Toothless 2s slip to worrying defeat

Old Carthusians 2nd XI
1 : 0
Old Harrovians 2nd XI
  • January 20th 2024, Club Des Sports 3G Astro, 11:30am
  • Division 3
  • Referee: Josh Jones
  • Weather: Sunny, calm
  • Pitch: Astroturf
No. Starting XI Goals Yellow & Red Cards Subs On/Off
1 Rory Craig
2 Geoff Taunton-Collins (c)
3 Giacomo Grasso
4 Felix Orchard
5 Kyri Pittalis
6 Will Monroe
7 Ludo Palazzo 60'
8 David Lederman 85'
9 Tristan David
10 Miles Kellock 25'
11 Owain James
12 William Brounger 25'
13 Ed David 55'

The OHAFC 2nd XI’s winless run stretched to five games on Saturday following a poor 1-0 defeat away to the Old Carthusians 2s. Although the hosts proved a tougher proposition than the rather meek side who surrendered 4-0 to the Blues on the Harrow School astroturf back in late November – Harrow’s last victory – there was little to enjoy about the visitors’ performance other than several superb saves from keeper Rory Craig and some doughty defending from the back four. Going forwards, the goals have completely dried up, with the side having now failed to score in three consecutive League games and here they were even unable to register a shot on target against a a Charterhouse side without a recognised keeper. The key moment of the match came with a quarter of an hour remaining, Felix Orchard, who otherwise enjoyed a fine game, clipping an opponent just inside the box and the penalty was clinically dispatched into the corner. The Blues now find themselves nervously looking over their shoulders with four games remaining.

Having (hopefully) rid themselves of any Christmas rustiness in the frustrating 4-2 Junior League Cup defeat away at Old Brentwoods last weekend, the Blues were keen to return to League action and the opportunity to clinch that rarest of commodities: a League double over a Carthusian side. Indeed, since the 2009/10 season, the only Harrovian side to achieve this feat was the 1st XI, who would go on to clinch the League title that season with a pair of epic 3-1 victories over their closest rivals in the run-in to the season climax.

But although there was some initial relief that Saturday’s fixture, played at the recently developed Club des Sports facility in Acton, would not take place on the enormous main astro but on the smaller, more modern surface tucked away next to the cricket field, the news that there would be a half-hour delay to kick-off due to some kids football over-running frustrated both teams. And the delay may as well have been an hour for the visitors as for the first thirty minutes the Blues toiled against opponents who proved far more assured on the ball and threatened at regular intervals, especially down their left flank, the tall, quick winger proving a handful for the Harrow back four. Going forwards, the failings were familiar ones, with players guilty of either taking too many touches in crowded areas or trying to force killer passes through a well organised Charterhouse rearguard.

Craig was forced into a couple of decent saves, then was involved in a flashpoint with the hosts’ striker who lost his temper for no apparent reason before denying Kyri Pittalis the opportunity to take a throw-in. Referee Josh Jones restored order with players from both sides getting involved. The visitors were then dealt a significant blow when forward Miles Kellock had to be helped off the pitch having rolled his left ankle – the swelling that was visible after the game suggested that the ligaments would take several weeks to heal. Will Brounger, who hasn’t played since November, was the replacement, Geoff Taunton-Collins switching to the wing, with Will Monroe replacing him at right-back. But having barely risen from their slumbers, the Blues then enjoyed their best spell of the game, dominating for ten minutes and actually looking lively going forwards. For really the only time in the game, the side were able to string a few passes together, working play down both sides and forcing several corners and half-chances. Disappointingly, despite knowing that their opponents were short of a proper keeper, the stand-in was never challenged, and the half ended goalless, the hosts finishing the final five minutes strongly once more.

Half-time was spent detailing how the visitors could cause their opposition more problems, with the urge to at the very least test the keeper, the Carthusians actually swapping their number one at the break, with a midfielder now donning the gloves.

Play was generally fairly even throughout the half, but the key to the game could be found in the two final thirds. Once more, going forwards the Blues toiled, with possession too easily lost and none of the front three able to escape the shackles of their markers. A few corners were forced, a couple of long shots flew over. Still, the stand-in keeper remained untroubled. But at the other end it was a very different story, with the hosts pouncing on several loose balls to spring forwards with pace. The back four of Monroe, Grasso, Orchard and Pittalis were tested regularly and keeper Rory Craig came to the fore with several superb saves to maintain parity. As he would say after the game, it became apparent that a 0-0 would very much have seemed like a win for the Blues given the disparity between the two sides’ attacking threats.

And, as the game ticked into the final fifteen minutes, it appeared as though a rare goalless draw may have been on the cards. But the OHAFC were caught on the break once more, losing possession inside the Charterhouse half and one pass springing the forward down the right. Orchard retreated to the edge of the box to try and hold play up, but a clever twist inside drew the foul and the only thing the referee needed to consider was whether it was inside the box or not. Craig was given no chance with the spot-kick, the effort being fired with pace inside the side netting.

A flurry of corners aside, there was little further to trouble the hosts and they held on comfortably enough to record a vital win that lifts them into fifth in the table, just one place below the OHAFC. The Blues have four tough fixtures remaining and although seventeen points should see the side safe from trouble, there must be a strong desire to arrest a rather alarming slump that has seen the team exit the Junior League Cup and slip out of the promotion race in the space of six weeks.