Harlow in cagey penalty shootout victory
By Callum Hibberd
THE Hawks’ League Cup campaign began with two hard-earned points, their clash with Histon finishing in a 4-2 penalty shootout win, after a 2-2 draw in normal time.
Under the new rules of the competition, draws in the group stage are preceded by spot kicks, and it was the home side who picked up an extra point courtesy of this, two strong saves from Josh Bexon complimenting bold Harlow penalties.
The result sees Danny Chapman and his men end the evening in second place of group three.
Perhaps worryingly, Histon were enjoying success early on with simple long balls, often getting forwards in behind. Such play, and a smart touch from Danny Gould outside the box, gave him a one-on-one shooting chance, but Josh Bexon narrowed his angle well and made a good save.
And an important save this was, as Harlow wake up and began to take control of the game, winning more duels in the middle of the pitch. Ozzy Adeniji won one in the 16th minute, and set off on an impressive dribble. He beat holding midfielders James Chivers and Matt Green, before shaping his body and supplying a through ball into the box. De’Jaune Taylor-Crossdale had work to do, and showed a quick turn of pace to get around and behind his marker Rob Ruddy, before curling it round the keeper to open the scoring.
Four minutes later, a simple foul gave Histon a free-kick, slightly to the left and 25 yards out. Pat Bexfield’s ball across had height but lacked pace, although Matt Green still met it with a header. Despite this not having much speed behind it either, both defenders and Bexon watched the ball loop back across goal and nestle into the bottom corner. One apiece.
Certainly a quiet game, the next chance came 15 minutes later, and from an alarmingly similar position. This time, Yannick Kissi headed away, but a shanked volley from Andy Ballester made things awkward for the Harlow defence, although Oliver Finch won the aerial battle on the goal-line and headed it safely behind.
The right-back, making his first competitive start for the club, then almost turned provider moments after, winning the ball high up the pitch and firing it in straightaway. Tayo Oyebola was quicker to react than Bexfield, racing towards the ball. But Histon goalkeeper Sam Roach was even faster, closing the space between himself and the in-form winger, to save his powerful header with a point-blank ankle save.
Perhaps the players wanted the game to go to a penalty shootout, something that has been freshly introduced in the event of a draw during the group stages of this revamped competition. Neither team really showed a reason to deserve the lead, and those in attendance definitely would’ve been hoping for more action in the second period.
HALF-TIME: Harlow Town 1 – 1 Histon FC
It was action they got, the visitors missing a golden chance through Chivers, who’s header at a corner somehow went wide from a matter of yards. It was a powerful delivery in from Simon Swinton, but Harlow were switching off too frequently, perhaps the result of three changes in defence.
Histon made some changes themselves, bringing on four substitutes at half-time, and another in the 55th minute, making the most of a new rule in The Isthmian League Cup that allows you to use all five players named on the bench.
Oyebola often finds success drifting into the box, and was on hand when Roach came for and fumbled a high cross from Kissi. But Roach had Bexfield to thank, the centre-half putting excellent pressure on Oyebola to deny him a shot at the now open goal.
With the game increasing in tempo, Taylor-Crossdale appeared to be The Hawks’ best attacking outlet. He worked himself into a good position in the 69th minute, dashing onto a ball down the touch-line from Kissi. He then cut back in, and drilled it hard into the box. It appeared harder to miss, yet Christian Adu Gyamfi failed to make header contact with the ball from seven yards; frustrating, given the perfect weight and speed behind the cross. That was his last action of the game, as he was replaced by Ahmed Salim-Futa with ten minutes to go. Sam Evans, Jules Lopez and Cartel Emmanuel also came on for Oyebola, Finch and Amar Lewis.
But it was the earlier substitute in Serge Erkaslan, who helped give his team the lead in the 83rd minute, capitalising on a mix-up in Huston’s midfield, to play in Taylor-Crossdale. The winger showed a cool head again, finishing smartly past Roach.
And in-line with what had been a scrappy game, Histon equalised in the same fashion. A hopeless punt forward from Roach bounced awkwardly around the Harlow box, and Dan Brown found himself on the right side of Harlow’s back-line, and blasted it past Bexon to get his second goal of the season.
Easily the most fruitful partnership of the night, Kissi and Taylor-Crossdale continued to link up down the left flank. A promising cross from the former ricocheted off the shoulder of Daniel Pieterson, and narrowly swerved over the net.
And as the game spilled into added time, yet another cross was not met with the header it deserved, Salim-Futa mistiming his jump and his effort going just over as a result.
END OF 90 MINUTES: Harlow Town 2 – 2 Histon FC
And so, at the first possible opportunity, Harlow endured a penalty shootout in the Isthmian League Cup.
De’Jaune Taylor-Crossdale and Pat Bexfield rounded off positive games with precise penalties into the bottom corners to get things underway.
Bexon and Roach then traded strong saves, both anticipating the direction of penalties from Evan Key and Serge Erkaslan.
Salim-Futa stepped up to the pressure with a powerful blast into the top right, and Bexon made another good save to deny Chivers from the spot.
Syrus Gordon, ever a bold presence on the field, made it 3-1 with a short run-up but solid spot kick towards the top left. Daniel Pieterson kept Histon alive with a clever dummy to the right, but Cartel Emmanuel sealed the extra point with a simple rolled effort into the middle.
FULL-TIME: Harlow Town 2 – 2 Histon FC
*Harlow Town won 4-2 on penalties, and take an extra point*
League football returns this Saturday, Tooting and Mitcham the visitors to The McCullochs Arena for a 3PM kick-off.
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