Harlow Beaten In Boxing Day Derby
By Ian Barham
The Hawks were punished for sloppy defending at a set piece early on, and failed to grab the equaliser in what was an uninspiring performance.
By Callum Hibberd
The defeat, courtesy of a tenth minute goal from Ryan Henshaw, sees Harlow end the 26th of December near the bottom of the tree, at least a point from safety, depending on later kick-offs.
Stortford started the game better off, and their first real attack came courtesy of Jamie Cureton and Alfie Mason. Ryan Henshaw passed out from the back to Mason and he tapped it back to Cureton. The veteran striker then took the ball forward and slipped it behind the defence. Mason used his pace to get there first, but his dangerous lobbed cut back was well cleared by Taylor Hastings.
But it was their next attack on goal, in the 10th minute, that gave them the lead. Mason, from about 30 yards out, put in a nice through ball down the line to Johnville Renee, who was tackled by Da Cruz for a corner. The corner, taken by Mason, was ignored by everyone and tapped in from close range by centre-back Henshaw.
Keen to keep the ball on the ground, Reece Hackney was tackled just outside of the box by Jack Thomas. He laid it off to Renee, who’s powerful shot just went wide of the left post after a heavy deflection off Hastings.
Harlow saw a shot of their own deflected halfway through the first period, after a spell of possession outside the box resulted in Hackney having a go. He won a corner, and then played it himself to Tom Hitchcock on the edge of the box, who’s attempt on the half-volley was well blocked by Haines.
The Hawks were admittedly a little sloppy, often mis-controlling the ball on the touchline, or passing it to Bishops Stortford players, but did quite the opposite in the 24th minute. A brilliant curling cross from Yannick Kissi was controlled by Hitchcock, who backheeled it to Matt Foy. Foy took a touch into the six yard box, and forced Calum Kitscha into a good save with the outside of his boot.
The home side continued to counter attack, and almost doubled their lead in the 29th minute, with Ryan Charles heading on to the crossbar at a set piece. The ball fell kindly to left-back Isaac Nsoki, but his powerful shot was bravely put wide by right-back Bill Plumpton, who was the one change from the draw versus Leatherhead 15 days ago.
They came close again in the 34th minute, a sumptuous ball over the top from Ben Sampayo landed right at Cureton’s feet, but he couldn’t get an 18th goal of the campaign, his two touches giving Josh Bexon time to rush out and make a good save.
Both front lines were growing into the game, particularly Acquah, who’s control and back heel at the corner flag got him into the box, but Harlow’s lacked that cutting edge, as shown when Acquah’s simple cut back to Foy was overhit.
With five minutes of the first half left, Foy and Hitchcock linked up again, the latter sending a nice bouncing through ball to the former, who then won a corner. Hackney stepped up as usual with a floating corner, with Simms heading it onto Nathan Koranteng. The in-form winger controlled well, but his low shot was parried by Kitscha and cleared by his defence despite pressure from Da Cruz.
HALF-TIME: Bishop's Stortford 1 - 0 Harlow Town FC
As the trend has been in recent weeks, Danny Chapman’s men came racing out the blocks with an increased drive and will, although Cureton came very close early on, a 20-yard shot just rising over the net. There were shouts for a penalty not long after, although they seemed unjustified, Fabion Simms bringing down half-time sub Nicholas Brown with a strong tackle inside the box.
The 50th minute saw Luton Town loanee Drew Richardson come on in place of Reece Hackney. His new team should’ve equalised instantly, with Da Cruz’s lumped clearance and Hitchcock’s smart headed lay off giving Acquah an ideal one-on-one, but he couldn’t make sufficient contact with the ball.
The game didn’t liven up again until the 61st minute, when Acquah saw his cut back from a promising position intercepted by Nsoki. This set Stortford off on a rapid counter attack, and Renee breezed past Simms and Da Cruz. Hastings bought him down with a monstrous tackle, but the ball unluckily deflected to Brown. He then unleashed a powerful shot from range, which cannoned off the post and bounced off the diving Bexon, who just about managed to get up and smother it to keep Cureton at bay.
With Stortford happy to counter attack and their visitors low on ideas, the game became somewhat of a midfield slog, and it was young Richardson often getting the upper hand. His positive long pass to Hitchcock was followed by Koranteng receiving it out wide, and his ambitious cross-goal shot had to be tipped over by Kitscha.
Unless Harlow took things up a notch, they were destined to lose their eight-game scoring streak, and it could be said that Stortford had also been sloppy in the second half. This changed though in the 78th minute when substitute Alex Warmen chipped it through to Cureton, who’s shot was saved by a quick-thinking Bexon. The ball dinked behind the goalkeeper, with Cureton shooting well again from the tight angle, although Da Cruz executed an impressively acrobatic clearance on the line to keep his team alive. Harry Watkins then entered the game shortly after, with Matt Foy coming off.
Not long after, a wild cross from Koranteng dipped and swivelled into the path of Hitchcock, who passed it across to nobody, when shooting would’ve been the wiser option. The frustration shown on the touchline by The Hawks’ management staff summed up the day, their attacking players just weren’t linking up well. Stortford responded in fashion, and should’ve been 2-0 up through Cureton, who shot wide from a favourable position after being put through by Renee.
With four minutes to go, a Hitchcock free kick from range was cleared for a throw. The ball was cleared, although Harlow come back, desperate to equalise. Another throw from Da Cruz this time found a team mate, with Richardson heading it sideways to Hitchcock. He showed no hesitation, shooting low and hard, but was aggrieved to see his shot go narrowly wide.
Harlow pushed in the five minutes of extra time, but couldn’t find the back of the net, consigning themselves to a double defeat from their noisy neighbours this season.
FULL-TIME: Bishop's Stortford 1 - 0 Harlow Town FC
Harlow play host to Hornchurch this Saturday, in what will be a crucial bottom-of-the-table clash. The game will start at 3PM.