1s end season on low note despite promising display
- February 22nd 2020, Southfields Aspire 3G Astro, 11:15am
- Premier Division
- Referee: David Laughton
- Weather: Cloudy, windy
- Pitch: Astroturf
|No.||Starting XI||Goals||Yellow & Red Cards||Subs On/Off|
|1||Fraser McGuinness (c)|
|9||Cyprian Owen Edmunds|
The OHAFC 1st XI ended their season in disappointing fashion on Saturday morning when they lost 3-0 away to title-chasing KCS Wimbledon Old Boys. The Blues got off to the worst possible start when they fell behind after only five minutes, but with the wind at their backs they recovered their composure and were the better team for much of the remainder of the half. Understandably, playing into the wind proved a harder task after the break, and two goals late on secured the win for the hosts – both eminently avoidable from a Harrow viewpoint. The defeat means the OHAFC will finish seventh or eighth in the Premier Division following promotion from Division One at the end of last season.
Skipper Fraser McGuinness named a strong side for the Blues’ 20th and final run out of the 2019/20 season, with the added bonus of including former skipper Ed Poulter on the bench: Ed has not played for the club for two years owing to several illnesses, so the sight of him back in a blue shirt was most welcome indeed.
As ever, the wide open spaces of the huge astroturf at the Southfields Aspire Centre in south London provided their own test for the visitors, but the strong wind – something that seems to have been a constant factor in OHAFC fixtures over the past few weeks – made the task even more complicated given the Blues’ propensity for getting the ball down and playing to feet and Wimbledon employing a more direct style of play. Regardless of the conditions, given the fact the hosts had beaten the OHAFC twice already this season – once in the League and once in the Dunn – and their desperate need for points in order to maintain their title challenge, only a highly proficient performance from the Blues would give them a chance of victory.
That appeared an even more remote possibility when the hosts opened the scoring before five minutes had elapsed on the clock. A corner was conceded on the right, the ball was headed clear to the edge of the box but Wimbledon kept the pressure on, closing down a second attempted clearance. The ball was once more worked down the outside, the winger stood the ball up to the far post and it was a comfortable headed finish for the tall KCS striker.
Despite this early setback, the visitors managed to recover their composure and they pressed forwards, helped by the wind at their backs. The Blues mixed up their play well, interspersing passages of neat, intricate football, with some longer balls forwards from the keeper and back four. Wimbledon defended well, as befitting a side that has conceded only 12 goals from their 13 League fixtures to date, keeping the Blues to long range efforts or snatched half-chances. Disappointingly, the Wimbledon keeper was rarely tested.
At the other end, the Harrow defence, too, held sway, with sporadic moments of concern all self-inflicted. McGuinness was forced to produce one diving stop to his left when a poor clearance once more presented the hosts with a sight of goal.
The mood at the break was good, with the Blues still right in the game just a solitary goal behind and having looked the more impressive side. But the team were also well aware that they were now playing into the stiff breeze and would have to undoubtedly weather more of a storm from Wimbledon in the second half.
As it turned out, the second half proved almost an exact reversal of the first, with the visitors starting in the ascendency before fading later on. Again they found chances hard to come by, the hosts’ back four proving simply too well organised to allow any penetration. And, as the game wore on, the conditions gradually saw Wimbledon press the OHAFC further back.
Unfortunately, in a game as tight and difficult as this, what the visitors could not afford was any further slip-ups at the back. But two misjudgements in the wind handed the hosts all the opportunity they needed to clinch the points and ensure the visitors would end their season on a losing note.
McGuinness, sadly, was involved in both. An attempted throw out to Charlie Bick on the left wing held up in the wind and was stolen by a lurking Wimbledon player. He played a quick one-two with a teammate, cut inside, and fired a low shot inside the near post from the edge of the box.
The error for Wimbledon’s third was even more glaring. Kyle Barrett was hounded into a corner and sold McGuinness short with a square pass. The Harrow skipper tried to trick the onrushing striker by turning back the other way, but the move was read, a leg was stuck out and the ball rebounded into the back of the unguarded net.
It was a disappointing note on which to end the season for the OHAFC, although losing to a formidable KCS Wimbledon side is, in itself, no disgrace. But spirits remained high after the game, with the squad convening for several beers to look back on a season that could be considered fairly successful overall. Survival in the Premier Division, even given the harsh struggles endured by a couple of the other teams this season, provides a solid foundation on which to build and provides a benchmark the team can match themselves against going forwards. October’s 3-0 Dunn Cup win over the Old Etonians was also a highlight, especially given the threadbare nature of the squad that day.
Congratulations to skipper Fraser McGuinness and his team – they can now enjoy an usually long break, with the fun not starting again until September.