Vets humiliated by Eton in season finale
The OHAFC Veterans suffered a somewhat humiliating 12-1 defeat to the Old Etonians in their final fixture of the 2018/19 season on Sunday morning. Playing on the main pitch at the Bank of England Ground, the OHAFC XI matched their opponents for the first quarter of an hour before being steamrollered thanks to some clinical finishing and the superior fitness of their opponents. The defeat leaves the destination of the inaugural Veterans League title somewhat up in the air, with Harrow having completed their fixtures and earned nine points – Lancing could overhaul the OHAFC if they win their final fixture away to the Tonbridgians next Sunday.
It was a sobering way to end another enjoyable season of Veterans football at the Bank of England. Despite missing some notable regulars, skipper John Wyn-Evans was still able to name a relatively strong side, with Rowley Higgs making his first appearance of the season and Andy Butler donning the gloves in goal. Little did the pair realise just how much of the action they would be seeing.
Conditions were glorious with the spring sunshine sporadically breaking through the clouds, the vast pitch was in decent condition, although many of the players on both sides perhaps fearing the worst come the second half.
And it was clear from the outset that defences would not be on top with three goals exchanged in the opening quarter of an hour. Eton struck first, after just a few minutes, a cross from the right saw Charlie Peat unmarked inside the box and although Butler did well to save the first effort, the Etonian had ample time to pick his spot and tuck away the rebound.
But the hosts responded well to the early setback, breaking forwards down the same side of the pitch at pace, Matt Davies feeding the ball down the channel for a cross to the far post that allowed Dom Danos to sweep the ball home first-time.
The pattern repeated itself back up the other end soon afterwards, Harrow again finding themselves outnumbered at the back and another cross from out wide allowed a simple tap-in from close range. At this stage, any score seemed possible, although it would be fair to say anyone drawing 12-1 in the sweepstake would not immediately have rushed off to buy a lottery ticket…
Nevertheless, the next twenty minutes saw some semblance of normality return to the encounter, with competitive passages of play, both sides striving for their next chance at goal. Eton always looked dangerous on the break, the wide open spaces affording both teams ample time on the ball, but the hosts rarely using this to their advantage – an exasperated cry of ‘can we please stop passing the ball to THEM?’ from Andy Butler hinted at the problems the black and white stripes were causing themselves.
And sure enough it was Eton who scored the fourth goal, a meandering run from wide on the left wing left several Harrow defenders trailing before the ball was comfortably rolled past Butler inside his near post.
Amazingly, the hosts nearly cancelled that goal out moments later when they broke forwards and an excellent cross from the left was headed just wide by Danos. As it was, it was the visitors who would score the final goal of the half, another cross from the right allowing former Arthurian League legend Chris St George a simple finish from close range.
Half-time produced the regular Harrovian appeal for more care to be taken in possession, but it was tricky to say whether the hosts passed the ball any better after the break, such was the bewildering regularity with which their defences were breached.
It took Eton just two minutes to score their fifth, this time a rather more prosaic effort that arrived courtesy of a corner that was flicked on at the near post and headed home from a couple of yards out.
Five minutes later a long ball over the top saw the Harrow defence out-paced and Butler as badly exposed as if he had been standing in his area stark naked on top of a step ladder, waving a large white flag.
It was then that the steady flow of goals became a tsunami, with Eton doubling their tally to twelve in the following twenty minutes. Indeed, such was the rate of scoring, your correspondent barely had time to look up from his notes before he was desperately seeking information on how the latest concession had occurred.
The seventh was another long ball over the top, this time from a goal-kick: Rowley Higgs, as he later admitted, turned like the QE2 (possibly a fully-laden and badly damaged QE2), allowing another clear run on Butler’s goal that ended with a perfectly-taken lob.
Number eight saw St George cut inside from the right and fire left-footed inside the far post, the ninth came courtesy of an under-hit Wyn-Evans pass back to Higgs that was intercepted before being passed back to the edge of the box and curled, first-time, over Butler into the far corner, and the tenth came via a mix-up in the Harrow defence that allowed another simple finish from close-range.
Some light relief was momentarily provided by the sight of a hopping, and hopping mad, Rupert Hoffen, whose foot had been caught by a careless Etonian boot when attempting a clearance forwards. Gaining little sympathy from teammates, opponents or his watching family, the right-back proceeded to roll around on the ground for a bit before sulking and deciding he would spend the rest of the game up front.
To little surprise, the action continued to be concentrated at the other end, with Eton adding two more goals to the total. A cross from the left allowed St George to complete his hat-trick and by the time he scored his fourth, and his side’s twelfth, most people had long since given up caring.
12-1. A scoreline that will surprise few watching England bat against the Aussies later this summer, but one bound to raise a few eyebrows at Arthurian League HQ.
Mercifully, referee Giles Paul brought proceedings to a premature end, the game having degenerated into a farcically one-sided affair. Congratulations to the Etonians, who may well finish their League campaign with the healthiest goal difference out of any of the five sides, despite having played just a single game.
For the Harrovians, there now follows a long period of introspection over the summer break, the bitter taste of humiliation at the hands of their oldest rivals sure to linger no matter how many jugs of sangria are sunk on the beach...
Hasta la vista!