Makeshift 2s cruelly denied a point at the death

Old Haberdashers 1st XI
3 : 2
Old Harrovians 2nd XI
  • October 14th 2023, Haberdashers Aske School, 2pm
  • Division 3
  • Referee: Daniel Maragh
  • Weather: Cloudy
  • Pitch: Excellent
No. Starting XI Goals Yellow & Red Cards Subs On/Off
1 Rory Craig
2 Geoff Taunton-Collins
3 Ludo Palazzo
4 Callum Barrett
5 Kyri Pittalis
6 David Lederman
7 Max Curry 2'
8 David Griffiths 65'
9 Tristan David
10 Alvin Adefarasin
11 Dougal Barr

A makeshift bare eleven came within a minute of earning a well-deserved point for the OHAFC 2s away to the Old Haberdashers on Saturday afternoon but were cruelly defeated, the hosts snatching victory with their final attack of the game. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the visitors, featuring three goalkeepers and a debutant among the bare eleven who had travelled to Haberdashers School in Hertfordshire, struggled for long spells, but stayed in the game thanks to goals from Max Curry and David Griffiths at set-pieces and some doughty defending. Just as it seemed the men in yellow had done enough to earn a point, a deep cross from the Habs left was headed back across goal from beyond the far post and fired in from six yards out.

This was the cruellest of endings for the 2s, who were looking to build on some solid recent displays that had yielded four points from fixtures against the Sennockians and Alleynians 3s – two teams flying high in the Division Three table. Although the OHAFC 1s and 3s were able to call on strong squads this weekend, the 2s, for whatever reason, were not. Skipper Geoff Taunton-Collins had spent all week frantically putting a team together, his plans derailed by a couple of late injuries, both, rather annoyingly, to centre-backs. The upshot was that despite all his best efforts, only a threadbare eleven travelled. This included three goalkeepers, with Kyri Pittalis playing at left-back and David Griffiths in midfield. Ludo Palazzo, fresh from Exeter University, made his OHAFC debut at centre-back, with Alvin Adefarasin kindly switching from 3s’ duty to help the 2s out.

Conditions north of London were superb, with an immaculate pitch awaiting on arrival and little wind. And, pleasingly, the visitors made an excellent start, taking a shock lead inside two minutes. Smart play down the left saw several passes exchanged and a foul drawn midway inside the Haberdashers’ half. Lederman produced a trademark delivery that forced a backpedalling defender to head back into the danger area and Max Curry finished from close range at the second attempt, his first effort somehow clawed away by the falling keeper on the line.

For ten minutes, the visitors held their own and settled into their task well, Pittalis and Tristan David seeing plenty of the ball down the left. But slowly the hosts began to assume control, driven on by their skipper, who produced several marauding runs through the middle of the pitch. The Habs midfield, which featured a couple of quick, young players, took command and chances were soon being created. Several shots flew high and wide of goal, somewhat frustratingly for both sides as balls were lost in thick bushes and replacements were slow to arrive. Harrow defending was mixed, with some excellent work undone by some misplaced passes and hesitation when clearing the lines.

Pressure continued to grow and a goal seemed fairly inevitable as the visitors struggled to gain any kind of possession outside of their defensive third. Habs came within inches of scoring when a shot was hooked clear by keeper Rory Craig from right on the line, referee Daniel maragh unable to see through the crowd whether or not the ball had crossed the line.

But within minutes the hosts had levelled, albeit in the most fortunate of circumstances. A flowing move saw the ball played out to a Habs midfielder on the right and he whipped a cross into the box. The ball flicked off Palazzo’s outstretched thigh and flew into the arm of the helpless Taunton-Collins. Having stood firm in the face of strenuous appeals for the previous incident, it was unsurprising that this time the referee yielded to the home side’s pleas. The spot kick was safely converted and Habs were level, deservedly so.

The remainder of the half saw the visitors gamely holding on despite further strong pressure from the hosts. In truth, the numerous stoppages helped disrupt the flow of the home side to the extent that Craig actually had few efforts to deal with. But the visitors were almost a non-entity going forwards, one excellent move down the left aside. Striker Alvin Adefarasin did his best to make a nuisance of himself but too often he was isolated in attack as teammates struggled to catch up with play. Nevertheless, reaching the break on level terms left the visitors by far the happier of the two teams.

The second half followed a similar pattern to the first, with the visitors finding themselves under increasing pressure as the half wore on. The men in yellow did manage to keep the ball slightly better, forcing Habs to defend on occasion, with several corners forced. But by and large the flow of the game remained the same, Habs breaking forwards down both flanks but lacking any kind of cutting edge – the total number of shots fired high and wide must have neared twenty come the final whistle.

Once again, however, the OHAFC just about managed to hang onto their opponents coat tails. Habs took the lead with an hour played when a decent move down their left saw the visitors defend several attempted crosses, but the ball then ricocheted straight to a Habs player who shot through a crowd of players, Craig unable to react in time even though the ball passed close by.

Habs could have been forgiven for thinking this was sufficient to earn all three points, but the visitors regained parity soon afterwards from the most unlikely of sources as Griffiths rose superbly at the far post to meet Lederman’s corner and send a looping header back across goal and just inside the far post.

The final minutes felt like hours as wave after wave of Haberdashers attacks were repelled, but again Craig was left with few actual saves to make, the hosts’ shooting becoming ever more desperate and wayward. When another effort beat the Harrow keeper but rebounded off the bar, it appeared as though lady luck was shining on the men in yellow. But with practically their final attack of the game, a cross from the left was whipped to the far post, headed back across goal and fired in from an almost unmissable position and Habs snatched all three points.

The 2s can feel immensely proud of their efforts given the circumstances, and perhaps the upcoming week off is just what the squad needs to regroup before making the short trip to Chiswick to face the Old Epsomians in a veritable revenge encounter following the ten-man drubbing handed out by their opponents a few weeks ago.