Harlow Pegged Back At The Death
Alex Read’s early goal was cancelled out by an 89th minute equaliser, maintaining the slim one-point gap between the two teams.
By Callum Hibberd
The Hawks striker ended his month-long draught in the 12th minute, latching onto a Robbie Martin header at a set piece to put the home side ahead.
Despite some cagey play from either team towards the end, it looked as if Harlow would pick up their first win in 6, but the visitors got it back to 1-1 through Connor Tighe.
The draw sees Harlow remain in 23rd, and Burgess Hill remain in 24th. Harlow are now 4 points behind Tooting and Mitcham and Needham Market, albeit with a game in hand on the former.
Having come into the match just one point above but three games played more than The Hillians, Harlow knew that nothing less then a win would be acceptable. Burgess Hill were also clearly aware of the importance of this game, with both teams trading some fiery fouls from the off.
Harlow have had more league rest than Hill, who played on the 3rd and 7th February, and this showed, with Sam Clarke sending a troubling crossfield pass to Jared Small just four minutes in, the winger’s cross then cut out by a Hill defender. Hill responded almost immediately, with Connor Tighe lumping it up to Lee Harding, Ibrahima Sonko this time cutting out the danger.
Despite starting the game the better of the two teams, Harlow conceded the first real chance, with Aaron Smith-Joseph shooting narrowly wide from outside the six yard box, having collected a short pass from Lee Harding on the left. Harlow took temporary control of the game, limiting the visitors to hopeful long shots; but having conceded 9 goals in the last 5 games, Harlow knew they would need to score soon. They did just that in the 12th minute. Jared Small won a free kick on the right, about 5 yards away from and in line with the box. Christian Scales’ delivery looked to be too powerful, but Robbie Martin recovered it well and headed it back across to Alex Read, who was just quicker than his marker and poked a volley into the top left for his 15th goal of the season, his first since the 6th Jan win over Tooting and Mitcham.
Scales had an impressive opening 20 minutes, going on an impressive run in the 9th minute, troubling the Hill goalkeeper with a looping free kick in the 13th, and cutting out what was arguably Hill’s most impressive play of the match just five minutes later. The visitors had a chance not long after, but Smith-Joseph could not connect with a decent cross from Lee Harding, who was involved in the majority of what Burgess Hill were doing.
Alex Read looked lively following his goal, and almost gave the Hill ‘keeper a scare by pressurizing him at the corner flag. Not long after, he also won the ball back inside Harlow’s own half, releasing Syrus Gordon, who found Scales out wide, who then failed to meet the onrushing Read in the box.
Harlow were looking solid, keen to avoid a repeat of the defeat given to them by Burgess Hill just 16 days ago; however, they almost came unstuck when a mix-up between James Baker, David Hughes and Scales gave Smith-Joseph easy possession. He couldn’t, however, get a decent shot off.
Thirty minutes on the clock, the importance of the game showed once more when there was an altercation between Paul Rodgers and Smith-Joseph. Both players calmed quickly, with Smith-Joseph receiving a yellow card. The resulting free kick caused a mix-up between the Burgess Hill defenders, allowing the lurking Read to lay it off to Fabion Simms, but his close-range shot was blocked over the line by a brave Ibrahim Diallo.
Both teams exchanged some more impressive play but were both wasteful. Lee Harding had a lot of space outside the box on 30 minutes but could only hit a defender. Ten minutes later, after good work from Small to win a corner, Sonko fired high and wide from an improbable angle when a pass would’ve been wiser. Small found himself in a good position a minute later, but failed to slide the ball through to Read, who would’ve been in on goal. For the second time in a few minutes, Sonko fired way over the bar, this time on the half volley from just outside the six-yard box after a corner had found it’s way to him.
HALF-TIME: Harlow Town 1 – 0 Burgess Hill
Burgess Hill started the second half with Che Krabbendam on the field in place of Aaron Smith-Joseph. Both teams made a messy start to the second half: Hill found themselves 2-on-2 outside of Harlow’s box, but passed it out of play, while four minutes later Simms couldn’t create anything after latching onto a hoofed clearance from James Baker. Harlow had the next two attacks and were looking to take control of the game. In the 53rd minute, Read spotted Small out wide, and Small’s powerful cross was nearly turned into Hill’s net by one of their own defenders. Just a minute later, Read tried to lob the keeper following a suspect throw, but was unsuccessful. In the 57th minute, Hill goalkeeper Tony Di Bernardo executed another poor goal kick, but Harlow’s failure to capitalise had them and the fans frustrated.
Opposing manager Ian Chapman bought on attacker Ibrahim Forfana for defender Stephane Ngamvoulou, and this changed the flow of the game slightly. Impressive play from the visitors saw them win a corner. This was whipped to Jack Brivio, who headed it onwards, it missed one Hill player and fell into the path of another, Forfana, but he mistimed his effort and couldn’t get a shot off. Hawks manager Danny Chapman spoke last match about the lack of luck for bottom-of-the-table teams, but they certainly had some here.
With an hour on the clock, Small was booked for simulation, and despite the questionable nature of the decision, Harlow stayed alert, with Small almost latching onto a quickly taken free kick four minutes later. Just 50 seconds later, Sam Clarke was booked for holding back a Hill play bursting onto a Forfana through ball. The resulting free kick was played long to Lee Harding, who whipped it in from the left, but Sonko was there to clear, albeit with some weak handball shouts. Lee Harding turned shooter just two minutes later, but his header in the box was poorly directed and straight into the hands of Hughes, who had yet to make a difficult save this game.
Aware of their recent struggles to close out games, and the importance of 3 points, the game entered a shaky phase for Harlow. Simms had to clear a corner from Hill off of his own line, while Sonko was forced to thwart a promising counter attack with a last-ditch slide tackle. Chapman responded and injected fresh legs into the game during minute 72, Toby Ajala replacing an applauded Robbie Martin. Harlow had a decent chance just five minutes later, Read jiggled his way into the box, he laid it off to Gordon, who turned and put it on a plate for Fabion Simms, but his shot was blocked. Paul Rodgers crossed it into the box just three minutes later, but no one met it and the ball flashed across the face of goal. Sam Clarke then came off for Charlie Edwards, who had already scored 2 since signing for the club in mid-January.
Harlow had a chance to put the game to bed, but ultimately couldn’t. Small ran most of the right-hand side of the pitch, and put in a lovely ball to Charlie Edwards, but he couldn’t build on his hot scoring run, poking his shot straight at the keeper. This would come back to bite Harlow.
Despite how much the game changed following the Edwards chance, it looked as if Harlow were just going to sneak a win. A curling Hill free kick missed everybody in the box with 85 minutes on the clock, and not long after Joey Taylor produced an awful cross for the visitors when in a promising position. However, the pressure finally let up in the 89th minute. Ibrahim Forfana took the ball a few yards forward, then slotted it through to Connor Tighe, who had got away from James Baker. The forward took one touch, then blasted it across David Hughes into the opposite corner, his first goal since scoring a brace against Harlow on the 23rd of January.
Danny Chapman spoke last game about not being good enough in either box. The same could be said today, there definitely should’ve been more goals from both teams. Considering the lateness of the goal, a disappointing result for Harlow, but probably a fair one.
FULL-TIME: Harlow Town 1 – 1 Burgess Hill
MAN OF THE MATCH
Christian Scales. The young full back was impressive in attack and defence, regularly putting in good crosses and cutting out promising plays from Burgess Hill
Burgess Hill travel to Enfield on Tuesday night, while we travel to Worthing on the 17th. Kick off is at 3PM
Chapman made just three changes to the team that suffered a last-gasp defeat to Merstham 10 days ago. Loan signing Christian Scales came straight in for his second debut, along with James Baker and Sam Clarke. Toby Ajala and Charlie Edwards dropped to bench; they were joined by Tommie Fagg, Kezie Ibe and Leon Antoine. Ibrahima Sonko captained the side, a side featuring Robbie Martin in a more advanced left midfield role.
Burgess Hill: Tony Di Bernardo; Ibrahim Diallo, Joey Taylor, Stephane Ngamvoulou, Gary Elphick ©; James Richmond, Pat Harding, Jack Brivio; Lee Harding, Aaron Smith-Joseph, Connor Tighe. Their replacements were Sam Fisk, Che Krabbendam, Ibrahim Forfana, Fintan Walsh and James Shaw.