1s denied first win of the season in see-saw encounter
- December 12th 2020, Harrow School 4G Astro, 12pm
- Premier Division
- Referee: Adam Azzouz
- Weather: Cloudy, breezy
- Pitch: Astroturf
|No.||Starting XI||Goals||Yellow & Red Cards||Subs On/Off|
|1||Fraser McGuinness (c)|
|5||Cyprian Owen Edmunds|
The OHAFC 1st XI were within touching distance of their first win of the 202/21 campaign on Saturday afternoon before late equaliser by the Old Brentwoods forced them to settle for a solitary point in an entertaining encounter played out on the Harrow School astroturf. Having trailed 2-0 inside the opening half an hour, the Blues recovered strongly to level just after half-time. Further goals from Chris Abdo and George Gould saw the home side lead twice in the closing stages, but both times the men from Essex found a way to thwart the Blues – the resulting point, whilst the minimum the home side deserved for their efforts, does little to improve the side’s perilous position at the foot of the Premier Division.
Following last weekend’s disappointing, if not totally unexpected, loss at home to the Old Bradfieldians, it was encouraging to see much better availability from the squad for this crunch fixture against a Brentwoods side that has performed creditably since winning promotion from Division One last season. Most pleasingly of all, midfielder George Gould was back from a lengthy injury lay-off to make his first appearance of the season and he was joined in the middle by Jack Richardson, making his OHAFC debut. There were also 1st XI season debuts for centre-half Alex Ellis and midfielder Archie Maxwell, the Blues’ engine room taking on a youthful look. Freddie Brunt was the old man of the team, leading the line up front, Abdo and Beecham supporting him. Rollo Hovey was the sole substitute. There was also a new face officiating, with Adam Azzouz refereeing his first ever OHAFC game.
With time running out for the OHAFC to clinch survival – assuming the season can be adequately completed, which at this stage looks somewhat doubtful – a fast start was required against a Brentwoods side that are notoriously weaker on their travels. Instead, in a fairly even opening to the match, the home side found themselves 2-0 down and left with yet another mountain to climb. The first goal after a quarter of an hour came from a corner: the ball was whipped in to the six yard box from the right, the first Brentwood header rebounded back off the bar but fortuitously fell to a teammate whose looping effort just managed to beat a despairing lunge from Jamie Jordache on the line. The second Brentwoods goal, ten minutes later, involved the same OHAFC player. This time Jordache collected the ball from his skipper and drove forwards down the right. But when he tried to cut inside he was robbed of possession and a rather weak cross towards the edge of the Harrow box was magnificently fired into the far corner first time by the onrushing striker.
The concession of a second goal saw skipper McGuinness make a tactical switch in a bid to get a foothold in the game: Chris Abdo was shifted up front, with Brunt brought back into midfield in order to get him on the ball more, alongside several other positional changes at the back. This appeared to galvanise the side and within ten minutes the Blues were back in the game courtesy of a debut goal for Jack Richardson, who ran onto Brunt’s precise pass through the middle to finish adroitly across the goalkeeper and into the far corner. It was almost a dream five minutes for the youngster but he then spurned another excellent chance to draw the sides level when he dragged a shot just wide with only the keeper to beat. Nevertheless, given the shaky start, there was plenty of optimism among Harrovian ranks as the half-time whistle blew.
No changes were made at the break, with Hovey doing his best to keep warm in the blustery conditions. But his mood, and that of his teammates, improved just seven minutes after the restart when Ed Beecham somehow contorted his body to hook in a shot following a corner to bring the Blues back level at 2-2. Hovey was introduced off the bench, the unfortunate Richardson making way having stubbed his toe on the artificial surface.
Not for the first time, and almost certainly not for the last, the swing of momentum against the visitors saw their tempers raise and they were made to pay by the referee as two of their players were sent to the sin bin for ten minutes for dissent. The OHAFC took full advantage, taking the lead for the first time in the game with just under half an hour remaining when Chris Abdo cleverly flicked the ball over his head and into the net from close range following a goalmouth scramble.
The lead lasted barely five minutes however, and this time it was the blue-shirted Harrovians who were left venting their frustrations following the contentious award of what can only be described as a ‘generous’ penalty award to the visitors. McGuinness was beaten and the teams were once more level at 3-3.
Both teams threw everything into the closing stages in a bid to force the winner and it was the hosts who looked to have succeeded when a slightly speculative long-range effort from the returning Gould took a deflection off a Brentwood player and flew into the top corner.
The Blues had twelve minutes to hold on to earn their first win of the season and, perhaps understandably, the play became rather frantic as a result. Brentwoods still struggled to create any chances of note however, until, with just under five minutes remaining, they managed to find a way through, again from a corner: the ball was flicked on at the near post and gleefully thumped in from a couple of yards out.
It was a crushing blow for Fraser McGuinness and his men, who had thrown everything into the game and looked good value for a first win. But once again, the inability to stem the flood of goals against proved their undoing – the total now stands at 51 and counting from just nine games, an unhealthy 29 goals more than any other side in the division has conceded. Nevertheless, the team showed enough spirit and quality going forwards to suggest that all is not lost. The side will now enjoy their winter break with, hopefully, the prospect of the League resuming in early January, COVID lockdowns permitting.