Chigs hold on despite superb Harrow comeback

Old Harrovians 1st XI
2 : 3
Old Chigwellians 1st XI
  • January 14th 2023, Roding Valley High School 3G, 10:15am
  • Division 1
  • Referee: Peter Spelman
  • Weather: Rain, breezy
  • Pitch: Astroturf
No. Starting XI Goals Yellow & Red Cards Subs On/Off
1 Fraser McGuinness
2 Ed Nicholson 55'
3 George O'Malley
4 Ed Beecham 80'
5 Daniel Firoozan (c) 80'
6 Jamie Jordache
7 Murray Barr
8 Arthur Leney
9 Will Payne
10 Jasper Gray 74'
11 John Koutalides
12 Ciaran Jordan 45'

A youthful OHAFC 1st XI were denied a famous point against Division One leaders the Old Chigwellians on Saturday morning when a stirring second half comeback fell just short, the hosts holding on for a nervy 3-2 win that sees them remain eight points clear at the top of the table, whilst the Blues stay eighth, three points clear of the drop zone.

Although this was supposed to be Harrow’s home game, there were no pitches available on the Phil, so the fixture was switched to an astroturf at a school in the local Chigwell area – hardly convenient for most of the Harrow squad. But skipper Dan Firoozan was still able to name a youthful, competitive twelve, featuring three players making their season debuts for the club: defender George O’Malley and forwards John Koutalides and Jasper Gray. Otherwise the side was much the same as the one that earned a 2-2 draw away to the Old Salopians in mid-December, the last time the Blues were in action.

Chigs’ record of nine wins and one defeat from their ten League fixtures so far this season suggested this would prove a significant challenge for the OHAFC and the first half did little to dispel that view, with the nominal home side three goals to the good and seemingly cruising. A scrappy goal after just five minutes started things off, George O’Malley scoring into his own goal after a desperate attempt to clear inside the six yard box. The excellent Chigs winger then wreaked havoc down the right, cutting inside and curling a perfectly-placed shot inside the far post to double the lead just before the half-hour mark. And when the same player then produced another superb finish soon afterwards, carrying the ball around keeper Fraser McGuinness before chipping over a covering defender, it appeared as though the result was a foregone conclusion.

Ciaran Jordan was brought on at the break in place of Ed Nicholson, with the Blues now fielding an incredibly attacking lineup. And this paid dividends as a much-improved second half display saw them push their opponents to the brink. The front four of Leney, Payne, Gray and Koutalides – surely one of the quickest attacks fielded in OHAFC history – caused the Chigs defence all kinds of problems.

It wasn’t until the 74th minute that the Blues were rewarded for their efforts however, but the goal was well worth waiting for: Jasper Gray embarked on a solo run that carried him past several defenders before he curled it into the far corner. Arthur Leney was denied what appeared a strong shout for a penalty when he was barged over inside the box, but the panic wasn’t over for the League leaders, the skipper curling a superb free-kick into the top corner with ten minutes remaining.

Suddenly there was the real prospect of an upset, with the home support clearly stunned by what they were witnessing. But despite a monumental effort, the OHAFC couldn’t quite force the final chance required to complete the comeback, Chigs holding on for a nervous 3-2 win.

So a hugely encouraging first runout of the year for the OHAFC 1st XI. With three fixtures against the two sides below them in the table to come, the Blues have the destiny of their season firmly within their grasp – beginning with next weekend’s crunch match against the Old Berkhamstedians on the Hill.