3s fail to hold on against Alleynians despite valiant effort

Old Harrovians 3rd XI
3 : 4
Old Alleynians 3rd XI
  • October 31st 2020, Philathletic Ground, 12pm
  • Division 4
  • Referee: Alan Greenberg
  • Weather: Heavy rain, windy
  • Pitch: Excellent
No. Starting XI Goals Yellow & Red Cards Subs On/Off
1 Tom Mitchell (c) 10'
2 Michael Brooks
3 Oliver Corbidge
4 Adam Graham
5 Barney Bartlett
6 Ali Buckley
7 Daniel Graham 45'
8 Olly Roberts
9 Matt Bailey 80'
10 Tarquin Strickland 70'
11 William Glover 45'
12 Karl Obi 55' 45'
13 Michael Watford 60'

The OHAFC 3rd XI narrowly failed to cause a huge upset on Saturday afternoon when they twice led Division Four leaders the Old Alleynians 3s before eventually succumbing to a narrow 4-3 defeat. It was the second time this season the Blues have put three past the promotion favourites (Alleynians ran out 6-3 winners down in Dulwich in September) but once again the visitors proved too hot to handle in attack, finally breaking stubborn OHAFC resistance late on to secure the points.

In dreadful conditions on the Hill, in the 3s’ first fixture on the Phil this season, the hosts got stuck in from the first whistle, matching their opponents’ workrate and intensity as a combustible midfield battle developed. With neither keeper having been called upon in the opening ten minutes, both were suddenly involved in one of the most unlikely OHAFC goals ever scored. Tom Mitchell collected a ball and kicked downfield from hand, the ball catching the wind blowing towards the Alcock Pavilion, bouncing in front of his opposite number before flying over his head and into the net to give the hosts an extraordinary lead.

The visitors were momentarily silenced but sadly from a Harrovian point of view the advantage was short-lived and not only that – the Alleynians’ equaliser also came from a rather familiar source. The giant 6’5” centre-back announced himself to the Blues in the first meeting between the sides when he scored a hat-trick of headers from set-pieces, making mincemeat of the Harrow back four. And there was no stopping him again as he rose to beat Mitchell in the air from a corner, nodding in from the edge of the six yard box.

This galvanised the visitors and they gradually began cranking up the pressure on the OHAFC, displaying the quality and drive that had carried them to five League wins from six games prior to Saturday. Several last-ditch tackles and interceptions had to be made by the Harrow back four in a bid to prevent a second goal from being conceded, left-back Barney Bartlett was particularly alert, snuffing out several dangerous attacks with some timely interceptions. But the pressure finally did take its toll, the Alleynians breaking forwards shortly before the break from a long clearance to cross the ball into the box from out wide, allowing the striker to finish first-time past Mitchell.

With time running out at the end of the half, the OHAFC threw men forwards in a bid to find an equaliser and it duly arrived from a corner that the Alleynians failed to clear. The ball bounced around inside the box before Will Glover poked home from close range for his second goal in successive games. Moments later the half-time whistle blew, the hosts delighted at their first forty-five minutes’ work.

Playing into the strong wind and driving rain in the second half was always going to be a difficult ask for the Blues and they found themselves under the cosh almost immediately as the Alleynians used the conditions to their advantage, launching wave after wave of attacks. In the absence of regular centre-halves Ed Nicholson and Felix Tritton, the back four was ably marshalled by Oliver Corbidge and Adam Graham, who limited the visitors to a few half-chances but little more.

With half an hour remaining, and totally against the run of play, the Blues took the lead for the second time in the game when substitute Karl Obi, playing his first match of the season, fired in off the post following good work by Will Glover on the right. The hosts now had a lead to hold onto, but the Alleynians kept pressing, forcing numerous corners. Fortunately, the OHAFC had learnt their lessons, preventing the tall centre-half from connecting with any of the deliveries. Hopes grew that a season-defining victory could yet be secured.

But the visitors were not done and yet again it was the centre-half who made the difference, this time connecting with a cross in open play to head home at the far post. The Blues made some tactical switches in a bid to shore things up, Obi was moved up front, Glover onto the right and Mikey Watford introduced off the bench. The substitute proved useful in launching a number of attacks down the left, but the Alleynians keeper remained untested.

With just ten minutes remaining the visitors found the almost inevitable goal following another spell of sustained pressure. Several crosses were delivered into the Harrow penalty area and when they failed to properly clear, the ball was smashed back through a crowd of players by a striker into the top corner. The Alleynians celebrated wildly, a hard-earned victory now in sight.

The hosts tried to react, switching to a 4-4-2 formation in a bid to press high up the pitch but as time ran down, Harrow legs ran out of steam and the elusive equaliser remained out of reach. It was a valiant effort by the home side and there were a number of excellent individual performances, most notably from Barney Bartlett, who earned the Man of the Match plaudits for his outstanding outing at left-back.

The defeat leaves the OHAFC bottom of Division Four and, in keeping with all the other OHAFC sides, without a win this season. But if the side can continue to perform as they did here, there is every hope that a brighter second half of the season awaits once fixtures resume after lockdown.