Blues hold on to record vital victory over bottom side
- November 11th 2023, Philathletic Ground, 10:30am
- Division 1
- Referee: George Patriche
- Weather: Sunny, breezy
- Pitch: Fair
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The OHAFC 1st built on their excellent point against Division One leaders the Old Johnians last weekend by recording their first victory in five games on Saturday morning, securing a deserved, if slightly nervy, 4-3 win at home to the Old Rugbeians. Although the hosts started brightly, it was the visitors who struck first and led 1-0 at the break. But the Blues dominated the second half and goals from Stan d’Angelin, Ed Nicholson, Jamie Jordache and Oli Acar secured three very welcome points despite a late rally from the opposition that threatened to spoil the weekend.
Having become the first side to deny the Johnians a League victory this season, skipper Dan Firoozan was determined to see his men return to winning ways for the first time since a 2-0 win over the Old Westminsters back in late September. A week prior to that game, the OHAFC and Rugbeians had met for the first time this season, the Rugbeians snatching a last-gasp 4-3 win with a breakaway goal two minutes from time. That victory remains the Rugbieans’ only League win this season and revenge for that defeat was imperative for the Blues in their penultimate fixture before they enjoy a week off.
Conditions on the Hill were excellent, with clear blue sky and the Phil pitches seemingly handling the heavy recent rain well enough. There was further good news on the team sheet, with Fraser McGuinness’ return between the sticks allowing Yunus Sert to hopefully regard last week’s moonlighting as the side’s keeper as a one-off. Doug Morrison made a belated return to OHAFC action for the season, whilst Walid Nsouli was aiming to continue his excellent start to life in the Arthurian League in midfield alongside Morrison and Jamie Jordache.
Following a two-minute silence, with both sets of players gathered around the centre circle, the Blues got the game underway and made a fast start, pressing high up the pitch and putting their opponents under plenty of pressure. The first real chance arrived on twelve minutes, a long ball in behind the back four allowed Nsouli to break free but he failed to hit the target. The hosts continued to look the more dangerous side but hopes of a straightforward morning’s work were dashed when the Rugbeians broke upfield to snatch an ill-deserved lead after twenty minutes. The ball was played forwards into the Rugby striker and he did well to hold it up before laying it off for a midfield runner who fired past McGuinness from close range.
The remainder of the half saw plenty of industry on display but neither side were able to create clear-cut chances. Harrow’s best effort was a blocked shot from forward Oli Acar, the strike was deflected wide following good work from Ed Nicholson and Ciaran Jordan. But the half-time whistle signified the end of a frustrating forty-five minutes for those in blue and plenty of work remained to overcome their doughty opponents. Skipper Firoozan introduced his vice-captain, Ed Beecham, off the bench, replacing Ciaran Jordan. Beecham slotted into midfield, with Doug Morrison replacing Jordan out wide.
And it took only five minutes for the substitute to make an impact, starting the move that led to a quick Harrow equaliser. Beecham fed Nsouli inside the Harrow half, he in turn played forwards to Doug Morrison, who carried the ball across the Rugby penalty area before feeding Acar. The striker beat his man and delivered the ball back across goal for the late arriving d’Angelin to turn and finish left-footed into the bottom corner – his first ever goal in OHAFC colours.
The shackled were well and truly off now and three minutes later further superb work from Beecham provided the impetus for goal number two. Snatching possession off a Rugbeian, the Harrow man fired a shot on goal that appeared destined for the top corner, only for the Rugby keeper to make a fantastic save. It mattered not. Harry Bick curled in the corner and Ed Nicholson arrived to plant a thumping header into the bottom corner – his first goal for the OHAFC 1st XI.
Four minutes later and with the Blues swarming forwards with gusto, it was so nearly 3-1. Acar collected possession on the edge of the penalty area, waited for support and chipped the ball over the top for Morrison to run onto. The resulting shot was powerful but too straight and the keeper was just able to cling on. Almost identical circumstances preceded the third goal as another superb touch from Acar from a long clearance from McGuinness allowed him, Payne and Nsouli to exchange passes before the latter fizzed a shot just past the far post. But Harrow’s domination duly earned them the two-goal lead they deserved when Payne collected a ball over the top down the left and he raced past the centre-back who rather unceremoniously dragged him down. Referee George Patriche had no hesitation in pointing to the spot and Jamie Jordache made no mistake, planting his shot to the keeper’s right – his first goal of the season.
Although the Rugbeians spurned an excellent chance to pull a goal back almost immediately – a midfielder firing wide from next to the penalty spot – the hosts were 4-1 up with a quarter of an hour remaining when Ciaran Jordan out-muscled his man to feed Acar and he beat the keeper one-on-one to ensure there would be no way back for the beleaguered visitors.
Or at least that’s the way it seemed. But as the game entered the final ten minutes, two goals inside three minutes for the Rugbeians lent the game a tense finish that moments earlier had seemed virtually impossible. A Harrow ball was dwelt upon by Nicholson, who allowed the Rugby striker to nip the ball off him and go on to beat McGuinness, making it 4-2. Three minutes later, with just six minutes plus stoppages remaining, a cross from the left was turned in from close range and form nowhere the Rugbeians had earned themselves the merest glimmer of hope.
Fortunately, the final five minutes were seen out without further drama and the Blues could finally celebrate a third win of the season that sees them consolidate their mid-table position. There were several notable performances, with McGuinness showing his worth between the posts and Nsouli and Jordache in midfield putting in towering performances, as well as debutant goalscorer Stan d’Angelin.
The Blues now travel to Uxbridge to face another side they have already played this season – the Old Malvernians. The two sides met on a sunny Harrow Hill in the first game of the season in mid-September, Harrow running out 4-2 winners courtesy of goals from Luke Berry (two), Alfie Hayes and George Taylor. A repeat result on Saturday and the squad can enter their fortnight break prior to the Christmas run-in with considerable optimism.