty to pounce. He laid it off to a rampant Foy, but ‘keeper Hudnott dived to the ball and just about beat the Cambridge United forward to it.

Harlow will be relieved that Buchanan’s impressive on-the-turn-and-volley shot straight down the other end was marginally over.

HALF-TIME: Harlow 0 – 1 Staines Town

Harlow could’ve felt a bit hard done by. They started brightly and neither team was really on top. With the usually red-hot Staines fairly quiet and wasteful in possession, the players would’ve felt positive going into the interval. A bit more calmness and time on the ball, and Harlow had every chance of getting something out of the game.

Both teams made a shaky start to the second half and were relying on long balls at first. Small latched onto one four minutes into the half, and made it to the Staines by-line, but was adjudged to have let the ball run out of play. A minute later, Scales made an impressive run from deep, but Foy could not control the short pass he gave to him inside the Staines box.

Harlow then had a brilliant chance, a deep free kick from the right was looped towards the right post, and after some pinball-like football, Harlow fans were left wondering how the ball didn’t end up in the net, Pollard coming the closest to getting the all- important touch.

Harlow were doing well to keep 25-goal man Elliot Buchanan quiet, but were needing to score themselves. They almost did, with just under an hour played. Scales’ long and looping corner found an unmarked Honesty, who headed it downwards. The ball went over the head of Udoji but nearby Small couldn’t pounce. The ball hit the crossbar and opposing ‘keeper Hudnott gratefully gathered it.

Unfortunately, Staines would then go to show why it is crucial to take your chances against them. From the above play, Staines booted it downfield and Rodgers had to halt the progress of Worsfold. From the resulting throw, the ball was whipped in. Driver beat Pollard to it and hit a powerful shot that David Hughes made contact with, but not enough. 2-0 to Staines, Driver’s 8th goal of the season coming in the 59th minute.

Immediately after, Driver should’ve got his second of the game, but he was wasteful upon capitalising on a miscommunication between Pollard and Audrius Laucys. Driver did eventually get his second goal of the game, but not before Harlow had their own say…

71 minutes on the clock, Pollard had time just on the halfway line but rushed his pass. Somewhat fortunately, it found Honesty, who outpaced his defender and got some space to shoot on the edge of the six-yard box. His shot was fairly tame, but it was turned into his own net by Ugo Udoji under pressure from Alex Read.

Harlow had the crowd firmly behind them after that goal, but almost conceded imediately after when a poor Pollard clearance found Driver. Driver slotted it through to Buchanan, but he hit it just wide from a tight angle.

Hughes’ following goal kick was a long one, and Small latched onto it, took a few touches, then drilled it across the keeper to equalise the game. In four minutes, Harlow turned their 2-goal deficit into a drawing position.

A huge upset may well have been on the cards, but it wasn’t to be. Immediately, Staines showed the attacking quality that has seen them reach the Middlesex Cup Final. Buchanan got away from Pollard and unleashed a thunderbolt of a shot. Hughes’ save was impressive and courageous, but it came to nothing as Driver reacted the quickest, scoring his second of the season to put the visitors ahead.

Harlow continued to show attacking impetus, Small again reaching the by-line and generally causing trouble for his marker Tyrell Miller-Rodney. Danny Chapman signalled his intent to get another goal with 10 minutes to go, swapping holding midfielder Fabion Simms for Tommie Fagg. The negative side to this gamble showed though just 3 minutes later. Driver found himself in space on the counter, and Bettamer in even more space. Driver supplied him well, and the forward feigned shooting a few times to get past Scales, before finishing in the bottom right. Their two-goal lead was restored, and it looked as if a win would escape Harlow for the eighth time in a row.

Opposing manager Johnson Hippolyte managed the game by taking off Driver and Buchanan for Bayley Brown and Jonathan Hipployte. Robbie Martin also came on for Christian Scales.

Naturally, Staines sat back, and a dejected Harlow failed to capitalise on second balls and put any promising plays together. Rodgers saw a 92nd minute cross of his fumbled by Hudnott, while Read felt his 94th minute shot was handballed, but that was it for Harlow, who were consigned to a sixth loss of 2018.

A fantastic watch for the neutral, but one hard to swallow for Harlow, who produced a gritty and spirited fightback after conceding a second goal.

FULL TIME: Harlow Town 2 – 4 Staines Town

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