3s exit Junior League Cup with shock defeat to lowly Brentwoods
- December 5th 2020, Philathletic Ground, 12pm
- Junior League Cup
- Referee: Alan Greenberg
- Weather: Sunny, breezy
- Pitch: Excellent
|No.||Starting XI||Goals||Yellow & Red Cards||Subs On/Off|
|1||Tom Mitchell (c)|
The OHAFC 3rd XI returned from the month-long COVID-enforced break with a Junior League Cup tie that, on paper at least, looked eminently winnable against the side sitting rock bottom of the entire Arthurian League. As it turned out, however, Brentwoods 4th Xi proved a stern test for the Blues and held on to claim a hugely surprising 3-2 win despite near-constant OHAFC pressure in the closing stages. The defeat also continues the club’s lengthy wait for a first victory in any competition this season.
The visitors arrived on the Hill with an unenviable record of six games played, six defeats and an extraordinary 60 goals conceded – comfortably the most of any of the 61 teams that constitute this season’s Arthurian League. The 19-0 defeat at home to the Old Albanians in mid-September is surely a record scoreline. And with all four Brentwoods teams in action, there was little chance of better players being passed down to the 4s to aid them in their cause.
For the OHAFC, skipper Ed Nicholson was again absent, leaving the captain’s armband to be taken by keeper Tom Mitchell. A strong squad of thirteen was named, including two players who have featured more heavily for the 2s in recent months, defender Will Monroe and creative midfielder Ed Stewart. Will Glover was aiming to continue his impressive goalscoring run up front, aided by a strong midfield including Olly Roberts, Matt Bailey and Ali Buckley. Mikey Watford and Louis Clarke started on the bench, the latter making his OHAFC debut.
Given the five-week break from any football being played, the Phil pitches were in magnificent condition, the grass freshly-mown and a low, wintery sun illuminating the grounds. Disappointingly, however, the start from the Blues was less than pristine, with plenty of ring-rust on display, perhaps not unsurprising following such a long break in the fixture calendar. Brentwoods took full advantage, testing Mitchell in the Harrow goal on several occasions, the visitors’ lone striker proving himself a real handful.
The home side were duly made to pay for their sluggishness when they conceded twice inside the opening ten minutes: Michael Brooks sliced a cross into his own net when attempting to clear before a poor pass out from Mitchell at a goal kick left Bailey and Graham struggling under pressure, the Brentwoods striker nipping in to win the ball and cross into the box allowing a simple finish.
Ten minutes later and it was 3-0, a long ball over the top of the Harrow back four left Felix Tritton caught on the wrong side of the striker and he raced through to beat Mitchell one-on-one. 3-0 down and looking fairly shambolic, a stern rallying cry was issued in a bid to shake up the troops and, thankfully, there was some response too, the Blues raising their efforts both in and out of possession.
Gradually, the home side worked their way back into the game and began to test a rather shaky-looking Brentwoods keeper, who until this point had been a mere spectator. The hosts were rewarded for their efforts when they pulled a goal back shortly before the break, a cross from the right found Will Glover inside the box and he finished with aplomb to give the home side a sliver of hope heading into the interval.
Understandably, the mood in the OHAFC camp at the break was rather sombre, with the opening half-hour still weighing heavily on Harrow heads. Nevertheless, with the wind and slope now in their favour and the low sun shining directly into Brentwood eyes, there was plenty of belief that the tie could still be salvaged. One tactical change was made, with Mikey Watford coming off the bench to play on the right, Olly Roberts moving into the centre of midfield.
The Blues began the second half as they had finished the first, firmly in the ascendency. Glover continued to look a threat up front and Charlie Lupton was enjoying strong showing in central midfield, and it was Lupton who scored the hosts’ second with twenty-five minutes remaining, a powerful show from just outside the box that took a slight deflection off a defender as it sped past the keeper.
The OHAFC were now totally dominant, the visitors looking very much like a side that had conceded an average of ten goals per games in their previous League fixtures. The Blues poured forwards in the closing stages in a desperate bid to claim an equaliser, four players pushing right up on the over-worked Brentwoods defence. Some decent chances were created but thanks to a combination of some desperate goalkeeping and some equally desperate clearances off the line the Brentwoods goal somehow remained unbreached. Alan Greenberg’s whistle signalled the end of the 3s’ JLC hopes for another season, the Blues having left themselves just too much to do in the second half. Hopefully, the rustiness on display in the first half will at least now be out of the system, with the 3s engaged in a vital League game against the Old Stoics next weekend.