Chigs put pay to Vets Cup hopes for another year

19 May 2021

The OHAFC Veterans’ 2021 Cup campaign was ended by a strong Old Chigwellians side on the Harrow School astroturf on Sunday morning, the Essex side running out comfortable 4-1 winners despite a decent showing from the hosts in this semi-final.

Matt Davies gave the hosts the lead against the run of play midway through the first half, but the visitors hit back to score three times before the break, the third courtesy of a penalty. The OHAFC had a couple of excellent chances to reduce the arrears in a strong second half performance, but as time began to run out Chigs fired in an excellent fourth to put the tie to bed. Old Brentwoods now await them in the final.

It was a valiant effort from the OHAFC but Chigs simply possessed too much strength in depth, with no apparent weaknesses in their fourteen-man squad. As has become something of an unwanted habit, the OHAFC started the game slowly, with several players arriving only minutes before kick-off. Lederman, once more standing-in as keeper with no-one else willing or able to don the gloves, was forced into a couple of early saves and several corners had to be defended. With Matt Davies and Nick Warner struggling to make any impression up front, Chigs dominated possession and territory, held at bay only by some excellent defending from the hosts’ back four of Maclean, Dalton, Gordon and Chopra.

Having failed to muster any attack of note in the opening twenty minutes, it was a shock when the hosts then took the lead, firmly against the run of play. Some good build-up play down the right saw Ru Hoffen deliver a cross towards the Chigs box. The ball bypassed Warner, who appeared to be in an offside position, and ran through to Matt Davies at the far post. He controlled well before finishing over the keeper into the roof of the net. Chigs protested vehemently for offside, their supporters on the touchline later confirming it was touch and go. Nevertheless, the goal stood and the OHAFC had something to hold onto.

But fate dealt the hosts a harsh blow soon afterwards when both Warner and Dalton went down with injury, Warner straining a quad, Dalton receiving an accidently kick to his calf and Achilles at a corner. Tim managed to limp on to half-time, former skipper John Wyn-Evans replacing Warner, slotting into midfield alongside Poulter and Molloy.

The hosts held on comfortably enough for ten minutes, but Chigs levelled with a fine goal, a cross from their left volleyed in at the far post with a powerful, precise strike. Another superb effort from the edge of the box whistled into the bottom corner and in the space of five minutes the Harrow lead had been overturned. Two would soon become three as Bourke conceded a fairly needless penalty soon afterwards, tripping a Chigs player as he dribbled across the box. After a brief interlude for some verbals between the two sides, the penalty was comfortably dispatched into the bottom corner and Harrow suddenly had a mountain to climb.

With Dalton clearly unable to continue, Charlie Tweddle was brought on at right-back, Arjun Chopra sliding into the middle of the back four to partner Theo Gordon. Despite having barely played in over two years, Twedds showed he was still in very decent shape with some typically robust early challenges as Chigs set about killing the game off.

But to Harrow’s credit, the hosts persevered and as the second half wore on, began to pin Chigs back inside their own half. The sense of nervousness among the visiting support was palpable as twice the OHAFC came close to scoring, Matt Davies firing one effort wide before forcing the keeper into an excellent save high to his right following an excellent move down the left wing. With the hosts on top and threatening, the skipper played his final card, removing Wyn-Evans and bringing on Harry Hoffen for his first action since suffering a horrific leg break almost two-and-a-half years ago against the Old Malvernians. It was heartening to see the striker back on the field, still looking as athletic and sharp as he always has done. And true to form, one glimpse of magic showed what the Vets had been missing as he spun to his right before firing across goal with his left foot. The Chigs keeper again got down well to tip the ball wide for a corner.

It was to be Harrow’s final chance to make a game of it, with the visitors scoring their fourth with another powerful and accurate low strike, Lederman motionless as the ball whistled past him inside his near post.

Chigs now go on to meet Brentwoods in an all-Essex final, whilst the OHAFC can enjoy their long summer break with the chance to get everyone fit and try again next season. It remains to be seen whether the long-standing home ground of the Bank of England will still be available to the club next season, but with players of the calibre of Fred Richardson, Gbeminiyi Soyinka and Alex Fraysse reaching Veterans age, there is plenty of optimism the side can continue to challenge for the Cup over the next few years.

OHAFC Vets: Lederman (GK, C); Chopra, Dalton, Gordon, Maclean; R Hoffen, Molloy, Poulter, Bourke; Warner, Davies. Subs: Wyn-Evans, Tweddle, H Hoffen