Blinoff injury adds to 1st XI's woes

Old Harrovians 1st XI
0 : 3
Old Tonbridgians 1st XI
  • October 14th 2023, Philathletic Ground, 10:30am
  • Division 1
  • Referee: Mohammed Shohel
  • Weather: Cloudy, breezy
  • Pitch: Good
No. Starting XI Goals Yellow & Red Cards Subs On/Off
1 Fraser McGuinness
2 Nic Blinoff 75'
3 Yunus Sert
4 Ed Nicholson
5 Cyprian Owen Edmunds 38'
6 Ed Beecham
7 Jamie Jordache
8 Oli Acar 85'
9 Fabian Dobree 52'
10 Will Payne
11 Ciaran Jordan
12 George Taylor 32'
13 John Russell 38'

Saturday proved to be something of a nightmare for the OHAFC 1st XI as they conceded three second half goals to the Old Tonbridgians and lost defender Nic Blinoff to a serious achilles injury that required him to be taken to hospital. With the first half ending goalless and both sides seemingly evenly matched, the final outcome proved hugely frustrating for skipper Dan Firoozan and his men. The visitors struck three times midway through the half and could even afford to spurn a late chance from the penalty spot, Fraser McGuinness making his second such save in consecutive weeks, as they eventually ran out comfortable winners. With Cyprian Owen Edmunds also suffering an injury that required him to be taken off before half-time, the squad must recover quickly ahead of next weekend’s tough Arthur Dunn Cup 1st round tie at home to the Old Chigwellians.

This game proved to be almost a mirror image of last Saturday’s 4-1 defeat away to the Old Wykehamists. On that occasion, the Blues endured a nightmare spell in the first half when conceding four goals in quick succession, but competed gamely in the second to leave with their heads held high. Here, the opposite proved to be the case. A fairly uneventful but distinctly even first half saw both sides struggle to create clear-cut chances, the visitors hitting the post from a curler from the edge of the box. But the second half proved a different story as two Tonbridge goals in quick succession saw Harrow heads drop and the final whistle brought stern words from a disappointed skipper.

Conditions on the Hill were excellent for this fixture, with little wind and the main Phil pitch still in good nick, despite not having received a fresh trim sine last weekend. The Blues named a strong squad of thirteen, with two quality substitutes in John Russell and the returning George Taylor – who hadn’t featured since the opening weekend of the season due to injury. But the main headline was the welcome return to action of former skipper Yunus Sert, who returns from Turkey following a four year absence. Yunus was joined at the heart of the back four by Ed Nicholson, the hosts resorting to a more orthodox 4-3-3 formation, the previous five-man defence having been shelved by popular opinion.

The first twenty minutes were fairly forgettable, with numerous stoppages and little rhythm to either side’s play. McGuinness was forced into one comfortable save to his left, the visitors forced a couple of corners and had a shot that deflected wide but that was about it. As the half-hour mark approached, the game slowly began to open up, the hosts beginning to threaten from several long balls that saw Payne’s pace cause problems. Jordache delivered one excellent ball over the top that could have been destined for Ciaran Jordan, but the ball ran onto Payne om the left-hand side of the box, the winger’s momentary hesitation allowing the covering defender to slide in and block the shot.

Tonbridge then hit the post with a curled effort from the left that almost came from nowhere, McGuinness stood motionless as the ball rebounded off the woodwork and away to safety. The hosts then suffered two injuries in the closing minutes of the half that required both substitutes to come on. Fabian Dobree had already been clattered by one challenge that probably should have earned the culprit a yellow card but he was then left in a crumpled heap by another poor tackle that left him with a clear stud mark just below the knee. He limped off to be replaced by George Taylor. Worse was to come when left-back Cyprian Owen Edmunds suffered pain in his hip and cut a rather forlorn figure as he slowly walked round the pitch from the far side, John Russell now entering the fray. This left the Blues with just eleven fit players for the second half, although the hosts had the final say before half-time, Ed Beecham coming close to opening the scoring when he connected with an Oli Acar pass, the first shot well blocked, the second effort a spectacular overhead kick that flew just wide.

With no changes possible at the break, skipper Firoozan could only issue a few words of encouragement to his troops. But whatever hopes the home side had of continuing to compete on even terms with their opponents were dashed inside the first ten minutes of play resuming. A counter-attack down the Tonbridge right following the careless loss of Harrow possession ended with the right-back producing a superb driven shot from the corner of the box that flew inside the far post.

The lead was doubled soon afterwards as a fierce shot from just inside the box was well saved by McGuinness, but the ball lopped up off the keeper, struck the underside of the crossbar before bouncing down and rolling back into the net. Harrow heads dropped somewhat at this point, the Tonbridgians smelling blood as they poured forwards in search of further goals.

The visitors sealed victory with a third, a curled strike from a free-kick around the wall that left the Harrow keeper unsighted, and moments later Blinoff pulled up in agony as he chased back towards his own box – a snapped Achilles tendon the instant diagnosis from those watching on. Fortunately, injured 3s skipper Tom Mitchell, who was watching his charges on the adjacent pitch, was on hand to shuttle the player to Northwick Park hospital. A swift recovery is fervently hoped for.

But the squad have no time to start feeling sorry for themselves, with Saturday’s Dunn Cup tie looming large on the horizon. The team have played well for a half in each of their previous two games, their performances in the other two halves costing them the chance of any points. On Saturday only a performance for the full ninety minutes will be sufficient against the Chigwellians.