Late Adefarasin goal earns 3s controversial win
- February 18th 2023, Philathletic Ground, 10:30am
- Division 4
- Referee: Stephen Bodell
- Weather: Cloudy, breezy
- Pitch: Fair
|No.||Starting XI||Goals||Yellow & Red Cards||Subs On/Off|
|1||Tom Mitchell (c)|
A coolly taken goal from striker Alvin Adefarasin ten minutes from time earned the OHAFC 3rd XI a deserved but somewhat controversial 1-0 win at home to the struggling Old Amplefordians on the Hill on Saturday morning. Adefarasin’s strike was enough to seal victory despite the visitors having a goal ruled out in the first half and then being denied by what appeared a clear handball on the line from Tobi Adebayo to prevent a goalbound effort from going on. The win lifts the Blues onto twenty points in Division Four and sees them mathematically safe from relegation with just one League game remaining. In contrast, the Amplefordians remain deep in trouble, sitting just one point and one place above the relegation zone.
Last weekend’s defeat away to the Old Kimboltonians had left the 3s with the DW Trophy and just two League games remaining this season. With their final Division Four fixture a tricky away game at a Haberdashers side that has lost just a solitary League fixture this season, this encounter against the Amplefordians was arguably the side’s most important remaining game this season – a win would guarantee Division Four football next season, despite most sides still having at least three games in hand on the Blues.
Skipper Tom Mitchell was delighted to welcome back Olly Roberts following his lengthy injury absence, with Alvin Adefarasin and Tobi Adebayo joining him in an attacking front three. There was a new-look midfield with Tritton, Charlie Dunn and Ed Stewart compensating for the absence of some of the more regular members of the squad. Baoku, Watford and Brooks ensured a full complement of fourteen was present.
Although relatively mild, it was a cloudy, breezy day on the Hill and the Phil pitches remained in decent, if unspectacular shape. The Blues played up the Hill in the first half and into the breeze, but this failed to deter the home side from making a strong start in a frantic opening period that saw play switch from one end to the other with bewildering frequency. Adefarasin held the ball up well in the attacking third, allowing wide men Roberts and Adebayo to venture forwards down their wings – Roberts looked especially dangerous. At the back, the return of the two Nicholson brothers, Ed and Simon, added stability to the core of the back four with Jake Speed showing his strength and speed on the right and Joss Awdry his usual excellent composure on the left.
Despite the promising early showing from those in blue, it was the visitors who actually had the first sight of goal and with it came the first of several highly contentious moments in the game. Amplefordians were allowed to take a quick free-kick from the centre-circle, despite Ed Nicholson lying on the ground with blood pouring from his nose following an accidental elbow to his face. The ball was delivered into the Harrow box and the Amplefordians striker was afforded sufficient space to produce a finish past Mitchell, seemingly earning the visitors the lead. Furious Harrow protests followed before referee Stephen Bodell agreed that play should have been stopped and ordered the free-kick to be retaken, Nicholson sufficiently recovered to continue.
The remainder of the half saw the OHAFC continue to look the more threatening side but fail to create any chances of note, the final pass or shot lacking in quality. Michael Brooks was introduced at the break, replacing Speed at right-back, with Baoku and Watford then replacing Speed and Ed Nicholson respectively.
The home side began the second half as they had the first: on top and looking dangerous. Numerous shots and crosses threatened the Amplefordians goal but still the breakthrough proved elusive. Then, midway through the half, with Harrow still frustrated in their search for the goal their play deserved, another moment of controversy. The Amplefordians forced a corner following a swift break downfield. The ball was curled to the far post and chested down by an attacker before being fired back across goal. Mitchell dived to save and diverted the effort back up into the air, but the ball looked to be heading in before Adebayo, behind him, cleared via a combination of head and hand. The visitors were incensed, convinced that a blatant handball had prevented the shot from going in. But referee Bodell was unsighted and waved play on – a hugely fortunate escape for the home side.
Shortly afterwards, the hosts enjoyed another slice of good fortune when a low cross into the Harrow penalty area ended with a shot being fired straight at Mitchell – a yard either side and it would have been those in red and black celebrating. Instead, moments later a swift Harrow break saw Awdry feed Roberts down the left and he squared for Adefarasin to produce a superbly composed left-foot shot low past the keeper.
Amplefordians threw caution to the wind in the final ten minutes in a desperate bid to salvage at least a point, but this merely created further space for the Harrow attack to exploit and in truth the lead should have been extended on several occasions. Nevertheless, the win was secured and with it three priceless points that ensure the Blues’ survival in the division for another season. With a long gap until the final League fixture at Haberdashers in April, the 3s can now focus all their attention on the DW Trophy, beginning with next weekend’s first round tie away to Lancing 2s.