1st XI start 2012/13 with fine 3-1 win at Brentwood

29 Sep 2012

The OHAFC 1st XI began the 2012/13 season with a highly encouraging 3-1 win away to Brentwood after a committed and well-organised display in Essex. In an even first half, the visitors fell behind to a direct free-kick on the half-hour mark but rallied after the break to score three fine goals through Piers Bourke, Luke de Rougemont and debutant Charlie Stebbings.

The first game of any season is always a test for a habitually under-prepared Harrovian side and with first team regulars Baker, Molloy, Harry Hoffen, Milln, Hadden-Paton and Orr-Ewing all absent or injured, the trip to Junction 28 of the M25 was hardly anticipated enthusiastically. But new captain Ed Poulter still had a decent squad to choose from with Luke Raffety making his first appearance of the season in goal, Johann Harder and Ed Arghebant being promoted from the 2’s and school leaver Stebbings, who had scored hat-tricks in each of the last two weekends, partnering de Rougemont up front.

After a smooth journey out to Essex, an unusually good surface greeted the team on arrival – a welcome sight after years of ploughing through the mud in winter time. Harrow used the conditions well in the first half, especially down their left hand side, where Bourke enjoyed several forays forward. Poulter and Harder provided a rock solid base from which to build whilst at the same time negating any Brentwood threat. But there were few chances of note created from either side – de Rougemont and Stebbings worked hard up front without really threatening to unhinge a well-organised if slightly ponderous Brentwood back four.

It was disappointing therefore to concede a goal after half an hour from a fairly innocuous situation. Richardson gave away a soft free-kick five yards outside the box in a central position and with the wall positioned to Raffety’s left, the shot into the bottom right corner was powerful and accurate enough to leave the Harrow ‘keeper clutching at air.

Harrow didn’t panic however and at half-time the need to keep calm and continue to play to their strengths was stressed. Charlie Stebbings was rested with Nick Defty coming on at right-back and Ed Martins moving up front, the thinking being to provide a speedy threat to the Brentwood defence that they had yet to deal with.

After an even fifteen minutes of the half, Harrow were back on level terms and the momentum of the game shifted decisively. Martins collected possession from Richardson, beat two players and fed Lederman, who until then had been on the periphery of proceedings. He delivered an inch-perfect cross to the far post where Bourke just beat de Rougemont to tap the ball into an empty net.

Harrow sensed the game was theirs for the taking and, after escaping a nervous moment when Raffety foiled a one-on-one with some excellent anticipation, cut through the host’s defence once more when Harder stormed forward down the left and delivered a tantalising cross to the edge of the box. With ‘keeper and centre-half facing each other and dithering over how to deal with the loose ball, de Rougemont stole in to prod the ball home and put Harrow 2-1 up with a little under twenty minutes left.

With Ed Arghebant having worked his socks off in midfield, captain Poulter made good use of the new rollings subs rule to re-introduce Stebbings up front, Ed Martins slotting back into central midfield. And the youngster made the game safe ten minutes from time when he finished calmly into the bottom corner after the referee had played a good advantage, Lederman having been fouled on the edge of the box. There was still time for Charlie to rattle the crossbar with a superb long-range effort, cutting inside before casually curling the ball over the ‘keeper only to see it rebound off the woodwork.

With a two-goal cushion, Arghebant then returned to the fray for the final five minutes, de Rougemont’s departure allowing Harrow to see the game safely home with a five-man midfield.

It was a hugely encouraging result for the team, with Harder and Stebbings in particular shining in what was a fine team effort from all 12 players. Next up are Tonbridge at home and the opportunity for some semblance of revenge for the Dunn Cup defeat suffered in unlikely circumstances last season.