OHAFC 2s pull away in second half to seal place in round two
- December 11th 2021, Philathletic Ground, 11am
- Junior League Cup
- Referee: Geoffrey Taunton-Collins
- Weather: Cloudy, breezy
- Pitch: Fair
|No.||Starting XI||Goals||Yellow & Red Cards||Subs On/Off|
|4||Tom Ward (c)|
|9||Miles Kellock||22', 66'|
|11||Max Curry||58', 77'|
In their final game of 2021, the OHAFC 2nd XI eased into the second round of the Junior League Cup with a comfortable 5-0 victory over Division Four side the Old Stoics. First half goals from Miles Kellock and Will Payne laid the foundations, with the home side improving after the break and easing away thanks to a brace from Max Curry and a second from Kellock. The Blues must now wait to find out who their next opponents will be in round two.
With the usual weekly shuffling of teams right up until late on Friday night, preparations for skipper Geoff Taunton-Collins – in what should be the final game he misses before returning from the knee injury suffered fifteen months ago – were far from ideal. Once all the configurations had been worked out, the 2s were left with a bare eleven, containing two players at opposite ends of the OHAFC spectrum: Charlie Lupton was making his 2nd XI debut in midfield following some strong showings for the 3s, whilst Ben Kerry returned for his first game since the 2014/15 season – ‘Kezza’ was a fixture in the successful 2s side under Arjun Chopra’s leadership and back in England for Christmas from his permanent base in Berlin.
Cold, grey skies greeted the players on arrival at the Phil pitches, with some surprise at the rather boggy nature of patches of the main pitch – all the more surprising given the excellent surface of the lower pitch. Fortunately, despite the pitch cutting up as the second half progressed, it had little to no bearing on the final result.
The Blues began the game determined to impose themselves on a Stowe side that had beaten the OHAFC 3s twice in the League this season, but nevertheless sat mid-table in Division Four having lost half of their eight games played. There was early encouragement for Payne and Kellock, with plenty of space afforded to the wide men, the home side guilty of taking too long, and too many touches, in supplying them. But the general pattern of play was a positive one, until, with twenty minutes gone, a rare lapse at the back saw the ball run through to a Stowe forward and Kyri Pittalis had to throw himself to his left to palm away a decent shot.
The Blues responded well and opened the scoring soon afterwards from a fairly basic set-piece routine: a long throw from the right was flicked on by Max Curry over the heads of the Stowe centre-halves and Miles Kellock ran on, showing excellent composure to bide his time before drilling the ball low past the keeper. Stowe managed to then force a few corners, but it was from an attack in open play that the OHAFC doubled their lead, with Curry again to the fore. Stowe’s progress was halted on the edge of the Harrow box, Lederman poked the ball forwards to Curry on the halfway line and he held the ball well before turning to volley a perfect pass down the left for Will Payne to sprint onto. The winger made no mistake, carrying the ball into the box before comfortably beating the keeper.
Despite the 2-0 half-time lead, skipper Taunton-Collins was less than satisfied with the quality of the performance, urging his men to be sharper on the ball. It was clear from the first half that the rather static Stowe back four could be opened up if the passing was crisper. And, sure enough, an improved display after the break from the blue shirts managed to do just that. The Stoics held out for the first twenty minutes of the half, but the hosts were firmly in control, switching play confidently across the back four and into midfield. Lupton and Kerry enjoyed their runouts with impressive displays and Payne was a constant threat on the left, receiving plenty of the ball and giving his full-back a torrid time. Shots and crosses began to threaten the Stowe goal, the hosts scoring three times in the closing half-hour.
Max Curry added to his two assists with his first goal of the game, a beautiful left foot shot on the turn that flew into the top corner after Lederman had curled the ball into him on the edge of the box. Then, a sight rarer than an appearance from missing referee Sachin Patel – who had failed to show up to an OHAFC fixture for the second time this season, failing to notify anyone in advance on both occasions – an indirect free-kick inside the box for a deliberately handled back pass. If stand-in ref Geoff Taunton-Collins was unsure as to the exact protocol, he could safely rely on several members of the Harrow team to point the way, the ball placed five yards away from the penalty spot. Lederman rolled the ball to Kellock and he calmly passed it through the advancing phalanx of yellow shirts and into the bottom corner.
Curry, fittingly, rounded off the scoring with just over ten minutes remaining, collecting another Lederman pass to stroll in on goal and sidefoot past a rather dispirited looking Stowe keeper. Their resistance broken, Harrow’s passage into round two was now assured. The Blues now enjoy a month-long break over Christmas and New Year, with the rather exciting twin prospect of their leader returning to action on January 15th, preceded the week before by a friendly fixture featuring some stellar (and not so stellar) OHAFC names from years gone by in aid of Harry Woolley's stag do. With Nick Defty in charge of proceedings, some 2s players may not be seen again for a while...