Playoff heartbreak for Hawks
By Ian Barham
A night of high drama saw Harlow knocked out of the playoffs in a thrilling game that had seven goals, red cards, a missed penalty and chances galore.
The Hawks had got off to the worst start possible when the visitors took the lead within the opening 20 seconds. The hosts fought back and were on top for the first half, and a brace from top-scorer Alex Read put them into the break 2-1 ahead.
The game went to extra time after Thurrock scored another in the second half, before they took a two goal lead in the first period of extra time. The Hawks pulled one back in the last 15 minutes, but despite throwing everything at the Thurrock defence they couldn’t get the final goal to take the match to penalties.
Harlow lost the ball right from the kick off, and Leslie Thompson attacked for the visitors down the right wing. His cross from the byline was diverted by Hawks defender Warren Goodhind into his own net to put the hosts behind within 25 seconds.
Harlow were sparked into life, and soon settled into their usual rhythm, showing the kind of attacking football that had produced 108 goals in the regular season. David Cowley hit the post on eight minutes, before Leon Antoine had a good header saved and Junior Dadson’s goal-bound shot was deflected wide by Thurrock defender Waters
Harlow pulled level on 17 minutes. A free kick was drifted into the box, which Junior Dadson collected at the back post before shooting. His shot was once again blocked by Waters, but it fell kindly to Alex Read who smashed home from close range.
Hawks goalkeeper Andrew Walker was called into action when Thurrock counter-attacked. Leslie Thompson beat Warren Goodhind to the ball and was through on goal, but Walker saved the one-on-one well with his legs to keep the scores level.
At the other end, Layne Eadie and Junior Dadson were continuing their fruitful partnership on the left, Dadson picking up on a pass to force another block from the Thurrock defence.
Harlow took the lead on 32 minutes. Captain David Cowley played a delightful cross-field ball to Eadie, who then passed up the line to Junior Dadson. His feet were too quick for defender Gareth Madden, and his low cross from the byline was met by Alex Read at the near post for his and Harlow’s second goal.
As half-time approached, Harlow continued to have the best of the ball and created several good chances that would come back to haunt them. Alex Read’s chipped shot from a tight angle grazed the crossbar, before Fabion Simms’ 20-yard curling shot when just wide of the upright.
Two more chances for Alex Read in first half injury time didn’t see the goalkeeper tested as a header and volley went over, as the striker’s hat-trick eluded him.
HT: Harlow Town 2-1 Thurrock
The second half saw a plethora of chances for both teams, as the play switched from end to end. Jared Small and Leon Antoine had chances to extend the lead, while at the other end Joshua Urquhart was on hand to dispossess James Goode with a perfectly timed tackle in the box.
A fantastic chance for the Hawks came on 55 minutes when Junior Dadson caught Lewis Clark in possession and burst through on goal, but the pacey winger dragged his shot wide.
It was Thurrock’s turn to hit the bar, when a neat one-two in the box gave Ross Wall a great chance to score, but his shot went high and careered off the woodwork.
The scores were level on 66 minutes, when a scramble in the box fell to Thurrock’s Charlie Stimpson and he poked home from close range.
The home side almost re-took the lead immediately, Alex Read with a one-on-one opportunity. He put the ball through the legs of former Harlow ‘keeper Rhys Madden, but in a feat of dexterity he somehow got his hand to it behind him to push it away for a corner.
More chances followed for either side, but neither could find a breakthrough. As extra time approached, Harlow had a chance to see themselves into the playoff final. Joshua Urquhart headed a corner just over at the back post, before Read’s cross at the byline trickled across the goal-line.
FT: Harlow Town 2-2 Thurrock
More drama was to follow in the following 30 minutes of extra time. Thurrock scored early with a fantastic finish. Thompson ran on to a long ball played out by the Thurrock defence, and seeing Hawks custodian Andrew Walker off his line played a delightful 25 yard chip over him and into the net.
Thurrock were then awarded a penalty, when Stimson was tripped in the box by the trailing leg of Goodhind. Up stepped Waters, but he blasted it wide of the post to give the Hawks a life-line.
At the end of the first period of extra time, a controversial moment saw the visitors take a two goal advantage. Joshua Urquhart suffered a suspected fractured ankle in a collision that saw the home side calling for a foul. The referee waved away protests as Thurrock raced up the pitch. Substitute Carvell crossed for Ross Wall to score in an open net.
Harlow were back in the tie just a minute in to the final 15 minute period of extra time. Billy Jones had a shot blocked, which fell to Junior Dadson at the back post to pull a goal back.
The Hawks threw everything at the Thurrock defence. Daniel Matsuzaka had the ball in the back of the net, but it was ruled out by the referee who saw an infringement.
As the full time whistle approached, a fracas involving Warren Goodhind and Charlie Stimpson saw both players see red, adding several minutes of added time.
Billy Jones saw his shot cleared off the line, and desperate defending of two Harlow corners by the Thurrock defence prevented Harlow taking the game to penalties.
It was a thrilling match that had everything, providing entertainment to the huge crowd that had turned out to watch. Ultimately Harlow were left to rue the missed chances when they were on top in the first half, and they were knocked out of the playoffs for the second consecutive year to consign themselves to another season in the Ryman Division One North.
FT (AET): Harlow Town 3-4 Thurrock