Last-gasp penalty foils Vets' thrilling comeback
The OHAFC Veterans came within a minute of pulling off one of their greatest ever comebacks on Sunday morning, only to be denied at the death when they conceded a last-minute penalty at home to the Lancing Veterans.
Trailing 3-0 with less than half an hour remaining to a younger, fitter Lancing side, the game appeared to be up for the OHAFC. But the black and white stripes stuck to their task and, remarkably, scored three times in the closing stages to level the scores only for the last play of the game to settle matters in the visitors' favour.
It was cruel luck on the OHAFC, who had cobbled together a makeshift side for their second Vets League fixture - in fact, their first had doubled as the Cup tie against the Old Carthusians, so this was the first League-only fixture in the competition's inaugural season.
On arrival at the soggy Bank of England pitches, the sight of many familiar faces among the Lancing squad gave cause for concern, with only skipper Wyn-Evans, Lederman and Molloy present from the OHAFC regulars. The difference in age between the two teams was also noticeable, with several of the OHAFC side appearing as though they could be the fathers of some of the Lancing players. To help balance the odds, Lancing kindly arrived with only ten players, although for much of the first hour it made little difference.
The hosts actually enjoyed a decent spell midway through the first half, but by then they were 2-0 down, the first a defensive error that allowed the Lancing number nine the chance to run through and dink the ball over the onrushing Harrow keeper Guy Morris, the second a sublime chip from the same player that saw Morris stranded in no-man's land.
And the visitors made it 3-0 just before the break with a swift counter down their right that ended with the ball being cut back from the byline and turned in from close range.
At this stage defeat for the OHAFC looked a foregone conclusion. But a change of goalkeeper provided some younger legs in the OHAFC midfield and gradually it was visitors who began to look more ragged as the game wore on. Lancing still remained a threat on the break: one long ball over the top saw a full-blooded collision between replacement Harrow goalkeeper Pete Morris and one of the Lancing goalscorers - referee Giles Paul waved play on; a second long ball looked like it might cause serious problems until the timely intervention of a large puddle just inside the Harrow box that collected the pass perfectly.
But at the other end, Harrow were beginning to look threatening. A corner from the right was whipped in, Molloy flicked on and centre-half Pete Harris finished from close range. Molloy then collected a pass just outside the box, cut inside before striking a beautiful shot into the opposite top corner, via a slight deflection, to reduce the arrears to 3-2.
Lancing were clearly panicking at the loss of control and they had every reason to be concerned - with five minutes remaining the ball was worked out to the right and a wicked cross delivered to the back post over the square back four. Guy Morris timed his run to perfection and met the ball perfectly, diving in to head home from close range.
But there was still time for one final twist in the tail, although again a Morris was involved. This time Guy's dad Pete was turned inside-out in the box and lunged in desperation, clattering into the Lancing player as he was about to run on goal. Referee Giles Paul had no option but to point to the spot and the ball was drilled into the bottom corner giving Butler no chance.
It was hard on the hosts who deserve great credit for the way they stuck to their task when all appeared lost at the break. But praise also for Lancing, to play a whole game with only ten men, regardless of the quality of the opposition, and come away with win is not easy, especially having seen their three-goal lead evaporate late on.
The OHAFC Vets now have a three-week break before they return to action with another League fixture against the Old Tonbridgians.