Late goals end Harrow hopes of Junior League Cup success
- February 18th 2023, Philathletic Ground, 10:45am
- Junior League Cup
- Referee: George Patriche
- Weather: Cloudy, breezy
- Pitch: Fair
|No.||Starting XI||Goals||Yellow & Red Cards||Subs On/Off|
|2||Geoff Taunton-Collins (c)|
The OHAFC 2nd XI suffered a deeply disappointing, last-gasp defeat at home to the Old Etonians 2s on Saturday morning, conceding twice in the final five minutes having earlier fought back from 2-0 down to level at 2-2. A defensive mistake and some slack marking from a cross into the box gifted the visitors a commanding advantage, despite the hosts having played well in the first half. The Blues earned parity with a couple of goals in the five minutes either side of the break, Lederman converting from the spot following a handball before Tristan David ran onto a Miles Kellock flick to fire in. But, as the second half wore on, it was the visitors who looked the more dangerous and they sealed a place in the quarter-finals with a close-range header and a breakaway in the final minute.
It was cruel luck on a Harrow side that gave everything in the ninety minutes, only to fall short with extra-time looming large. On a decent but slightly uneven pitch, the Blues made a strong start, enjoying plenty of possession in the first half and utilising a mid-block to good effect, negating much of the Etonian threat. The home side had two great chances to take the lead, Will Payne somehow failing to finish from a yard out when Kellock squared to him across the box, the ball ending up in the grateful arms of the keeper who was sprawled across the goal line, before Kellock fired over with Tristan David begging for a square pass.
At the other end, the home side had to endure a few dicey moments of their own with a couple of set-pieces needlessly conceded and then dangerously delivered into the box. But with keeper Kyri Pittalis relatively well-protected in the Harrow goal there was little warning for the rather sudden concession of two goals on the half-hour mark. A cross from the Eton left wing was whipped into the box and, slightly unsighted, Will Monroe miscued his clearance, the ball striking the left-back on his standing leg and rebounding straight to an Etonian who fired in from six yards out. A few minutes later, a free-kick from a similar position on the pitch was curled beyond the far post and looked for all the world to be heading out of play. But the Etonian centre-half did superbly well to head the ball back across goal, allowing another simple finish for a teammate.
This two-goal deficit left the Blues with a mountain to climb against an Eton side who came into Saturday’s tie having scored a healthy 24 goals from their previous six encounters against Division Two teams. But to the home side’s great credit, they continued to press forwards and were rewarded for their industry with a sudden double-strike of their own, spanning the five minutes either side of the break. A well-worked free-kick on the halfway line sparked the first, skipper Taunton-Collins passing short to Lederman on the right and his cross into the box found its way to Alexi Pittalis at the far post. As he tried to loft the ball back across goal, the outstretched arm of a defender blocked the ball’s progress and referee George Patriche had little hesitation in pointing to the spot. Lederman sent the keeper the wrong way and the Blues were back in business. And they were back on level terms just moments after the restart. Monroe’s throw-in down the left was flicked on by Kellock and Tristan David suddenly found himself with the freedom of the penalty area ahead of him, racing on to fire in superbly from a narrow angle.
It was now the Etonians’ turn to fear the worst, with a supposedly weaker Harrow side back from the dead and full of confidence. But the second half proved something of a damp squib from then on, with the Blues never able to match the quality of their play from the first. Indeed, frustrations began to show among the Harrow ranks as some sloppy defending and careless loss of possession all over the pitch handed the visitors’ the initiative. Once more, the back four managed to keep the Eton attack largely at arms’ length, but the overriding feeling as the game entered the final fifteen minutes was that extra-time would be no bad thing for the home side.
However, the additional thirty minutes were never needed, unfortunately, as the visitors snatched victory with two late efforts. The first was a highly unusual goal, with a ball delivered into the Harrow box and centre-halves Paul Molloy and Giacomo Grasso both challenging each other, with no Etonian involved. The ball looped up into the air and keeper Pittalis claimed it, only for a lurking attacker to head the ball out of the keeper’s hands instantaneously as the two players landed, the ball dropping slowly back into the goal.
Four minutes remained for the hosts to find an equaliser and, dramatically, they almost did so. A scramble inside the Eton box ended with Alexi Pittalis flicking a shot goalwards, the ball taking a deflection that had apparently left the keeper stranded on the ground, only for the shot to be blocked a yard from goal by Jack Dolbey, unable to adjust his position in time to avoid contact.
A breakaway goal in the final minute should have been prevented but merely confirmed the Etonians’ victory and a place in the last eight at home to Old Tonbridgians 2s. For Harrow, the wait to reach the Junior League Cup final again stretches to eleven years.