2s capitulate against ten-man Epsomians

Old Harrovians 2nd XI
2 : 6
Old Epsomians 1st XI
  • September 23rd 2023, Philathletic Ground, 10:30am
  • Division 3
  • Referee: George Patriche
  • Weather: Sunny, calm
  • Pitch: Good
No. Starting XI Goals Yellow & Red Cards Subs On/Off
1 Rory Craig
2 Ed Pagani
3 Jack Robinson
4 Giacomo Grasso 30'
5 Callum Barrett
6 David Lederman 60'
7 Max Curry
8 Alexi Pittalis 82'
9 Geoff Taunton-Collins (c) 60'
10 Miles Kellock
11 Adam Graham 60'
Substitutes +o.g. 53'
12 Edmund Massey 30'
13 William Brounger 45'
14 Karl Obi 45'

The OHAFC 2nd XI produced one of their poorest performances in recent memory on Saturday morning, tarnishing the memory of last week’s excellent 6-2 win over the Shirburnians with a timid, shoddy display when losing 6-2 at home to the Old Epsomians. What made the defeat even worse was the fact that the visitors were forced to play with ten men for nearly seventy minutes, a winger having been sent off for a tirade of abuse at referee George Patriche. But the Epsomians made light of their numerical disadvantage to run away with the game late on – their tall, powerful striker destroying Harrow’s exposed rearguard on the break.

With a strong squad of fourteen available, including the returning Ed Massey, and perfect conditions on the Hill, the home side looked forward to this match with plenty of enthusiasm and optimism. Last weekend’s comfortable win had replenished the reserves of self-belief renewed enthusiasm for the season ahead. What followed was scarcely believable.

The hosts started brightly enough, forcing a corner from their first attack and generally enjoying the lions’ share of possession and territory. Chances were hard to come by however, with striker Adam Graham, once more cajoled from the 3s, starved of possession and wide men Kellock and Taunton-Collins struggling to make an impact against a well-organised, deep-lying Epsom back four.

The visitors threatened sporadically, forcing a couple of corners in quick succession, but keeper Rory Craig was well protected and centre-halves Jack Robinson and Giacomo Grasso – playing together as a pair for the first time – seemingly in control at the back. At this stage the game was competitive but uninspiring.

But that all changed midway through the half when one of the Epsomians, who had arrived late and was brought on from the bench, took issue with a free-kick given against him by the referee. Initially comments drew a yellow card and ten minutes in the sin bin but the player then lost his head completely, mouthing off at the referee and sending a furious George Patriche running over with a red card in his hand.

This should have been the signal for the hosts to step up their game and impose themselves on the visitors but in fact some slack play in the middle of the pitch rather gifted the Epsomians the opening goal. Lederman and Alexi Pittalis made a mess of possession inside the centre circle and between them they presented the opposition with a breakaway, a simple pass down the inside right channel found the Harrow centre backs out of position and the striker ran on to comfortably beat Craig in goal. The hosts were then dealt a blow when Grasso was forced off with a nasty cut across his nose, Ed Massey coming on and Callum Barrett moving into the middle.

There was no sense of panic at half-time but some debate as to the best way of regaining the upper hand, with some players advocating for a more direct approach, others urging patience on the ball. Midfielder Will Brounger and wide man Karl Obi both came on, Lederman and Adam Graham the men withdrawn.

The Blues once more started the half strongly but they too were gifted their first goal of the game, fewer than ten minutes into the half, when an Epsomian defender scored a rather comical own goal, lashing the ball into his own net from close range under moderate pressure from Max Curry. Now playing as the lone striker, Curry had collected Alexi Pittalis’ ball over the top only for his shot to rebound off the keeper. The Epsom defender failed spectacularly to complete the clearance.

Under normal circumstances, this should have been the cue for the home side to gain control of the match and ease to a comfortable victory. But the Epsomians had other ideas, never dropping their energy levels or self-belief. They were aided in their quest by further mistakes from the home side, who dug themselves into a considerable hole with two further errors that led to goals: first, Pittalis held onto the ball too long in midfield and was robbed, then Callum Barrett played a careless pass out from the back. Both errors were punished with efficient attacks, the Epsomians now a man down but leading 3-1. Remarkably, their shouts were not one of concentration or containment, rather a continuation to attack and score more goals. They smelt blood and were determined to feast.

The final twenty minutes were hugely forgettable from the hosts’ viewpoint. As the Blues pressed forwards in search of a way back into the game they were continually caught out at the back, the tall Epsomian forward taking a couple of chances with great aplomb, shrugging aside some rather half-hearted Harrovian challenges to put the game to bed. The hosts did manage to score an excellent second, Pittalis atoning for his earlier error with a fine finish into the top corner following a one-two with Curry. But the visitors simply raced up the other end and scored a fifth and then a sixth, all too easily.

This was one of those days for the Blues, who must now realise Division Three will be no less complicated to navigate than Division Two was last season. The side have conceded fourteen goals in the first three matches which is simply unsustainable going forwards.