Saturday 14th September brought forth an away fixture to Harlow Town FC. A ground for reasons that are best unspoken, I visited for the second time within this short season! The evening before was spent cramming an intense scouting report of Harlow Town. Hours of great detective work found me face to face with our opponent’s results so far this season... I’m not sure if even Sherlock would have dragged up this information! Two results did stand out in their form, two 4-3 victories in favour of our to-be hosts. This information did raise some questions heading into the game- how would Tooting’s defence fare against a prolific team? Could we exploit an exploitable defence? But most importantly- would that magic 100% record be intact after our hardest test of the season?
The journey north to the distant paradise known has Harlow was accompanied by many heading to “White Hart Lane” for a certain London derby...It was a good job Hackbridge Harry couldn’t make the game, as the amount of Tottenham shirts and scarves would have given him nightmares for weeks. With all eyes in London fixed upon said derby, the Tooting scarf wrapped around my neck drew occasional confused looks from many travelling that day- their brains must have been rattling through all the Football teams they knew, blissfully unaware that there are teams living under the Championship’s basement!
The long walk from the station to the ground was rudely accompanied by the beating September sun. It felt like we’d gone by a thousand industrial estates, so when the fortress of Harlow Town’s stadium stood before us it was a welcome sight. I must admit the bright sun didn’t do the artificial pitch any favours, with it looking extra plastically up close and personal.
Kickoff came with a wipe of the brow, sweat drawn from the heat more so than nerves and in the first half we struggled to find our feet. Harlow were looking the more threatening side and had a couple of decent chances.
We did, however, take the lead against the run of play, after Hamlin’s freekick from the halfway line found its way to Razzaq, who took the ball down beautifully while being tightly marked, onto his right foot and in at the near post from a tight angle! The halftime whistle shortly followed shortly after.
Harlow equalised soon into the second half, leaving the game at a fair level standing. The goal became a fuzzy blur in my mind, as I experienced something I never thought I’d experience anywhere, let alone at a football ground in Essex... “Reach up” by Perfecto Allstarz was blasted around the ground, mixed masterfully with air raid sirens. It absolutely boggled my head, and soon I had completely forgetting what I’d just seen. I fear I’ll remember that moment every time Adrian Lewis walks up to the dartboard!
The equaliser brought more pace to the game, and Tooting started to look more like the side that sat on top of the table. We had a glorious chance with a skilful dribble from Razzaq bringing the ball into the box, squaring the ball to Hady who couldn’t quite make enough contact to stick the ball into the gaping goal. Both teams looked dangerous at points in the second half, but Tooting looked the more likely to grab a winner but for some great goal line blocking from the Harlow defence.
The game ended level, and it was hard to argue too much with that. Of course we did have chances to win the game in the second half, but going into the game and after watching the first half, a point away at a tough opposition is not a bad result. Down the line, I’m sure we all hope that the lads will start to shut games down by taking their chances. But, as the season progresses, I’m confident that the great options we have up front will start to bed in and find consistency in front of goal. It’s early in the season, and also early in the first team careers of the likes of Nebay, Omari, Sham, Razzaq... each have started strongly, and Bass and Hady are players who could get in any side at this level (and above). I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before these guys click and start helping the Stripes put teams away early doors and notching up some more comfortable scorelines than we’ve seen so far. Meantime, unbeaten in the league, equal on points to the top 2 with each to play. More tests to come, and I’m confident!
Up the Stripes!