Late sending off costs Blues dearly as Tonbridge snatch win

Old Tonbridgians 1st XI
2 : 1
Old Harrovians 1st XI
  • November 23rd 2019, Wrotham School Astroturf, 12pm
  • Premier Division
  • Referee: Collin Webb
  • Weather: Drizzle
  • Pitch: Astroturf
No. Starting XI Goals Yellow & Red Cards Subs On/Off
1 Fraser McGuinness (c)
2 Alex Breeden
3 Jonny Lalude
4 Kyle Barrett
5 Cyprian Owen Edmunds
6 Oliver Acar 68'
7 Chester Robinson
8 Charlie Bick
9 Daniel Firoozan 34'
10 George Gould
11 Harry Bick
12 Callum Barrett 50'

For the third time in four matches, the OHAFC 1st XI failed to hold onto a lead, this time disastrously so, as they fell to a 2-1 defeat away to the struggling Old Tonbridgians having led 1-0 with just ten minutes remaining. The turning point came with the unfortunate dismissal of Cyprian Owen Edmunds, who was shown a second yellow card for tugging the shirt of an opponent. The Blues failed to hold out with ten men, conceding twice in the closing stages to extend their run without a win in the division to five games and slip to seventh in the table as a result.

It was desperately bad luck for the side and skipper Fraser McGuinness, who had endured a frustrating build-up to the game as several late withdrawals left him scrambling to cobble together a squad to travel to the Wrotham School Astroturf in Kent, the slightly inconvenient location for all the Old Tonbridgians League fixtures. Fortunately, vice-captain Alex Breeden put his Friday night exertions behind him to make the trip, with Callum Barrett and Oli Acar also drafted in – Acar made his season debut on the left wing, with Dan Firoozan on the right and Harry Bick the lone striker in the absence of both James Breeden and James Tippett. A strong midfield trio of Charlie Bick, George Gould and Chester Robinson ensured plenty of guile and class, with a solid back four including Breeden, Kyle Barrett, Jonny Lalude and Cyprian Owen Edmunds.

Conditions in Wrotham were excellent, with the slick artificial surface proving very much to the visitors’ liking in an encouraging first-half performance. The ball was switched across the back confidently, with the midfield trip coming short to collect at regular intervals and spring the side forwards. Star of the show in the opening period was undoubtedly Dan Firoozan, who looked lively on the ball, was regularly involved and looked the most dangerous in front of goal. Twice the twinkle-toed wordsmith cut in on his left foot, twice he was thwarted by the Tonbridge keeper.

Both sides then enjoyed a couple of half chances without either keeper being severely tested, although at this stage it was still the side in blue in control, much to the frustration of their hosts, who began to argue amongst themselves as they struggled to gain a foothold in the match.

And their mood soured further when the visitors deservedly took the lead shortly after the half-hour mark. The ball was worked down the right-hand side of the pitch, cut back to Dan Firoozan on the edge of the box and his low rather scuffed shot somehow beat the keeper to his right, the ball almost trickling over the line on its’ way past.

The goal imbued the visitors with confidence and they nearly doubled their lead shortly afterwards with a superb move that saw the ball worked all the way back to McGuinness in goal before being passed across the pitch and down the left to Acar. The youngster cut inside, squared for Harry Bick who was unlucky to see his shot tipped onto the post by a superb save from the keeper, only for Dan Firoozan’s effort from the rebound to then be diverted away for a corner via a defender’s leg.

The only slight negative in this period of OHAFC dominance was a yellow card shown to Cyprian Owen Edmunds for a set-to with his opposite man, both players ending up in referee Collin Webb’s notebook.

At half-time the only thing missing from a complete Harrow performance was a second goal their play undoubtedly deserved. The furious nature of the Tonbridge team talk suggested that they were similarly minded, wary of their already-precarious League position deteriorating further still.

The second half began in much the same vein the first had ended, with the visitors on top and enjoying plenty of the ball, without being able to create any clear chances of note. Substitute Callum Barrett was introduced for Owen Edmunds in a like-for-like swap at left-back, but the longer the game wore on, the more the hosts began to exert their authority. Once again, the Blues floundered somewhat in the face of more urgent pressing from their opponents, once again the ball was rather aimlessly piled forwards with little hope of anything positive being achieved.

Despite this, one decent save from McGuinness apart, the Blues remained resolute at the back and as time ticked towards the final ten minutes, it was difficult to see how the Tonbridgians were going to force their way back into the game.

But that all changed with a highly unfortunate second yellow card for Owen Edmunds, who by this stage had re-joined the action at the expense of Oli Acar. Getting involved with his opposite man once more, the Harrow left-back tugged back the jersey of the Tonbridgian and referee Webb once more issued the yellow card. Momentarily forgetting that he had already cautioned the player, play was about to resume until several Tonbridgians reminded him of the earlier booking. The referee was left with no choice but to show the red, a rare occurrence at this level of the game and highly unfortunate given the pair of minor offences that led to it.

Nevertheless, it provided the hosts with all the encouragement they needed to produce a furious final ten minutes and they poured forwards in search of an equaliser. With just over five minutes remaining the hosts broke down their left, crossed into the box only for McGuinness to punch clear. Unfortunately, the ball landed at the feet of an onrushing midfielder and his effort from fifteen yards out somehow found its’ way through a crowd of legs and into the only unguarded part of the net remaining.

Tonbridge now smelt blood and sure enough, just a couple of minutes later, they completed the comeback with a dramatic winner, this time a cross from the right was cut back and then buried into the bottom corner of the Harrow net.

With time and player numbers against them, the Blues couldn’t muster themselves for one final effort, suffering another late reverse following similar recent situations against both the Old Alleynians and Old Salopians. It was as galling a defeat as any suffered so far this season, with the majority of the performance deserving of so much more.

Nevertheless, there is no time to wallow in self-pity, with a trip to another artificial pitch next weekend and the opportunity to complete a League double over the Old Bradfieldians. The Blues will be boosted by the return of leading scorer James Breeden for that one, the side will no doubt be hoping their talisman can help return them to winning ways following this rather lean spell.

*Thanks to the skipper for his assistance with this report