2s deep in the mire after costly defensive mistakes
- March 4th 2023, Philathletic Ground, 10:30am
- Division 2
- Referee: Andre Small
- Weather: Cloudy
- Pitch: Good
|No.||Starting XI||Goals||Yellow & Red Cards||Subs On/Off|
|7||Max Curry (c)|
|8||Tassilo von Hirsch|
A series of preventable defensive lapses in the space of twenty first-half minutes cost the OHAFC 2nd XI dearly in this game and deepened their relegation worries. Against a relatively weak Old Chigwellians 2s team, the hosts took the lead after twenty minutes when Joss Awdry headed in a Miles Kellock corner – his first ever goal for the club. But the visitors were gifted an equaliser barely three minutes later, the returning Tass von Hirsch allowing a mis-hit corner to roll past him at the near post and straight into the goal. A penalty and a misjudged header from opposite wing-back Callum Barrett saw Chigs score twice more in quick succession and although they had a man sent off with twenty minutes remaining, still managed to hold on against mounting pressure from the home side. The Blues have four games remaining to save their season.
With several regulars missing, including skipper Geoff Taunton-Collins, the 2s fielded a changed lineup for this fixture with Chigs, who prior to kick-off sat three points and one place above the Blues. Kyri Pittalis was again required outfield, with Tom Mitchell donning the gloves. Ed David switched to centre back to partner Calum Butler, who was making his first League appearance of the season having previously featured in the 1s’ long Dunn Cup journey down to Dorset. Max Curry made a welcome return to midfield having missed the previous four games, with Tass von Hirsch appearing for the first time since the 2017/18 campaign. And Joss Awdry, who is usually to be found among the 3rd XI’s back four on a Saturday, was asked to play on the left wing, Tristan David again filling in up front. David Griffiths and Ed Stewart were named on the bench, both players making their first appearances for the 2s this season.
Fixtures over the past five years with Chigs have remained hotly contested, with the OHAFC shading the rivalry four wins to three. It was the visitors who made the more impressive start here, with the home side guilty of trying to force the ball forwards too quickly, too often. Possession was consistently squandered, although Mitchell remained well protected in the Harrow goal, Butler and David consistently flying into tackles with gusto.
Once play had settled down somewhat, the home side began to show their teeth. Although the long balls persisted, the Chigs defence proved less than adept at dealing with them, the back four appearing particularly shaky. Several corners were forced which caused havoc inside the Chigs box, the keeper flapping at the ball on several occasions. Both Butler and Awdry came close to scoring from set-pieces, the former’s effort flew just over the bar, the latter’s cleared off the line in desperation. Lederman then spurned two good chances to add to his tally for the season: set up first by Tristan David, then by Kellock, his first-time shot from the penalty spot was brilliantly saved by the keeper, the second effort flying just over the bar from the angle. But moments later the deadlock was broken, Kellock delivering another corner from the left and Awdry climbing highest to loop his header just under the bar but just over the head of the defender on the line.
Having looked the more threatening side and deservedly earned the lead as the midpoint of the half was reached, the hosts then undid all their good work in an awful twenty-minute spell. Within a couple of minutes of conceding, Chigs forced a corner of their own on the left. The ball was whipped in right-footed but mis-hit, never flying above knee-height. But Tass von Hirsch, guarding the near post area, completely lost his bearings, allowing the ball to just speed past him and into the net, Mitchell as stunned as anyone and powerless to react.
The Harrow keeper had a much better view of the second Chigs goal which arrived five minutes later. A promising attack through the middle saw the ball played out to the left wing and a low cross delivered into the box. The retreating centre-backs seemed unsure whether to make a play for the ball or not and this hesitation proved fatal, Mitchell now forced to come off his line to try and intercept as the Chigs right winger sensed an opportunity. The forward just got to the ball first, poking it past the keeper’s dive and it was unsurprising when the subsequent contact resulted in a penalty being awarded. The Chigs skipper smashed the ball into the top corner and from nowhere the visitors found themselves 2-1 to the good.
By now the home side were in a tailspin, heads scrambled at the sudden loss of their advantage. But worse was to follow soon afterwards. A long crossfield ball from the Chigs left should have been comfortably headed clear by retreating full-back Callum Barrett but, aided by a mischievous shout from the Chigs winger, the ball was allowed to fly past and the forward took a touch to drive into the box and finish past Mitchell.
Both substitutes were introduced at the interval, with the memorable words of Kyri Pittalis ringing in the home side's ears as they trooped back out for the second half: ‘I don’t want to have to be the one to tell Geoff how we lost this game.’
And, for the start of the half, the side responded, camped inside the Chigs half and dominating possession. Chances proved hard to come by and, having weathered this initial burst, the visitors appeared content to play out time and hold onto their two-goal lead. But a red card midway through the half breathed new life into the game. A poor tackle on Miles Kellock close to the touchline drew the ire of the Harrow players and a melee ensued in the middle of the pitch. The ball was kicked away in the process and, following a brief chat, referee Andre Small, who had to this point kept control of proceedings excellently, suddenly produced two yellow cards and then a red for the number seventeen – the same player had committed the foul and kicked the ball away and he would now leave his teammates with just over twenty minutes to defend their advantage a man down.
It took the home side half the remaining time to build up a head of steam, with the visitors using every trick in the book to waste time, including, at one point, trying to hide the ball from view with a Harrow free-kick having been awarded. But the final ten minutes saw the Blues lay siege to the Chigs goal in a desperate search for an equaliser. Max Curry hit the post from a header that somehow continued unimpeded across the box, but he then spurned a golden opportunity to reduce the arrears when Lederman’s first-time pass over the top sent him clean through only for the sidefoot finish to fly over the angle of post and bar. Further half-chances came and went, the visitors’ relief at the final whistle a clear indication of the pressure they had been under.
But despite the patches of decent play, the defeat badly hurts the Blues’ hopes of staying in the division. The side have now conceded at least three goals in six of their past seven League matches, the one exception, bizarrely, the superb 4-0 win away to the Old Alleynians. With numerous missed chances at the other end, the side are currently playing somewhat inefficient football. Three home games remain, as well as the visit to face the Old Etonians. At the very least, the Blues need to win twice more to avoid the drop.