Blues exit Cup at first hurdle in tricky conditions

Old Brentwoods 3rd XI
4 : 2
Old Harrovians 2nd XI
  • January 13th 2024, Old Brentwoods Club, 12pm
  • Junior League Cup
  • Referee: Stuart Borman
  • Weather: Cloudy
  • Pitch: Poor
No. Starting XI Goals Yellow & Red Cards Subs On/Off
1 Rory Craig
2 Geoff Taunton-Collins (c)
3 Calum Butler
4 Callum Barrett
5 Kyri Pittalis
6 Ludo Palazzo 80'
7 David Lederman 55'
8 Alexi Pittalis
9 Miles Kellock 36'
10 Tristan David 20'
11 Owain James 75'
12 Doug Pratt 30'

The OHAFC 2nd XI fell at the first hurdle of the Junior League Cup for the first time since the 2009/10 season when losing 4-2 away to the Old Brentwoods 3s in a disappointing first outing since the Christmas break.

On a standard boggy surface in Essex, the Blues took the lead on twenty minutes, somewhat fortuitously, when Tristan David’s free-kick was misjudged by the Brentwoods keeper and flew over his head from forty yards out. But the hosts responded, scoring first from the spot when keeper Rory Craig was adjudged to have fouled the striker, then from a free-kick. The visitors levelled before the break with the best goal of the game, David curling a pass to the far post where Miles Kellock controlled before steering in on the half-volley. The Blues had a golden opportunity to take the lead midway through the second half when Miles Kellock won a penalty but, with regular taker David Lederman on the side, Tristan David stepped up only to fire his effort against the foot of the post. Brentwoods capitalised, scoring from another corner before sealing the win late on with a breakaway goal. The Blues are now left to concentrate on the five League games remaining this season.

Although the hosts sat third in Division Four, some ten places below the OHAFC 2s in the League standings, this was always going to prove a tricky first test for the Blues in their bid to progress in the one Cup competition the side enters. Last season the Brentwoods 4th XI provided a stern test on the same pitch, the visitors finally prevailing in a 5-3 win before a 4-2 defeat at home to the Etonian 2s the following weekend. Here, the game was decided on a few ciritical moments in both penalty areas, the hosts taking greater advantage of their opportunities.

The first half proved a mixed bag for the men in blue. Kyri Pittalis was immediately under pressure at right-back as numerous long balls were played out to the Brentwoods skipper on the wing and the former keeper battled hard to prevent any serious damage being done. The centre-back pairing of Callum Barrett and Calum Butler dealt well with much that was thrown their way, but the back four was stretched wider across the pitch than they would have liked, at times allowing straight passes to be played between them. Fortunately, Rory Craig just about covered the danger. Going forwards proved a hard slog, with the heavy pitch and uneven surface scuppering the blues’ attempts to pass with any great confidence. Indeed, when David opened the scoring after twenty minutes, the Brentwoods keeper had barely touched the ball. The free-kick was forty yards out, just right of centre, and although the delivery was aimed for one of the runners, the ball sailed over the keeper, who strayed too far off his line, and straight into the back of the net.

The hosts responded fairly quickly, another through-ball this time seeing Craig collide with the Brentwoods striker and the ball almost instantaneously. Referee Stuart Borman pointed to the spot and a fairly weak effort was rolled straight down the middle, Craig anticipating a shot into the corner and diving out of the line of the strike. The home side were now on top and took the lead for the first time in the game when a free-kick from their left was curled to the far post and, for possibly the only time in his OHAFC career, Alexi Pittalis was out-jumped, a thumping header flying into the Harrow net.

The visitors did improve as half-time approached, making headway down both flanks, but the quality in the final third was lacking, with players consistently taking too many touches and allowing defenders to disrupt the attacks. Nevertheless, the sides went in level at the break courtesy of an excellent goal, Tristan David cutting in from the right before curling a pass to the left corner of the penalty area. Miles Kellock killed the ball with his first touch before swivelling and firing past the keeper with a precise low half-volley inside the near post.

At half-time the decision was made by skipper Geoff Taunton-Collins to switch to a 4-4-2 formation in a bid to put the Brentwoods back four under more pressure and prevent the defenders from picking out long passes almost at will. Lederman was withdrawn, with Alexi Pittalis and Ludo Palazzo the holding midfielders, Doug Pratt and Owain James the pairing up front.

The change in formation proved highly effective initially, with the visitors immediately applying pressure in the final third, just as anticipated. Strangely, the hosts had removed their skipper at the break, who had looked their most dangerous player down the left wing, and this also helped the Blues in their efforts. But for all the possession and territorial dominance, chances proved hard to come by against a physically strong Brentwoods rearguard. Numerous shots were fired over the bar, several set-pieces were cleared. The Brentwoods keeper remained relatively untested in goal, despite giving off the impression that he may struggle with even the simplest of shots.

The hosts did create a couple of chances on the break, Craig foiling a one-on-one brilliantly as the pacey striker beat the high line. He then palmed a rising shot over the bar from a free-kick. But the result finally boiled down to two moments, one in each box, one side taking advantage of their chance, the other spurning theirs. It was Harrow’s turn first, perhaps fortunately so as the referee awarded what appeared a slightly soft penalty in their favour, Kellock falling under a challenge just inside the box. With Lederman still on the side, Tristan David stepped up, only to see his shot canon off the outside of the post and away for a goal kick, the keeper well beaten. Ironically, the visitors would then see a stronger claim for a penalty denied later on, Doug Pratt certainly looking like he had been fouled but this time the benefit of the doubt went to the home side.

Five minutes after the penalty miss, Brentwoods then took advantage of a slip from the Harrow keeper who got caught underneath a corner and a defender was on hand at the far post to volley in from five yards out. As the visitors pressed forwards late on in a bid to retrieve the situation they were caught short at the back and the striker latched onto a pass, rounding Craig as he advanced to the edge of the area and confidently slotting in.

Although there was understandable disappointment at the result, there was little to bemoan about the performance in tricky conditions against a solid Brentwoods side. The tie came down to a few moments in each penalty area and, on this occasion, it was the opposition who proved the more clinical. Brentwoods move on to face Old Chigwellians 2s in the third round, the Blues are left to contemplate their five remaining League fixtures, beginning with next week’s trip to Acton to face the struggling Old Carthusians 2s.