Heart-breaking extra-time Dunn exit for 1s
- October 21st 2023, Philathletic Ground, 10:30am
- Arthur Dunn Cup
- Referee: Kacper Ignatiuk
- Weather: Rain, breezy
- Pitch: Excellent
|No.||Starting XI||Goals||Yellow & Red Cards||Subs On/Off|
|8||Charlie Bick||52', 65'|
The OHAFC 1st XI suffered an agonising 3-2 defeat to Premier Division Old Chigwellians in the first round of the Dunn Cup on Saturday having taken their opponents to the brink, coming back from a goal down at half-time to lead with five minutes of the ninety remaining before the visitors equalised and then scored the winner ten minutes into extra-time. It was the cruellest of luck on a Harrow side that had given their all and deserved at least the opportunity of a replay. But the Blues are now left to concentrate on the League following this fourth successive first round exit in the cup.
Conditions on the Hill were dreadful with driving rain and a stiff breeze greeting the players on arrival, although both Phil pitches had benefitted from a fresh mow in midweek. Skipper Dan Firoozan had pulled out all the stops in a bid to name as strong a side as possible, managing to persuade both Kyle Barrett and Ed Poulter to come out of retirement and form a formidable back three alongside Yunus Sert. With Fraser McGuinness between the sticks, this meant three former 1st XI skippers lining up in the same side – certainly no shortage of experience, nor was there likely to be a shortage of opinions offered given this particular trio’s penchant for speaking their mind… But the rest of the side was relatively new to the particular challenge a Dunn Cup tie throws up, with half of the remaining ten players in the squad making their debuts in the competition.
Chigs have made a solid start to life back in the Premier Division following their promotion last season, having lost just one of their five games played to date, but the home side made the better fist of things in the first half here, keeping the ball well and threatening down both flanks with wide men Will Payne and Alfie Hayes regularly involved. The midfield trio of Charlie and Harry Bick and Oli Acar kept plenty of the ball and although the opening half an hour remained goalless, it would have been understandable for anyone foolish enough to brave the conditions on the touchline to assume that it was the men in navy who were the Premier Division side and those in white battling bravely to hang onto their coat tails.
But as so often in cup matches, one moment of fortune can divert the result from what had appeared a fairly straightforward path. The visitors were the beneficiaries of circumstance here, a rather harsh penalty being awarded against Sert for handball as the ball was crashed into him from close range. Despite saving spot-kicks in both his previous two games, McGuinness was unable to record a spectacular hat-trick here and so at the break it was the Chigwellians who led, despite being second best for much of the half.
Skipper Firoozan adopted a pragmatic approach at the interval, removing both George Taylor and Oli Acar given they had both received yellow cards. On in their place came Cassius Kidston and Ogyen Verhagen, both players making their first appearances in this venerable competition. The message was a simple one: go and repeat the exact same forty-five minutes here.
But oddly enough, the second half proved to be almost a mirror image of the first. Chigs came out and enjoyed more of the ball and looked the more threatening side, but within twenty minutes of the restart, a couple of swift Harrovian counters had turned the game on its head. The first, on 52 minutes, was a peach of a goal: Harry Bick launched a superb diagonal pass from left-back in behind his opposite number on the other side of the pitch, Verhagen ran into space, cut the ball back to the edge of the box and Charlie Bick arrived with impeccable timing to fire first-time into the top corner from twenty yards out.
The goal failed to shock the visitors into a response however and thirteen minutes later a tricky situation became a worrying one – Bick again the executioner. This goal was a rather more prosaic affair, Poulter launching a long ball over the top and the midfielder taking advantage of some rather hesitant defending by the centre-back to stride through and comfortably beat the keeper. Twenty-five minutes remained for the men in blue to hold on for a first Dunn Cup win in four seasons and a memorable upset.
But it was not to be. Despite initially maintaining their grip on the game, as the minutes ticked by the Blues found it increasingly difficult to maintain possession and defending became somewhat frantic. Just five minutes of the ninety remained when the pressure finally told. The hosts had their chances to clear their lines but having failed to do so were punished, the ball was played across the six yard box allowing the striker a simple finish from the left. Understandably, the goal sparked jubilant scenes from the visitors, their hopes of cup success alive once again.
Extra-time proved a step too far for the home side. Chigs continued in the ascendency, although their domination of the ball and territory was punctuated by sporadic Harrow counter-attacks. Just a single goal was needed to clinch the victory and it duly arrived ten minutes into the extra period – the Chigwellian striker collected the ball with his back to goal on the edge of the box, turned Kyle Barrett and somehow struck his left-foot shot into the ground, sending up bouncing up over the stranded McGuinness and into the near top corner. The Harrovian response was earnest but lacking in precision with several dangerous counters spurned due to a wayward final pass or cross.
Nevertheless, in contrast to several recent early Dunn exits, this was a more than valiant effort from the OHAFC and one they can be proud of. Hopefully some of the famous names who have recently returned to action for the side can be persuaded to stick around a while longer with plenty of League points to play for, beginning with next weekend’s visit of the Old Marlburians to the Hill.