Vets sneak past Salopians courtesy of late piece of magic

OHAFC Veterans
3 : 2
Old Salopians Vets
  • November 10th 2019, Bank of England, 10:30am
  • Derek Moore Veterans Cup
  • Referee: Matt Cannon
  • Weather: Sunny, calm
  • Pitch: Good
No. Starting XI Goals Yellow & Red Cards Subs On/Off
1 Andrew Butler
2 Arjun Chopra
3 Ed Arghebant
4 Tim Dalton
5 Jamie Waugh 40'
6 Rupert Hoffen
7 Paul Molloy 26'
8 David Lederman (c) 83'
9 Piers Bourke
10 Matt Davies 39'
11 Dominic Danos
12 Edward Thorn 40'

The OHAFC Veterans sneaked into the quarter-finals of the Derrick Moore Veterans Cup on Sunday morning courtesy of a superb late winner from David Lederman. With the two sides locked at 2-2 with just seven minutes remaining, Lederman collected the ball in midfield, looked up and coolly chipped the Salopians keeper from the best part of thirty-five yards, the ball crashing into the crossbar before bouncing down and over the line. Harrow’s reward for their victory is a home tie in the quarters against either the Brentwoods Vets or KCS Wimbledon Vets.

Despite the torrential rain that fell during most of Saturday, the tie was surprisingly given the go-ahead by the normally protective Bank of England groundsman. In fact, Lower Redgate, at the far end of the beautiful grounds, was in decent condition, the central areas admittedly soft under foot.

Nevertheless, the sun shone brightly and with little breeze, conditions were almost ideal for football. A shame, then, for skipper John Wyn-Evans, who was away and missing his first OHAFC Vets Cup tie for many seasons. Lederman took over the reins and was presented with an initial quandary when a couple of late arrivals looked like it would mean starting with Bobby Tindall in goal – hardly a plan to generate hope among the hardy crowd of one – Harry Hoffen having graciously returned from the Cotswolds to cheer on his teammates. Despite Tindall warming up encouragingly, the sight of both Tim Dalton and Piers Bourke jogging round the corner with a minute or two to spare focussed Harrow minds and allowed Plan A to resume, with Andy Butler in goal and Jamie Waugh, happily returning from his controversial self-imposed exile, slotting in at left-back. With limited options in defence, Ed Arghebant was asked to partner Tim Dalton in the middle, with Arjun Chopra on the right. Ru Hoffen and Piers Bourke provided the width in midfield, although the extra running in prospect hardly filled the former with glee, Lederman and Molloy occupying the central areas. And up front the usual pairing of Dom Danos and Matt Davies were present, Ed Thorn due at the interval as an emergency sub.

The hosts started brightly, looking especially threatening down their right, where Hoffen was well supported by Arjun Chopra. On several occasions space was worked for a cross but the delivery left something to be desired, with too many balls finding Salopian defenders or empty space. Lederman and Molloy appeared to have control of the midfield, whilst Bourke rarely stuck to his position, constantly popping up all over the pitch in his own inimitable style. With Dalton and Arghebant looking solid against the Salopian attack, the hosts looked capable of forging ahead.

But with a quarter of an hour on the clock, and against the run of play, it was the visitors who struck first and in highly unfortunate circumstances. Tracking back towards his own box, Lederman tripped over and into the heels of a Salopian. Matt Cannon awarded the free-kick but the first Salopian effort was dreadfully over-hit and ran harmlessly out of play for a goal kick. Unfortunately, the referee hadn’t blown his whistle and ordered a re-take, much to Harrow’s frustration. And the Salopians took full advantage of their second chance, the ball being touched wide for Jones to drill low into the bottom corner.

But the hosts remained undeterred and within ten minutes were level, a set-piece again the source. Some promising play down the right saw a corner forced. The first saw Molloy’s header deflected over the bar by a Salopian defender, but the second was unstoppable, Lederman driving the ball to the far post for his teammate to turn and plant a second header in off the inside of the near post.

Play was then stopped at 11am allowing both sets of players and the referee to observe a minute’s silence on Remembrance Sunday.

Following the resumption, both sides had chances to take the lead. Harrow continued to threaten down their right, with both Hoffen and Chopra delivering superb crosses. Chopra’s was unlucky to miss the two Harrow strikers, Hoffen’s was cleared practically off the line at the far post as Matt Davies slid into apply the finish.

But again it was the visitors who struck first, with a well-worked goal that owed everything to a perfectly-timed run from the right winger, who drive across the middle of the pitch to collect a ball over the top and, with Butler marginally out of position, calmly passed the ball inside the near post from the edge of the box.

Again the OHAFC hit back, levelling before the break with their own slice of good fortune. Piers Bourke collected the ball on the left and skipped inside past two or three challenges. Just as it appeared as though the attack might break down, the winger poked the ball through for Davies to run onto. With just the keeper to beat, the finish was a poor one, aimed almost squarely at the onrushing Salopian, but lady luck had other ideas, the ball looping up into the air and, as several players closed in, bouncing down and rolling forwards into the back of the net.

Shortly before the break, Jamie Waugh was forced to limp off with a muscle strain, his lack of competitive football over the past few seasons costing him dearly. Fortunately, Ed Thorn had timed his arrival perfectly and was able to slot in at left-back.

Despite the 2-2 scoreline at the interval, there was much optimism among Harrovian ranks that a strong second half showing would bring the desired result. With only a limping Jamie Waugh and Bobby Tindall on the side, there was limited scope to make any changes, but for some unknown reason, the Harrow side that emerged for the second half were a pale imitation of the one that had played the first forty-five minutes.

For the first time in the game, the hosts found themselves under concerted pressure, with the Salopians looking hungrier, sharper and quicker to the ball than they had at any stage previously. Suddenly, the Blues were camped inside their own half, barely able to string two passes together as clearance after clearance saw another Salopian attack generated. Fortunately, the Harrow defence held firm and limited the visitors to a few corners and crosses from out wide, but for fifteen minutes a Salopian third goal appeared somewhat inevitable.

But having weathered the storm, the home side then took over with a dominant twenty-minute spell of their own. The Salopians appeared to have given their all, with goalscorer Cooke off injured not helping their cause, and space began to open up at regular intervals. As the Blues continued to create chance after chance, the fact the sides remained deadlocked at 2-2 was something of a minor miracle.

In a crazy few minutes, Piers Bourke smashed a shot against the top of the crossbar before a goalmouth scramble saw several players fail to beat the keeper from close range. The ball was cleared towards the edge of the box where Molloy thumped a superb shot back in only for it to cannon square off the post before being hacked clear. Several one-on-ones then followed, with Hoffen and Danos both being denied, the former firing wildly over when a square pass would have left a simple finish, the latter failing to beat the Salopian keeper, who was now frantically sprinting around his penalty area at regular intervals to protect his goal. When Matt Davies then failed to convert another golden chance it appeared as though a penalty shootout would be the only way to separate the two sides.

But fortunately there was sufficient time for one moment of class to decide the outcome, Lederman succeeding from thirty-five yards against the keeper who had proved unbeatable from much closer range. The hosts saw out the final seven minutes in relative comfort, no doubt relief all round that a torturous shootout would not, in the end, be required.

The Blues’ reward for their narrow win is a home tie in the quarter finals against either the Brentwoods Vets or the KCS Wimbledon Vets in early January when hopefully several of the missing OH players, including the skipper, can return.