A game of high expectations for both sides, a 0-0 scoreline was far from what we expected between Harlow Town and Clapton Community, however it certainly was a score that reflects the way the game panned out. In attacking areas, neither side really got going, but this was partnered by water-tight defending from both sides and as a result, neither keeper had a lot to do.
As is widely known, Clapton Community are a side to talk about; top of the Thurlow Nunn First Division South heading into the game, and the only club that consistently comes close to Harlow in terms of attendance every week, and on some occasions, tops us – all for a club that were formed in 2018. Unique is definitely a way to describe them.
For the first time all season, the Pardus Wealth Stadium had seen two opposing groups of fans chanting against each other, a sight rarely seen in our division. But it certainly crafted an immense atmosphere that fed into the game. Every player gave 100% and it was rare for someone to back out of a challenge, with both defences strongly influencing the game.
Danny Chapman’s side looked slightly different to the team that beat Basildon Town 0-4 in midweek: Taylor Hastings returned to the defence meaning Fabion Simms could come forward into midfield, Junior Dadson came back into the starting XI, Ruben Santos was named on the bench alongside Bobby Kirby, Jimmy Nottage, Glenn Roberts and new signing Jack Zielinski.
The game begun like many boxing matches, with both sides assessing the situation whilst waiting to pounce if the opportunity comes. It was Harlow who had the first action of the game, with a Tom Jelliman free kick being met by Fabion Simms, but his header caused no problems for Clapton. A few minutes later, the first shot on goal came as Junior Dadson skipped past his man and struck it on his left, well within the reach of Jack Francis, who pushed it away.
Harlow continued to apply pressure, as Korede Da Silva had an opportunity which was blocked well by the Clapton CFC defence. The away side eventually did get their first chance of the game, as James Briggs saw his effort whizz narrowly wide, with a shot from distance.
The most notable Harlow opportunity of the first half came from another Jelliman free kick, but this time James Folkes won the header, and it almost troubled Francis, but glanced over the bar with a lot of conviction. In the later stages of the first half, Raheem Gray decided to cut inside and shoot but didn’t quite get his technique right and the effort was tame in the end, which could also be said for Tom Jelliman’s effort soon after from 20 yards, that curled wide.
It was a first half full of singing, drumming and chanting from the supporters, but on the pitch neither side would’ve been totally dissatisfied with the first half performance – even if there was no clear cut chances.
The second half was when the game really started to cook, with the first chance coming in the 49th minute after a cross came into the Clapton box where Raheem Gray stood, and volleyed the ball straight at the keeper. There was clearly an intention for Harlow to get forward, but with the Clapton defence standing tall, opportunities were scarce. Minutes later, a Harlow free kick flew into the box that Jack Francis claimed but immediately spilled. As the whole moment happened in a matter of milliseconds, James Folkes had no time to react and the ball that had been practically thrown into him soared wide.
Clapton burst forward on the counter-attack, and created the biggest chance of the game. The Clapton striker was one-on-one with James Pellin, but in the biggest moment of the game, he produced one of the poorest finishes possible in the situation and the game remained all square. Three minutes later, the Hawks progressed up the pitch and Ishaq Ameen found himself in a position to shoot with no defenders ahead of him. The shot undoubtedly had power, but lacked direction as Ishaq saw his shot saved by Jack Francis.
Ishaq then had another huge chance to score, and with the entire stadium on the edge of their seats, Ishaq’s shot was blocked by a Clapton defender and went out for a corner. Defence had prevailed once again. Soon after, Clapton found themselves on a fierce counter attack, with a two-on-two situation. A shot was fired at James Pellin, which he tried to catch, but spilt and with a Clapton player charging towards him, he recovered excellently and came out on top.
After this point in the game, everything slowed down. Countless Clapton CFC players fell to the floor, as time flew by – indicating how the away side were happy to play for a draw. It was clear that Harlow’s intentions were to keep pushing for a winner, but the chances just weren’t materialising for the reds. It took another 20 minutes for our next and final clear-cut chance of the game. Junior Dadson sprinted onto a through ball and had the whole goal to aim at. He took it on his left foot, and blasted it into the car park. It was a defining moment in the game, and with Clapton continuing to kill the time, not even the positive influences of Bobby Kirby, Jack Zielinski and Ruben Santos could change the scoreline.
After playing a lot of added time, the referee was happy to call time on what had been an oxymoronic game. On one hand, it was chaotic, an exciting watch with a brilliant atmosphere – and a point is far from a terrible result. But on the other hand, it could be interpreted as 2 points lost, in a game that Clapton wanted to shut up shop in, and despite the excitement, not many chances were created for either side.
However, we have to take a well-fought for point and move onto a huge game at home against St Margaretsbury on Tuesday evening – a game that we must win to remain in the title race through the Christmas period.