Late Penalty sees Harlow end on a loss
An 89th minute spot-kick from opposing captain Sean Cronin saw Harlow end the season on a low, losing their first home game since February.
by Callum Hibberd
In a game where there was an end-of-season feel, the bore draw score line looked certain, but a retiring Ibrahima Sonko’s rash tackle in the box late on made all the difference.
The results sees Harlow end the disappointing season in 21st place, with 13 wins, 8 draws and 25 losses. A late season resurgence is to thank, as 4 wins and a draw from the last 8 games have seen The Hawks steer well clear of the sole relegation spot.
With both teams keen to finish on a high, it was the visitors who had the first chance, with Ned Clarke shooting over after a decent cross from Afolabi Obafemi. The striker shot again a matter of moments later, but the powerful effort was cleared. Harlow responded with some positive play of their own, Robbie Martin sending in some testing crosses from the left.
It was then Martin who had Harlow’s first significant chance, although you can be certain he didn’t mean for his lofted cross to hit the crossbar then the post in the eighteenth minute.
Ned Clarke was at the forefront of the opposition’s attacks in the opening twenty, and our own Sam Clarke will owe big gratitude to Joshua Pollard, after the opposition striker raced past Clarke, only to be bought down by the on-loan Colchester defender with a superb last-ditch tackle.
Ned Clarke turned provider just a minute later, slipping the ball into nine-goal Reece Beckles-Richards, who’s deflected shot was well saved by David Hughes. The corner was whipped into Clarke, who’s header was just tapped over. From the resulting corner, Sean Cronin headed the ball into Obafemi, who headed at Hughes, and then nearly scored from his own deflection. Hughes’ work was not done there, parrying out another corner, before saving a powerful shot from Cronin, who had controlled well a high cross from former fan-favourite Layne Eadie.
In the 24th minute, Harlow gave the ball away yet again. Obafemi found Beckles-Richards just outside the box, and his rifle of a shot was just over the bar. Harlow were struggling to get a hold of the game but would’ve been thankful for Wingate’s wastefulness.
Harlow’s best moment of the first half came with nine minutes to go, Martin and Charlie Edwards combining well in the middle. The latter slipped it through to Alex Read, but the striker was offside. Four minutes later, Read controlled a cross from Jared Small, waited, turned, and drilled low into Shane Gore, testing Wingate's player-of-the-season for the first time in the game.
Wingate and Finchley went on an onslaught in the final minutes of the first half. With 42’ on the clock, Clarke accidentally gave the ball to Obafemi after trying to deal with a long ball, but Aaron Jones slid in well to deny the powerful winger a shot. A few minutes later, Obafemi dribbled his way into the box, laid it off to Rob Laney, but Gordon beat him to the ball and cleared any danger. Then, after good work from Luke Alfano and Isaac Ebelebe, Clarke shot from 30 yards out, his shot dipped and swerved, but ultimately, was wide.
HALF-TIME: Harlow Town 0 - 0 Wingate and Finchley FC
Obafemi was lively again following the interval, his clever footwork earning him numerous shots at goal, but the first ten minutes of the second half were quiet, with neither team having a notable chance. This was changed when Small tapped the ball to Edwards in the middle, who on the turn dinked the ball up to Read. Read rounded the keeper and came in, but poked his shot into the side netting, agonisingly close to scoring from the tight angle he found himself in.
Ibrahima Sonko replaced Sam Clarke 58 minutes in, taking the armband for his last appearance as a footballer, and his presence immediately psyched up the Harlow team, who were looking for their fourth straight home win. Small made a surging run into the opposition half, but unfortunately couldn’t find any team mates. Fabion Simms did the same again not long after, and the improvement in play was well appreciated by the fans, 277 strong today.
Harlow had another good spell of play in the 67th minute, Gordon robbed Alfano in midfield, and slipped the ball into Read, who shimmied and then aimed low, but his shot was deflected. Two minutes later, Edwards robbed Eadie at the right corner flag, but couldn’t find Martin on the edge box, or Read, who was onrushing. With Harlow’s threat growing, the visitors tried to restore balance by swapping Alfano and Clarke for Tommy Tejan-Sie and Ben Pattie with fifteen minutes to go.
The changes somewhat worked, but Harlow had the next chance seven minutes later. Edwards, surging down the right, laid the ball perfectly into Martin’s path, but his curled shot from just outside the box was narrowly wide. That was his last contribution of what has been an impressive half-season, as he was replaced by the young Timothy Obisanya. The visitors also subbed on Freddy Moncur for Isaac Ebelebe
Harlow continued to make the most of Wingate’s vulnerability on the right, this time Aaron Jones the threat. His high chip into the box had to be punched away by Gore, who hurt himself slightly in his efforts, but would’ve been thankful to see Small shoot over on the rebound.
With 87 minutes on the clock, Sonko was robbed of a career-ending clean sheet. His tackle on Obafemi, who had surged into the Harlow box, was adjudged to be illegal. The fans booed and jeered as Cronin blasted the spot-kick into the bottom left. Harlow poured men forward, but only came close when Gordon shot from distance, the shot was easily saved, ending Wingate’s miserable run of eight winless away games, and Harlow’s impressive five game winning run at home.
FULL-TIME: Harlow Town 0 - 1 Wingate and Finchley FC
It was not the greatest of performances today, but fortunately it did not matter, as safety from relegation was confirmed two weeks ago. However, Harlow will no doubt look to improve their league position next season, and can be confident in doing so after their impressive recent form.
That’s it for the football until July, but why not come along to the Awards Presentation Evening on Friday 11th May? It promises to be a great night, and tickets can be bought by phoning 01279 443 196 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.