Hawks seal first win
By Ian Barham
Harlow Town secured their first win of the season and moved out of the relegation zone with a well-deserved victory over Leatherhead.
The pessimists among the crowd could have been forgiven for thinking the poor start to the season would continue when the hosts took an early lead with just 13 minutes on the clock, but Harlow Town hit back quickly when Robbie Martin smashed home from 10 yards out.
Martin turned provider as Lawrence Vaughan scored his first goal for the Hawks with 10 minutes of the half remaining, before Emile Acquah made it three within a minute of the second period.
There was a nervy end in store for the Hawks, but Harlow stopper Josh Bexon capped off an impressive performance with a penalty save to ensure the two goal cushion was retained.
If Harlow Town were nervous in pursuit of their first win, they didn’t show it as they came out of the blocks quickly. Robbie Martin, having worked his way into the starting line-up for the first time this season, whipped in a free kick in the third minute. Although JJ Da Cruz got his head to it the ball went sailing over as a good chance went begging.
The hosts had their own early opportunity to go ahead when Shaun Okojie released a powerful shot that was heading for the top corner. In the first of many acrobatic saves of the afternoon, Josh Bexon got across quickly to tip the ball over the crossbar.
The frantic start to the game showed no sign of slowing down, and Leatherhead took the lead on 13 minutes. A through-ball cut open the Harlow Town defence, and Robert Cullen raced onto it and rifled the ball home.
The Hawks were behind for just six minutes. Lawrence Vaughan sent a low cross into the box that was met by Syrus Gordon with a first-time shot. Leatherhead player-manager Nikki Bull somehow made the save, but he couldn’t prevent the ball falling to Robbie Martin, who calmly side-stepped before smashing it home.
Lawrence Vaughan, who was looking dangerous on the left hand side, sent in another cross a couple of minutes later, but defender Paul Semakula just beat Robbie Martin to it inside the area to prevent the shot.
With 10 minutes of the first half remaining, Harlow Town had a series of corners as they ramped up the pressure looking for a second goal. The hosts cleared the final corner only as far as JJ Da Cruz on the edge of the box, who sent it back out wide to Robbie Martin for a second attempt at a cross. His low centre was met by Lawrence Vaughan, whose shot clattered off the post and into the back of the net to edge the Hawks ahead.
Leatherhead finished the half strongly, and Shaun Okojie raced onto a long ball forward. Josh Bexon was equal to his effort, with another diving save to his left.
The hosts should have found an equaliser with the final action of the half. A ball was played across the face of the Harlow goal, but with no-one on hand to tap in it trickled out to the left wing. The cross back in found a Leatherhead attacker in the midst of a number of bodies, but JJ Da Cruz was on hand with a well-timed block tackle to stop a certain goal.
HT: Leatherhead 1-2 Harlow Town
After a half-time pep talk Harlow Town had their tails up, and they scored again within a minute of the restart. Emile Acquah, who was a handful for the Leatherhead defence all through the game, started and finished the move. He brought down a lofted ball before playing out wide to Lawrence Vaughan on the left. Alex Clark, on the overlap, delivered a low cross in to Acquah who got the faintest of touches to steer the ball inside the far post.
Harlow Town were not content with their three goals, and Syrus Gordon saw a good effort from the edge of the area blocked by Leatherhead skipper Dan Gallagher, which would have surely finished the game had it found the net.
There was plenty of the game remaining however, and it was Leatherhead’s turn to pile on the pressure. A corner fell inside the six yard box, and it was only luck that prevented it falling to a Leatherhead player before a scrambled clearance removed the danger.
The hosts had an opportunity to reduce the deficit on 59 minutes, when after a foul just inside the corner of the box was awarded, and the referee pointed to the spot. Centre-back Matt Drage, an unusual choice for a penalty-taker perhaps, stepped up to take the spot-kick, but Josh Bexon chose the right way and pushed the ball around the post.
Harlow Town were on the attack next, but Lawrence Vaughan’s free kick from the edge of the area was just too close to Nikki Bull, who saved comfortably. Emile Acquah then beat the Leatherhead defenders to a ball over the top, but he dragged the shot just wide of the post.
With 10 minutes remaining, the hosts had another great chance to pull a goal back. A cross found Shaun Okojie in the middle who swung a foot at the ball after one bounce, somehow managing to slice over from six yards out.
An impressive Harlow Town performance almost saw another goal in the third minute of added time. Emile Acquah played Jason Raad in behind the defence, but he couldn’t quite get the ball out of his feet when one-on-one, and the goalkeeper spread himself well to save his team and further damage.
The relief of the Harlow Town players was there for all to see at the final whistle, and having achieved their first three-point-haul of the season, the Hawks moved off the foot of the table back out of the relegation zone.
FT: Leatherhead 1-3 Harlow Town
Attention now turns to the Emirates FA Cup, when Harlow Town head to Hendon for the First Round Qualifying on Saturday 8th September. With a win under their belts, the Hawks will be looking to continue the momentum with the start of a potentially lucrative cup run.