Ill-prepared Blues falter late on

Old Westminsters 1st XI
5 : 2
Old Harrovians 1st XI
  • December 3rd 2022, Bacon Community 3G Astro, 10:15am
  • Division 1
  • Referee: Elijah Marrs
  • Weather: Cloudy
  • Pitch: Astroturf
No. Starting XI Goals Yellow & Red Cards Subs On/Off
1 Fraser McGuinness
2 Toby Speed
3 Ed Beecham (c)
4 Cassius Kidston
5 Ed Corswarem
6 Johnny Bowie
7 Murray Barr
8 Doug Morrison 66'
9 Will Payne 19'
10 George Taylor
11 Ciaran Jordan

The Old Westminsters completed a second League win over the OHAFC in the space of three weeks, scoring three times inside the final half an hour to earn a 5-2 victory on the astroturf at Bacon Community College in Rotherhithe. Despite twice taking the lead, in the first half via Will Payne and in the second from a Doug Morrison beauty, the Blues faded badly as the game neared its conclusion. Once the hosts went in front at 3-2, there was no coming back, Harrow falling to a third League defeat in four games that keeps them in the wrong half of the table.

With skipper Dan Firoozan missing and a lack of availability all round, the last thing the eleven who travelled on Saturday morning could afford was poor preparation. But that is exactly what occurred with several players late and others arriving in a less than stellar condition.

Despite this, the visitors actually made a fast start to the game, adopting a high press from their newly-adopted 4-4-2 formation. George Taylor and Ciaran Jordan led from the front, ably backed up by the midfield of Johnny Bowie, Murray Barr, Doug Morrison and Will Payne. Indeed, Taylor had an almost unmissable early opportunity to give the Blues the lead when he somehow hit the bar from point blank range after the keeper had saved from Jordan.

But after twenty minutes the visitors did hit the front courtesy of a well-worked goal that saw pressure build outside the Westminsters area before Doug Morrison slipped the ball through down the left for winger Will Payne to run onto and fire past the keeper into the bottom corner.

The lead didn’t last long. A simple ball through the heart of the back four allowed a clear run on goal and the Westminsters forward made no mistake, poking the ball past Fraser McGuinness as he rushed off his line. The equaliser changed the momentum of the game almost instantly and for the remainder of the half it was the team in pink that were on top, the visitors somewhat relieved to hear referee Elijah Marrs’ whistle for half-time.

With no substitutes available, vice-captain Ed Beecham could only tinker with the tactics, not with the personnel. As it was, little was altered, with the side encouraged to try and rediscover the surprisingly vibrant form of the opening half-hour. And to the Blues’ credit, they did just this. For a quarter of an hour they were back on top, Ed Corswarem enjoying an excellent showing at left-back, raiding forwards at every opportunity. Several corners were forced, all of which were slung into the box with no reward. Keen to try something different from the next set-piece, Will Payne played the ball short to Doug Morrison on the edge of the box and he unleashed a superb shot into the top corner to put Harrow 2-1 up.

The key moment of the half, and the entire game, then followed, when right-back Toby Speed was very harshly penalised for a foul inside the box. As he ran alongside the Westminsters winger, the two players bumped shoulders, the forward rather dramatically collapsing to the ground. Barely a whisper of an appeal went up, but the referee somehow pointed to the spot and the hosts took full advantage.

Fuelled by an enormous sense of injustice, the Blues grew increasingly agitated and it affected their play, the football now ragged, tempers fraying. Westminsters took full advantage. Once they took the lead, with just over twenty minutes remaining, there was no hope of a comeback. Two more goals followed in the closing stages, the final ten minutes a miserable experience for the OHAFC as their poor preparation began to take its toll.

The side have one final game prior to Christmas to make amends, a short trip to the astroturf in Chiswick to face the Old Salopians next weekend. Just two points separate the two sides in the Division One table, the OHAFC could climb as high as fifth should they prevail.