Weakened 1s side fall to disappointing third defeat

Old Harrovians 1st XI
1 : 2
Old Wykehamists 1st XI
  • January 27th 2024, Philathletic Ground, 10:30am
  • Division 1
  • Referee: Kacper Ignatiuk
  • Weather: Sunny, calm
  • Pitch: Astroturf
No. Starting XI Goals Yellow & Red Cards Subs On/Off
1 Fraser McGuinness
2 Ed Beecham
3 Ali Buckley
4 Charlie Dunn
5 Ciaran Jordan
6 Stan D'Angelin
7 Charlie Bick 54'(p)
8 Murray Barr
9 Walid Nsouli
10 Will Payne
11 David Lederman 23'

The OHAFC 1st XI slipped to a third consecutive League defeat on Saturday morning when a weakened XI fell to a disappointing 2-1 defeat at home to the struggling Old Wykehamists on the Harrow School astroturf. The morning started badly when, with only a bare eleven available, winger Fabian Dobree failed to show, meaning that for the first twenty minutes the home side had to play with just ten men. 2s midfielder David Lederman, who had turned up to watch prior to his side’s fixture away to Haberdashers at 2pm, agreed to play to make up the numbers but the veteran endured a nightmare introduction when he miscontrolled a pass within seconds of being brought on, allowing a Winchester player to chip Fraser McGuinness from over thirty yards out. The hosts recovered and levelled the scores ten minutes into the second half when Charlie Bick converted from the spot following a foul on Ciaran Jordan, but the visitors snatched the win fifteen minutes from time courtesy of a well-struck free-kick that beat the defensive wall and the despairing dive of keeper McGuinness.

It was a tough watch for injured skipper Dan Firoozan whose efforts on the day were undermined not only by the absence of Dobree but also the late withdrawal of defender Yunus Sert following a family emergency. The hosts, playing in red change shirts, actually coped well for the first twenty minutes despite playing a man down. The Wykehamists probed mainly down their right wing, but Charlie Dunn proved more than a match for his man, effecting several strong challenges and useful clearances up the pitch. Such was the sturdiness of the Harrow back five that the returning McGuinness, who was a late inclusion despite a nasty looking rash on his back (apparently picked up perfectly innocently in a Thai sauna), had little to do, other than collect a couple of wayward shots that had flown well wide of their intended target. Front men Payne and Nsouli did their best to make life awkward for the visitors’ back four but, unsurprisingly, had little quality service to feed on, a few long balls asking little of the retreating defence.

It was galling therefore that having worked so efficiently in keeping their opponents out, the introduction of an eleventh player midway through the first half saw the Blues concede immediately. Lederman clearly had not expected to be playing and had barely had a chance to enjoy any kind of a warm-up but it was still a most uncharacteristic error as a simple pass inside from Charlie Bick got caught under his feet before rolling to the Winchester winger a few yards away. He carried the ball forwards for a few strides before clipping a perfect chip from thirty-five yards out over the Harrow keeper and into the top corner.

Despite the setback, the hosts regrouped and responded well, despite the fairly fractious nature of the game that saw numerous interventions from referee Kacper Ignatiuk and a flurry of yellow cards, some rather more deserved than others. The Blues enjoyed particular success down their right flank, with d’Angelin and Jordan beginning to overload their opposite men on regular occasions. Several dangerous balls were delivered into the box but the finishing touch was always lacking.

And that pattern continued at the start of the second half with the home side now kicking up towards the Hill. Again, the hosts settled well on the ball and began to create space for themselves down the right. As pressure grew on the visitors’ goal, a well-worked move saw d’Angelin and Lederman combine on the right, the latter feeding Ciaran Jordan inside the area. He twisted inside his man, drawing the defender into flicking out a leg and the Harrow man went down, the referee immediately pointing to the spot. Charlie Bick sent the keeper the wrong way, driving the ball inside the left hand post, and the Blues were back on level terms with all to play for.

The game developed into a tense battle that saw both sides create numerous half-chances without ever appearing to possess the cutting edge to forge ahead. There was some concern at the limited impact of the Harrow front pairing and so the decision was made to switch to a 4-3-3, with Payne and Nsouli joined by Ciaran Jordan in a front three. But that switch was rendered useless almost immediately when Ali Buckley protested rather too vociferously for the referee’s liking over a Winchester free-kick and he was sent to the sin bin for ten minutes, the Blues once again forced to play with a man down.

Again the storm was weathered, again without any real difficulty. McGuinness produced one strong save but although the visitors enjoyed more of the ball, their threats were limited almost exclusively to their left-footed midfielder, whose driving runs from midfield were never matched with the same quality by any of his teammates. Buckley returned to the field with twenty minutes remaining and the score still 1-1. But yet again, the home side conceded quickly after having numerical parity restored. A free-kick was conceded five yards outside the penalty area, just right of centre. The left-footer lined up the shot and curled the ball over the wall. It was a fine strike, with reasonable power and accuracy, but the ball flew into the goal a couple of yards inside the post, McGuinness later confessing to his feet getting slightly tangled as he began to shift across to make the save.

The final quarter of an hour saw the hosts build up a decent head of steam but again the end product was lacking. Payne and Nsouli were kept relatively quiet and even the switch of Beecham up front failed to trouble what had looked a rather shaky Winchester back four. Given the closeness of the scoreline and the desperation of both sides to claim the points, it was unsurprising that tempers continued to flare, a rather unnecessary scuffle breaking out at the full-time whistle following some words between the teams.

The win boosts Winchester’s survival prospects and they have five games remaining to save themselves. For the OHAFC, just two games remain, with the visit of the Salopians to the Hill in a fortnight’s time before the campaign ends with a trip to face the Old Marlburians on the astroturf in Whitton the following week.