Ten Man Hawks Battle to Victory
Despite being a man down for just over 76 minutes, a stubborn Harlow overcame an in-form Thurrock side to pick up a third straight home win.
by Callum Hibberd
Harlow improved their five-game scoring streak at home in the 10th minute, but the game was turned on its head just four minutes later when Robbie Martin was sent off.
33rd and 43rd minute goals put Thurrock ahead, but an impressive second half saw Christian Scales equalise directly from a corner, before Jared Small hit the winner with an emphatic strike.
The win sees Harlow solidify their position in 21st, four points ahead of Lowestoft. Most importantly, they are NINE points above the relegation spot, although they have played two games more than the team occupying it: Burgess Hill.
With both sets of players eager to do well for different reasons, it was Thurrock who had the first chance, Charlie Stimson slipping the ball to Jordan Clark on the turn, but Hughes got down low to save his shot. This aside, the first ten minutes were fairly quiet, both teams struggling to get an upper hand, although both were showing good intent.
With ten minutes on the clock, Harlow won a throw on the left-hand side, just in line with the edge of the box. Matt Foy controlled the throw, then wriggled past his marker. His shot was then parried by former Hawks ‘keeper Ben McNamara into the path of Fabion Simms. Simms’ shot on the half-volley was weak, but the clearance was even weaker, the ball coming back straight to Simms, who dinked it into the bottom right to put The Hawks ahead and get his third of the season.
It is fair to say the goal upped the game’s intensity. In the 14th minute, Robbie Martin’s opposite number went in on him ferociously in the middle of the park. Martin got straight back up, and when the ball came back to his opposite number, Martin put in a tough tackle of his own. Despite both tackles being a little on the rough side, it was only Martin who was carded, and unfortunately, it was a red one. Thurrock almost capitalised immediately, captain Lewwis Spence volleyed from outside the box but his shot was wide.
Harlow were understandably a bit nervy and a bit wasteful in possession, however, they were defending well, preventing Thurrock from creating any real chances. They first came close nine minutes after the red; Spence sent a dangerous cross into the box which was cleared by captain Sam Clarke, and on the follow up Charlie Stimson was prevented from shooting by Simms. Alex Read linked up well with various team mates on a number of occasions, and his best chance came half an hour into the game. Christian Scales sent a long ball to him, so he controlled the ball and attempted a long shot on goal upon realising the keeper was off his line, unfortunately, his attempt went just wide. Lewwis Spence continued to be the producer for Thurrock, but his team mates didn’t look at all that certain to score.
But in the 33rd minute, Ronnie Winn took his one chance. The seven-goal man showed good awareness, once edging past Joshua Pollard, to turn onto a through ball from left-back Remi Sutton. The striker took a touch before then shooting accurately into the opposite corner. Game level. Immediately, Harlow responded. Christian Scales surged impressively down the left-hand side (yet again), got past Reece Morgan, but his byline cross was just too high for Jared Small. It was then Thurrock’s turn. Sutton, Stimson and Clark put together a string of decent passes before Sutton had a low shot saved by David Hughes.
After being booed for his earlier decision, referee Martyn Gospel had a chance to show consistency, but he only gave a yellow card to Charlie Stimson after a studs-up tackle on Simms. Despite the frustrating nature of the decision, Sam Clarke nearly equalised spectacularly. Pollard knocked the free kick long, and when the ball was cleared out, the skipper’s outside of the boot effort from just outside the box went narrowly over.
Despite performing well with a man less, Harlow were not to go into half-time level. With just two minutes to go, Morgan surged down the right and crossed it to centre-back Dexter Peter. Peter put the ball on a plate for Spence, but his shot was deflected. Peter showed determination to recollect the ball and put in on a plate for Spence, who had an easy finish.
HALFTIME: Harlow 1 – 2 Thurrock
Despite being behind, Harlow were certainly not out of it. The half had started promisingly, and although the pressure did tell with two goals conceded, The Hawks recent good form meant anything could’ve happened in the second half.
Harlow started the second half well, but they almost ended their hopes of a comeback. Just five minutes in, Hughes and Clarke miscommunicated while going for Perry Dunn’s ball over the top, however, Morgan could only shoot over. This was a warning sign, as Thurrock continued their search for a third. Consecutive shots from Joel Nouble, Jordan Clark and Reece Morgan were blocked.
With 57 minutes on the clock, Jared Small cut out another promising attack and beat one opposition player but could only win a throw while trying to beat a second. He collected the throw on, and with some clever trickery, he won a corner. Scales put in the corner with some serious swerve, and this caught out McNamara, who parried the shot into his own net. The celebration was emphatic from the Orient loanee, the maiden goal more than deserved given the attacking talent he has showed since rejoining in February.
Thurrock wasted little time in responding. They launched a fast counterattack in the 60th minute, Winn finding Spence out wide, who’s cross was dangerous but headed out by Clarke. Five minutes later, Spence came close yet again, he got the ball from Joel Nouble on the left and wriggled into the box, but saw his curling shot blocked. Just a minute later, Harlow came close themselves. Small put a cross into the box, which was headed wide to Scales, who’s powerful near top corner shot hit the post.
It is an understatement to say the hosts were working hard and defending bravely. Simms blocked a powerful shot from Spence, while Pollard put very good pressure on substitute Ellis Brown to make him miss from near range in the 73rd minute. This was just a defensive piece of work from Pollard, but no one would’ve guessed what it was soon to lead to.
Hughes booted his goal kick long, it bounced once, and from outside the box, and from a fairly tight angle, Small scored into the left top corner with a breath-taking volley that words can’t put into justice. Remarkably, the last time Small scored, it was from a Hughes goal kick. The crowd were absolutely lifted and there was a real belief Harlow could take all three points.
As Thurrock pushed for an equaliser, the need for fresh legs became clear, with Tommie Fagg and a fit again Charlie Edwards replacing the applauded Alex Read and Jared Small. Thurrock, now behind, had to make some changes for themselves. They swapped Charlie Stimson and Joel Nouble for Connor Weston and Timothy Ogunrinde. Earlier substitute Ellis Brown was bought down fairly about 20 yards out by Sam Clarke, but a freekick was given. Spence touched it to Winn, and his powerful strike dipped very well, but it was just over the bar.
Now deep into extra time, Brown then put in a cross which Syrus Gordon did well to head out. Brown got the ball yet again a few seconds later, and Paul Rodgers tackled him on the far left for a corner. A goalmouth scramble ensued from the corner; Hughes pulled off a brilliant save from point blank range, and Brown’s cross back in was bravely headed away by Rodgers, who left the field with a head injury as a precaution. Thurrock had one more chance but spurned it: Pollard headed away a long freekick in the 93rd minute, and although two Thurrock players could’ve shot, neither did. Tommie Fagg dribbled the ball into the opposing half and held it for long enough for the whistle to blow.
And it was that final whistle which confirmed a fantastic result for Harlow. A spirited second-half performance that had fans going from saying ‘What if?’ to ‘What a performance!’. Thurrock had a man more for 76 minutes but saw their six-game unbeaten run ended by goals from Fabion Simms, Christian Scales and Jared Small. Manager Danny Chapman will hope for an equally strong performance in six days time, when his team travel to a promotion chasing Margate. Kickoff is 3PM.
FULL TIME: Harlow Town 3 – 2 Thurrock FC