1s begin season in style with excellent win

Old Harrovians 1st XI
4 : 2
Old Malvernians 1st XI
  • September 16th 2023, Philathletic Ground, 10:30am
  • Division 1
  • Referee: George Patriche
  • Weather: Sunny, calm
  • Pitch: Good
No. Starting XI Goals Yellow & Red Cards Subs On/Off
1 Harison Saunders
2 Michael Brooks
3 Ciaran Jordan (c)
4 Felix Tritton
5 Nic Blinoff
6 Stan D'Angelin
7 Murray Barr
8 Luke Berry 65', 80'
9 Alfie Hayes 40'
10 Will Payne
11 George Taylor 10' 35'
12 Fabian Dobree 35'

For the first time in four years, the OHFC 1st XI got their season off to a winning start with an encouraging 4-2 win over the newly promoted Old Malvernians on the Hill on Saturday morning. Midfielder Luke Berry stole the show with a superb display in the middle of the park, capped off with a couple of second half goals. Earlier efforts from George Taylor and Alfie Hayes had twice given the Blues the lead only for the Malvernians to draw level on both occasions. But the home side eased clear after the break and went on to claim a deserved three points in baking hot conditions on the sun-drenched Phil.

Skipper Dan Firoozan was able to name a strong twelve for the side’s opening fixture of the Division One campaign, with one glaring exception: the captain himself, sidelined with a long-term knee injury that is expected to rule him out until the new year at least. But there was plenty of quality and experience to call upon nevertheless, with left-back Nic Blinoff the only debutant – he had flashed glimpses of what he could bring to the side this season with an impressive showing at the Festiphil tournament. The front three of Will Payne, Alfie Hayes and George Taylor looked dangerous, with Firoozan opting for his now customary back five in a bid to reduce the number of goals conceded during the course of the season. Harison Saunders was named in goal, just his third OHAFC appearance.

Defying the time-honoured convention of an OHAFC side making an awful start to an Arthurian League season, the Blues took barely ten minutes to take the lead. Stan d’Angelin played the ball in from the right to Will Payne who produced a superb first-time flick over the top of the square centre-halves for George Taylor to run onto and poke the ball past the onrushing keeper into the empty net.

The hosts continued to look the more threatening side in the early stages but midway through the half, and, frustratingly, just moments before a break for drinks was called, the visitors levelled out of nothing. Possession was lost on the edge of the Harrow box, somewhat carelessly, the Malvernian striding through and comfortably beating the exposed Saunders.

But the home side kept their heads, continued to play the better football and regained the advantage five minutes before half-time when Alfie Hayes pounced on an underhit pass back to the keeper to poke the ball towards goal. Agonisingly, the ball clipped the inside of the post before rolling slowly along the goal line and in.

The only negative of the half was an injury sustained by striker George Taylor that forced him to be replaced by Fabian Dobree. Fortunately, it doesn’t appear to be too serious and George should be back in action soon.

But ten minutes into the second half, a moment of madness from winger Will Payne cost the home side dearly. Another example of some sloppy defensive work that has been all too evident in recent seasons, the wide man panicked inside his own penalty area and somehow presented the ball straight to a Malvernian striker who made no mistake. In a game of few chances that they had largely controlled, the hosts now found themselves level and with work to do.

But this time it was the men in blue who scored just before the drinks break, Luke Berry with the first of his two goals. The youngster won possession strongly in midfield, carried the ball to the edge of the penalty area before unleashing a shot that flew into the bottom corner. Although it was debatable whether or not he was actually aiming for that side of the goal, the strike was pure enough and left the Malvern keeper clutching at thin air.

And the same player made sure of the points ten minutes from time with a more prosaic finish from close range following a perfectly co-ordinated press from the front three that forced the Malvernian right-back into a poor clearance.

The Blues saw the game out in relative comfort to ensure that on this occasion, their season would start with a fine win. Luke Berry was superb in midfield and justly garnered the plaudits post-game but there were also excellent displays from debutant Blinoff at left-back and skipper Ciaran Jordan, who may well find he is now permanently stationed at the back following Taylor’s emergence as a striker of genuine threat – injury permitting, of course.

The Blues next face their first away game of the season with the short trip down the A316 to face the Old Rugbeians on the astroturf in Whitton. Last season’s corresponding fixture saw Taylor score a hat-trick in a superb OHAFC win – a repeat performance would be more than welcome.