Second half efforts earn OHAFC valuable point at Eton
- February 8th 2020, Eton College (Dutchmans), 11am
- Premier Division
- Referee: Raphel Headlam
- Weather: Sunny, calm
- Pitch: Good
|No.||Starting XI||Goals||Yellow & Red Cards||Subs On/Off|
|1||Fraser McGuinness (c)|
|5||Cyprian Owen Edmunds||75'|
The OHAFC 1st XI narrowly missed out on the opportunity of claiming a rare win double at Eton in the same season when they were pegged back late on in Saturday’s 1-1 Premier Division draw between the sides at Eton College. It seemed as though the Blues had followed their Dunn Cup win in October with a League win here when leading scorer James Breeden fired in with under fifteen minutes remaining. But a similarly spectacular strike from one of the Etonian substitutes levelled matters with seven minutes remaining and both sides had to be content with a point. The OHAFC are not quite mathematically safe from relegation but it will take an unlikely set of results now to deny them a place at the top table again next season.
Skipper Fraser McGuinness was able to welcome back both Kyle and Connor Barrett for the trip down the M4, neither having played for the side since the turn of the year. Will Bamford was another making his first appearance this year, with Mike Okoigun named on the bench, alongside promising youngster James Cleverly.
The first half proved a taxing one for the visitors, the Etonians keeping the ball well and taking advantage of some rather slapdash pressing by the Blues, with too many occasions seeing one or two Harrow players close the man in possession down rather than five or six. As a result, the hosts enjoyed far more of the ball, without ever really testing McGuinness in the Harrow goal. A couple of long range efforts were fired in, and a slight miscommunication between Owen Edmunds and Kyle Barrett could have been punished, but the Etonians failed to take advantage.
It proved equally as tough in possession for Harrow, with the visitors unable to keep the ball for any length of time. A couple of quick breaks involving Breeden and Bamford looked promising, but again, neither could take advantage.
The OHAFC suffered a blow after half an hour when midfield dynamo George Gould was forced off injured. Given his recent hamstring problems, it is hoped he will be able to reappear before the end of the season. He was replaced by Mike Okoigun, who took his customary place up front, James Breeden dropping back into the hole.
The Etonians dominated the ten minutes prior to the break, but again found creating clear-cut opportunities beyond them and the half-time whistle blew with the match still goalless. At the break, a somewhat relieved Harrow side vowed to press more cohesively as a unit and take greater care in possession.
And this change in attitude appeared to work, as the visitors began the second half on top, preventing their opponents from playing with the same level of comfort they had enjoyed prior to the break and displaying far greater confidence on the ball. The midfield dup of Charlie Bick and Chester Robinson, in particular, gradually began to exert greater influence on proceedings and the game developed into a very even contest, highlighted by the fact that goalscoring opportunities continued to prove elusive for both teams. That was until the final twenty minutes, when tiring limbs and wearied minds saw pockets of space begin to open up across the pitch. The visitors came close to opening the scoring following a well-worked move down the right involving Alex Gilbert and James Breeden. Gilbert fired a shot in on goal, the ball looped up off a defender towards the far post, but the waiting Bamford couldn’t apply the coup de grace, his shot cleared off the line by a defender.
At the other end, the Etonians then had a chance of their own, one that saw them come within inches of taking the lead. The ball was played onto the edge of the Harrow box on the Eton left, controlled and a cross-cum-shot dinked towards the far post. McGuinness was left powerless as the ball sailed onto the angle of post and bar before bouncing to safety.
With a goal now looking more likely than at any stage in the match, it was the visitors who finally broke the deadlock. Again the move emanated down the right, again Gilbert and Breeden were involved. This time the wide man cut inside before laying the ball off to the striker just outside the box. Breeden shaped to shoot on his right, quickly turned the other way, before smashing a shot in with his left. Although the strike was central, the power took it past the Eton keeper and just under the crossbar – his 19th League goal of the season.
Unfortunately for the visitors, the game continued to flow from end-to-end in the final ten minutes and the Etonians summoned up a superb goal of their own with seven minutes remaining to earn a share of the spoils. The hosts’ striker collected the ball on the left wing, cut inside and fired a superb shot from the edge of the box into the far top corner past a stranded McGuinness.
Both sides pressed for a winner in the closing moments, but the only moment of drama came at the very end when a Harrow corner was cleared upfield and Owen Edmunds was forced into a lunging tackle to prevent an Eton breakaway. He was shown a yellow card for his troubles by new referee Raphel Headlam.
Given the tricky first half, the Blues showed great resilience to raise their game after the break and earn a valuable point against a decent Eton side. It should, barring an unlikely change in fortune for the three bottom sides, prove sufficient to secure the Blues their place in the Premier Division next season. And the two teams don’t have long to wait for their third meeting this season, with the return League fixture at Harrow due up next week. Following that, the Blues travel to face KCS Wimbledon Old Boys on the astroturf in Southfields in their final fixture of the season.
*Thanks to Cyprian Owen Edmunds for his help with this report