Blues open season with heavy defeat in Essex
- September 2nd 2023, Old Brentwoods, 12pm
- Division 3
- Referee: Raphael Lepe
- Weather: Sunny, calm
- Pitch: Fair
|No.||Starting XI||Goals||Yellow & Red Cards||Subs On/Off|
|2||Geoff Taunton-Collins (c)|
The OHAFC 2nd Xi resumed life back in Division Three following their six-year stay in the division above with a disheartening opening day defeat away to Old Brentwoods 2s in Essex on Saturday afternoon. Given the location of the Blues’ opening fixture and the early start to the season – no OHAFC side has played this close to the August bank holiday in living memory – it was hardly surprising that even with no other OHAFC side in action, the squad that travelled round the M35 was missing numerous key men.
Nevertheless, skipper Geoff Taunton-Collins, now in his ninth season in charge of the 2s, was still able to call upon a relatively familiar back four including himself, Giacomo Grasso, Calum Butler and Ed Pagani and wide men Miles Kellock and Tristan David. The midfield featured debutant Will Brounger and two players who both played for the club before, but not the 2nd XI: Charlie Dunn and James Cleverly. Jasper Gray, who has scored twice in four outings for the 1s, occupied the lone striker role, with the experienced Harry Bick and Ed Stewart on the bench.
Conditions were about as good as they could be at the Old Brentwoods club: a hot, late summer’s day, no wind, but, as usual, a rather uneven playing surface despite the healthy covering of grass. Unfortunately, as has so often been the case down the years, the Blues made a slow start to the new season. Barely five minutes had elapsed when a deep cross found the Brentwood right-winger in space and he slotted the ball into the bottom left corner to give the hosts an early lead. Brentwood soon doubled their advantage through a well-taken header from a corner. While there were some impressive first half displays from those in blue, including an assured Calum Bulter at centre-back, the side looked, perhaps unsurprisingly, a little disjointed, not helped by a blow to Tristan David’s lower back which forced him off midway through the first half.
At half-time, skipper Taunton-Collins urged his teammates to close down the ball faster and instigated a tactical switch – Charlie Dunn moved to left back, Kellock to left wing and the skipper into a more advanced role on the right.
The visitors began the half much more brightly and enjoyed the majority of possession for the remainder of the half, even if the scoreline ultimately failed to reflect this vastly improved performance. James Cleverly and debutant Brounger in midfield showed some nice touches and a strong will to win and OHAFC's efforts were finally rewarded when Harry Bick took advantage of a Brentwood mistake, gratefully intercepting a wayward pass from a defender and slamming the ball in the bottom right corner to make it 3-1. Jasper Gray also had a good outing, playing in various attacking roles, and his fierce shot from outside the area proved the key moment of the half, the ball smashing against the post and away to safety.
The hosts took full advantage of this let-off in the latter stages. They scored several times on the break, including a harshly-awarded penalty when the ball hit Giacomo Grasso’s arm in the box and a final breakaway goal as OHAFC pushed forwards in search of a consolation.
The 6-1 scoreline flattered Brentwoods somewhat, particularly given the visitors’ second half showing, but the home side were undoubtedly the more solid outfit on the day. The Blues must now look forwards to next weekend’s Festiphil tournament on the Hill followed by their second League fixture and another away game, this time to the Old Shirburnians down in Hampton.