Convincing win sets up 3s' date with destiny

Old Harrovians 3rd XI
4 : 0
Old Bancroftians 1st XI
  • April 6th 2019, Harrow School 4G Astro, 12pm
  • Division 4
  • Referee: Tini Kaja
  • Weather: Cloudy
  • Pitch: Astroturf
No. Starting XI Goals Yellow & Red Cards Subs On/Off
1 Tom Mitchell
2 Nick Kapoor (c) 70'
3 Kyle Barrett
4 Connor Barrett
5 Callum Barrett 70'
6 Alex Breeden
7 Tom Faber 80'
8 Daniel Firoozan 51', 69' 80'
9 Olly Roberts 70'
10 Harry Bick
11 Alex Smith 9', 80'
12 Doug Morrison 45'
13 Nic Blinoff 55'

The OHAFC 3rd XI achieved the required victory on Saturday, eventually steamrollering an Old Bancroftians side with little to play for other than pride to ensure that next weekend’s trip to face the Old Columbans would be a winner-takes-all battle for promotion. An Alex Smith header inside the first ten minutes was all that separated the sides at the break, but two scrappy goals from Dan Firoozan gave the hosts breathing space before Smith completed the scoring with his 17th goal of the season.

The win keeps the OHAFC within three points of the Columbans above them and, crucially, maintains their superior goal difference meaning that any win is required on Saturday in order to leapfrog their opponents into second in the Division Four table. For Columbans, it is simply a case of avoiding defeat.

Despite the Bancroftians having little to play for other than pride, with their sixth-place finish in the Division already assured prior to kick-off, the visitors from north London were unlikely to prove a soft touch. In the past decade the 3s had tried five times to beat them and failed on each occasion. A 1-1 draw at Bancrofts Sports Ground on the opening day of the season was hard-earned and the opening forty-five minutes of football here did little to suggest this game would be any different.

Chances were few and far between on the pristine artificial surface, relaid last year no doubt at great expense and now featuring a bewildering array of pitch markings for almost any conceivable sport. Thankfully, despite the intensity of the encounter, the hosts settled their nerves with a fine early goal, left-back Callum Barrett whipping in a perfect cross for Smith to head home expertly after ten minutes.

There was plenty of physical effort from both teams, but quality was hard to come by, the visitors looking especially laboured in the final third. The Blues did their best to find a way through, with Firoozan weaving his web in central areas, trying to free wide players Harry Bick and Olly Roberts, but the Bancroftians proved a tough nut to crack.

With little goalmouth action to excite the small crowd of spectators, the game thankfully sparked briefly into life just before the break when the hosts enjoyed a spell of concerted pressure on the Bancroftians goal. Barrett and Smith again combined to good effect, another perfect delivery from the defender at a free-kick allowed Smith a header on goal but he was just off target, before Harry Bick beat his full-back down the left and cut the ball back but Roberts, too, was just off target, volleying over from close range at the end of a sweeping move.

Half-time saw the introduction of Doug Morrison and Nic Blinoff, the latter impressing at full-back with his strength and composure on the ball. And the Blues appeared in far greater control the longer the game wore on, well aware of the fact that goal difference could yet prove crucial in their quest to win a second successive promotion.

Again, an early goal in the half proved helpful, although it was mightily scrappy. A Harry Bick corner was cleared to the edge of the box before being turned back in and Firoozan was in the right place at the right time to divert the ball towards the goal. Fortunately, the Bancroftians made a hash of clearing the effort, with the keeper wrong-footed and a defender on the line somehow helping the ball on its way rather than preventing it from going in.

Nevertheless, with the side now two goals to the good, the requisite win appeared secure, the Harrow back four rarely troubled. There was one moment of unnecessary panic when a long ball over the top caught keeper Mitchell on the very edge of his area and in attempting to play safe and head the ball clear, he only succeeded in dropping the ball at the feet of the Bancroft striker. But under pressure from two of the Barrett brothers, he too panicked, weakly scuffing his shot wide of the post with the goal gaping.

Normal service resumed soon afterwards, with the hosts now firmly in the ascendency and on the hunt for further goals. They would add two more to their tally in the closing stages. Kyle Barrett pumped a long ball towards the corner and Tommy Faber did brilliantly to rob it back from a covering defender before driving into the box and squaring for Firoozan to tuck the ball in the far corner. Then, with ten minutes left, another Harry Bick corner picked out Doug Morrison at the far post and his shot across the box was deflected in from close range by Smith, Bancroftians appealing in vain for offside.

The only sour note came with an injury to Nic Blinoff, who went over on an ankle that had previously been operated on, and he was forced to limp off. Hopefully this won’t rule him out of the season decider on Saturday.

The two skippers, Kapoor and Smith, gave a brief motivational speech to their charges at the end of the game, although no-one was in any doubt as to the significance of the trip to Columbans. One final hurdle remains, and the opportunity for this group of players to write their names into OHAFC history.