Football: Harlow’s season concludes with rollercoaster defeat

Season Concludes With Rollercoaster Defeat
By Callum Hibberd

THE 2018-19 season ended on an entertaining yet negative note, as the Hawks were on the wrong side of a seven-goal thriller.

In a first half not so eventful, Scott Davies’ 27th minute free kick goal was cancelled out by a penalty from opposing captain James Rogers.

Tobi Sho-Silva then got the first of a hat-trick in the 49th minute, but Tom Hitchcock bought the game back level with a smart header 14 minutes later.

Sho-Silva scored with a header of his own in the 65th minute, and would later secure his hat trick with 80 minutes on the clock. Not before Matt Foy equalised though, with a fine individual effort in the 76th minute.

The result sees Harlow end a season to forget in last place, having gained 34 points from nine wins, seven draws and twenty-six defeats.

The main downfall for Danny Chapman and his team has ultimately been the defence, the 107 conceded massively undoing the 54 scored at the other end.

In an opening 18 minutes short on chances, a powerful long-range strike from Tom Mills was the only true test for Josh Bexon, which the keeper parried wide.

It was then Bexon who broke the quiet spell, rushing out at pace to boot clear a weak pass back from Josh Urquhart. The hopeful punt went straight into the path of Scott Davies, who urged forward and found Tom Hitchcock on the edge of the box. His shot was deflected into the path of Matt Foy, but his effort towards the near post was well saved by Kleton Perntreou.

There was a rare moment of joy for Harlow Town fans in the 26th minute, as Scott Davies curled a twenty-yard free kick around the wall and into the bottom right corner to give his team the lead. ‘If’ is a big word in football, but Harlow may well have pulled clear from the relegation zone had Scott Davies been their player from August. Always reliable, it will be a boost to the club if he is representing them next season.

The game had sprung into action, just moments later, Chris Gregan headed over his own bar to divert a dangerous cross from Tobi Sho-Silva. From the corner, the ball was eventually worked to Mills, who’s precise floated cross didn’t get the response it deserved from Jordan Robins, the striker glancing his header wide from close range.

But Margate came again, and Robins held possession just outside the box. He tried to turn Gregan, and had some success, the defender laying an arm on his shoulder to try and regain some ground. Robins went down, and it did look a harsh penalty to give, but there was a small amount of contact. And up stepped James Rogers, who in his last game of semi-professional football, slotted the penalty into the bottom left corner. 33 minutes in, and the game stood at 1-1.

There was a scare for Harlow a few minutes later, Bexon confidently dealing, outside of the box, with a ball over the top. However, he accidentally handled the ball off of his chest, and was given a yellow card, after much debate between the referee and his assistant.

The rest of the first half saw possession exchanged frequently, but the lack of chances backed up all evidence that this was an end of season game.

HALF-TIME: Harlow Town 1 – 1 Margate

Margate won a corner early on in the second half, and almost profited from it, Sho-Silva was all over Bexon in the air, and therefore bundled the ball past him, but saw a goal prevented by Gregan on the line.

However, Sho-Silva was one-on-one again in the 48th minute, a header from Ben Swift bouncing favourably into his path, and the striker made no mistakes, biding his time before drilling the ball into the bottom right to put his team ahead.

The visitors were beginning to cut through Harlow like butter, perhaps worrying given they started the day as the division’s lowest scorers. Sho-Silva had another chance, Francis Collins noticing him alone in space just outside the box, before delivering a perfect through ball. Bexon was strong again, making himself big enough to block the shot.

It was almost like a training drill. Another ball over the top in the 58th minute, another Sho-Silva Vs Bexon scenario. And it was the latter who came out on top again, rushing to the edge of the box and getting down low to save again. De-Ja-Vu was clearly the theme of the day, a Davies free kick one minute later had to be tipped over the bar by Pentreou.

With an hour on the clock, Harlow’s two best players by far, combined to equalise. Gregan took a quick throw, which didn’t work out, but the ball was won back by him, and worked to Davies on the left corner of the box. Taking out Jack Paxman with a smart edge of the boot turn, the midfielder curled it in with pace. On hand was Hitchcock, squeezing a header past the keeper to net his 14th goal of an impressive individual season, which has also included ten assists.

There was certainly life to the game, and the entertainment was nearly extended with an own goal, Ben Fitchett’s block of a cross almost calamitously tumbling into his own net.

But Margate kept composed, and passed it around patiently in midfield. A switch was executed to Paxman, who felt no hesitation to cross. Sho-Silva, who was unmarked again, headed low into the net from close range to swing the game back in favour of Margate.

Harlow looked more fluid today than in recent weeks, perhaps due to the pressure being off. But they failed to create anything of substance for a few minutes, despite the introduction of Christian Adu Gyamfi, who chased down relentlessly. Matt Foy was to change that though, cutting out three Margate defenders with an impressive dribble from just outside the box, before finishing low past Perntreou to make it 3-3. A mistake from Ben Fithcett had handed him possession, but the young forwards still had lots of work to do, and did it impressively.

But any observant Harlow fans would’ve been very aware of what could happen next, and saw it happen indeed. With ten minutes to go, another long ball presented another chance, with Urquhart chasing Sho-Silva towards goal. The defender did get a tackle in, but it only helped Sho-Silva. Bexon saved low yet again, but the power of the shot meant the ball bounced past him, resulting in a footrace that Sho-Silva won, tapping into an empty net to complete his hat trick.

The concentration of Harlow’s defence dropped yet again towards the end of the game, as substitute Noel Leighton dribbled easily through the middle of the park, but Bexon made another resolute one-on-one save, one of many in this incredibly busy season for him.

That proved to be the last chance of what was an eventful curtain-closer.

FULL-TIME: Harlow Town 3 – 4 Margate

That’s it for the football for now. The Hawks will await news over the summer on which branch of Step 4 they will be playing in next season.

Come on you Hawks!

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