Impressive Harlow Secure Three Huge Points
Two well taken finishes gave Harlow the win at The McCullochs Arena, with Leatherhead only managing a late consolation goal.
by Callum Hibberd
Harlow made the best possible start when Matt Foy got his fifth for the club in the second minute, before Robbie Martin doubled the lead in the 18th minute.
Leatherhead threatened to make a comeback, but Aron Pollock’s 91st minute goal was the only one they would score.
The result sees Harlow move up to 21st, one point above Lowestoft, who beat 23rd placed Tooting and Mitcham earlier today. Harlow are now six points above the dreaded 24th relegation spot, albeit having played two games more than the team occupying it: Burgess Hill.
Leatherhead were looking to continue their attack on the playoff spots after their midweek loss. However, their potential tiredness showed instantly, with Matt Foy finding acres of space in the middle after a goal kick. Foy laid it off to Robbie Martin, who then put a precise through ball past his marker. Foy rushed on to it, taking a few touches before calmly slotting it into the bottom left. The young Cambridge United striker’s composed finish saw the Hawks take the lead, a lead even more encouraging when you consider Leatherhead are a team with the joint-lowest scoring figures but near-best defence in this league.
Harlow were clearly well motivated for this game, they were putting brilliant pressure on Leatherhead and their impressive interplay; Syrus Gordon a prime example, cutting out a promising run from opposing winger Liam McManus in the sixth minute. Gordon was then robbed of the ball a minute later in the middle of the park, but Leatherhead failed to capitalise.
The game remained end-to-end despite the scoreline. Centre-back Dan Gallagher unleashed a rising shot from the edge of the box ten minutes in, but it was well claimed by Harlow ‘keeper David Hughes. It was however a warning, with Harlow being caught out a few times in possession near their own box. Orient loanee Scales had an impressive opening to the game, he won possession numerous times and was unlucky not to get more from his lively running.
Foy almost doubled his tally and Harlow’s lead in the 14th minute. Alex Read, impressive last week on the wing, collected a goal kick and slipped it through to Foy. Foy out-muscled his marker, came into the box and aimed for the near top corner. Opposing keeper Sam Sargeant made himself big and smothered the effort. Clearly unsettled by the surprise scoreline and a Harlow team full of tricks, Leatherhead became wasteful, Jack Midson failing to make use of possession in a decent area on the counter from Sargeant’s previous save, and Clohessy seeing a cross miss all of his team mates. Not long after, D’Sean Theobalds wriggled into the box and shot just wide with his laces.
With 18 minutes on the clock, the fans were sounding their goal sirens again. From a throw-in, Fabion Simms found Jared Small on the touchline. Small cut in a bit and looked as if he would cross, however he met an onrushing Martin just outside the box instead. A perfect ball accompanied by a perfect finish, Martin stroked it into the far left corner for his first Harlow goal.
Harlow were looking disciplined in defence and determined to keep control, while Leatherhead seemed rattled. Opposing captain Lee Minshull had to be spoken to in the 23rd minute after preventing a quick free kick following his handball. Once eventually taken, Harlow almost found themselves three goals ahead, but Nathan Wood bravely blocked a volleyed shot with his face. On the follow up, Simms could only slice his effort. Leatherhead responded poorly, wasting two passages of play. On the third, they almost scored, with Tom Derry’s backheel effort from close-range saved by David Hughes. Right-back Sean Clohessy had put in a good ball for winger Derry, and it could be argued the number nine made the wrong decision.
Any attacking threat that Leatherhead were carrying would have to be adapted on the half-hour mark, as their 13-goal player-assistant manager Jack Midson had to go off injured, Ruel Sotiriou taking his place. Harlow on the other hand, were epitomizing ‘attacking threat’, Small turning markers inside out, Martin looking lively off the ball, and Read constantly looking for Foy. In the 32nd minute, Scales almost got in on the scoring act, collecting a ball on the overlap from Read, nutmegging a defender and then shooting at the keeper from the byline. A pass was probably the wiser move, but his team mates and crowd were impressed by his footwork and will. On the counter, Theobalds almost scored, heading just over from a lofted Clohessy cross, after some good work between him and Sotiriou.
As half-time approached, the game saw a series of long balls, perhaps indicating Harlow’s willingness to safely see out the half. Leatherhead played a long ball of their own, Derry collecting and releasing Sotiriou, who had to be stopped by a last ditch Sam Clarke slide tackle. Then, with just three minutes to go until the interval, Small was released by Joshua Pollard in his own half, before crossing into the box. His cross was met by a Tanners defender, and their clearance almost rebounded off of Foy for what would have been a very lucky goal. Harlow were not to be stopped there, Scales curled just over from the left of the box after capitalising on some hesitance from Leatherhead.
HALF-TIME: Harlow Town 2 – 0 Leatherhead Town. A brilliant first half display from Harlow. Two well taken goals and clear dominance over a team who had picked up 12 points from their last five games. Leatherhead swapped Nathan Wood for Jerry Nnamani at the interval, with no changes for Harlow.
Harlow got a shot off as early as the 48th minute, but Martin was high and wide from his half-volleyed effort. Immediately after, Harlow produced another half-chance, with Small whipping a cross into Read, who unfortunately couldn’t get above Pollock. Another chance a minute later, Foy almost taking the ball off of Sam Sargeant in his own box. The onslaught continued in the 51st minute, when Read showed good strength to get a shot off from a tight angle, but his shot was deflected.
Clohessy was heavily involved in Leatherhead play yet again. Left-back Tom Richards put in a powerful cross from the flank, and everyone left it bar Clohessy, who produced a nice curled shot, which Clarke had to head out for a corner. Clohessy delivered the set piece and remarkably, Pollock hit the bar with a header that couldn’t have been from any further than three yards out. Leatherhead continued to press though, and Derry perhaps would’ve set one of his team mates up if Josh Pollard didn’t take one for the team in receiving a yellow card. From the resulting free kick, Simms stole the ball and released Scales, who put in what was probably his first poor cross of the day.
In the 58th minute, Leatherhead had another chance. Sam Clarke was carded for a rough approach to an aerial duel with Clohessy, and the free kick was troublesome, but Small showed composure to intercept the header back across from Theobalds, and dribble the ball out of danger. From this, Small eventually had possession in the middle, and sent a looping ball to Matt Foy, who almost got a shot off, but was stopped by substitute Jerry Nnamani.
Martin and Foy linked up yet again in the 64th minute, but Martin’s cut back was intercepted. On the break, Pollard dealt with the resulting shot from Derry and won a goal kick. Derry ended on that note, Reece Williams-Bowers replacing him. Williams-Bowers was involved just two minutes later, he almost latched on to a poor back pass from Sam Clarke, but Hughes was bold in sliding and clearing any danger. Three minutes later, Theobalds pulled the trigger outside the box but his curling shot was just over the bar. Leatherhead had finally found their tempo.
Leatherhead went agonisingly close again not long after. From a free kick near the right corner flag, Clohessy found Nnamani who narrowly failed to halve the deficit with a header. Leatherhead were slowly growing into the game, desperate to add to the 12 goals that Harlow have conceded in the last five, but Harlow stayed strong, actually having more chances themselves. After nice play between an in-form Small and debutant Aaron Jones, the latter whipped in a low cross, but Read took an accidental touch rather than his desired shot on goal, allowing a Leatherhead defender to scramble the ball out of play. Chapman then injected some fresh legs into the game by replacing a hugely applauded Robbie Martin for Tommie Fagg.
Ruel Sotiriou was looking dangerous for Leatherhead, curling over in the 82nd minute after some impressive footwork. The same could be said about Theobalds and Clohessy. The two linked up outside the box but Theobald’s through ball attempt to Sotiriou was poor. Leatherhead’s Niall McManus picked up a yellow card after bringing down Simms in the 85th minute. Three minutes later, the pressure from Leatherhead almost told, Nnamani’s looping header from a freekick landing just on top of the net rather than in it, Hughes certainly beaten.
With impressive pressing and unrivalled energy, it looked as if Harlow would pick up their first league clean sheet since November 7th. However, Aron Pollock got a 91st minute goal after coming out on top of a goal mouth scramble, caused by a Williams-Bowers header across goal.
Chapman spoke two weeks ago about the team sometimes not staying compact and dropping their heads at crucial moments, but this wasn’t to happen today. Christian Scales had to win a crucial battle in the centre of the park, but apart from that, Harlow had no issue closing the game out.
A fantastic win for Harlow against a much stronger side. At this stage of the season, every win is huge, and today The Hawks came one closer to safety, this will certainly satisfy the fans and Chapman, who set a relaxed target of four wins from the remaining matches after the last home game.
FULL-TIME: Harlow Town 2 – 1 Leatherhead