Blues slip to second consecutive 1-0 defeat on huge Chigwell pitch
- November 23rd 2019, Old Chigwellians Club, 11am
- Division 2
- Referee: Peter Spelman
- Weather: Cloudy
- Pitch: Fair
|No.||Starting XI||Goals||Yellow & Red Cards||Subs On/Off|
|2||Geoff Taunton-Collins (c)|
For the second consecutive week, the OHAFC 2nd XI found themselves unable to break down stubborn opposition and slipped to another narrow 1-0 defeat, Chigwellians 2s bundling home a corner on the hour mark to ensure a three-way race is maintained at the top of Division Two. Whereas the previous week’s defeat at home to the Old Citizens had been most unfortunate and, in the circumstances, perhaps irrelevant given the fact that the opposition had fielded at least one ineligible player, this time there could be no such consolation, with the Blues struggling for long periods on the wide open pitch in north London.
The visitors were not helped in their task by an early injury to centre-half Tom Ward, a lynchpin at the back who has struggled in recent weeks with a tight hamstring. Following an early sprint across the heavy surface in Chigwell it became apparent that he would be unable to continue, meaning lone substitute Jesse Duah, playing his first OHAFC fixture of the season, entered the fray much earlier than expected.
The opening quarter of an hour saw both sides play the ball forwards quickly and without much thought, Chigwellians trying to get the ball down more often but neither side displaying the confidence their League positions should have imbued them with. From the visitors’ perspective everything was extremely rushed, with far too many passes lumped forwards in haste with little thought of going square or backwards.
Despite this, two excellent early opportunities were created, both coming down the right flank. Harrow’s best move of the half saw several passes exchanged in a quick break forwards before Pablo Hutchinson was freed down the wing. His excellent low cross towards the near post was steered just wide by younger brother Andres. Minutes later and a similar move saw Jesse Duah in the same space. His low cross into the danger area was blocked towards the edge of the box and Lederman tested the keeper with a low first-time shot that required tipping round the post.
But having failed to score from these opportunities, the Blues then struggled as the home side began to find their rhythm and string together some decent passages of play. The loss of Tom Ward meant Ed Beecham dropping back alongside Alexi Pittalis at centre-half and both players had their hands full dealing with the pace and movement of the Chigwell centre-forward, although once more the visitors showed the same resilience and organisation they have displayed all season, restricting their opponents to a number of pot-shots from outside the box, few of which troubled Kyri Pittalis in the Harrow goal.
It was little surprise that the two teams went in goalless at the break, with neither side having created enough chances of note to force the opener. The Harrow side were in complete agreement that passing the ball with greater purpose and accuracy was going to be key in the second half, the increased space on the wide Chigwellian pitches always requiring more concentration than usual.
But, disappointingly, the quarter of an hour following the break saw the hosts dominate and score the goal that was, ultimately, to prove the difference between the two sides come the final whistle.
Harrow simply could not keep the ball for longer than two or three passes at a time, the side still far too guilty of trying to force early balls forwards instead of across the pitch where the spaces lay. Despite this, and the momentum building behind the hosts, the manner of the goal was hugely disappointing. A quick break down the Chigwell left ended with a superb diving save from Pittalis, the ball trickling out for a corner. The set-piece was delivered into the box and headed firmly towards the far corner only for Lederman, stationed on the far post, to block the original effort with his thigh, then quickly react to deflect a second goal-bound effort back into play. Unfortunately a Chigwellian was quickest to react the third time, heading accurately into the roof of the net with keeper and defenders left stranded.
The hosts continued to look the more likely of the two sides to score for much of the remainder of the game, the visitors just about hanging in thanks to some dogged defending from the back four and excellent keeping from Pittalis. The hosts did spurn one glorious opportunity to kill the game when a perfectly-flighted ball over the top of the Harrow back four was brilliantly controlled, only for the forward to suffer a rush of blood to the head and smash the ball wildly over the bar and into the tennis courts behind the goal.
And, trailing by just a solitary goal, the opportunity to snatch a point always gave the visitors just enough belief to keep playing and they finally managed to apply some concerted pressure in the final quarter of an hour. That few clear-cut chances were created was testament to the organisation of the Chigwellian defence, but the last few minutes proved hugely frustrating for the visitors as three quality crosses were delivered into the box only for each one to be ruled offside, attackers having failed to hold their runs as the defence pushed out.
In truth, despite fielding a midfield and attack of high-quality, the Blues struggled once more to break down a deep-lying defence and given the slapdash nature of their passing for much of the afternoon, could hardly count themselves unlucky not to have taken anything from the game.
Despite the defeat, the Blues remain top of the table ahead of the visit next week of the struggling Old Aldenhamians to the Hill. The opportunity to rediscover their goalscoring touch and return to winning ways will be most welcome and not one the side can afford to pass up if they wish to continue their quest for the Division Two title.