3s stop the rot with hard-earned point against League leaders

Old Harrovians 3rd XI
2 : 2
Old Berkhamsteds 2nd XI
  • November 11th 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
1 Harison Saunders
2 Hugo Morrell-Roberts 75'
3 Henry Collins
4 Michael Brooks
5 Alex Kenderdine-Davies 20' 75'
6 Ali Buckley 39' 75'
7 Joss Awdry (c)
8 Khalil Baoku
9 Tobi Adebayo
10 Luke Berry
11 Adam Graham
12 Ollie Wilson 45'

Following a hugely frustrating three-game losing streak, the OHAFC 3rd XI put in a much-improved performance at home to the Old Berkhamstedians 2s on Saturday morning, holding the Division Four leaders to a 2-2 draw on the Hill courtesy of goals from Alex Kenderdine-Davies – his first for the club – and Ali Buckley. The Blues fought hard throughout but maintained their discipline and, most refreshingly, managed to keep eleven players on the pitch throughout. Although this was one of the side’s better performances of the season, the point still sees them drop to seventh in the Division Four table, their lowest position of the campaign. Nevertheless, this was still just the result the side needs ahead of a tough upcoming run of three successive away games in the next three weeks.

On a bright, sunny day on the Hill, the lower of the two Phil pitches was once again in decent condition to welcome the Division Four leaders, the Berkhamstedians having won five of their eight games to date and jousting with the Brentwoods 3s and Westminster 2s for the two promotion places. The 3s, without the suspended pair Spencer Crawley and Alvin Adefarasin, named a squad of twelve, with Baoku and Adebayo back in action and Henry Collins, thankfully for him, coming out of goal to join Michael Brooks at centre-back, Harison Saunders resuming keeping duties.

With the visitors also sporting an all-navy kit, the Harrow 3s were required to wear their change red shirts and perhaps hoping they would bring a change in fortune on the pitch. This was in stark contrast to the sight of referee Kacper Ignatiuk, whose handling of two of the side’s previous three fixtures had brought a red card, two yellow cards and no points. Fortunately, the 3s were on their best behaviour and Kacper’s interventions were all of the minor variety.

The men in red started well, Buckley and Baoku looking especially sharp in midfield, winning plenty of ball and distributing well to wide men Berry and Adebayo, who was a late replacement for the injured Alfie Hayes. Kenderdine-Davies was also prominent at left-back, venturing forwards with authority on several occasions, and he opened the scoring for the hosts with an excellent goal after twenty minutes, carrying the ball into the box following some excellent build-up play, beating two defenders with some quick feet and just managing to produce a clinical shot before he was closed down.

Remarkably, the lead lasted all of a few seconds. Straight from the restart, the Berkhamstedians chanced their arm with a long-range effort from the halfway line, the shot catching Saunders in the Harrow goal unawares and squinting into the low sun. Unable to properly see the flight of the ball, the keeper stumbled backwards in vain, the shot sailing over his head and into the back of the net.

The hosts could have been forgiven for allowing this immediate change in fortunes to affect them, but they continued to press and harry their opponents well, making life tricky more than a little tricky for the men in blue. Neither side came close to breaking the deadlock in the quarter of an hour that followed the opening two goals, but as half-time loomed on the horizon, the OHAFC regained the lead in fine style and just reward for their industrious performance. Again, the goal was borne out of excellent down the left from Kenderdine-Davies, who played a one-two with Tobi Adebayo and again managed an effort on goal from inside the box. This time the keeper managed to scramble the ball clear but only to the waiting Joss Awdry. Somehow, from just a few yards out, the skipper, who has yet to score in Harrow colours, managed to blast the ball against the crossbar and watch in disbelief as it bounced down a couple of feet over the line, only for the referee to wave play on. Fortunately, Ali Buckley was on hand to spare the blushes of both the Harrow skipper and the match official, firing in from the edge of the box after the Berkhamstedians had scrambled the original effort clear from under their crossbar.

Lone substitute Ollie Wilson was introduced at the break, with Hugo Morrell-Roberts the player withdrawn. The message was a simple one: continue to make life as difficult as possible for the opposition and, with last week’s painful defeat in mind, take any chance that presents itself.

But the second half proved a far more cagey affair than the first, with neither side able to dominate and chances at an absolute premium. The two Harrow goalscorers were both withdrawn for fifteen minutes apiece in order to give them a much-needed rest, but the hosts appeared to be on course for a superb win, despite the Berkhamstedians gradually ramping up the pressure as the game entered its final stages.

Disappointingly, the Harrow back four was finally breached with ten minutes remaining, a swift counter-attack saw the ball delivered out wide and a cross from the byline was headed in from close range, Saunders left with no chance in the Harrow goal.

It was tough on the 3s, who had given their all, but a point against the leaders was no small reward for their efforts and should help reignite some belief throughout the squad ahead of the three upcoming away games, beginning with a trip to Rotherhithe next weekend to face Westminster 2s on the Bacon Community Astro.