Victory for Smash and Grab Harlow
By Ian Barham
The Hawks made a positive contribution to their survival campaign, scoring three excellent goals to frustrate a Kingstonian side who entered the game in dismal form.
By Callum Hibberd
Tom Hitchcock got his ninth goal of the season in exquisite fashion early on (‘6), and his team defended well in the first half.
Kingstonian equalised in the 50th minute though, and looked good for more goals. But a slew of good saves from QPR-loanee Marcin Brzozowski kept Harlow in the game. Matthew Foy and Hitchcock did their jobs at the other end too, with 58th and 92nd minute goals stopping the rot and giving Harlow a crucial win.
The Hawks remain in 20th on 33 points, but only a point behind the safe-for-now Whitehawk.
Also suffering from a string of poor results, Harlow began the game within the relegation zone, and with five changes. The team looked like one aware they were in a fight for their starting places and their Bostik Premier League status. Despite this, new signing Scott Davis blazed a promising free kick over early on after good interplay from Matthew Foy and Tom Hitchcock bought a foul.
The two teams traded blows, Lyle Della-Verde shooting narrowly wide from an ambitious 25 yard effort, but it was Harlow who grabbed the first goal, and in even more spectacular fashion. In the sixth minute, Jonathan Moanda looped a cross into the box. Curtis Ujah and opposing centre back Aaron Lamont both jumped for the ball, and it fell to Hitchcock. Now far and away Harlow’s top scorer for the reason, he only needed one look, and curled it beautifully into the top corner from just outside the box.
Both teams were keen to keep the ball on the ground and fire crosses in, and a weak one from Yannick Kissi in the 16th minute was somehow missed by Dean Inman, but Foy was equally surprised, and couldn’t latch onto the ball with any real conviction.
Foy displayed his strength in the 24th minute, holding up a goal kick in the middle of the park, before turning Daniel Spence. The young forward ran down the byline, with Arinse Uade following him. Foy did the right thing in trying to slip it across, but it was well handled by Inman, an experienced defender at National League South level.
Both teams were showing evidence of their recent high player turnover, struggling to create any real chances since the opening goal. It was a cagey game, but Danny Chapman wouldn’t have been too bothered, his back four weathering Kingstonian’s threat; that was until 42’, where a miscommunication between Ujah and Ugo Udoji allowed a four-on-two for the opposition. They were too indecisive, and Udoji used the hesitation to tackle out for a corner. Udoji cleared again, and a mishit cross from right-back Jonathan Muleba fell perfectly into the path of Shan McAuley, but he fluffed his lines, the shot from ten yards easily collected by debutant Marcin Brzozowski.
HALF-TIME: Harlow Town 1 - 0 Kingstonian
Kingstonian came flying out of the traps in the second half, and didn’t take long to score. Four minutes and nineteen seconds to be exact; an equally precise finish from Connor Smith levelling things up. It was the midfielder’s first goal since joining on loan from Billericay Town, a curling effort from the left edge of the box, after receiving the ball from Della-Verde.
Harlow, who have tended to do better in recent times when scoring first, looked short of ideas and had been poor this half. A powerful clearance from Ujah in the 58th minute was routinely headed on by Hitchcock near the centre circle. Foy saw it as an opportunity though, smartly peeling away from his marker instantly. Showing great pace, Foy carried the ball forward, and finished very well, squeezing it round Rob Tolfrey, curling the ball into the bottom right and giving his team the lead once more.
Folkestone had the bit between their teeth, instantly taking the game to Harlow, and Nathan Mumbas won a free kick after being bundled over by Fabion Simms just outside the box. Della-Verde got it up and above the wall, but Brzozowski was on hand to make a brilliant finger-tip save by the top corner, denying the winger a fabulous equaliser.
There was another heart-in-mouth moment in the 67th minute, as Ujah let a long ball fall to Mumbas, but Brzozowski rushed out and smothered it.
The Hawks were managing the game well, looking to blend attack and defence. Simms executed a counterattack in the 77th minute, and eventually crossed it low and hard. The ball bobbled awkwardly in the box, Foy unable to capitalise, his shot way over the bar. Kingstonian then had two chances of their own shortly after. Smith’s first curling long shot was crucially blocked by Ujah, and another bite of the cherry from similar distance grazed the crossbar.
After weathering extreme pressure, inspired by a ridiculous number of blocks from Udoji and Ujah, substitute Emile Acquah had a rare glimpse of goal on the counter with five minutes to go, but a good save from Tolfrey prevented him from giving Harlow a two-goal cushion.
There was more to come though, a brilliant team move deep into extra time eventually culminated in substitute Drew Richardson launching a crossfield ball from about 30 yards out. It fell perfectly to Acquah, who tapped it across the six yard box to Hitchcock, giving him an easy finish and his second goal of the day.
More importantly, that 92nd minute goal sealed a much needed win for Harlow, their first in five. With Whitehawk and Wingate & Finchley both losing today, the relegation battle is hotting up.
And it could all come down to next Saturday, as Harlow host Wingate for a 3PM kickoff. Come along and support in what will be a crucial game at the bottom!
FULL-TIME: Harlow Town 3 - 1 Kingstonian