After the rules were changed regarding which matches spectators could attend during the week, I was on the hunt to find a women’s match to go and watch on Sunday. After some Twitter searching, I saw that Harlow, which is fairly local to me, had a home match and they were letting spectators into watch. After checking trains were running there, that is where I decided to head for their match against Hackney Lionesses. Hackney Lionesses are a new side having only been founded this year and played their first ever match earlier this month.
Even though Harlow is on the same railway line that goes through my local station, there aren’t any direct trains on a Sunday. This wasn’t a big problem though as there was only about 10 minutes between the trains when I changed both ways and still only took about half an hour in total. For those who don’t know, Harlow is a new town (there is an older part called Old Harlow) and was built after World War II. There are a lot of cycle lanes and as I found, it is fairly easy to get lost (more on that later)! Arriving in Harlow about 2 hours before kick off allowed me time to have a walk through the park and see some of the animals at the farm there. I also had time to get some lunch in the shopping centre before walking to the ground.
The ground is about a 30 minute walk from the town centre and station passing the hospital along the way. It is in a more industrial part of the town with a large Poundland warehouse over the road from the ground. Harlow’s ground is called The Harlow Arena and both their men’s and women’s teams play there along with Woodford Town. The ground opened in 2006 and had a 3G pitch installed in more recent years. There is a seated stand in the middle of one side with a covered terrace opposite. The rest of the ground is uncovered with flat standing. Neither the stand nor the terracing were open for this match so I was hoping all the forecasted showers would miss Harlow. It was so nice being back in a football ground for the first time since March with my only other match since then being on a field.
It was free entry for this match and when entering the ground I had to give my details for track and trace at a table just inside the gate. There was lots of tape on the ground directing you around the ground in a one way system and also to marking 2 meters. After the match, all the barriers were being disinfected as I left. With a crowd of about 50 (my head count), there was plenty of room to social distance. Nothing like the tea bar or bar were open so it was a good job I had a drink with me. I felt safe and was impressed by what Harlow have done to make the ground, hopefully, Covid safe.
One of the first things I noticed as the teams warmed up was Hackney’s kit. It is half gold and half sky blue and looked really nice. Checking online after I saw that it was designed by MisKits and I think it worth a look if you haven’t already seen it. Before the match could start, the referee had to source an assistant from the crowd and after what looked like some persuading, someone agreed to do the job. There was no programme or team sheet so apologise for not naming players.
On what was a pleasant afternoon apart from one shower during the second half, Harlow took an early lead when they hit the crossbar and the rebound was scored. Harlow had further chances including one that hit the outside of the post. Hackney did get the ball in the net but the flag was up for offside. Harlow scored their second when their number 21 put the ball in the net direct from a free kick. Harlow hit the woodwork again, well twice actually, when the ball hit the post, hit the goalie, hit the post again and finished up back in the goalies hands. Harlow’s number 18 made it 3-0 with a shot from the edge of the area. Harlow then hit the crossbar before their number 9 made it 4-0 from close range after rounding the goalie. Harlow added two more before the break with their number 18 scoring again and their 6 heading in a corner. Hackney’s goalie did make a few saves between these goals. Harlow went into the break leading 6-0.
There was a slight delay at the start of the second half as one of the assistant referees had to be replaced. Harlow made it 7-0 when their number 9 scored after an initial effort had been blocked by the goalie and they scored their eighth shortly after when they number 12 scored. Harlow had more chances with one go over from close range and another cleared off the line. Hackney did come a bit more back into the match and had some possession but didn’t really create any chances. Harlow were given a penalty for handball which their number 19 scored and added a tenth with a nice finish from inside the area. Harlow then had a goal ruled out for offside as they looked to add more goals. They did manage to score another two before the end as they finished up winning 12-0.
After the match, I had about 40 minutes to spare before the train so I decided to walk back into the town centre to get a drink and snack to have on the train. It was gone 5pm on a Sunday so most shops were shut but I found a newsagents that was open. Now this is the point I got slightly lost due to the cycle lanes and walkways not all following the roads. I did find my way back to one of the roads that goes by the park and made it back to the station just in time for the train.
I have now been to two matches this season and seen a 7-2 and a 12-0. That is an average of 10.5 goals per game. If this average continues throughout the season for me then I am going to be very happy seeing lots of goals! It was also so nice going to watch a women’s football match on a Sunday afternoon again. It felt like a bit more normality returning to my life!
Clubs Twitter accounts- @HarlowLadies @LionessesHac