Injuries and goalkeeping chaos sink 3s in vital relegation scrap
- February 22nd 2020, Philathletic Ground, 12pm
- Division 4
- Referee: Peter Dace
- Weather: Cloudy, windy
- Pitch: Good
|No.||Starting XI||Goals||Yellow & Red Cards||Subs On/Off|
A disastrous second half at home to the Old Bancroftians on Saturday afternoon cost the OHAFC 3rd XI the opportunity to secure their place in Division Four of the Arthurian League for next season. Knowing that a win against fellow strugglers the Old Bancroftians would ensure they stayed up, the hosts trailed 2-1 at the break, Arthur Blount scoring for the Blues with a superb header. But a series of injuries forced a change of goalkeeper no less than three times and in the ensuing chaos the visitors’ striker netter a hat-trick and the hosts were sunk. Ed Nicholson’s men still have two games remaining in which to earn the win that would guarantee them safety.
It was tough luck on the Blues, who had beaten the Bancroftians 2-0 at their ground back in September in very different conditions and with a very different team. In fact, Callum Barrett was the only player turning out on Saturday on the cold, blustery Hill, who also played in the first fixture, when the playing fields of Bancroftians Rugby Club were scorched from the summer sun and players required sun cream to get through the ninety minutes.
Three Harrovians made their debuts: George Wake-Walker in midfield, Toby Speed up front and, starting on the bench, Alex Wallace. With the skipper forced to withdraw from the squad midweek due to some unexpected surgery on his neck, Jack Orr-Ewing supplied the height and experience at the back alongside Tayo Ojora. Anson Lo and Callum Barrett are natural wing-backs, with 54 year-old Jon Sharples making his third appearance of the season between the sticks. Brooks, Blount, Omisore and Sanders – all of whom have turned out for the side at least once this season – joined Wake-Walker and Speed further forwards. Wallace was joined on the bench by Karl Obi.
Despite struggling near the foot of the table, Bancroftians have recently begun to pick up points in a late bid to avoid the drop. Indeed, their previous five League games has seen the Essex side win twice and draw once, suffering single-goal defeats in the other two matches. And they started this fixture strongly, looking the more physical, well-organised team. Twice they found a way past the Harrow back four inside the opening half-hour to establish a two-goal lead. But to Harrow’s credit, they continued to battle bravely and ten minutes prior to the break they were rewarded for their efforts with a superb goal, George Sanders delivering a fine cross for Arthur Blount to powerfully head home. Indeed, the hosts’ attacking play provided a consistent threat, with Wake-Walker enjoying an excellent debut and Ade Omisore bringing his customary pace and power to proceedings.
But half-time brought a series of headaches for player/manager Nicholson, who was forced to replace Jon Sharples in goal after he suffered a muscle strain. Anson Lo took over the gloves, but things went from bad to worse when he too was forced outfield. Jack Orr-Ewing, perhaps a logical choice, took over, but the constant changing of personnel and positions proved an insurmountable challenge and, unsurprisingly the visitors took full advantage of the situation, scoring four times amidst the chaos, the Bancroftians striker claiming three.
Despite the heavy loss, there were still some notable performances for the OHAFC, with Tayo Ojora superb throughout at the back despite the carnage going on around him, and Alex Wallace enjoying a decent debut as he came off the bench at half-time. Perhaps, with a settled keeper throughout and a touch more organisation, the final score would have been far closer.
As it is, the Blues must now face the Old Salopians 2s on Saturday under serious pressure. Salopians are rock-bottom and staring down the barrel of relegation. Only a win will suffice for them. Again the sides met early in the season, again in blistering hot conditions, a 0-0 draw on the Phil hinting at the problems both teams would endure going forwards. With their other remaining fixture a daunting trip away to the Old Brentwoods 2s, the OHAFC 3s know this is their chance to clinch their desperately-needed win and ensure they are playing Division Four football next season.
*Thanks to skipper Ed Nicholson for his assistance with this match report