- January 8th 2022, Eton College (Dutchmans), 11am
- Premier Division
- Referee: Kevin Turnbull
- Weather: Heavy rain, breezy
- Pitch: Poor
|No.||Starting XI||Goals||Yellow & Red Cards||Subs On/Off|
|1||Fraser McGuinness (c)|
|6||Cyprian Owen Edmunds|
|12||Arthur Leney||64', 81'||45'|
As 2021 ended, so 2022 began for the OHAFC 1st XI, with, for their second consecutive fixture, a red card sending the side on the way to an unfortunate Premier Division defeat. Dan Firoozan was the culprit in the 2-1 loss down in Tonbridge prior to Christmas. On Saturday, it was the turn of Cyprian Owen Edmunds to suffer the ignominy of an early bath, although the decision to send him on his way from referee Kevin Turnbull for handball on the goal line was met with incredulity from the visitors. At that stage, the game was still very much in the balance, the sides level at 1-1 with less than half an hour played. When the final whistle blew, with both sets of players thoroughly soaked, the Harrow side trudged back to the changing rooms with a 7-3 defeat as reward for their efforts.
It was tough to take for skipper Fraser McGuinness and the rest of the side, who had driven down the M4 in filthy conditions with high hopes of a change in fortunes following a poor start to the season. A strong squad of thirteen was named for the first fixture of the year, although disappointingly Josh Davies was forced to return to Loughborough at short notice, thereby delaying his competitive debut for the club a little while longer. Still, there was better news elsewhere, with Andrew Holmes returning for his first appearance of the season, and George O’Malley returning for the first time since his memorable debut back in the 2016/17 campaign, when he scored within a minute in the win away to KCS Wimbledon. George Taylor and Jasper Gray were the initial pairing up front, with Arthur Leney and John Koutalides on the bench.
The visitors lined up in a 5-3-2 formation to start with, skipper McGuinness keen to limit the potential for early damage. But a slow start meant that possession was regularly squandered and the Etonians threatened an early lead. Perversely, it was the Blues who struck first, against the run of play, after barely ten minutes. There were encouraging signs the visitors were just beginning to grab a foothold in the game but still the goal came as a surprise: O’Malley’s clearance from the back curling beyond the back four and allowing Jasper Gray to run on and confidently lob the onrushing keeper.
Eton hit back immediately however. Owen Edmunds committed a foul on the Harrow left, the Eton skipper whipped the free-kick towards the far post and it was headed back across goal and just inside the far post, keeper and defenders looking at each other not knowing who was to blame.
Barely five minutes had elapsed when the main talking point of the match arrived. The Etonians broke at pace down their left and a cross was delivered to the far post. The forward’s initial shot was well saved by McGuinness, who stuck out a boot and then sliced the ball away. But the same player fired the rebound back in on goal, Owen Edmunds blocking it with his thigh before the ball flew up onto his arm. Despite it appearing a totally inadvertent ricochet, referee Turnbull deemed it to have been deliberate and, perhaps for the first time ever in OHAFC history, a player was dismissed for deliberate handball. The penalty was dispatched past McGuinness, the Blues suddenly finding themselves at a considerable disadvantage.
The side switched to a 4-4-1 formation, almost a standard reaction for any team forced down to ten men. Initially, the visitors coped well enough, Andrew Holmes showing his quality with an excellent spell in the middle of midfield. But just when it appeared as though the Blues may reach the break without suffering any further setbacks, the Etonians scored a third. Again it was a far post cross that caused the damage, with the visitors adamant that Jamie Jordache had been fouled in the build-up. The final shot flew past McGuinness at his near post and despite further Harrow protestations, the goal was allowed to stand.
Arthur Leney and John Koutalides were introduced at the break, no doubt keen to get into the action following a freezing forty-five minutes spent on the touchline. The skipper asked the side to channel their first-half frustrations into a combative display second time around.
And for the first ten minutes of the half they managed to do just that, matching their opponents stride for stride. But once the first Eton goal flew in shortly afterwards, the floodgates opened at both ends – if only there had been any spectators present to see them.
The fourth Eton goal came via a corner, the half-cleared ball fired back on goal and taking a deflection off Ed Beecham into the bottom corner. A counter-attack provided the fifth, a cross from the right turned in at the far post.
It was then the turn of the visitors to score from a corner, Leney showing excellent composure to curl the ball into the far corner with a well-placed shot. But the hosts hit back almost immediately to make it 6-2, a ball down the Eton left was chipped over Hamish MacIntyre and finished adroitly over McGuinness.
Leney then scored the best goal of the game, ghosting past three or four defenders before again finding the far corner with an excellent effort. But it was the hosts who had the final word, with perhaps the worst goal of the game, a shot that squirmed under the outstretched arm of McGuinness, who really should have kept it out.
A disappointing afternoon, then, for the Blues, who will be left wondering what they might have achieved had they managed to keep a full eleven on the pitch for the whole game. Despite the defeat, the performances of the younger players provide plenty of positives and there is little time to dwell on matters: the 1s now face another tricky fixture with the visit of the Old Alleynians to the Hill. If the side manage not to get anyone sent off, they may just stand a chance of causing an upset…