Harlow Bottom After Second Half Collapse
By Ian Barham
The Hawks’ Home Hoodoo continued courtesy of three second half goals from the visitors, with the game all square half time.
By Callum Hibberd
The score line was disappointing given the fact that Nathan Koranteng netted in just the second minute.
The lead didn’t last too long, as Tashan Hayden-Smith scored in the 12th minute.
Merstham then dominated the second half to take home three points beginning in the 49th minute, with Tom Kavanagh and then Bird adding goals in the 89th and 93rd minute respectively to give them their first away win of the season.
The result, a seventh home loss of the season, sees Harlow move to the bottom of the table while Merstham climb to 12th.
Harlow got off to the best possible start, taking the lead in the second minute. Tom Hitchcock came off best from a series of 50-50s just outside the Merstham box, before giving the ball to Matt Foy. He then jostled past Tom Kavanagh, whose slight tackle gave the ball to Emile Acquah. The striker, playing out wide today, was unlucky with his low shot, but Nathan Koranteng reacted quickly to the ball hitting the right post to put Harlow ahead in the second minute.
Merstham were clearly rocked by the early goal, losing possession easily in the midfield. Another mistake was made in the sixth minute, goalkeeper Amadou Tangara mis-controlling a pass to give Harlow a corner. It came to nothing, but the warning signs were there.
Harlow continued to enjoy possession, but despite their high intensity, fell asleep in the 12th minute to give Merstham a fairly simple goal. Kershaney Samuels received the ball a few seconds after a throw in, and got away from Yannick Kissi. His cross from the right touchline was fairly accurate, and Tashan Hayden-Smith nodded home from close range after escaping the marking of Paul Rodgers. Opposing centre back Ollie Cook went off injured shortly after, with Harry Osborne coming on to play at right-back and Michael Abnett moving from the right to the centre.
Christian Scales, returning from injury, worked hard in the 18th minute to win the ball, before dipping delightfully over the top to Foy from the middle of the park. There wasn’t quite the 2017-18 nostalgia added though, as Foy’s shot could only force a corner.
The hosts almost scored again a minute later. A simple pump up the field was controlled twice by the head of Acquah. Hitchcock got to it the third time, and tapped it to Foy. He took a few touches and went for placement from just outside the box. His shot was weak, but only just wide of the mark, Tangara teasing the crowd by watching it right till the last moment.
Hayden-Smith was becoming the obvious threat for the visitors, and after linking up well with joint top-scorer Walter Figueria, he curled low into the arms of Josh Bexon in the 23rd minute.
The Hawks, keen to end a four-match losing streak in the league, were industrious, and showing a slightly more confident attitude in play. Their man marking was slipping at times though, and it needed to improve, particularly in the middle, where they were often second to every ball.
When in this exact situation in the 34th minute, Rodgers was shown a yellow for a heavy slide tackle despite it being fairly clear he got the ball.
The game entered a quiet spell, helped by lengthy treatment for Fabio Saraiva. The Hawks finished the half with intent though, pressing high and with purpose. This forced a few corners, from one of which JJ Da Cruz almost scored a long range goal on the half volley.
This persistent attitude almost reaped rewards in the 47th minute. Da Cruz won the ball with a wise interception in the middle of the park, and burst forward, before laying it off to Yannick Kissi on the left edge of the box. He returned it to Da Cruz, but pressure from Jake Hutchings meant his shot was fairly weak. Tangara’s save rebounded into the path of Hitchcock, who really should’ve got his third goal in as many games, but was wide on the volley with the goal gaping in front of him.
HALF-TIME: Harlow Town 1 - 1 Merstham
Merstham began the second half with Gus Sow on the field, Fabio Saraiva the one to go off.
They also began the better side, and went ahead in the 49th minute through Figueria, who finished well after collecting the ball from Sow on the edge of the six yard box. It was another frustrating goal to concede, with a collection of poor tackle attempts from the Harlow back four.
Merstham then tried to double their lead in the 55th minute, but an edge-of-the-box free kick was comfortably punched to safety by Bexon.
Merstham continued to assert their dominance on the second half, and Koranteng had to do some defensive work in the 55th minute, cutting out what would’ve been a chance for Sow on the edge of the box, after Figueria danced past Da Cruz in possession.
Acquah then had promising possession, but should’ve got a cross in during the 57th minute. He won a throw, and the fact it came to nothing summed up the opening exchanges of the second half.
With Harlow growing into the half, Merstham’s foul count increased, as did Harlow’s set piece count. And it was from a corner that Fabian Simms should’ve opened his account for the season. After Tangara and Foy both missed Scales’ high delivery, the ball bounced to the stalwart in midfield, but his volley went agonisingly wide. With 20 minutes to go, Harlow could’ve and should’ve been ahead with this being the second favourable chance of the day somehow not going in.
With ten minutes to go, Danny Chapman’s first roll of the dice in looking for an equaliser was swapping Foy for Jules Haabo.
On the counter from a long Harlow free kick, Walter Figueria won a corner after kicking the ball against Harold Joseph. The corner came to nothing, but Figueria would get another bite of the cherry two minutes later (85’), although he was offside.
Harlow’s lackadaisical marking continued, with Merstham players passing it to each other with ease. It was Sow and Figueria again linking up, and with Figueria facing the goal, he was ‘Bought down’ by Da Cruz. A harsh decision indeed to give a penalty and send off Da Cruz, but Merstham certainly deserved another goal, and it was Tom Kavanagh who got it, blasting the spot kick into the bottom left corner to double his team’s lead.
Tom Bird added the gloss on the scoreline in the 93rd minute, chipping it over Bexon after reaching a long ball first.
FULL-TIME: Harlow Town 1 - 4 Merstham
Harlow host Southend United in four days time (19:45 KO) in the Essex Senior Cup.