2s waste another chance to record consecutive wins
- November 18th 2023, Philathletic Ground, 10:30am
- Division 3
- Referee: George Patriche
- Weather: Cloudy
- Pitch: Fair
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And so it continues, this maddeningly frustrating season for the OHAFC 2nd XI that has somehow seen the side fail to win consecutive League games despite producing several excellent performances. On Saturday morning, it was the Old Shirburnians, a side the Blues had thrashed 6-2 back in September, who became the latest team to deny the Blues the satisfaction of finally backing up a resounding win with another three points. In very different conditions to that sunny September fixture on the astroturf in Hampton, a very different Shirburnians side arrived on a gloomy Hill and just about deserved their 3-2 win, although they were helped on their way with a couple of very soft goals midway through the second half with the hosts leading 2-1. Harrovian misery was complete in the final moments when the Shirburnian keeper somehow prevented Ed Pagani from scoring from a yard out, gratefully clasping the ball to his chest when an equaliser appeared certain.
Despite completing a League double over the Old Sennockians last weekend with a resounding 4-1 victory down in Feltham, nobody in the Harrow dressing room was in any doubt as to the importance of this game. A win would cement the 2s in the upper echelons of the table with a genuine chance of not only promotion, but also launching a challenge for the Division Two title, especially given the Blues have still yet to play leaders the Old Merchant Taylors.
After a strong warm-up and the customary pre-match briefing from referee George Patriche, who this week had news of a points deduction for the Old Epsomians, the hosts made a superb start, taking full advantage of the availability of both George Taylor and Ogyen Verhagen to swarm forwards and press their opponents. Tristan David had an early chance to capitalise on this start but it was Verhagen who broke the deadlock, finishing a sweeping move involving all three players with a pinpoint low driven finish into the far bottom corner from the right edge of the penalty area.
The hosts continued to threaten, Taylor heading just wide from Lederman’s inswinging free-kick, and at this stage a second goal seemed almost inevitable, the visitors offering little. But with just over a quarter of an hour played, the first time the Shirburnians delivered the ball into the box, they scored. A free-kick from deep was curled in behind the Harrow line and nobody tracked back, allowing a free header from eight yards out past a stranded Rory Craig.
The effect of the goal, as is so often the case in football, was stark – an almost immediate seizing of the game from the visitors, who suddenly began playing with a newfound confidence across the heavy surface. The hosts, somewhat bizarrely, retreated into their shell, with all the vigour of their opening to the game now forgotten. Instead, the remainder of the half became a slog, with the midfield struggling to keep up with their men and numerous passes, both long and short, failing to find their target. The only saving grace was that the visitors, for all the excellence of their build-up play, also struggled to create, keeper Rory Craig remaining relatively untested in the Harrow goal.
Skipper Geoff Taunton-Collins, struggling with a chest infection, withdrew himself at the break, the experienced Jack Robinson coming on in his place. A rallying cry was issued, with everyone urged to up their intensity levels to try and get back to the sharp, flowing football that had accompanied the opening to the game. And to a certain degree, the hosts did just that, pressing forwards once more to concentrate play inside their opponents’ half. Whilst the football was far from scintillating, it was at least efficient, with the Shirburnians now at least being forced to turn and defend, Callum Barret in particular finding plenty of joy down the left with arcing balls into the path of the tireless Taylor. And it was from one such raid down the left that the Blues earned the corner from which they regained the lead. Tristan David curled the ball into the near post and the visitors made a hash of clearing it, nearly deflecting the ball into their own net before heading it out to just beyond the penalty spot. Lederman was perfectly positioned to take full advantage, keeping his composure to thrash a left-footed shot past several defenders on the line into the net.
But if this should have heralded a swift march to glorious victory for the OHAFC, nobody had told the Shirburnians, who regained their composure and continued to play with a surety that belied their lowly position in the League. Again, their build-up play was impressively swift and precise, switching play with an effectiveness that had eluded the hosts all game. But again the hosts defended resolutely, limiting any real chances on goal.
With just over twenty minutes remaining, the hope persisted that somehow the home side could hold on to clinch the win even if their play may not have been fully deserving of such reward. But those hopes were dashed in a little over five minutes when keeper Rory Craig became the unwitting centre of attention. A diagonal ball from left to right caused hesitation between Craig and left-back Ed Pagani. The Shirburnian striker took full advantage, colliding with Craig to send the keeper sprawling to the turf but maintaining his own balance and running on to slot a sidefoot finish into the empty net from the corner of the box. A more orthodox route to goal via a flowing move through the middle of the pitch then carved the Harrow back four open, Craig’s despairing dive at the striker’s feet this time proved effective in bringing down the player, but once the loose ball had been fired wide, referee George Patriche had no hesitation in awarding the spot-kick. The young midfielder held his nerve to send Craig the wrong way and in the blink of an eye it was the visitors who now had victory within their grasp.
Just as in the frustrating 2-1 home defeat to KC Wimbledon 2s a fortnight ago, the Blues piled on the pressure in the closing stages and came within inches of snatching an equaliser. A low cross into the box from the right saw the flying Pagani look certain to score but as he collided with the keeper, almost on the line, the ball somehow stayed out. It was to be Harrow’s best and final chance to level and once more an inviting home game against a side below them in the table had ended in disappointing defeat.
The Blues still have four fixtures to play before the Xmas break, three at home and a lone away game, down in Roehampton against KCS Wimbledon 2s. First up are the Old Carthusians 2s. Fixtures between the two clubs have long since lost the prestige and competitiveness of years gone by, certainly at 1st team level, but are nevertheless to be eagerly anticipated and, having not faced a Carthusian side for over a season, Saturday’s game provides the 2s with the ideal chance to return to winning ways after this disappointment.