Blues forced to settle for a point in entertaining game
- November 18th 2023, Brunel University Sports Park, 1pm
- Division 1
- Referee: Alan Greenberg
- Weather: Cloudy
- Pitch: Astroturf
|No.||Starting XI||Goals||Yellow & Red Cards||Subs On/Off|
The OHAFC 1st XI were finally forced to settle for just a point in an entertaining 3-3 draw against the Old Malvernians in a game played on the astroturf at Brunel University in Uxbridge. A topsy-turvy affair saw the visitors concede early following a defensive error but level just before half-time when Oli Acar latched onto Walid Nsouli’s through-ball to clip the ball past the onrushing keeper. The Blues started the second half strongly but fell behind to a cleverly-worked free-kick nine minutes after the break. They responded immediately, levelling through a superb long-range strike from Nsouli before Will Payne turned in a left-foot shot at the far post to earn the visitors their first lead of the day. But the Malvernians would not be denied, levelling for the final time with twenty minutes remaining, a deflected shot from the corner of the area beating stand-in keeper Ciaran Jordan and forcing the Blues to settle for a point despite some late pressure.
Skipper Dan Firoozan was again forced to name just a bare elven for this fixture, with the waterlogged grass pitch meaning a shift in the kick-off time from midday to 1pm on the astro, disappointingly depriving the side of striker George Taylor. Nevetheless, the front three of Acar, Payne and Nsouli still looked threatening and more than capable of breaching a Malvernian side that had conceded 20 goals in their seven League games played to date. At the other end of the pitch, some tinkering was required, with Murray Barr, usually found floating around in midfield, asked to fill in at left-back, Cassius Kidston partnering Ed Beecham at centre-back. The midfield trio of Charlie Bick, Jamie Jordache and Ali Buckley possessed quality and experience, but looked a little lacking in stature when compared to some of the giants lining up for the opposition. But the main concern was in goal, with Ciaran Jordan adding his name to that of Yunus Sert as outfield players asked to don the gloves in an emergency for the 1s this season.
The morning rain had stopped well before kick-off and conditions were perfectly decent as the familiar face of referee Alan Greenberg got proceedings underway bang on 1pm. By 1.05pm however, the Blues found themselves a goal down, a poor pass out from the back by Kidston fed the Malvernians the ball on the right and a low cross into the box was comfortably turned in past stand-in keeper Jordan. It was almost a double calamity when shortly afterwards the keeper allowed a powerful but dead straight shot to slip through his grasp and bounce towards the empty net. Quickly recovering his error, Jordan grasped the ball as a Malvernian closed in, but those in green were convinced it had already crossed the line. Referee Greenberg, not surprisingly, was close to the centre circle and unable to see clearly and so chose the diplomatic option of taking the Harrow keeper to one side and asking for his honest opinion. It was impossible to say from the sidelines whether the goal should have stood or not, but in the absence of any clear evidence, play continued with the Malvernians still just the one goal to the good.
Harrow toiled for much of the opening half an hour, struggling to find any fluency in their play against a hard-working Malvernian side. Several long shots were smashed over, one from Payne, one from Beecham, a third from Buckley, which was possibly as wayward as any shot will be hit an Arthurian League fixture this season. Poor Firoozan spent most of this opening period clambering over fences, squeezing through small gaps and meandering around bushes in an attempt to retrieve all the balls – fortunately, he didn’t miss much whilst doing so.
But as the half neared its conclusion, the visitors finally began to string together some more encouraging passages of play, working the ball well into advanced positions out wide and delivering some threatening crosses. Even so, the equaliser that arrived on thirty-eight minutes was still something of a bolt from the blue – but what a goal it was. Beecham fired the ball forwards from the back straight at Buckley, who produced a sublime flick with the outside of his boot, sending the ball spinning behind him, and his marker, to Nsouli just inside the Malvern half. He controlled instantly and seemed to be trying to feed Payne down the inside right channel. The ball had just too much on it for the speedster, but Oli Acar raced across from a central position and steered the ball first-time past the onrushing keeper from the corner of the penalty area.
Nevertheless, the visitors still had to rely on a superb save from stand-in keeper Jordan to stay on level terms going into half-time, the Harrow man sticking out a leg to deny the Malvern striker after he had been played in down the left. Further confusion followed on the edge of the box but the danger was averted when the referee blew for a handball against the Malvernians.
A brief but enthusiastic half-time chat centred on keeping the ball better but immediately after the break it was the Malvernians back on the front foot, an early chance missed when a ball down the inside left saw Jordan race from his goal only to find a Malvernian forward already in position about to shoot – fortunately the effort drifted wide of the far post and the visitors escaped. The Harrow keeper then made a super low save to his right to divert a shot wide of the near post. But the Malvernians made this increasing pressure tell with a cleverly-worked goal from a free-kick, the ball played short and wide and catching the Harrow defence napping, the low cross turned in from six yards out.
Within a minute, however, the Blues levelled with their first decent passage of play of the half. Murray Barr, who enjoyed an increasingly influential half from left-back, collected the ball in midfield, fed Acar down the left and his square ball across the edge of the box eventually found its way out to Nsouli on the right. Without hesitating, the youngster took a touch inside and smashed a shot into the far corner from just outside the box.
Six minutes later, with just over an hour played, the visitors hit the front for the first time following further excellent build-up play. The Blues had raised their level and were now dominating possession, the ball was sprayed out right to Acar and his low shot was partially blocked, the ball running across the face of the six yard box allowing Will Payne to readjust his run and show great dexterity to clip a left-foot shot back across goal and into the far corner. The exuberant cartwheel celebration that followed was less Jay-Jay Okocha, more Jay from the Inbetweeners.
Disappointingly, the excellent momentum the visitors had built up then dissipated somewhat and the game once more descended into a scrappy affair with neither side looking particularly threatening. It was in keeping with this drop in quality that the Malvernians levelled with twenty minutes remaining from almost nothing. The ball was loose inside the Harrow half and found its way out to the left from where an optimistic pot-shot deflected off Ed Beecham’s thigh, carrying the ball over a stranded Jordan in the Harrow goal.
Understandably, this rather knocked the stuffing out of the visitors and they survived a scare soon afterwards when the powerful Malvernian forward fell to the ground inside the box under a challenge from the Harrow keeper. It did appear as though Jordan got his hands on the ball first, however, and referee Alan Greenberg did well not to buckle to the pressure.
The final ten minutes saw several half-chances for the men in blue, Acar blazing over after good work from Nsouli, Nsouli himself then seeing a shot cleared off the line by a Malvernian defender. Stan d’Angelin then wasted the best chance of all, somehow spooning a shot high over the bar after he had been fed by Charlie Bick. Firoozan’s anguished cry belied the frustration felt by all.
This was a decent performance by the OHAFC who extend their unbeaten run to three games. The side are scoring freely but must try to tighten up at the back to turn frustrating draws into wins. Having a proper goalkeeper available would certainly help, even though Ciaran Jordan performed more than creditably here. The side now enjoy a week off before returning to action in December with the visit of the Old Radleians to the Hill for the first meeting between the teams this season.