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Football: Super Harlow Town go top of the league

Football / Fri 2nd Feb 2024 at 07:06am

Thurlow Nunn League South

Basildon United 0 v 1 Harlow Town

By Logan Young

IT certainly wasn’t the smoothest of games for the Hawks on Saturday; the return to Rookery Hill couldn’t have been much more dissimilar to November’s 1-4 win in which the reds cruised to victory. In many aspects, it was most similar to the 0-0 bore draw from back in August at the Pardus Wealth Stadium. Irrespective of this, to extend our unbeaten run to 10 games is absolutely something to shout about.

Not only this, but we now find ourselves top of the Thurlow Nunn Division One South. With Clapton Community not playing until Friday night, our win sends us above them with a game in hand, although Benfleet breathe down our necks with six games in hand.

Danny Chapman made two changes from our 3-2 win against Brimsdown: Bobby Kirby and Ishaq Ameen were named on the substitutes bench, with Bobby Kirby and Raheem Gray coming into the starting XI.

In a very windy Rookery Hill, the first half was a dull showing from both sides. There was no doubt that we were in control of the game – we had more possession and and definitely more chances – but the sticky, bobbly surface at the stadium made it difficult for us to play fluid football.

To add to this, we suffered an early blow, as Alex Luque left the pitch with an injury just 5 minutes in. Alfie Attrill came on to replace him. 

In one of the quietest halves of football all season emerged one major chance for the Hawks. Basildon struggled to get the ball clear and it bounced straight to Junior Dadson, six yards from goal. The winger took his time before striking a left-footed effort wide, which Raheem Gray attempted to get on the end of, but fell just short. 

With everything to play for in the second half, the game started to become more eventful. The first chance of the half fell for us when Raheem Gray beat the defender for pace from a ball over the top. Ozcelik was quick off his line and denied him.

Down the other end, the referee deemed a shoulder-barge from Fabion Simms to be a foul in the penalty box, giving Basildon Town their first opportunity of the game – and what a chance it was. However, it was always going to be a tough one for Dylan Jones with penalty-saving master James Pellin in front of him. James Pellin once again pulled off the heroics to keep us in the game.

Basildon kept pushing and looking for an opener and Harry Daly had a crack from 35 yards which James Pellin had to be on his toes to save. It was a reality check for Harlow and prompted us to play with more urgency going forward.

We registered our first shot on target of the game, with Jack Zielinski hitting it at Ozcelik on the turn, but just minutes later the linesman went down injured and the game was delayed for around 10 minutes.

After the stoppage, it was Basildon Town who had the first chance, with a corner headed over the bar that ended up being their last chance of the game. Just minutes later, the referee gave a foul on Arley Barker. Despite it being at least 3 yards in the box, the officials gave a free-kick on the edge. It was painfully close to heading in the top corner as Ruben Santos curled it into the crossbar.

In the 87th minute, Ozcelik punched the ball away into a dangerous area. The Basildon Town goalkeeper rushed off his line and went in for a second punch that connected with the head of Ruben Santos. This time, the referee did award a penalty, which Tom Jelliman stepped up and smashed home. Despite our lack of success from the spot this season, Jelliman made no mistake of it and we took the lead late in the game. Jelly was sure to sprint over to the home dugout and celebrate with them.

At this stage, it was about holding onto the three points for Harlow, but when it came to it, we were not going to hold back on counter-attacking. In a moment of madness, Grant Cumming (the Basildon Town captain) took a heavy touch and sent us on the break. The skipper slid in with a horrendous challenge and was rightfully sent to the changing rooms as a result. 

The final moment of the game came when yet another crazy challenge was performed: Korede Da Silva had possession in the Basildon Town box but was brutally challenged from behind and the referee had no choice but to point to the spot for the third time in the game. Jelliman stepped up again, this time going the other way and Ozcelik saw this coming, making a good save but palming it back into Jelliman’s path. However, Ozcelik made an incredible save on the rebound to keep the score just one, the best moment of the game for Basildon Town.

One of the craziest games of the season had finally come to an end. It was a game that we needed three points from, and thankfully we came away with them. Thank you to all the fans who travelled to the game and all the recent support.

Our focus now shifts to this Saturday’s game at home to Park View, kicking off at 3pm.

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