Clinical 2s stun League leaders the Old Alleynians
- February 4th 2023, Lincoln Fields (4G Astro), 12pm
- Division 2
- Referee: Mohammed Shohel
- Weather: Cloudy
- Pitch: Astroturf
|No.||Starting XI||Goals||Yellow & Red Cards||Subs On/Off|
|2||Geoff Taunton-Collins (c)||80'|
|9||Miles Kellock||67', 84'|
|11||Cyprian Owen Edmunds|
The OHAFC 2nd XI produced their best performance of the season to stun Division Two leaders the Old Alleynians 2s on the astroturf in Whitton on Saturday afternoon. Having been comprehensively beaten in the two fixtures played since the Christmas break, the Blues could have been forgiven for travelling to southwest London with a certain degree of trepidation. But a determined, disciplined first-half display frustrated the Alleynians and, as the game entered the final half-hour still goalless, there was a growing sense that it was the visitors who looked the more likely to find the breakthrough. And so it proved, as some clinical counter-attacking football saw Miles Kellock score twice, Will Payne another and left-back Ed Pagani the best of the bunch with a superb strike from long range. With no other fixtures played in Division Two, the Blues’ 4-0 win lifts them out of the relegation zone into eighth, albeit having played more games than the two sides below them.
With no 1st or 3rd XI fixtures taking place, the 3s given a walkover by Ardinians 2s in their scheduled Junior League Cup tie, skipper Geoff Taunton-Collins had the pick of a wide variety of players and was able to welcome back veteran Paul Molloy for his second appearance of the season, Will Payne rejoining his former teammates following a successful promotion to the 1s and the versatile Cyprian Owen Edmunds, who this week found himself playing up front. Central midfield saw the biggest change with Murray Barr and Charlie Bick joining Jack Dolbey, Alexi Pittalis joining Molloy at the heart of the back four.
The two sides had enjoyed a competitive encounter on the Hill back in October, Alleynians running out 2-0 winners courtesy of a thunderbolt from long range and a bundled goal following a set-piece. Both goalscorers from that day were absent here, but the hosts are joint top-scorers in Division Two with 38 goals from 13 games played and, with the Harrow side having conceded the most in the division, the skipper decided that it was time to return to a more defensive structure, the Blues ordered to only press from the halfway line forwards – a mid-block to use current parlance.
This tactic proved highly-effective in the first half, but only once the visitors had survived a rocky opening ten minutes. Twice from careless loss of possession inside their own half the Blues conceded gilt-edged chances – the first time the Alleynian striker ran through only to poke the ball inches wide of the far post, the second time keeper Rory Craig rushed off his line but a clever square pass cut him out of the game and left the goal gaping, only for the finish to rise slightly too high and crash into the crossbar. The Harrow keeper then pulled off a superb low diving save to his right to thwart another Alleynians attack.
Having weathered this initial burst from the home side, the visitors set to work and began to frustrate their opponents, closing down space and harrying their opponents as soon as they ventured into the Harrow half. The two centre-halves, Molloy and Alexi Pittalis, were imperious in this opening period, both players constantly winning their aerial duels and intercepting forward passes courtesy of instincts honed from years playing in midfield. Further forwards, the midfield trio of Dolbey, Barr and Bick worked tirelessly to win as much ball as possible, although wide men Payne and Kellock saw less of the ball than they would have liked. The occasional ball over the top did see a few chinks in the Alleynians’ armour however, with some of the decision-making at the back leaving quite a lot to be desired and a couple of anxious moments as clearances were hurriedly executed. It was to the visitors’ great credit that they reached half-time on level terms, the return to a lower block clearly giving the side a much sounder foundation with which to approach the game. It was unsurprising that the XI remained unchanged at the break, Lederman, nursing a sore back, and Kyri Pittalis both held in check until they were required. In contrast, the hosts made a number of changes, with two players replaced and several others switching position.
But this appeared to have little effect on the game, with the opening twenty minutes of the second half the quietest of the match. Neither side was able to dominate, both keepers rarely called upon. Harrow did manage to shift play further up the pitch, but too often possession was squandered before an attacking move could really get going. Despite this, as the game reached the hour-mark, the suspicion grew that it was those in blue who possessed the superior attacking quality if it could be unleashed. Gradually, Payne on the right and Kellock on the left began to enjoy slightly more time and space, and with the Harrow back four now fully in control of anything the Alleynians could muster, the confidence of the away side grew.
With just over twenty minutes remaining, the opening goal arrived, heralding a golden period for the visitors that saw them score four times against a disbelieving Alleynians team. 2s leading scorer Miles Kellock converted the first following excellent work from Owen Edmunds, who held the ball up on the edge of the box before laying it out to his left, Kellock collecting in stride before firing confidently past the keeper.
Alleynians were given an almighty let-off soon afterwards when a quick break saw the goalscorer feed Payne through the middle with a perfectly weighted through-ball but the referee somehow blew for offside despite the forward clearly still being behind his marker when he collected the ball. But this unfortunate error was rendered irrelevant moments later from an identical situation. Again it was a break forwards from midfield, again Kellock found the perfect pass down the inside right channel for Payne to run onto. This time he just got a toe to the ball in front of his man, drove into the box before slipping the ball under the advancing keeper.
Harrow were now rampant against an Alleynians side who looked increasingly vulnerable at the back. The third goal, with ten minutes remaining, killed the match as a contest and extinguished the last vestiges of fight left in the Division Two leaders. A Harrow attack down the right saw the ball switched into the middle. Murray Barr competed for a challenge and it broke out to the left invitingly for Ed Pagani to run onto. The youngster took a touch before drilling the ball into the far corner, off the post, from twenty-five yards out, sparking wild celebrations.
Kellock added a fourth in the closing minutes to put the gloss on the win, this time taking advantage of excellent work from Payne on the right, who beat his man on the outside with ease before pulling the ball back, his opposite winger finishing first-time from six yards out with consummate ease.
Having set the blueprint for future performances this season, the 2s know they are fully capable of winning enough matches to avoid the drop, but the side must display the same level of organisation and commitment in defence and the same level of clinical finishing in attack to do so. First up, however, is the Blues opening foray into this season’s Junior League Cup, with a less than appetising trip to Essex to face Old Brentwoods 4s. The prize at stake is potentially a juicy one, with the winners hosting the Old Etonians in round two.