Hutchinson screamer sets platform for superb Harrow win

Old Etonians 2nd XI
1 : 3
Old Harrovians 2nd XI
  • November 27th 2021, Eton College (Dutchmans), 10:30am
  • Division 2
  • Referee: Mohammed Shohel
  • Weather: Cloudy, breezy
  • Pitch: Good
No. Starting XI Goals Yellow & Red Cards Subs On/Off
1 Kyri Pittalis
2 Edmund Massey
3 Tom Ward (c)
4 Felix Orchard 80'
5 Cyprian Owen Edmunds 65'
6 John Portal
7 David Lederman 55'
8 Max Curry
9 Will Payne 70'
10 Tristan David
11 Pablo Hutchinson 6', 21'
Substitutes +o.g. 52'
12 Pedro Azagra 45'
13 Miles Kellock 45'

The OHAFC 2nd XI continued their superb recent run of results away to the Old Etonians on Saturday morning, producing a magnificent defensive display, interspersed with moments of attacking quality, to topple the Division Two leaders 3-1. The Blues rode their luck throughout the first half, the Etonians hitting the woodwork no less than four times, but two early goals from Pablo Hutchinson – the first a bona fide contender for Goal of the Season – gave the visitors a platform to build on, and an own goal from a corner five minutes after the break saw the lead stretched further still. The hosts scored their only effort via a free-kick with a quarter of an hour remaining, but the visitors held on comfortably enough to record a memorable win and climb to fifth in the table, their highest League placing of the season.

It was an even earlier start than normal for the thirteen OH players this weekend, with the referee only able to make a 10.30am kick-off. Fortunately, the rain and sleet that was forecast stayed away for the most part, with the pitches at the far end of Dutchmans in good condition. With skipper Geoff Taunton-Collins unable to attend, vice-captains Tom Ward and Max Curry were left in charge and there was initial confusion during the warm-up when the latter clearly forgot the running order of exercises across the pitch – ‘Cuzza’ went way to early with ‘headers’ (normally one of the final exercises) and consequently struggled to remember what had been missed out.

Fortunately, however, a double dose of backwards running and total lack of high knees didn’t seem to cause the visitors too many problems, as they began the match in rambunctious fashion, pinning the Etonians back inside their own half and dominating the early exchanges. Wide men David and Payne were both brought into play, each offering their own contrasting style – Payne nimbly eluding challenges, slaloming in and out like a prime Alberto Tomba, whilst David chose the more direct route: head down, drive for the corner flag and deliver. Several times the left footer got free and on each occasion the Blues threatened to score. But when the opening goal did arrive, after barely five minutes had elapsed, the run and cross were but a mere prelude to the work of art that swiftly followed. The cross from the left was pulled back to the edge of the box but cleared everyone, eventually landing at the feet of striker Pablo Hutchinson, midway inside the Eton half. Initial options appeared limited, but ‘Pabs’ remained undeterred, skipping between two Etonians in close proximity with a cheeky nutmeg, carrying the ball forwards a few yards before unleashing a right foot strike that had goal written all over it as soon as it left his boot. Sure enough, the ball flew straight into the far top corner, the Etonian keeper unable to get near it.

Harrow tails were up, the memory of the opening weekend’s 11-0 shellacking to the Etonians in the warm autumn sunshine up on the Hill spurring the Blues forward in waves. Moments later it should have been 2-0. Another move down the left saw the visitors earn a corner and David and Lederman took advantage of some slack marking to go short. David’s first cross to the near post was headed clear, but Lederman then delivered a perfect ball to the far post only for Ward to somehow head onto the far post from barely five yards out, the keeper again nowhere to be seen.

The miss did not prove fatal however. With the visitors still enjoying themselves against a rather timid Eton side, yet another foray down the left from David saw the lead doubled. This time the cross was too close to the keeper, but he flapped at it unconvincingly, the ball falling invitingly at the feet of Hutchinson six yards out and he prodded home, just managing to keep the ball under the crossbar.

The OHAFC were in dreamland, 2-0 up away from home to their bitter rivals and division leaders. But any thoughts of a steady cruise to victory were rather quickly dashed as the hosts were snapped out of their somnambulism at the sudden prospect of an unforeseen defeat. A change to a high press proved a sufficient catalyst to change the flow of the game, with the navy blue shirts now hassled and harried deep inside their own half. A coping mechanism did not immediately show itself, with the Harrow goal only surviving courtesy of a magical combination of rotten finishing, rock solid goalkeeping and the sort of bad luck you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy.

That the half-time whistle sounded with the visitors still 2-0 to the good left players on both sides giggling at the absurdity of what had just transpired. A couple of weak efforts ran wide off both posts. A speculative effort from distance looked to be sailing clear only for the ball to dip, canon back off the crossbar into play, before being hacked to safety. A poor goal kick – one of the only moments of weakness shown all afternoon in an otherwise exemplary display from keeper Kyri Pittalis – was headed back over the Harrow back four and allowed the Eton striker a momentary glimpse of goal before it was snatched away via a combination of Pittalis and centre-half Felix Orchard. Perhaps most bizarrely of all was the chance missed moments prior to the break, the ball falling to an Etonian six yards out on the left but his curled shot struck the inside of the far post, rolled across the goalline and was eventually cleared.

The visitors enjoyed their soggy half-time drinks sheltering from the cold wind and rain but undoubtedly buoyed by the fact their two-goal lead somehow remained intact. Kellock and Azagra were summoned from the bench, the latter bizarrely wearing a hooded top under his shirt and a beanie hat, meaning he resembled something of a cross between a bin man and a grime artist. His appearance possibly proved something of a distraction to the Etonian defence as within five minutes one of the hosts had turned into their own net from a Tristan David corner, Ward’s enthusiastic efforts to claim the goal in the immediate aftermath fortunately exposed later in the day.

But with a three-goal lead to protect, the visitors now had their task set for the remaining forty minutes. An early scare arrived immediately when centre-half Felix Orchard was forced off injured, Lederman returning to the fray whilst the youngster recovered his mojo. Fortunately he was back soon enough and it was a good thing too, as the hosts continued to drive forwards in search of a way back into the game. But as much as the turquoise shirts huffed and puffed, they simply could not blow down the teak-tough OHAFC back four, superbly marshalled by Ward and Orchard. Numerous balls over the top and out wide were sent to test the defenders – they responded each and every time, with tackles flying in, crosses and shots blocked and, when gaps were finally prised open, Pittalis remained unflappable in the Harrow goal, catching every ball that could be caught, punching away those that couldn’t.

That the Blues struggled to fashion any real attacks of note didn’t seem to matter, the wind was now at their backs and an increasing confidence that this was to be their day. Even when left-back Cyprian Owen Edmunds was forced off with a sore hip with twenty minutes remaining, Tristan David simply dropped back and played as if he’d been a left-back all his life, confidently shielding the ball out of play or flying into a tackle or, probably most enjoyably, thumping several balls unnecessarily away into the nearby woods, forcing a bit of a clamber for a weary Etonian.

The hosts did finally score the goal they unquestionably deserved a quarter of an hour from the end, a free-kick superbly drilled low into the far corner with Pittalis half-expecting a curler over the wall. The Etonians flickered briefly into life, their hope once more rising. And there was a hugely uncomfortable moment a minute later when a long ball over the top saw the pacy Etonain skipper race through past David. The erstwhile left-back made a decent decision, hauling his man down just outside the box and thereby preventing a clear run on goal. The Etonians begged for a red card, the referee produced only a yellow. This time the free-kick was a poor one and was easily cleared. With it went any lingering Etonian hopes.

The final ten minutes were actually the visitors’ best of the half as they finally managed to keep the ball and should have extended their lead on a couple of occasions, the two substitutes Kellock and Azagra both spurning good chances to get their names on the scoresheet.

It didn’t matter. The OHAFC had secured a fine victory to help ease the memory of the opening day humbling and extend their remarkably proficient record on Eton soil – three wins and a draw from the last five visits with eleven goals scored and only six conceded. The Blues climb to fifth in the Division Two table, their highest League placing of the season, and were rewarded for their efforts with an excellent Saturday night out on the town.

Proceedings began in Tom Ward’s bijou flat (complete with weird mantelpiece shrine) in Maida Vale where pizza, chicken wings and cheap tins of lager accompanied a lengthy putting competition along his hallway (possibly won by Max Curry’s dribbling technique) and a quiz about OHAFC players from years gone by. Things got a lot better (or worse, depending on what you consider ‘fun’) with a trip into town and the cricket themed ‘Sixers’ bar in the west end. Here, three-time Lords veteran Miles Kellock left people pondering how he had got in the XI just once, let alone on three separate occasions, whilst Geoff Taunton-Collins’ surprisingly high score (using his patented ‘protruding arse’ technique) suggested he may be better off donning the Hurlingham colours on the cricket field rather than the tennis court in future years. An amusing round of drinks then followed, with everyone forced to order a drink that hadn’t previously been ordered. The waiter found this highly amusing, tearfully handing in his resignation as Payne began describing in detail something that made no sense at all.

The final stop was the Blues Kitchen in Camden Town, where further drinks followed and a few, frankly rather embarrassing, rounds of Fives. Payne’s continued inability to recollect the ‘No gloating’ rule on winning was a sight to behold. Massey smiled warmly at his young teammates’ travails, but clearly his mind was already drifting to the complex fondue recipe he was in charge of the next day.