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History Makers! Hawks Soar Into Final After Penalty Drama

History Makers! Hawks Soar Into Final After Penalty Drama

Logan Young21 Mar - 07:54
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Harlow Town narrowly defeat Long Melford in Thurlow Nunn League Challenge Cup semi-final.

Harlow Town narrowly defeat Long Melford in Thurlow Nunn League Challenge Cup semi-final.The 19th March 2024 will be a date that will live long in the memory of Harlow Town supporters, coaches and players as it marked the date of not only our first semi-final appearance since the 2005/06 season, but also our first win in that stage of a competition since then.

In the last 2 months since receiving the news that there would be no promotion for us this season, we have seen what can only be described as remarkable sense of togetherness within the club; the tough times of recent years have been put behind us, and this is a credit to the character and integrity of Danny Chapman’s squad and coaches as well as those running the club. Therefore, by progressing to the final of the cup, our hard work has finally seen reward and we now find ourselves with a real chance of adding to our decorated history, and we are
extremely proud of what the squad have achieved this season.

It was clear to see that this togetherness and love for the club has been echoed by yesterday’s game, with some of the most incredible support we have seen, since the Isthmian League Playoff Final win back in the 2015/16 season. It was a magical night under the lights, with a bumper crowd of 594 awesome supporters and we quite simply cannot thank you all enough for coming down and getting behind the lads.

The game itself was a tight, tense affair, with few chances from either side. Neither team were willing to over-commit themselves and despite an absolute battle on the pitch in the game, it was all square after 90 minutes, warranting an anxiety-inducing penalty shootout.

The noise levels in the stadium were not a problem whatsoever, with the fans, led by first team player Alfie Attrill on the drum, getting behind the team and chanting non-stop for the full 90. In an end-to-end first half, the biggest chance of them all was when James Folkes hit the bar with a headed effort from a corner, as well as Jack Zielinski hitting one over from a free-kick with his head.

In the second half, we saw a slightly more open game and James Pellin was forced to make a number of saves, which he did fantastically including double save right in the dying moments of the game. Jack Zielinski had a chance to win it in the 88th minute, however Melford keeper Matt Walker got down quickly to it. The away side had a number of chances to run at the Harlow defence, however the reds kept their shape throughout and made some excellent tackles when they were needed most.

There’s no doubt that many of the supporters were fearing a penalty shootout at the end; even I was hoping for extra time after 90 had gone, a view fuelled by the sheer number of penalties missed this season for us. However, there was nothing we could do and the lads would need to show terrific character if we were to emerge victorious.

The Long Melford striker Ryan Gibbs stepped up first and slotted home his penalty with panache. Tom Jelliman was the first to step up for the Hawks. He’s been our most-recent designated penalty taker, although at the weekend against Wormley his penalty was saved by their keeper Hammond. It wasn’t dissimilar on Tuesday, as his low-struck penalty was stopped by Walker and Long Melford took an early advantage in the shootout.

Josh Collins then dispatched his penalty excellently, giving the Hawks a mountain to climb from the off. Ruben Santos was next to take one, slotting it away and bringing one back for the reds.

Harry Brown then stepped up for Melford and sent James Pellin the wrong way, making it 3-1, but
Jimmy Nottage brought one back again for the Hawks with a marvellous penalty.

It was when Harry Whiting-Noakes skied his penalty that the belief really returned for us, and Raheem Gray put his one away to make it 3-3 after 4 each. We were well and truly back in the game, but from now on, it was sudden death until the end.

Will Wingfield slotted it home for Long Melford, and being the final allocated penalty taker, Jack
Cousins stepped up and put it home.

Jake Jackson then scored for Long Melford. It looked to be over when Matt Walker got a huge
touch on Zielinski’s penalty, but the ball snuck through his legs, keeping us in the game.

Ben Judge put his penalty away well, and Junior Dadson took one for Harlow, sending it into the
middle-right of the goal in good fashion.

Melford continued to put the pressure on Harlow when Lewis Brennan scored his penalty, but
Arley Barker wasn’t phased and scored his penalty.

Oli Judge didn’t miss for Melford, meaning captain James Folkes had to step up for the ninth penalty, under immense pressure. He only went and scored the best of the bunch, smashing it into the top-left: no keeper in the world would’ve saved it.

Matt Walker had been the hero on the first penalty for Long Melford on the opening penalty, denying Tom Jelliman and he stepped up to take Long Melford’s 10th penalty. He went from hero to zero as his penalty skimmed the bar and went over, giving Fabion Simms an opportunity to make history once again for Harlow.

Fabbz had always been a truly solid player for the Hawks, a legend of the club and he was cool as a cucumber to slot his penalty home and win the shootout for us. The stadium erupted,
absolute scenes as the players ran over and celebrated with the fans. Who would’ve thought it?Harlow Town in a cup final this season.

The celebrations continued for hours after the game, and we cannot thank you enough for your
incredible support in what will be the biggest moment in many supporters’ experiences
supporting the club to date.

Massive credit and respect to Long Melford, who played a very good game and were unlucky to
lose in such a fashion on penalties, as would any club be. They took the defeat in very good
sport and we wish them the best of luck for the rest of their league campaign.

We will play Downham Town in the final, after they defeated last year’s champions Lakenheath 3-2 in the other semi-final. The final will take place at Diss Town Football Club on bank holiday Monday 6th May 2024, kicking off at 3pm. The support in the final will be needed more than ever for the lads and if we can bring the kind of numbers that were at the semi-final, there’s no doubt the team will take that support and thrive from it.

We are looking into the possibility of getting coach travel for supporters from the stadium, and if you haven’t already, comment on our recent social media post if you would be interested in tickets, with how many you would like. Once we have a definite update, we will let you know.

Our focus now turns to Saturday’s game where will be away to Tower Hamlets in the league, kicking off at 3pm.

Image Credit: Paul Blake

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