Solid victory sets Blues up for Eton clash in last sixteen
- February 11th 2023, Old Brentwoods, 12pm
- Junior League Cup
- Referee: Rymell Francis
- Weather: Cloudy
- Pitch: Fair
|No.||Starting XI||Goals||Yellow & Red Cards||Subs On/Off|
|2||Geoff Taunton-Collins (c)|
|6||Alexi Pittalis||58', 79'|
|8||Cyprian Owen Edmunds||60'|
The OHAFC 2nd XI eased into the third round of the Junior League Cup with a solid performance in tricky conditions away to the Old Brentwoods 4th XI. Despite falling behind to a contentious opener, the visitors rallied as the first half wore on and goals from Murray Barr and Miles Kellock earned a 2-1 lead at the break. Brentwoods scored inside thirty seconds of the restart, but two corners in quick succession produced headed goals for Alexi Pittalis and Ed Nicholson to calm Harrow nerves. Pittalis scored the fifth late on following a fine run down the right from Will Payne and although the hosts scored a third in the closing minutes, the Blues held on to secure a succulent third round tie at home to the Old Etonians next weekend.
Fixtures against the Essex club have proved notoriously tricky for the OHAFC down the years, especially away from home, with all three Harrow sides having suffered Cup exits at the hands of a Brentwood team over the past couple of seasons. Indeed, the previous edition of the Junior League Cup saw the Harrow 2s suffer a shock 4-1 defeat at the hands of Brentwood 3s and skipper Geoff Taunton-Collins was determined no such fate should befall his side this season.
But on a dry but stodgy pitch it was the home side who made the brighter start on Saturday, with the visitors struggling to keep the ball for any length of time. Lone striker Tristan David was caught offside three times inside the first ten minutes, although the third occasion, when he was played clean through, seemed incredibly tight. At the other end, centre-halves Ed Nicholson and Giacomo Grasso were kept on their toes by a number of long balls pumped forwards by the hosts. The Harrow back four coped well enough, although they were forced into a couple of hurried clearances under pressure and keeper Kyri Pittalis had the odd bit of tidying up to do.
With a quarter of an hour played, and neither goalkeeper having had a save of note to make, Brentwoods took the lead in highly contentious fashion. Another long ball over the top saw Grasso closed down from behind by the Brentwoods striker. The Harrow defender looked to have the situation under control but was clearly tripped from behind, falling to the turf, and the striker was allowed to continue forwards before slotting the ball into the far corner past Kyri Pittalis. Despite understandably vocal protests from the visitors, the goal was allowed to stand.
The game continued in a rather scrappy fashion for another ten minutes, but as the half-hour approached, the Blues gradually began to find their rhythm and started to string together a few passes. Early indications from a couple of crosses into the box suggested the Brentwoods keeper could be pressured into a mistake, but he was powerless to prevent the Harrow equaliser which arrived following the best move of the game. Controlled possession on the right saw Taunton-Collins and Payne exchange passes, the former clipped the ball into the edge of the box, Kellock flicked on and Murray Barr produced a superbly controlled volley with his right foot to fire the ball into the far top corner. The boisterous Brentwoods support were, momentarily at least, silenced.
The visitors were now in the ascendency, confidence restored, and they were gifted a second when the keeper made a hash of a routine claim, dropping a harmless ball into the box at his feet allowing the ever-alert Kellock to stab out a toe and poke the ball in. Further chances to extend the lead arrived before the break, Kellock heading a Taunton-Collins cross straight at the keeper, Owen Edmunds firing just wide with a powerful shot before sending an opportunistic long-range effort well wide with the keeper stranded out of position. But the Blues were good value for their lead and in control as the half-time whistle blew.
Substitutes Stan d’Angelin and David Lederman were introduced from the bench, Owen Edmunds and Pagani the men replaced. But the visitors made the worst possible start to the half when they ceded possession straight from kick-off, followed immediately by a corner. The ball was whipped into the near post and a flick header sent the ball arcing into the far corner.
It took the men in blue a while to reassert their superiority, but as the half wore on the visitors’ greater quality began to tell, with Kellock and Payne, on the right, looking especially dangerous. The side continued to threaten from set-pieces, with Owen Edmunds and Tristan David both delivering superb crosses from the right and Lederman forcing the keeper into a flaying save from a free-kick curled over the wall. Two goals in the space of eight minutes midway through the half gave the OHAFC a stranglehold on the tie, Alexi Pittalis flicking on David’s corner at the near post to make it 3-2 before Ed Nicholson made a nuisance of himself from an identical situation, the ball this time flying in off a Brentwoods defender.
The Blues could enjoy the closing stages, with Payne making a real nuisance of himself down the right, much to the amusement of the crowd watching on from that side of the pitch. He produced a driving run from almost the halfway line to set up the fifth, cutting the ball back perfectly to the penalty spot to allow Pittalis to finish low first-time back across the keeper. Although the hosts pulled one back from another corner with fewer than ten minutes remaining, the outcome was never in doubt, the visitors holding on comfortably to seal their passage into the last sixteen and the tie of the round against the Old Etonians.