Vets dumped out of Cup by KCS Wimbledon

28 Nov 2023

The OHAFC Veterans made a tame exit from this season’s Derrick Moore Vets Cup when a makeshift side lost 8-1 at home to KCS Wimbledon on a cold Harrow School astroturf on Sunday morning. With poor initial availability and further late pull-outs, the Harrow side that took to the field bore little resemblance to the one that had been inked in at the start of the week. Despite competing well in the first half, trailing by just a solitary goal a few minutes before the break, the visitors’ superior resources proved decisive the longer the game wore on and by the end it was merely a question of the margin of victory. The OHAFC will now enter the Plate competition along with the seven other first round losers.

With the squad of seventeen that started the week already a few players lighter come the weekend, the last thing that could be afforded was further drop-outs, especially to key men. But skipper David Lederman failed to last the previous day’s 2s fixture on the same pitch against the Carthusians, a tight quad giving up the ghost before half-time, and the frosty conditions early on Sunday morning sowed a seed of doubt in Harry Hoffen’s mind, enough to stop him from making the journey from the Cotswolds. The result of all this was a final squad of twelve to take on a KCS Wimbledon side who, utterly bizarrely, ended up winning the Plate competition last season despite having played only a solitary fixture – the final itself, which saw them beat the Old Salopians 4-2.

Conditions on the Hill were cloudy and cold but the artificial surface held up well and the game kicked off on time at 10am. Chances were immediately created at both ends, Jon Ingram making a superb double save from a corner, Luke de Rougemont shanking a shot wide from close range having been played in by Vets debutant Stof Magrath. Gradually, the pressure on the Harrow goal began to build, but the hosts defended stoutly, the back four of Chopra, Robinson, Berry and Tweddle, with several hundred games of OHAFC football behind them, using all their experience to limit the threat, the odd goalmouth scramble aside.

But if things appeared to be going better than expected for the home side, fate then dealt them a cruel blow when Stof Magrath was forced to limp off with searing pain in his left foot after eighteen minutes. An x-ray later in the week would confirm a broken fifth metatarsal – cruel luck for a player keen to return to action. On came 62 year-old John Wyn Evans, former OHAFC Vets captain and an absolute stalwart of the club, to prevent the side being reduced to ten men.

The hosts continued to battle away, Wyn Evans joining de Rougemont up front in one of the more unlikely strike partnerships ever to play for the club, but the Wimbledon pressure finally told just past the half-hour mark when a tall midfielder cut in from the right and fired an unstoppable shot high into the top corner past the despairing dive of Ingram. Harrow responded strongly, Taunton-Collins prevalent down the right and unlucky not to force the equaliser when he intercepted a stray pass out from the keeper only to fire wide of the near post with the goal gaping.

But two minutes from the break disaster struck when another Harrow attack down the right was broken up and a swift counter-attack ended with a precise pass being threaded in behind Tweddle. The winger cut in and dinked the ball over Ingram and suddenly Harrow’s task appeared almost insurmountable.

With no further substitutes available, the eleven currently on the field were forced to resume battle in the second half, including a clearly struggling Paul Molloy, who had strained a calf midway through the first half.

Once more the hosts made a strong start to the half, forcing a strong shout for a penalty for handball against the hosts, only for the referee to wave it away. At the other end, Ingram made a superb save from another effort from a corner. The OHAFC competed well enough for ten minutes, without troubling the KCS keeper. But two goals in two minutes ended any hopes of a comeback and, as the eleven men tired late on, the visitors took full advantage, scoring four more times.

There was a brief respite from this late onslaught, although it has to be said the penalty that was awarded in Harrow’s favour after de Rougemont fell to the ground would have to go down as on the soft side. Nevertheless, Molloy stepped up to convert and at least ensure there was something minor for the hosts to celebrate.

Given the circumstances, this was a solid effort by the twelve Harrovians, there was little else the side could have done in search of victory. It can only be hoped that in the Plate competition availability is considerably better.