Vets hold on to defeat Witans in friendly
The OHAFC Veterans earned their second win of the season at a soggy Bank of England Ground on Sunday morning when they eventually overcame regular foes the Witan Vets 2-1 in a rather ill-tempered affair.
Heavy overnight rain had led many to suspect the fixture may be postponed, but an early morning text from skipper John Wyn-Evans confirmed the pitches had been deemed fit to play and, as it turned out, Lower Redgate at the far end of the grounds was in almost immaculate condition with little hint of the earlier downpour that transpired.
A late flurry of activity had also seen the OHAFC squad to swell to a round dozen, with some familiar faces returning to help out: Old Wykehamist Gordon Baker, Old Tonbridgian Dom McCarthy and a couple of work colleagues of Jon Ingram, both of whom had played for the OHAFC previously, ensured both sides would have the full complement at kick-off.
The hosts played the first half with a stiff breeze behind them and it showed in the early exchanges, with the black and white stripes dominating possession and making progress down both flanks. Following several half-chances, it appeared as though Matt Davies had given the OHAFC the lead when he timed his late run into the box perfectly, latching onto Tim Lewis’ ball over the top and finishing confidently at the far post. But a late linesman’s flag (from the Witan substitute) ensured the goal was ruled out for offside, to some bewilderment from the home team.
Unfortunately, it was to prove just the first in a litany of hotly contested decisions, with referee Giles Paul coming under fire from then on for practically every foul given or not given. Some gentle stirring from OHAFC supporter Chris Carline, dressed, as ever, in shorts, probably didn’t help matters, although provided much amusement for others on the touchline.
And Witan’s mood took a further turn for the worse when two goals inside ten minutes gave their hosts a stranglehold on the game. The first involved a huge slice of luck, with Piers Bourke’s cross from the left wing catching the wind and sailing straight over the Witan goalkeeper and into the far corner of the net.
The second goal was more authentic, with further Harrow pressure allowing Tim Lewis to charge through from the edge of the box before smashing a shot straight at the keeper. Such was the force of the strike, the ball flew into the net and the poor goalie was forced off with some badly-bruised fingers.
Witan threatened briefly as the half came to an end, the OHAFC having to rely on a superb reaction save from Dom Danos, who took over the gloves midway through the half from skipper John Wyn-Evans, palming a deflected close-range effort up onto the bar before it was hacked to safety.
But the change of ends at the break led to a decisive shift in the balance of play, with the Witans suddenly enjoying far more of the ball and looking the more threatening side. The Harrow defence was superbly marshalled, first by Gordon Baker and then, following his departure ten minutes into the half, by Gavin Milne, who showed there is little substitute for experience as he read every through ball and dealt with all danger with decisiveness.
Nevertheless, with the hosts threat going forwards significantly diminished, the pressure began to build. Lederman, who had taken over the gloves at the break in a bid to save his legs further punishment following 120 minutes of action the day before, produced two saves in quick succession to maintain the two-goal lead, first sticking his left foot out to block a shot, before then diving low to the same side to shovel away the rebound. But minutes later he was beaten, the ball falling to the powerful Witan centre-forward just inside the box and he drive home low with sufficient power to leave the keeper motionless.
With twenty minutes remaining and just a single goal separating the sides, tensions rose with further disputes over refereeing decisions. A brief moment of levity ensued when one of the Witan substitutes was left floundering in the bushes for a lost ball, even though it had actually already been found and play was continuing.
But the Harrow defence held firm, restricting their opponents to a series of corners, all of which were cleared and the hosts held on to record their second consecutive win this season. The Vets now have a two-week break before they entertain a new opponent, Nottsborough, in another friendly before then hosting the Old Salopians in the second round of the Vets Cup.