NICK HOOPER'S hat-trick led Staines Town to a 3-1 win at the Sportcentre as Harlow Town suffered their first home league defeat since August.

The clinical finishing of the visiting striker was the main difference between the two sides as the Hawks created enough opportunities to win but lacked an edge in front of goal.

Harlow boss Ian Allinson said: "I wasn't disappointed with the way we played but if you don't take your chances, you don't get anything.

"We had eight or nine clear chances and they only had five but they took three of them. There wasn't much we could do about two of Hooper's goals, they were just fantastic finishes."

The match was played on an uneven pitch which was only passed fit to use a few hours before kick-off. Suspended skipper Tony McNally was missing from the home line-up, as was John Ridout with an ankle injury. Marvin Samuel returned after a bout of flu.

Harlow started well with John Nicholson setting up John Coley on ten minutes only for the striker to shoot straight at Staines keeper Matthew Lovett.

The visitors took the lead against the run of play on the half hour, Lovett's long punt upfield sitting up perfectly for Hooper whose volley from 25 yards dipped over James Hasell and into the net.

Martin Young had a clear chance to equalise just before half time when he broke through on goal from the wing but his shot from a tight angle hit the side netting.

Within a minute of the restart it was 2-0 as Hooper played a neat one-two with Mark Butler and slipped the ball in from ten yards.

Jon Hooker pulled one back with an extraordinary goal on 52 minutes, bending a left-footed corner directly over Lovett and into the net.

But Staines restored their two-goal cushion seven minutes later, Hooper latching on to Craig Reilly's pass and finishing superbly again from 18 yards.

The Hawks should have cut their arrears on 67 minutes when Coley was pushed in the box and the referee pointed to the spot. But Samuel's penalty was saved by Lovett, the first spot-kick he has ever missed for Harlow.

Allinson brought on Andy Purcell and Michael Bridge and the latter immediately had a half-chance but he shot wide from 12 yards.

Harlow visit Leatherhead on Saturday, January 13.

Harlow Town1

Staines Town3

(Ryman League

division one)

HARLOW: Hasell, Samuel (sub: Jarrett 76min), Drury, Cowley, Nicholson, Cook, Young, Guile (sub: Bridge 71), Coley (sub: Purcell 71), Hooker, Salmon.