Graham double sees Blues to superb win
- January 21st 2023, Hampton Sports Centre (3G), 2pm
- Division 4
- Referee: Chris Rigler
- Weather: Sunny, calm
- Pitch: Astroturf
|No.||Starting XI||Goals||Yellow & Red Cards||Subs On/Off|
|1||Tom Mitchell (c)|
|11||Adam Graham||30', 65'||70'|
The OHAFC 3rd XI produced arguably their best performance of the season on Saturday afternoon to sweep aside third-placed Old King’s Scholars 3-1 on the astroturf down in Hampton. First-half goals from OHAFC leading scorer Adam Graham and Freddie Everett earned the visitors a 2-0 half-time lead against the side that had beaten them 3-2 on the Hill back on the first weekend of the season. Graham added a third midway through the second half to seal the win, King’s scoring a consolation effort five minutes later. The win lifts the Blues onto seventeen points and a further win from either of their two remaining League fixtures will almost certainly secure Division Four football next season.
The 3rd XI’s fixture list has been somewhat bizarre this season, with a League game every weekend between September 17th and December 3rd – a run of twelve Saturdays without a break – leaving the side having played more games than any other side in the Arthurian League. But this trip to Hampton in southwest London signalled their return to League action following a break of 48 days – the Blues defeated Lancing 2s convincingly in the Junior League Cup last weekend.
A strong squad of twelve travelled, with spirits high among the squad, despite the absence of skipper Olly Roberts. Leading scorer Adam Graham was looking to extend his superb run in front of goal that has seen him score eleven goals in as many appearances this term, with midfield maestro Charlie Lupton a welcome return to action having missed the Cup win over Lancing.
As ever on clear winter days in this part of town, the low sun provided a headache to teams defending the far end of the pitch, but otherwise conditions were perfect, with no breeze and the artificial surface, which the Blues had already defeated the Old Wellingtonians on earlier in the season, in fine fettle.
The visitors started brightly, dominating midfield with the triumvirate of Lupton, Berry and Buckley relishing the physical battle against their opposite numbers. Both wide men, Dan Graham and Freddie Everett were soon causing problems for their full-backs and half-chances weren’t long in coming.
It took half an hour for the Blues to find the breakthrough, but the goal, when it arrived, was fully deserved. Left winger Everett created it, beating his man with some ease and unselfishly squaring for Adam Graham, whose first-time finish over the keeper came via a deft flick with the outside of his boot – clearly a man with confidence flowing through his veins.
Ten minutes later, with the visitors still well on top, Everett doubled the lead. Mitchell’s long punt downfield was flicked on by Adam Graham and the wide man sprinted through the inside left channel, drew the keeper before clipping the ball over him into the far top corner for a superb finish.
Despite the excellence of the performance and the 2-0 lead, there was no note of complacency at the break, with all thirteen players well aware that King’s, one of four teams perhaps still in with a realistic chance of promotion come the end of the season, more than capable of finding a way back into the game.
Lupton and Mitchell rang the changes with both Henry Collins, whose previous appearance on this ground had been as star goalkeeper in the win over the Wellingtonians, and Max Smith introduced from the bench and Jake Speed pushed further forwards from right back.
There was no let-up in momentum, with the visitors starting the second half the way they had ended the first – on top and looking to further extend their lead. Again, King’s showed some resistance, but with twenty-five minutes remaining the OHAFC scored a vital third, a family affair, as Dan Graham beat his man on the right before trying to dink the ball over the onrushing keeper – the two players collided, the ball ran free inside the box and brother Adam was on hand to fire in past the stricken goalie and a phalanx of defenders in front of him.
Kings responded, almost in desperation, throwing men forwards and creating some late pressure on the Harrow goal. Mitchell was forced into a superb fingertip save from a shot destined for the top corner, but from the resulting corner some slack Harrow marking allowed the hosts to pull one back.
But the Blues handled the closing stages well, slowing the game down, taking their time over set-pieces and generally frustrating their opponents, who grew increasingly annoyed at the perceived gamesmanship. Nevertheless, the back four coped well with anything Kings could muster and the result never seemed in doubt.
The 3s have two League games remaining this season, both tricky affairs on paper, with Brentwoods 3s visiting the Hill and a trip north to face the Old Haberdashers. A win in either of those two games should see the Blues safe in Division Four for another season, with Cup runs in both the Junior League Cup and DW Trophy still possible.