Football: Harlow Town dig deep for draw against Leatherhead

Football / Sun 16th Dec 2018 at 10:49am

Bostik Premier

Harlow Town 2 v 2 Leatherhead

By Callum Hibberd

ON a bitterly cold afternoon, The Hawks rescued a point after going 2-0 down against Leatherhead.

Early strikes in each half from Ibrahim Olutade and Shaun Okojie had Danny Chapman and his team looking at a first home defeat in three, but they rallied well, with Tom Hitchcock (61) and Nathan Koranteng (74) completing the comeback.

Although the team can be satisfied with the comeback, there is still plenty of work to be done, as Harlow still sit in the relegation zone: 20th, with 19 points.

An eerily quiet opening six minutes saw neither team gain a hold of the game, but Leatherhead managed to take the lead, Ibrahim Olutade the scorer. The number 10 netted in the sixth minute after shooting low and hard from outside the box, taking advantage of Josh Bexon’s cold feet to give his team an early lead.

Bexon did pull off a good save four minutes later though, acrobatically punching away a powerful shot from The Tanners’ top-scorer, Shaun Okojie.

Harlow’s first real sign of intent came in the 21st minute, Nathan Koranteng and Yannick Kissi worked well down the left byline, allowing the pair to go from their own half to Leatherhead’s box, but the former’s final touch was too heavy and Zaki Oualah smothered it easily.

The Hawks’ were improving gradually, and after some fiery exchanges in the middle of the park, the ball was worked into Matt Foy just outside the box. The young loanee dazzled past a few defenders, and upon being bought down, was fair to appeal for a penalty, although the calls were waved away. He kept knocking though, winning back the ball and putting in a precise lofted cross across goal to Koranteng, but Oualah reacted impressively to claim the ball in the air. There was no equaliser, but the warning signs were there for Leatherhead.

On the half hour mark, JJ Da Cruz sliced a high ball behind him, and the ball fell kindly to Olutade about nine yards from goal, but his powerful half-volley shot was well turned away by Bexon, who dived well to tip the ball wide of the right post.

It was then Foy’s turn to unleash a half volley, his ambitious effort from just outside the box rose and swerved, but was ultimately off the mark. Of all eleven Harlow players on the pitch, he was certainly the brightest of the opening period.

With five minutes of the half left, Leatherhead winger Daniel Gallagher received the ball on the halfway line, and tapped it across to D’Sean Theobolds. The centre back then took the ball forward fifteen yards, and showed the vision of a playmaker to slip it behind the defence to Okojie, but his tight-angled shot was saved by Bexon, who made himself big.

Leatherhead almost scored from nothing again, this time in the 46th minute. Okojie headed on a long free kick, and with Jeremiah Amoo outmuscling Kissi to the bouncing ball, Bexon saved the day again with some quick reactions, coming out fast to narrow the angle and make a successful shot for the winger impossible.

HALF-TIME: Harlow Town 0 – 1 Leatherhead

The recent tendency for Harlow to play better in the second half needed to be stronger than ever, especially with Okojie scoring a penalty for the visitors in the 50th minute. Even the Leatherhead fans seemed a bit shocked, the referee giving the decision against Reece Hackney, who hand balled inside the box at a free kick, although it certainly wasn’t intentional, as the holding midfielder was simply closing down his man.

With both fans and players seemingly freezing to death, Tom Hitchcock was offered a chance on the hour mark, and he certainly took it. After being bought down, the attacking midfielder expertly placed a low free kick into the bottom left corner to put his team back in the game.

Many had thought he’d scored again just three minutes later. Kissi put in a swerving set piece from the left, and Hitchcock’s header from it nestled on the wrong side of the net.

Danny Chapman decided to bring on Harry Watkins with 20 minutes to go, with the hope that the young midfielder would change the game on his home debut.

Koranteng was then the focal point of two key moments not long after. A mazy dribble into the box was followed by a tantalising low ball across, but it didn’t get the recipient it was begging for. Not long after, he won a corner by forcing a good save from Oualah from 25 yards out.

But his third bite of the cherry is what did it for his team. After numerous crosses and cut backs were somehow missed from The Hawks front line, the winger unleashed a wild first-time shot from just inside the six yard box. The shot rose and flew past the keeper, bouncing off the crossbar and back into the net to bring Harlow level.

Both teams exchanged short periods of control, but the first real test for Bexon in the half didn’t come till the 85th minute, when a cross from Gallagher was awfully close for comfort.

As the temperature dropped, excitement rose, Foy winning a corner in the 87th minute after some hard work off the ball. Hitchcock beat his marker, and headed it downwards. Will Seager was brave to let it bounce over him, but was proved correct, as the header was inches wide of the goal.

Just as the four added minutes were announced, Watkins came agonisingly close with a superb effort. A header away from a corner fell nicely for him, and his half-volleyed effort was painstakingly close to completing a sensational turnaround.

Then Laurence Vaughan, who had just come on for Koranteng, saw a deflected shot trickle into the net. While he celebrated what he thought was another late winner, the majority of his team mates had already seen the linesman’s flag rise.

The full-time whistle blew shortly after to confirm shared points

FULL-TIME: Harlow Town 2 – 2 Leatherhead

Harlow next make the short trip to Bishops Stortford on Boxing Day. Please note that the kick off time is not the usual, with the game starting at 1PM. The Hawks then host Hornchurch just 3 days later (3PM).

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