Harlow promoted after playoff win!
By Ian Barham
The Hawks won promotion to the Premier Division at the third time of asking, having fallen at the playoff stage for the previous two seasons.
The Hawks took the lead with their first attempt at goal, when Junior Dadson’s cross was hit onto the bar from close range by Piers Wixon. Back-tracking defender Elliot Styles was unable to prevent himself putting the ball into his own net.
Wixon got his second on the half-hour mark, when Alex Read was through on goal and selflessly set-up Wixon for an easy finish. The visitors pulled a goal back through a George Purcell penalty, before an 30 yard thunderbolt from Harlow left-back Layne Eadie sealed the tie with twenty minutes to go.
AFC Hornchurch had started the brightest of the two, and could have gone ahead when George Purcell, with 33 league goals to his name this year, broke through on goal. He tried to chip Harlow ‘keeper David Hughes from distance, but the effort was easily gathered.
David Knight then went close when he collected a low cross from Abs Thompson, but Ibrahima Sonko blocked the shot inside the 6 yard box to frustrate the visitors.
With 12 minutes gone, Harlow took the lead. A ball towards the corner-flag was chased down by Alex Read, who played to Dadson on the byline. The chipped cross found Piers Wixon in the middle, whose shot cannoned off the crossbar. Elliot Styles was helpless as the ball ricocheted and went over the line.
Harlow doubled the lead with a blistering counter-attack. Jared Small’s ball sent Alex Read beyond the Hornchurch defence, and he feinted to shoot, putting ‘keeper Sam Mott on the floor. Read’s selfless ball square to Piers Wixon was passed into the open net for an easy finish.
Ibrahima almost made it three when he nearly connected with a free kick at the back post, before the visitors began to pose a threat going forwards again.
David Hughes was forced into a save when David Knight shot from close-range, but the Harlow stopper parried the ball out and away from danger.
As the half came to an end, Hornchurch were given a route back into the game when they were awarded a penalty. Syrus Gordon tackled in the box, and despite getting the ball he was deemed to have both feet off the floor. George Purcell steped up to smash the spot-kick down the middle.
HT: Harlow Town 2-1 AFC Hornchurch
Harlow went on to be the more attacking of the two in the second half, and almost restored the two goal cushion soon after the re-start.
Jared Small’s cross from the right was almost converted by Junior Dadson sliding in, but Sam Mott did well to save and received a nasty gash to his head for the troubles. After a worryingly long break in play, the ‘keeper was able to continue.
Harlow’s midfield continued to snuff out the Hornchurch attackers, and with 69 minutes on the clock the game was effectively over. Layne Eadie gathered a loose ball in the middle of the field, and after striding forward unleashed a 30 yard shot that dipped underneath the bar to the delight of the huge crowd.
Hornchurch looked to get back into the game, but Harlow were able to keep them at bay as they saw out the match. Dave Collis had an effort at the near post, but David Hughes got behind it to save well.
Substitute Ricky Freeman should have done better when he jumped for a cross, but his glancing header went well wide as Harlow restricted the visitors efforts.
Deep into injury time, Harlow had chances to add to the goal tally as Hornchurch left gaps at the back, but Sam Mott denied Ryan Melaugh and Syrus Gordon with good saves.
By then the damage was done, and the Hawks sealed promotion to the Ryman Premier for the first time in ten years.
FT: Harlow Town 3-1 AFC Hornchurch