Ryan Div One North
Harlow 1 v 1 Grays Athletic
By Stephen Allen
A chance to go back top of the league was missed with a battling match against a forceful Harlow side which ended level.
From the kick-off both teams tried the long high ball tactics to no effect as they tried to cancel out the midfield and test each others tactics. It was a rapid run and header by Leon Mckenzie which allowed Joao Carlos to move wide and slot the ball to Harry Agombar only for his hurried shot to go wide to warn Harlow not to ease off. A midfield battle saw a period of negative play from both sides but David Cowley from the away side and Leon Lalite and Luke Marshall of the Hawks looked likely to find a way through and the wider player started to find space. Carlos worked his way through but a Mckenzie shot was held by Bert Bossu when in space.
The Blues defence were looking solid as Harlow pushed forward but were unable to find room as Grant Cooper and Junior Baker closed down the Hawks attack. Carlos accepted a pass from Agombar to run at Bossu and hit a shot across goal only for the palmed-down save to fall to Joe Dixon but his off-balance shot went over the bar. Mark Taylor earned a free and his shot was cleared for a corner, which in turn was crossed by Lalite. A sharp save by Hall fell to the feet of Marshall and his shot went high over the bar with the goal at his mercy.
The Blues started to find their form and playing to feet started to get on top and a Carlos cross was hit over by Kenny Beaney and a run by Dixon hit wide when in space. Another free-kick for Harlow saw Taylor hit the ball to Marshall but hid run and shot went over the bar again as the Hawks tried to get back in. The game looked to be heading for a goal-less first half when a floated free-kick from Agombar dropped into the area for Baker to get his head to the ball a stop by Bossu saw the ball drop to Mckenzie for him to bundle the ball over the line to give Grays the lead with five minutes of the half to go. Harlow pushed to level but the ball was kept clear by the away defence as both Marshall and Piers Wixon had chances to attack. Half time arrived with Grays on the back foot and Harlow pushing.
Harlow came out for the second half trying to increase the pace and take the game to the Blues with Lalite looking sharp as he ran on to a cross by Taylor only for Hall to pull off a solid save, Wixon shot wide and a Marshall shot was charged down as Grays looked shell shocked as they faced a torrid opening spell. A mistake by the away defence allowed Deane to run forward to be cleared by Baker but to be awarded a free-kick. A floated cross arrived in the box for Wixon to get a diving header onto the ball and put it into the net to level with thirty minutes to go. Baker was back to his best as he cleared from Jack Haverson before the Blues started to settle back down with Danny Bunce and Craig Pope moving forward from the back and trying to open the game.
Louis Dennis came on for a tiring Dixon and his pace looked to have beaten the home defence but for a class save by Bossu, then a Cowley run was hit wide to give the Hawks a scare. It was Lalite and Wixon who almost put Harlow in front but Wixons header slipped just wide of the post. A Cowley corner arrived at the head of Baker and Haverson cleared off the line with Bossu beaten, then Bossu punched clear from sub Joe Sweeney as the Blues moved forward but Mike Deane ran clear in space, with only Hall to beat, for Baker to run back and clear the danger. Harlow finished the game still attacking and to no avail as the game finished with honours even.
Grays Athletic :- Andy Hall, Danny Bunce, Junior Baker, Grant Cooper, Craig Pope, Joao Carlos (Joe Sweeney 80), Harry Agombar, Kenny Beaney, David Cowley, Joe Dixon (Louis Dennis 63), Leon Mckenzie (Jared Small 88)