2s complete League double over Sennockians with fine display
- November 11th 2023, Springwest Academy 3G, 11am
- Division 3
- Referee: None
- Weather: Sunny, calm
- Pitch: Astroturf
|No.||Starting XI||Goals||Yellow & Red Cards||Subs On/Off|
|2||Geoff Taunton-Collins (c)||63'|
|11||Owain James||37', 68'|
The OHAFC 2nd XI continued the frustratingly inconsistent first half of their 2023/24 campaign with an excellent performance to beat the Old Sennockians 4-1 on the astroturf in Feltham on Saturday morning and complete the League double over the side who followed them down from Division Two last season. In a game switched from Sevenoaks School late on Friday evening due to waterlogged pitches, the Blues took advantage of the improved conditions to produce a complete performance, dominating their opponents for long spells and deservedly taking a 4-0 lead before conceding with the final kick of the game. The win sees the Blues stay in fourth in the Division Three table but move within two points of their opponents having played one fewer game.
With a decent squad of twelve available for the game and everyone keen to react to last weekend’s disappointing 3-1 home defeat by KCS Wimbledon 2s, the late confirmation that the school pitches down in Kent were unplayable came as a nasty shock. Immediately some of the OHAFC’s finest administrators were on the case, swiftly establishing that the Harrow astrourf would be available if necessary. That news was met with a lukewarm response from the Sennockians, but they responded with the offer of an 11am KO at another astroturf pitch in Feltham, just south of Twickenham. Having consulted the squad, skipper Geoff Taunton-Collins confirmed and the game was back on, the long journey down to Kent for what would have been a 10.45am KO replaced with something far more manageable.
Indeed, conditions could hardly have been better, with the sun shining and only a slight breeze blowing across the pitch. The playing surface was a good one, although not quite a wide as many of the other newly-constructed facilities springing up around London. In fact, the sun was so bright that a brief discussion pre-match led Taunton-Collins to ask for a change of ends upon winning the toss, the amateur meteorologists in the side predicting that keeper Rory Craig would encounter fewer problems in the second half as the sun moved westwards.
The only issue with the late change of venue was the lack of an appointed referee, both sides thankfully agreeing to officiate a half each and, having played against each other numerous times now over the past few seasons, few problems were anticipated. Harrow sub Will Brounger donned the luminous yellow bib for the first half, taking hold of a whistle helpfully provided by the hosts.
It took the visitors ten minutes to get into their stride, but the men in blue soon began passing the ball sharply across the pitch, left-back Kyri Pittalis especially prominent in the early stages as he ventured down the wing on several occasions. Wide men Kellock and David saw plenty of the ball but fell into their customary trap of taking too many touches and too often promising build-up play went unrewarded as Sennockian defenders recovered to snatch possession.
At the back, there was little to trouble the centre-half pairing of Grasso, who has been in fine form this season, and Felix Orchard, hopefully over the worst of his persistent knee injury. The pair saw plenty of the ball and switched play well, as well as feeding the midfield trio of Palazzo, Lederman and Curry, all of whom looked sharp in the early stages.
The visitors were rewarded for their impressive play with an excellent opener just past the twenty-minute mark. Another composed move down the left involving Pittalis and Kellock saw the ball fed back to Lederman midway inside the Sennockians half on the touchline and he produced the perfect crossfield pass, in behind the back four who were beginning to advance out of their own box. Tristan David collected on the far side of the six yard box, cut back inside and fired in with venom on his trusty left foot – his fifth goal of the season.
From that moment on, the Blues began to enjoy themselves, passing the ball with ever-increasing confidence and looking dangerous down both sides of the pitch. Striker Owain James was a constant threat, both coming short to collect the ball and chasing longer passes over the top, the Sennockian back four struggling to contain his powerful running down the channels. And it was James who doubled Harrow’s lead eight minutes before the break, finishing a lovely move on the right. Taunton-Collins, Lederman and Kellock all combined inside the opposition half, Kellock feeding David who produced a slide-rule pass through for the Harrow man to chase. As the keeper advanced, James poked the ball first-time inside his near post.
Further goals could have seen the visitors lead by a greater margin at the break, with the Sennockians keeper looking shaky whenever called upon. James fired in a long-range effort, Kellock and David both missed the target from closer in. Max Curry was then almost gifted a goal at the far post, Lederman’s pinpoint delivery snatched off the midfielder’s head by a crucial intervention, Grasso headed just wide from a corner. Barring a few sporadic forays forwards by the Sennockians skipper, who for most of the game appeared to be waging a one-man war, it was as dominant a half as the Blues had enjoyed for a while.
With refereeing duties successfully completed, and only a couple of minor complaints sustained, Will Brounger was delighted to be able to enter the action as a player, the hosts taking over officiating duties for the second half. Ludo Palazzo was the man to make way initially, although this was in no way a reflection on his first-half performance which saw him constantly demand the ball from the back four and spread play efficiently.
The Blues didn’t take long to regain the initiative in the second half, although they were again forced to wait for their overall dominance to be converted into goals. But two efforts five minutes apart killed the game and ensured there would be no way back for the Sennockians. A long throw from the left from Kyri Pittalis was flicked on at the near post by Max Curry, the ball bounced off the unaware David and fell perfectly for Taunton-Collins to bundle in at the far post from a yard out. The skipper then turned provider as a slick move down the right saw him deliver an excellent cross to the far post where Owain James jumped against a defender to force a header on target. Somehow, the Sennocks keeper allowed the ball to squirm through his grasp and into the back of the net, much to the evident chagrin of his teammates.
It was only as the game entered the final twenty minutes, with the result beyond doubt, that some sloppiness began to creep into the visitors’ play. Several chances were again spurned from highly promising positions and there was further unnecessary over-elaboration on the ball when a simple pass would have freed advancing colleagues beyond a beleaguered Sennockians defence. There was never any question of a comeback, Craig forced to make one relatively simple save low to his right following another excellent individual run by the skipper. Nevertheless, it was somewhat galling when a clean sheet that had looked so likely for the entire game was snatched away at the death, the Sennockians striker somehow heading in from fifteen yards out under fierce pressure from Taunton-Collins, sending the ball looping in a perfect arc over the leaping Craig and just under the crossbar seconds before the final whistle blew.
In stark contrast to the OHAFC 3rd XI, the 2s now have a run of three consecutive home games and find themselves in a strong position in the table to take advantage of this, beginning with the visit of the struggling Shirburnians to the Hill next weekend. The challenge for the men in blue is perfectly simple: record consecutive victories for the first time this season.