I saw Harlow Town suffer a tough loss at Enfield back in August, and I’d been keen to see them on their own patch ever since. I decided to take the train, even though it’s a fairly easy drive. Someone over the road has been busy ‘flipping’ houses recently, and I didn’t fancy taking the car and finding a skip in its place when I got back.
Competition: FA Trophy Second Round Qualifying
Refreshments: £2 (tea and coke)
Star man: James Baker
Who are ya, Harlow Town?
The Hawks played their first game as Harlow Town in 1879. 19 years later they merged with another local club and became Harlow and Burnt Hill. This new name only lasted for four years as the merger was reversed. Harlow’s current position in the Isthmian Premier Division is the highest level the club has played at. They are currently enjoying their third spell in the league having won Division One is 1979 and been promoted via the Division One North Play-Offs in 2007 and 2016.
The high point in the Hawks history came in 1980 when they made it to the FA Cup Forth Round. They were unfortunately knocked out away to Watford but achieved a notable scalp when they beat Leicester City in a home reply in the Third Round. The victory also saw Harlow record their record home attendance of 9,723.
- Harlow Town played a friendly against Uruguay in 1966, to help the South Americans warm up for the Word Cup
- Benfica trained at Harlow’s old Sportcentre ground to prepare for their 1968 European Cup final at Wembley
The Harlow Town experience
For their first time since I’ve started visiting non-league grounds there was actually a queue to get in to the Harlow Arena. The FA Trophy was clearly providing a welcome break from the home side’s patchy league form, and the locals seemed positive.
I was quite thirsty and a little cold after my walk from the station, so I headed straight for the marquee next to the impressive main stand. There was a good selection of drinks and food available, and the away support, draped in pink and blue scarves, were stocking up on tea and chips.
Train: Harlow Town Station is a 20-25 minute walk from the Harlow Arena. The station can be reached via trains from Liverpool Street and Seven Sisters. Turn right out of the station, walk up to the roundabout and head down Elizabeth Way.
Car: The Harlow arena is easily reached by car and has plenty of parking. Follow signs for the Greyhound track or Harlow Town Station.
After collecting a hot drink I headed to the far side of the stadium next to the Jack Chapman Stand, a good sized terrace behind the dug-outs. The home fans huddled in one corner to keep warm and were quick to fire up the siren. Yes, a siren. It caught me napping first time and I nearly decorated the 3G pitch with hot tea. The local's song about being next to Poundland also raised a few smiles from the cold masses.
The visiting Dulwich fans took up residence behind one goal and a group of them produced an uncanny impression of the siren. Both ends are uncovered at the Harlow arena but the majority of the visitors stuck it out, with a few seeking refuge in the terraced stand for the second half.
Both sets of fans produced a good atmosphere and sang throughout the game. A competitive game helped give them both something to sing for. The overall feel of the ground is friendly and Harlow clearly have a lot of devoted long-term fans. Chanting mostly filled the air, but it was frequently punctuated by old friends stopping to exchange pleasantries.
Harlow had won three of their last five games, but a couple of these wins had come in cup competitions. The Hawks were still dangerously close to the relegation zone in the Isthmian Premier.
Dulwich were on a run of six successive wins and were sitting top of the same division. They had also already beaten Harlow away this season, 3-2 in August.
The visitors started the game well and put early pressure on Harlow. The home side, however, had the ball in the back of the net against the run of play. Sadly for the home support the goal was ruled out for off-side.
Harlow did take the lead, though, when Alex Read glanced a free-kick past the Dulwich keeper. The visitors, rather than become frustrated, hit back immediately. Reise Allassani fired the ball into the bottom corner from the edge of the box after some good build up play.
It looked as though Dulwich would go on to take control after they drew level, but once again the home side caught them on the break. Alex Read, who looked a threat throughout, zipped a dangerous looking ball across the face of goal. Quade Taylor unfortunately turned it into his own net for the decisive goal.
A similar patter continued during the second half with Dulwich applying pressure, and Harlow soaking it up well and looking to break through Read. James Baker was looking in imperious form at centre back for the home side, and little got past him.
The chances the visitors could create were often shots from the edge of the area and beyond. They looked like they may have been struggling to adapt to the 3G surface with a few key passes being over-hit and shots miss-queued. Harlow hung on for a hard-earned victory.
Final thoughts and ratings
The Harlow Arena is a good venue that ticks most boxes. It has a smart seating area and a large terrace opposite. Good views can be found all around the pitch but the ends are exposed to the elements. The home fans produced a good atmosphere that was added too by a large visiting contingent.
Ticket availability – There was a little queue at the turnstile but easy enough to get in. 9/10
Website/social media – Harlow’s website is a little limited but the Twitter account provides good game coverage. 6/10
Travel – The Harlow Arena is easy to get to via train or car. The station is a bit further than it looks on the map, so give yourself 25 minutes. 8/10
Ground – A nice ground for step 3 and it has everything you’d need. I’m not a huge fan of 3G pitches, but I can see why they are used. Some more club branding around the ground could add to the experience too. 7/10
Food and drink – Good selection of hot and cold snacks and drinks. The bar area looked fairly large too. 8/10
Programme – Couldn’t track down a programme on the day, but I did arrive only a few minutes before kick-off. 5/10
Atmosphere – Great atmosphere and the large terraced section provides plenty of room for people who want to get involved in the singing. 8/10
Football quality – A good, competitive game with both sides looking to progress to the next round. 8/10
Cost - £12 entry and £2 for a tea and a can of coke. Pretty good price for a competitive FA Trophy encounter. 8/10
Matchday experience extras – The siren is perhaps the only notable extra but it’s a great one. 8/10