Last-gasp penalty prolongs 1s' relegation worries

Lancing Old Boys 1st XI
3 : 2
Old Harrovians 1st XI
  • March 4th 2023, Tolworth Centre Sports Ground, 12:30pm
  • Division 1
  • Referee: Paul Glover
  • Weather: Cloudy
  • Pitch: Fair
No. Starting XI Goals Yellow & Red Cards Subs On/Off
1 Fraser McGuinness
2 Stan D'Angelin
3 Ciaran Jordan
4 Cassius Kidston
5 Jamie Jordache
6 Charlie Bick 32', 68'
7 Doug Morrison
8 Daniel Firoozan (c)
9 Fabian Dobree
10 Will Payne
11 George Taylor

A rather humdrum game that for eighty-nine minutes had threatened to produce a forgettable 2-2 draw between two sides struggling at the foot of the Division One table suddenly burst into life right at the death, Lancing snatching a first win of the season with a hotly-contested penalty before then having a man sent off for a dangerous challenge as tempers flared between the teams. The dramatic 3-2 loss, which infuriated Harrow skipper Dan Firoozan, leaves his side still searching for numerical certainty in their bid to avoid a second successive relegation – Old Berkhamstedians’ shock win at Westminsters by the same scoreline propelling them back into the race for survival.

The dramatic conclusion to Saturday’s action could hardly have been foreseen by those watching on from the sidelines. Both sides struggled to adapt to the firm, rather uneven surface at the usually excellent Kingston University sports pitches in Tolworth, with the result that much of the action was high on endeavour but low on quality.

The teams reached the break level at 1-1 having scored in vastly different circumstances. Lancing, who went into this game with a League record of fourteen defeats from fourteen games, struck first in controversial circumstances. Harrow keeper Fraser McGuinness had parried out a shot and skipper Firoozan cushioned the ball back with his thigh. Referee Paul Glover ruled it to be a backpass and the hosts took advantage of their good fortune to smash home the subsequent free-kick from inside the six yard box. But the Blues responded well and levelled just after the half-hour mark courtesy of a lovely finish from midfielder Charlie Bick, who joined a swift counter-attack to carry the ball forwards and chip the onrushing Lancing keeper from just outside the box.

With only a bare eleven to call upon, the visitors were forced to stick with the same lineup throughout, adopting a 3-4-3 formation that has, at times, served them well this season. The start of the second half saw both sides trade half-chances: Lancing forced McGuinness into a flying save from a free-kick twenty-five yards out, Payne then firing just over for the Blues on the break. Play was very staccato however, with numerous stoppages preventing either side from developing any kind of rhythm and goalmouth action almost completely dried up.

But, just after the hour, the hosts broke through with a direct move down their left: a long goal-kick wasn’t dealt with by the Harrow back three, the ball was flicked on first-time and finished low past McGuinness from the corner of the penalty area in some style. The home side’s joy was remarkably short-lived however. The Blues earned a free-kick on their left wing barely a minute later and Bick swung the ball deep towards the far post. The Lancing keeper began to frantically back-peddle but, despite timing his leap to perfection, was unable to lay a glove on the ball as it sailed perfectly into the top corner. The OHAFC 1s may have struggled this season, but their ability to score from free-kicks over forty yards out is surely unmatched anywhere in the League, this is at least their third such effort this campaign.

Thankfully, play began to open up in the final twenty minutes as both sides tired and space began appearing at either end of the pitch. For the visitors, Payne and Firoozan were the main threats, both players weaving in and out of challenges down both wings and causing panic in the Lancing rearguard. But the hosts remained a threat also, especially down their left wing, where Stan d’Angelin and Jamie Jordache had their work cut out to deal with a constant stream of balls played over the top.

It was from one such attack that the entire nature of the game swung, as play ticked into the last of the ninety minutes. A ball was swept from the Lancing right wing over the top of the Harrow centre halves and into the area. Jordache retreated, appealed for offside and, perhaps unwittingly, turned to collide with the Lancing winger who had driven into the box. Both players tumbled to the turf, the ball ran behind and all attention turned to referee Paul Glover who suddenly had a decision to make. Initially it appeared as though a corner was going to be given but, following further protests from the home side, the match official eventually pointed to the spot. It was now the visitors’ turn to protest, Kidston receiving a yellow card for prolonging his complaints. The drama had only just begun however. Having warned both sets of players about encroaching before the kick had been taken, Lancing’s first effort, which flew past McGuinness, was ruled out for that very reason. The home side were unhappy but it mattered not: the second effort was even more clinically dispatched and Lancing could finally celebrate a win that only the most cold-hearted neutral would begrudge them.

There was still time for one final moment of madness from a Lancing midfielder, who flew into a challenge in the middle of the Lancing half moments after the game had restarted. Although not malicious, the tackle was poorly-timed and slightly high and referee Glover produced a straight red, ensuring that both sides ended the game feeling that they had been rather hard done by.

But the Blues need to regroup quickly, with Firoozan admitting that the visitors had only themselves to blame for this result. The OHAFC have three fixtures remaining this season, all against sides in the top half of the table. Salopians, two points ahead, and the Berkhamstedians, two points below, have both played a game more, but wins for either side in their remaining couple of games will heap the pressure onto the OHAFC.