Missed chances and another red card cost Blues dearly
- November 4th 2023, Philathletic Ground, 10:30am
- Division 4
- Referee: Kacper Ignatiuk
- Weather: Sunny, calm
- Pitch: Good
|No.||Starting XI||Goals||Yellow & Red Cards||Subs On/Off|
|8||Joss Awdry (c)|
The OHAFC 3rd XI were left counting the cost of numerous missed chances and some sloppy defensive play as they slipped to their third consecutive League defeat, losing 4-2 to the Old Amplefordians on the Hill on Saturday morning. The Blues also had a player sent off for the second consecutive game – Spencer Crawley dismissed, somewhat harshly, for a tackle on an Amplefordian player having scored a superb long range effort moments earlier. The defeat leaves the 3s stuck firmly in mid-table in Division Four, level on points with their opponents.
Despite the heavy rain that accompanied the players on their journey up to the Hill, the clouds thankfully parted just before kick-off. But although the lower Phil pitch was still firm underfoot, referee Kacper Ignatiuk was unhappy with a couple of small patches of standing water in the goalmouths. Fortunately, common sense prevailed and the game was allowed to kick-off on time. The 3s were boosted by the loan of Spencer Crawley from the 2s, with substitute Tom Mitchell still recovering from a shoulder injury and not quite ready to undertake a full ninety minutes either in or out of goal. Otherwise the squad was a strong one, Gev Arnsberg making his first OHAFC appearance of the season, alongside Mitchell, Hayes, Berry and Graham a threatening front three.
The Blues started sharply and were the better side for the first ten minutes, taking an early lead when a long punt upfield by stand-in keeper Henry Collins was well controlled by Adam Graham on the edge of the box and he teed up winger Alfie Hayes who produced a delicate chip over the onrushing keeper.
But the hosts failed to capitalise on this early breakthrough and soon found themselves under increasing pressure against the Amplefordians. The visitors were given a helping hand, or should that be thigh, in their bid to draw level when a corner was whipped into the six yard box, missing everyone until it collided with Awdry’s outstretched leg and flew past Collins into the Harrow goal.
The hosts recovered their composure and were actually the better side for the remainder of the first half but continued to make life almost impossible for themselves: an under-hit back-pass to Collins was intercepted by a lurking Amplefordian who had little trouble in beating the Harrow keeper one on one, before, shortly before the break, the visitors doubled their lead in more orthodox fashion from a corner, a simple far post header with the marking poor to non-existent.
The Blues weren’t helped in their endeavours when right-back Toby Colehan suffered a painful injury to his ribs just before the half-hour mark, an opponent unhelpfully landing straight on top of his exposed midriff, forcing Mitchell into a much earlier arrival than he had anticipated. But the mood in the Harrrow camp was still optimistic at the break, with Hayes and Graham looking especially dangerous and capable of forging a way back into the game for those in navy.
The second half began much as the first had ended, with the hosts enjoying more of the ball but unable to break down a surprisingly resilient Ampleforth rearguard. As the minutes ticked by it became apparent that the next goal would prove critical to the outcome of the game and, disappointingly, it was the visitors who nabbed it. Collins, who is a reluctant keeper at the best of times, was unable to hold a long shot, the ball spilling from his grasp and immediately turned in from close range.
To the hosts’ credit they continued to press forwards, pulling a goal back in spectacular fashion with a quarter of an hour remaining when Spencer Crawley, who had shone on his first ever 3s outing, smashed a long-range effort into the top corner. The hosts piled on the pressure, with Graham, Hayes and Mitchell all spurning excellent chances to put some real pressure on their opponents. But any hopes of a famous Harrow comeback was ended ten minutes from time when Crawley was given his marching orders for a strong challenge on the halfway line. Although the tackle was a firm one, the reaction of the Amplefordian was disappointing, the player dropping to the turf then breezily regaining his feet and giving his teammates a little wink. A later admission from several of the opposition that the red card was a very harsh decision only served to sour Harrovian moods further.
The Blues have now lost their last three League games, conceding fourteen goals and receiving two red cards and two yellow cards in the process. A reset may be required ahead of next weekend’s fixture at home to the Division Four leaders, the Old Berkhamstedians 2s, if the side are to rediscover their mojo in the run-up to Christmas.