Hawks in another heavy defeat
By Ian Barham
Harlow Town were on the end of another heavy defeat to promotion-chasing Merstham as the Hawks’ defensive woes continued.
The hosts went ahead early and comfortably controlled the first half. Harlow found themselves unable to influence the game, and were fortunate to only be two down at the interval.
Matt Foy pulled a goal back as a rejuvenated Harlow took to the field in the second half, but they were unable to equalise, and when the hosts hit a third, any hopes of a comeback were extinguished.
Another two goals in the final 15 minutes compounded the misery for the Harlow defence, as they conceded their 32nd goal in the last eight matches and remain deep in the relegation zone.
The hosts had the perfect start when Gus Sow opened the scoring with just three minutes on the clock. Walter Figueira played through into the path of Sow, who controlled it before poking it home past Harlow stopper Marcin Brzozowski.
Merstham were enjoying plenty of time on the ball, and the midfield duo of Kenny Beaney and Tom Kavanagh were given plenty of space to control proceedings. It seemed as though it would be just a matter of time before the Harlow defence was breached again, and on 29 minutes the inevitable happened. Roman Michael-Percil found Walter Figueira inside the Harlow penalty box. He beat the final defender with a burst of pace before finishing at the near post to double his lead.
Merstham could have added a third almost immediately when Fabio Saraiva worked himself into a good position, but his wasteful shot flew over the bar to let off the Hawks.
Marcin Brzozowski was in for a busy afternoon, and the visitors had the goalkeeper to thank that the scoreline wasn’t worse going into the break with a string of impressive saves. He first denied Michael-Percil with a reaction save, before an acrobatic save kept out Jake Hitchings’ effort to convert a corner.
Michael-Percil had another glorious chance when he got through behind the Hawks defence, but the Harlow stopper was equal to the effort again as he got a foot to the shot to keep it out and keep his side in the tie.
HT: Merstham 2-0 Harlow Town
Merstham would have been wondering at half time how the game wasn’t already out of reach, but the Hawks knew that an early goal could get them back in the game. They came out of the dressing room with a spring in their step, and had reduced the deficit within five minutes.
Matt Foy and Tom Hitchcock combined well with a one-two to give Foy space on the edge of the area, and he duly obliged with a well-taken left-footed shot that curled inside the post.
The turnaround was almost complete just a couple of minutes later as Tom Hitchcock then had a superb chance to draw the visitors level. He breezed through the Merstham defence, but was denied by a wonderful save from ‘keeper Amadou Tangara.
The hosts withstood the early pressure in the second period, but killed off the resurgence when Gus Sow added his second and Merstham’s third in the 65th minute
Midfielder Figueira, who was a thorn in the Harlow side all afternoon, played Sow beyond the defence and he just managed to beat the onrushing Brzozowski to the ball, poking it home to restore the two goal lead.
Harlow stepped up again, and were nearly fortunate to capitalise on a defensive mistake when the ball fell to Matt Foy in the box, but Tangara recovered well to smother the shot.
The Hawks were surging forward in an effort to get back into the game, and it proved to be their undoing. Merstham hit them on the counter attack, and although his first effort was saved, Tom Kavanagh got to the rebound and crossed for Merstham captain Simon Cooper to poke home and make sure of the win.
There was still time for further embarrassment for the Hawks, as with two minutes remaining a corner was allowed to creep through to the back post, where it was headed home unmarked by Jake Hutchings to seal the dominant win.
FT: Merstham 5-1 Harlow Town
Harlow now find themselves four points from safety, with another tough away trip coming up this weekend. The Hawks visit Tonbridge Angels on Saturday 30th March, where anything but a win will pile more pressure on the relegation-threatened side. Kick off is at 3pm.