2s earn vital win with excellent performance
- November 26th 2022, Philathletic Ground, 10:30am
- Division 2
- Referee: Mohammed Shohel
- Weather: Sunny, breezy
- Pitch: Excellent
|No.||Starting XI||Goals||Yellow & Red Cards||Subs On/Off|
|9||Miles Kellock||35', 46'||75'|
|11||Pedro Azagra||76', 90'|
The OHAFC 2nd XI produced arguably their best performance of the season on Saturday to deservedly defeat the Old Malvernians 1st XI 5-3 on the Phil. Despite the visitors arriving with only nine players due to travel difficulties, the home side failed to take advantage and fell behind following a calamitous defensive error. But, with the visitors now up to their full complement of eleven, two goals in the space of five minutes turned the game on its head: veteran midfielder David Lederman smashed a shot into the top corner from the edge of the box before Miles Kellock collected Tristan David’s crossfield pass in stride before poking past the keeper. When the winger scored his second in the opening seconds of the second half, the home side assumed full control.
But a frantic final twenty minutes introduced an element of panic to what should have been a straightforward victory. Another awful defensive mistake allowed the Malvernians to score a second, before striker Pedro Azagra restored Harrow’s two-goal advantage. But the Malvernians then scored again and threw everyone forwards in the final few minutes in a desperate bid to snatch a point. Fortunately, having missed a one-on-one moments earlier, Azagra then made sure of the win with his second effort in the final minute. The Blues stay in eighth in Division Two but are now four points clear of the Old Sennockians below them, with the two sides meeting next weekend.
Despite the nervy ending to the game, this was a fully deserved win for the Blues, who played some excellent football, especially in the first half. With no genuine goalkeeper available, Ed Massey was asked to don the gloves with, it must be said, some reluctance. But he was well protected throughout and his handling and judgement remained sound, to the extent that it was doubtful the opposition realised the deception.
The late arrival of the Malvernians on the Hill and the subsequent delayed kick-off failed to deter the Blues from making an excellent start. With only nine players available, the visitors sat in two banks of four on the edge of their box. But the home side switched the ball well, remained patient and calm in possession as they probed for an opening. The stand-in keeper wasn’t tested enough, but, as expected, it was one-way traffic with play set exclusively in the Malvern half.
With a quarter of an hour played, the remaining Malvernian players began to arrive in staccato fashion and within ten minutes the green shirts present outnumbered the blue. On the field, the hosts continued to dominate however, to the extent that stand-in keeper Massey had had nothing more to do than take a few goal kicks. The Blues were still frustrated in their bid to create clear-cut chances, but the quality of their overall play remained of the highest order.
But with practically their first passage of play that even resembled an attack, the Malvernians snatched the lead courtesy of a defensive howler from the OHAFC. Play progressed down the Malvern right wing but the danger seemed to have been snuffed out courtesy of Callum Barrett and Tom Ward. Ward passed the ball square across the six yard box to Grasso, but the attempted control was wayward, the studs of his right boot barely grazing the ball and it rolled on across goal allowing a simple tap-in for the Malvern skipper, who could barely believe his luck.
It would have been easy for this setback to throw the home side off course, but they barely wasted a moment in resuming their high-tempo domination and were rewarded with two superb goals in the space of five minutes to give the scoreline a far more reasonable appearance.
A set-piece on the left saw play condensed on the right side of the Malvern penalty area. Ward and Kellock scrapped for the ball, the latter competing for a 50-50 that saw the ball squirm across the edge of the box. Lederman was waiting, allowed the defender to commit to a failed interception before taking a touch and lashing his shot with force into the far top corner. But the home side weren’t done there. With Kellock and Tristan David having now switched wings, the pressure on the Malvernians grew and the two wide men then combined to devastating effect, David cutting in off the right to whip a crossfield pass fifty yards into Kellock’s path. The first touch couldn’t have been softer if a silk cushion had been held out to catch the ball, Kellock running on to poke the ball past the onrushing keeper from a narrow angle.
No changes were made at the break, although the Malvernians continued to shuffle their pack. But the visitors were dealt what appeared a fatal blow when they allowed the hosts to double their lead within a minute of the restart. Early possession down the left came to nothing but the ball was recycled out to the right and David delivered another excellent cross towards the edge of the box. Striker Pedro Azagra had flashed moments of promise sporadically throughout the first half, but he made a telling contribution here, flicking the ball on with his head over the Malvern right-back. That left Kellock again running in on goal with exactly the same result as before: a pinpojnt finish past the keeper at the near post.
This time it was the visitors who deserved credit. Despite the game having been turned on its head in the space of less than twenty minutes, the Malvernians showed plenty of fight and for the next twenty minutes made life for the home side less than comfortable. Massey was finally called upon, making a superb punch from a dangerous corner and judging his positioning perfectly as several through-balls threatened. Temporarily, the flow was gone from the Harrow play, with Azagra almost forced to try to weave past the Malvern back four on his own, such was the lack of service during this spell.
It was somewhat perverse, therefore, that just as the home side appeared to have weathered the storm they again conceded in daft fashion. A Malvern attack had broken down on the right and blue shirts began to pour forwards in anticipation of the counter. But, under slight pressure, Kellock somehow miscued a pass back towards his defence, instead servicing a Malvern forward. Suddenly, the visitors were left with a two on one and made no mistake, Ward was drawn across, the ball was slipped wide and the second forward fired past Massey as he came off his line.
With twenty minutes remaining Malvern tails were up and they poured forwards in desperation. This led to a frantic finale in which both teams seemed capable of scoring, any notion of control seemingly lost for good. Fortunately, it was the home side who scored next, restoring their two-goal lead. Another Malvern attack was stuffed on the halfway line and the OHAFC launched a devastating counter, Max Curry driving through the middle, he fed the charging Lederman in the inside left channel and he drew the last defender inside before slipping the ball wide to Azagra who made no mistake with the finish, producing a Ronaldo celebration to mark his first goal of the season.
The home side really should have seen the game out in some comfort from this point on, but they were again left clinging on for the win when the visitors scored a scrappy goal from a free-kick, a Malvernian player somehow allowed to bring the cross down inside the penalty area before a ricochet landed perfectly at a teammate’s feet five yards out and he made no mistake.
Cue further maniacal pressure from the green shirts in a bid to find a last-gasp equaliser. With a couple of minutes remaining Azagra should have sentenced the matter, Lederman collecting a loose ball in the middle of the pitch and freeing the striker only for the Malvern keeper to stand tall in the face of several step-overs and thwart the eventual shot. But an almost identical situation presented itself in the closing stages of added time, a poor throw-in flew past its intended target, Lederman found himself in an acre of space in the middle of the pitch and he sent Azagra through the middle, this time the striker making no mistake.
This win was badly needed for the OHAFC but also thoroughly deserved with all twelve players contributing to the excellent performance. The side have two winnable games prior to Christmas with a trip to Sennockians followed by the visit of the Chigwellians to the Hill and must be looking to emulate this performance in a bid to take the maximum six points.