Mistakes cost Hawks
A combination of missed opportunities and individual mistakes consigned Harlow Town to defeat on a freezing afternoon away to Merstham.
Harlow created chances to win the game, but sloppiness in defence in the second half gifted the hosts with two goals.
Coming off the back of a win over Metropolitan Police, the Hawks were in high spirits and after a good first half performance they would have felt confident of taking something from the game at the interval.
The hosts scored soon after the re-start though, and when they capitalised on a quick free kick 11 minutes later they ensured all three points would go towards cementing a mid-table finish.
The Hawks started brightly, and when a corner was cleared to the onrushing Syrus Gordon on the edge of the area, he put an effort just over as a warning shot to the hosts.
Merstham winger Tayshan Hayden-Smith was a thorn in the side of the Harlow defence for most of the afternoon, and when he broke down the left and played a one-two with Tom Collins, it created space for the shot. David Hughes got both hands behind the effort to tip it over the bar.
Matt Foy, who had been Harlow’s two-goal hero in the previous outing, had a great opportunity to put the Hawks ahead. Jared Small used his pace to beat defender Liam Harwood and put the ball on a plate for Foy with a low cross, but he somehow lifted it over the bar from just three yards out with the goal gaping.
Harlow’s injury hit squad was knocked further when Charlie Edwards, who had been threatening in attack, was forced off seemingly in some pain, and with that substitution the visitors lost much of the midfield creativity that had been threatening the Merstham goal.
Alex Read was instrumental for Harlow on the left hand side, and he almost forced a goal mid way through the half. He beat his marker to deliver a powerful cross in front of goal, only to see Liam Harwood put the ball over his own bar with Matt Foy loitering for the tap-in.
Hayden-Smith went close for the hosts again when his shimmy inside the area made space, but he wasted the opportunity when he cleared the crossbar by some way and the game went into half time goalless.
HT: Merstham 0-0 Harlow Town
With a good first half under their belts, Harlow just needed to settle into the second half, but a mix-up in defence put them on the back foot just three minutes after the restart.
Merstham played a long bouncing ball forward, and when David Hughes came off his line to clear, Tayshan Hayden-Smith nipped in and lobbed the ball over the goalkeeper and into the net.
Another defensive lapse led to the hosts doubling the lead. Harlow conceded a foul just inside their own half, and when Merstham took the free kick quickly it cut open the Harlow defence. Alex Addai still had work to do, but he rounded the goalkeeper before sliding home the finish.
Harlow seemed to have been stunned by the quick deficit, and it wasn’t until the last 20 minutes when they started to recover.
A corner was cleared to substitute Jack Fowler, who put the shot just over the corner of the goal. Robbie Martin then played in Alex Read, whose turn-and-shot stung the palms of former Harlow stopper Ashlee Jones, forcing a corner.
From the resulting corner a delightful cross found Matt Foy in the centre of the goal, but he directed the header wide of the post when he should have buried the effort.
Time was running out for Harlow, and with two minutes left on the clock they were denied a consolation by the width of the post. A free kick found Syrus Gordon outside the area, and his low shot clattered off the upright.
FT: Merstham 2-0 Harlow Town
With all other sides around them losing, the Hawks remain in 22nd in the league table, level on points with Tooting & Mitcham United but with a superior goal difference. Bottom-placed Burgess Hill are six points adrift, but having played three games fewer.
Harlow’s next action in the league is on Saturday 24th March, when Leatherhead are the visitors. Kick off is at 3pm.