3s end League campaign in chaotic fashion

Old Harrovians 3rd XI
1 : 5
Old King's Scholars 1st XI
  • February 24th 2024, Harrow School 4G Astro, 10:30am
  • Division 4
  • Referee: Kacper Ignatiuk
  • Weather: Cloudy
  • Pitch: Astroturf
No. Starting XI Goals Yellow & Red Cards Subs On/Off
1 Toby Colehan
2 Ollie Wilson 80'
3 Felix Tritton
4 Simon Nicholson
5 Henry Collins 65'
6 Joss Awdry (c)
7 Will Monroe
8 Murray Barr
9 Alvin Adefarasin
10 Henry Bamford 66' 85'
11 Freddie Everett
12 Khalil Baoku 35'

The OHAFC 3rd XI’s final League game of the season ended in chaotic circumstances as the Blues suffered a 5-1 defeat to the Old King’s Scholars on the Harrow School astroturf on Saturday morning. Both sides were forced to play the final twenty-five minutes of the game with just nine players apiece as referee Kacper Ignatiuk produced three red cards for a sudden flashpoint on the touchline involving several players from both teams. The visitors had already lost a player midway through the first half to a potential concussion but the dramatic change in personnel clearly suited them as a finely-balanced game swung decisively in their favour, several late goals confirming a comfortable victory and a first ever League double for King’s over the OHAFC.

Although there was little riding on the outcome of this game for both sides, with the Old Kingstonians and Old Wellingtonians already confirmed for relegation from Division Four, this was not the way skipper Joss Awdry would have wanted the 3s’ League campaign to finish. Not only did the unnecessary fracas midway through the second half cost the Blues the chance of earning at least a point on the day, it also deprives the captain of the availability of both Murray Barr and Felix Tritton for the David Woolcott Trophy quarter-final tie agains the Old Canfordians in a fortnight’s time. Barr squared up to an opponent following a coming together on the touchline, both players momentarily standing head to head like two rutting stags. As players from both sides closed in to separate the pair, Tritton then ran from forty yards away, grabbing a Kings player by the scruff of his shirt and marching him backwards. Whilst all three players could feel aggrieved at the colour of the card produced by referee Kacper Ignatiuk, the incident was totally unnecessary and foolish in the extreme.

From the OHAFC’s point of view, it also spoilt what had, up until that point, been a very enjoyable game of football. The tone was set right from the off with both teams piling forwards in attack and looking dangerous. The hosts threatened first, Everett seeing his low shot deflected just wide of the far post before the subsequent corner was just about cleared. But King’s, who began the day three places and seven points behind their opponents in the Division Four table, responded almost immediately, heading just wide from a cross from their right wing. For the hosts, Henry Bamford, playing his first OHAFC game since the 2018/19 season, looked lively down the left and much of Harrow’s early joy came down that side of the pitch. But the visitors found similar joy down their left flank, pinging a number of crossfield balls over the head of right-back Ollie Wilson. The Blues just about coped, a tight offside call halting one attack before Colehan, filling in in goal in the absence of any available keeper, produced his first save of the game, diving to his left to palm away a well-struck shot.

But after twenty-five minutes the deadlock was broken, in fairly disappointing fashion from a Harrow viewpoint. Centre-half Si Nicholson lunged in late midway inside his own half and was rightly booked for the challenge. The resulting set-piece was a poor one, a weak shot that struck a couple of defenders on the edge of the area. But the ball fell kindly to a King’s player, only for another fairly tame effort to result. This time, however, Colehan was beaten, scrambling to divert the ball wide of the post, he only succeeded in bundling it into the side netting. The hosts momentarily panicked and came close to conceding a second moments later, an almighty scramble inside the six yard box eventually cleared, before another highly presentable chance was spurned, Colehan saving well having narrowed the angle before a second effort was cleared off the line by Nicholson.

The two sides then traded chances, the OHAFC breaking down their left but Alvin Adefarasin was crowded out inside the box and his effort was blocked; Kings then broke upfield and forced another save from Colehan, the keeper diving low to his left to palm away another decent strike. The introduction of midfielder Khalil Baoku with ten minutes remaining to the break had a calming influence on the home side, who began to string together far more confident spells of possession, especially down the left. Although chances proved hard to come by, the men in blue were now exerting a measure of control that had been sorely lacking to that point. And they were helped in their endeavours by the home side being reduced to ten men when an aerial collision saw a midfielder fall to the turf awkwardly. It took a minute or two to evaluate the situation, but it was clear that the only sensible option was for the player to seek medical confirmation that he was indeed ok.

Skipper Joss Awdry made another change at the break, bringing Wilson back on and taking Nicholson off. The hosts were nearly given an early present in the second half when another Kings player went down injured, but this time it wasn’t serious and the visitors were able to continue just a man down. The Blues had the first chance of the half, a fine deep cross from Awdry was deserving of better at the far post, Bamford timed his arrival perfectly but could only fire into the side netting. The winger was then presented with an even better chance, again by his skipper, when he was played in down the inside left channel, but the Kings keeper narrowed the angle perfectly and blocked with his outstretched leg. Murray Barr fired wide from the edge of the box, Adefarasin saw his shot from the right blocked before Awdry smashed the resulting cross over the bar. The same two players then nearly produced the equaliser from a set-piece, a driving run from the skipper earning his side a corner and Monroe’s superb delivery from the left was headed inches wide of the far post by the leaping Adefarasin.

At this stage a Harrow equaliser looked more than likely, yet another driving run from Awdry saw his cross just about cut out before Everett saw a similar delivery also blocked. But with twenty-five minutes remaining what had been an enjoyable and competitive encounter suddenly erupted from a seemingly innocuous incident. Murray Barr carried the ball down the left wing and was challenged by a Kings player. The ball ran out for a throw-in but the two players squared up to each other, the Harrow man unhappy with the robustness of the challenge. Both players went head to head and teammates from both sides rushed over to intervene. It appeared as though tempers were calming but Felix Tritton then fuelled the flames when he ran forty yards and grabbed an opponent by the shirt, only prolonging the unnecessary scenes. Once order had been restored it only remained to see how referee Kacper Ignatiuk would punish the main protagonists. The action was decisive, with straight red cards shown to Barr, Tritton and the Kings player. Lengthy protests from both sets of players ensued, with many making the reasonable point that yellow cards would have been better reflective of the seriousness of the incident and allowed all involved to continue participating in the game. But there was to be no swaying the match official and eventually the three players walked off, leaving both sides with just nine players apiece.

The drama was only just beginning however. With both sides now burning with frustration at what had just happened, the hosts immediately levelled the scores. The ball was kept inside the Kings half and the ball broke to Wilson, who had wandered forwards from right-back. As defenders backed off, the Harrow man continued untouched into the box and produced a simple low cross for Bamford to tap in at the far post – a chance he couldn’t miss.

Harrovian joy was very short-lived, however. Literally straight from kick-off the Kings players spotted Colehan was off his line and a shot direct from kick-off was launched forwards. The accuracy was superb, the Harrow keeper retreating but unable to prevent the ball sailing over his head and into the net. Unsurprisingly, the goal sparked wild celebrations from the visitors and again the 3s were left in search of an equaliser – this time without the advantage of an extra man.

But as the game entered the final stages, it was clear that it was the visitors who would profit most from the three red cards. With plenty of space available now that there were only eighteen players on the pitch, Kings began to stretch their opponents and were soon knocking on the door. Three goals in a devastating five minute spell ensured an unhappy ending to the League season for the men in blue: a cross from the right was turned in at the far post with ten minutes remaining; two minutes later a long-range effort flew through Colehan’s gloves as his morning went from bad to worse; and three minutes after that the final indignity was suffered as another cut back from the goal line was nonchalantly turned in from close range, the Harrow defence nowhere to be seen.

It was a hugely frustrating final League game for the OHAFC 3s, who end their League campaign with a record of six wins, two draws and eight defeats from their sixteen games played and a secure mid-table placing. Whilst the side’s form has been rather inconsistent, what has not wavered is the enthusiasm amongst the group, with Joss Awdry able to name a full matchday squad of fourteen in half the games. And there is still the carrot of a Cup run, with the 3s travelling to Gunnersbury Park a week on Saturday to take on the Old Canfordians in the quarter-finals of the David Woolcott Trophy in, what appears on paper at least, a very winnable tie. Unfortunately they will have to face this challenge without the services of Barr and Tritton, who will now be suspended following their red cards.