Hayes strikes late to earn 3s a deserved win
- December 2nd 2023, City of London Academy, 11am
- Division 4
- Referee: Josh Jones
- Weather: Cloudy
- Pitch: Astroturf
|No.||Starting XI||Goals||Yellow & Red Cards||Subs On/Off|
|8||Joss Awdry (c)||75'|
An Alfie Hayes goal ten minutes from time was sufficient for the OHAFC 3rd XI to record a vital 1-0 win away to the Old Wellingtonians on Saturday morning, the Blues earning just their second clean sheet of the season and consecutive League victories for the first time. Although the final margin of victory was a narrow one, the gulf between the sides on the day was far greater, with the men in blue spurning numerous chances in both halves to seal a far more comfortable win. Nevertheless, the three points sees the 3s climb to fourth in Division Four, their highest League placing since mid-October, ahead of next weekend’s final fixture of the year away to the Old Berkhamstedians 2s.
Once more the Blues were able to name a full squad of fourteen for the game, despite Alex Kenderdine-Davies pulling out on the eve of the game. Freddie Everett was the late replacement, his Friday night preparations perhaps betraying his unexpected inclusion. Henry Collins returned to partner Si Nicholson at the back, younger brother Ed returning to duties with the 1s, whilst Ali Buckley made the reverse switch, Buckley now acting as a freelance gun for hire for whichever team needs him throughout the season. Alfie Hayes was the only member of the front three who started last weekend’s victory over the Kingstonians to start here, Adam Graham returning as the main striker with Alvin Adefarasin the other wide forward.
Having played the Old King’s Scholars on the same artificial surface back at the end of September, the Blues were well aware of the conditions that lay in front of them, although the bite of this cold December morning was in stark contrast to the much warmer conditions on that occasion. The visitors started strongly, Buckley especially prominent in the opening exchanges. The Blues enjoyed plenty of possession and passed it around confidently into midfield, looking to feed the front three.
It wasn’t long before chances were soon being created on a regular basis: Awdry crossed for Adam Graham but header was brilliantly tipped onto the bar by the Wellington keeper; Adebayo then crossed for Liu, who found himself unmarked at the far post only to see his effort rebound off the woodwork; when a third effort then beat the keeper but not the frame of the goal, it was beginning to appear as if it would be one of those days. Thankfully, at the other end the Harrow goal remained relatively untroubled, with Charlie Lupton again standing in between the sticks in place of any regular gloveman. A few long shots and set-pieces aside, Lupton remained safe and secure, with centre-halves Collins and Si Nicholson dominant in the air and the whistle for half-time blew with the game somehow still goalless.
Skipper Joss Awdry continued to ring the changes, by now almost used to having to rotate a full squad of fourteen on gameday, such is the demand to be involved in ‘Panthers’ football. Berry, Everett and Baoku had all already appeared by the interval and further switches were made now, the skipper withdrawing to the side to observe how his charges began the second half.
In fact, the visitors continued to dominate and continued to miss highly presentable chances. Everett fired several opportunities wide, Adefarasin missed a one-on-one when he dallied and allowed the keeper to smother the ball and Berry saw his low shot saved at the near post when he might have done better. Furstrations continued to mount as a game that was clearly there for the taking appeared to slipping away.
But with ten minutes remaining, the vital breakthrough arrived, sparking scenes of jubilant celebration. Buckley delivered a superb cross beyond the far post and Alfie Hayes controlled before firing in with his left foot for his first goal since early November when he scored in the 4-2 defeat to the Old Amplefordians. The hosts tried to mount a comeback but once more their best moments arrived via set-pieces and were comfortably dealt with by Lupton and his defenders, the visitors seeing out the remainder of the game confidently.
The last two weeks have provided the 3s with two wins, six points and breathing space in the middle of the table ahead of the final fixture of the year next weekend against the side just ahead of them in the table, the Old Berkhamstedians 2s. The two teams fought out a 2-2 draw on the Hill in early November and a similarly tricky encounter awaits on the Kings House astroturf in Chiswick.