Blues run out of steam against the League leaders
- November 30th 2019, Philathletic Ground, 12pm
- Division 4
- Referee: Malcolm Edwards
- Weather: Sunny, calm
- Pitch: Excellent
|No.||Starting XI||Goals||Yellow & Red Cards||Subs On/Off|
|3||Felix Tritton (c)|
A new-look OHAFC 3rd XI were eventually over-powered by runaway Division Four leaders the Old Kimboltonians in a highly-entertaining game on Saturday afternoon, enjoying the better of a competitive first half to lead 3-1 at the break, before succumbing to a much-improved display from the visitors after the interval. The Kimboltonians pulled away to record a 5-3 victory that keeps them five points clear at the top of the table and leaves the Blues down in sixth.
On a bright, crisp winter’s lunchtime on the Hill, any latecomers to the action would have missed a flurry of early goals, with both sides finding the back of the net inside the first five minutes and, remarkably, the hosts scoring three times inside twelve minutes – this against a side that had conceded only ten goals in their previous eight League games.
Barely two minutes had elapsed when Freddie Everett opened his account for the OHAFC in only his second appearance, running onto a ball through the heart of the Kimbolton defence to finish confidently into the corner. Two minutes later, however, the visitors levelled via a similar route, some confusion in the Harrow ranks allowing another simple ball through and comfortable finish past Barney Bartlett, playing his first game for the 3s, in the Harrow goal.
At this early stage it appeared as though every attack would lead to a goal, such was the insecurity of both defences. And the hosts, for the first time under the leadership of Felix Tritton – their fifth different skipper in the last six matches, no less – continued the trend with two superb goals in quick succession. Tom Walduck struck first, firing into the top corner following excellent build-up play down the right, and brother James then matched him with a fine strike of his own, sending a looping left-foot shot into the top corner from just outside the box following good hold-up play from Everett.
It was a remarkable scoreline at such an early point in the game and it took the Kimboltonians, who had only suffered their first League defeat of the season the week before away to the Old Salopians 2s, a while to regain their composure. The OHAFC, wearing their change red shirts, maintained their grip on the contest, playing plenty of early balls forwards and enjoying some success out wide, notably down the right-hand side.
But as the half wore on, the visitors began to take hold of the midfield and enjoyed a lot more possession. Harrow defended well however, with another makeshift back four including 2s regular Doug Pratt, making his first appearance in Harrow colours this season, restricting the purple-shirted Kimboltonians to a couple of half-chances and little else. In midfield, Luke Berry looked the most composed player on the pitch, regularly collecting the ball and looking to spring teammates forwards, although perhaps getting caught dwelling on the ball a few too many times for his skipper’s liking. Nevertheless, having maintained their two-goal advantage to the break with minimal fuss, another shock defeat for the League leaders appeared on the cards.
Disappointingly, from a Harrow perspective at least, the second half proved rather an anti-climax, with the visitors superior in all departments almost from the first whistle. Suddenly, purple shirts were quicker to the ball, hungrier in the tackle and their attack, which had been blunted so admirably in the first-half, looked razor-sharp, the ball switched from one side to the other, both wingers looking to drive at their full-backs and play in the lone striker.
It was little surprise when the goals began flying in, with the visitors turning the scoreline around in a fifteen-minute spell early in the half. There was more than a touch of good fortune about the first effort, some excellent build-up play down the Kimbolton right ending with a cross that sailed perfectly into the far top corner, Bartlett left powerless to make a save despite being correctly positioned.
Ten minutes later, with Harrow now looking laboured compared to their opponents, the scores were level as another excellent move down the right saw a low cross delivered into the box, the ball missing the players at the front post to allow a simple tap-in at the far one. And the comeback was complete three minutes later with a similarly-worked goal, although this time the forward arriving at the far post had a little more to do, finishing with a powerful strike that clipped the near post on its way in.
The tide had turned, seemingly permanently, as the hosts’ threat going forwards had almost totally dried up. The Walduck brothers, Freddie Everett and Luke Berry were starved of possession, a few sporadic through-balls offering brief glimpses of hope, but the Kimbolton defence had tightened up considerably and the spaces that were prevalent in the first half were simply not there in the second.
The visitors confirmed the win with a fifth goal ten minutes from time, a free-kick hoisted to the back post, headed back down and scrambled in from close range.
It was tough luck on an inexperienced Harrow side, and a harsh lesson in mens football for the three debutants, Guy Heilpern, Raunaq Cavet and Anson Lo, all of whom performed creditably, Heilpern in particular making an excellent start in central midfield. In the end, the Kimboltonians proved too quick, too strong and too sharp in the final third, offering a clear glimpse of why they find themselves firm favourites to secure a second consecutive promotion come the end of the season.
The Blues now close out the year with two winnable home games against the sides that sit just above them in the table: the Old Stoics, who visit the Hill on Saturday, followed by the Old Shirburnians the following week. Due to the soggy nature of the Phil pitches, the Stowe fixture is likely to take place on the Harrow School astroturf.