Cup exit is new low for Castle

PUBLISHED: 18:28 01 October 2008 | UPDATED: 13:37 06 May 2010

Harlow Town 3 St Albans City 2 Report by David Willacy CITY were dumped out of the FA Cup in the Second Qualifying Round replay at Harlow on Tuesday night and missed out on a generous home tie with lowly Crowborough Athletic a week on Saturday. The Saints can have no complaints. Manager Steve Castle was hone

CITY were dumped out of the FA Cup in the Second Qualifying Round replay at Harlow on Tuesday night and missed out on a generous home tie with lowly Crowborough Athletic a week on Saturday.

The Saints can have no complaints. Manager Steve Castle was honest enough to admit that his side were second best to Ryman League outfit Harlow Town. He said: "I'm absolutely gutted and feel for the supporters and can only apologise as the draw had been kind to us. We let everybody down."

The pitch at Harlow's splendid stadium at Barrows Farm looked perfect after rain but a squally wind looked as it might affect the game. It didn't but Harlow's confident attacking ethos certainly did. They were a goal up inside the first minute when Danny Green crossed the ball from the left and Jamie Richards got his head to the ball before Ben Martin. The contact was just enough to deflect it over a surprised Paul Bastock and into the net off the underside of the bar.

Paul Hakim broke clear of his marker but went to ground before shooting as City tried to respond but instead they conceded a second goal in the 14th minute. Leon Lalite took an inswinging free kick on the left which went through players in the six-yard box and surprised Scott Cousins who deflected it into his own net at the far post.

Six minutes later City created a good chance. A deep cross from Rod Hicks from the left was headed back across goal by Hakim where Lee Clarke's diving header was instinctively saved by James Hassall but put past the post by Ben Bowditch. Midway through the half, skipper Ben Martin saw a powerful header from a corner strike Jordan Fowler but an impassioned plea for a penalty fell on Mr Venamore' s deaf ears.

Castle replaced the ineffective Hicks with Gary Cohen in the 35th minute and Saints perked up. Clarke found Hakim with a glorious through ball but the out-of-sorts striker was slow to shoot and was denied by former Saint Beckett Hollenbach, playing his 200th game for Harlow. After a mazy run by Cohen and a lay-off from Hakim, Clarke blasted a simple strike wide of the target.

At the other end Bastock, in his 150th appearance for City, had been at his best in saving at full stretch from Jamie Richards and in stoppage time he was relieved as the Harlow skipper Ryan Kirby headed a curling free kick into the side netting with the goal at his mercy.

Harlow dominated after the break. When Leon Lalite pumped a hopeful ball forward, Rhys Henry got beyond the defence and lobbed over the advancing Bastock but just past a post and two minutes later the troublesome striker stabbed wide at the other side of the goal. On the hour, Green saw his shot hit the City bar and Henry tested Bastock again, then the City keeper had to come off his line to smother another shot from Henry.

Castle is bemused by Hakim's lean spell as his pacy forward is regularly bulging the net in training. He was substituted for Quilter, allowing Alex Bailey to play further up field on the right and eventually Bowditch was sacrificed for Simon Martin to create a three-pronged attack.

With just 15 minutes remaining, Cousins scored his second goal of the night when his 20-yard free kick was deflected off the wall and past a wrong-footed Hassall. It threw the visitors a proverbial lifeline which they appeared to have grasped. For the third time in the match Bastock denied Henry and, from the clearance, Cohen ran at the back four, jinked, stumbled and then prodded the equaliser past the bemused Harlow goalkeeper.

Harlow looked shaky for the first time in the tie but with two minutes of normal time remaining, Green attacked from midfield, went wide of his marker and slammed a right-footed shot into the roof of the net for a memorable winner. Four minutes into stoppage time Danny Chapman headed against his own post but the fates saw that justice was done.

A thoughtful Castle added: "It looked as though we had got out of jail. They thoroughly deserved their victory. This is a major blow for us. We'll have to take it on the chin." Ouch!

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