Hawks secure league status
A fourth consecutive home win saw Harlow beat Brightlingsea 2-0 and mathematically confirm their place in next season’s seventh tier of English football.
by Callum Hibberd
A tenth minute penalty and 27th minute Matt Foy header was the difference between the two teams in what was otherwise a fairly uneventful game.
Burgess Hill and Tooting and Mitcham now sit six and seven points behind The Hawks at the bottom. With the pair of them only having 2 games remaining, Harlow are mathematically safe from being the one team to get relegated.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Christian Scales was the first instigator of a threatening attack. He made a clever run into the opposition half with eight minutes on the clock, before finding Matt Foy in a good spot just outside the box. Foy was unable to do anything with the ball, but the sharpness of Harlow’s play was a warning. Scales then showed good footwork in the centre of the park, slipping it to Alex Read on the left touchline, who’s dangerous crossfield ball to Jared Small could only be cut back into the hands of Brightlingsea’s keeper.
Scales was then involved in Harlow’s opener, showing good footwork to get himself from in his own half to outside the opposition’s box, before accurately slipping the ball behind to Fabion Simms. The midfielder, aiming to score for a second consecutive home game, was bought down, giving the referee no choice but to point to the spot. Read gave Harlow another home lead, slotting his penalty coolly into the bottom left for his 15th goal of the season, and first since March 3rd.
The slim lead was a fair reflection of the opening 15 minutes, Brightlingsea allowed just one shot, a weak one from 12-goal Aaron Condon, which David Hughes easily saved. In the 23rd minute, Billy Hunt put in a dangerous cross for the visitors, but Paul Rodgers blocked it out for a corner upon realising it was goal-bound. However, Hughes was confident on both the resulting deliveries from Jake Turner, parrying the first one, and climbing above multiple defenders to claim the second one.
Harlow had spurned a few good opportunities from promising positions, but their lead was to be doubled in the 27th minute. Sam Clarke was under good pressure from prolific Hunt but managed to get away a powerful clearance. The ball’s first bounce came just inside Brightlingsea’s box, and Foy rushed past centre-back James Love, outjumped ‘keeper James Bradbrook, and headed the ball over him. He saw stars as a result of his efforts, but the goal was heavily celebrated, the home fans knowing they were edging ever closer to safety.
Harlow went back on the attack not long after. Half an hour in, Simms robbed the ball off Terry Amass, who then fouled him just outside the box. However, it was Brightlingsea who would have the next significant chance, just a few minutes later. Condon and Jake Gould linked up very well down the left-hand side, and when Gould cut it back around to Condon just in the box, his shot was bravely blocked by Clarke, before Scales raced to clear the ball from onrushing opposition.
It can be said that Harlow were very confident dribbling on the ball. Joshua Pollard started numerous counterattacks, while Syrus Gordon and Jared Small seemed to have a telepathic connection during one spell, where a corner was won in the 39th minute after some good work on the right by-line. Clarke also got involved heavily. Having already assisted, he was clearly keen for more. In minute 40, he sent a lovely cross field pass into the box, Gould had to slide it away, and Small profited, sending a promising cross in that was just too high for Charlie Edwards.
Harlow’s dominance of the second ball and intimidating pressing game had Brightlingsea out of ideas. This was epitomised just before the half time whistle, when Hunt did well to get away from Pollard and Rodgers in Harlow’s half, but then tried to catch Hughes out from distance rather than dribbling forward to secure a one-on-one chance.
HALF-TIME: Harlow 2 - Brightlingsea 0. With other teams losing around them, and Harlow untroubled in the first half, “More of the same” was probably a good attitude to adapt for the second half.
A very quiet, and probably bored crowd, had something to react to in the 64th minute, when Ricky Griggs knocked over a corner flag in rage. Just three minutes later, Gould summed up Brightlingsea’s frustration by picking up a yellow for dissent aimed at Small.
Scales and Read were having another productive game on the left-hand side, and it should’ve resulted in a goal 72 minutes in. Scales’ cut back at the byline was collected by Read, who laid it off to Edwards. Unfortunately, Edwards couldn’t make it 3-0, his shot weak and easily claimed by Bradbrook. The Hawks had another golden chance three minutes later, Read was again troublesome at the byline, and his low cross was somehow not met by an onrushing Foy or a well-placed Small.
Foy, who seems to be making a habit of scoring from poaching situations, almost repeated the common feat. Love was very slow in clearing the danger caused by a Harlow clearance, and when Bradbrook rushed out to a now in-possession Foy, the on-loan Cambridge United striker was forced to think quickly and lob the ball. He was agonisingly close to notching his ninth goal in as many games.
With nine minutes of the game left, Brightlingsea still didn’t look like scoring. A long curling free kick from Condon was headed narrowly over by captain Matt Cripps, prompting ironic cheers from the Brightlingsea fans. Harlow came a bit closer at the other end; Read and Scales combined again on the left, and Read’s lay off to Foy was controlled neatly before being tapped back to Clarke, who blasted over from about eight yards.
Substitutes Aaron Jones, Tommie Fagg and youngster Timothy Obisanya would’ve probably liked to make an attacking contribution, but had to settle for defence, as the home side worked hard to restrict the likes of Cripps and substitute Jake Clowsley to weak longshots in the dying minutes of the game
FULL-TIME: Harlow 2 - Brightlingsea 0
The final whistle, combined with other scores, confirmed Harlow’s escape from relegation and what was a comfortable 2-0 win over 20th placed Brightlingsea. Manager Danny Chapman will hope for a repeat score line in just three days time, when the boys travel to Tonbridge Angels for a 19:45 kickoff. Come along and support!