Weekend Preview: 2s begin their campaign
The OHAFC 1st XI were slightly unfortunate to suffer a heavy 5-0 defeat in their opening game at home to the KCS Wimbledon Old Boys a fortnight ago, but sympathy will be in short supply on Saturday morning when the Blues welcome reigning Arthurian League champions the Old Carthusians to the Hill for one of the highlights of any season.
Carthusians have been the dominant force in the League for a couple of decades, regularly providing the sternest challenge when the OHAFC were riding high in search of silverware in the 2000s and continuing to secure a steady stream of trophies as the years have passed.
Despite the constant Covid interruptions last season, the ‘Magenta’ showed they are very much still the team to beat, winning all seven of their Premier Division games, scoring 33 goals in the process – an average of nearly five a game.
The two sides met in the second fixture of the campaign, with the Carthusians running up a 10-0 victory, although it should be noted the score remained a respectable 4-0 going into the closing stages. It turned out to be a dire day for the Blues, with vice-captain Alex Breeden suffering a season-ending knee injury.
That result made it twelve consecutive League wins in a row for the Carthusians over the OHAFC – prior to that run the side from Godalming had won only one of their previous five meetings with the Blues.
And Saturday’s test will not be made any easier with the absence of skipper Fraser McGuinness, who is out with a bruised thigh, and vice-captain Dan Firoozan – who got married last weekend. Ed Beecham therefore takes charge of the 1s for the first time in his fledgling OHAFC career, with Rupert Elston taking McGuinness’ place between the posts. Ire Adejade is set for his club debut.
A late switch of fixture sees the OHAFC 2s make their season bow not against Carthusians 2s as was originally scheduled, but instead against the side who somehow defeated them 13-1 last weekend: the Old Etonians 2s.
With trouble afoot in the lower ranks of the Old Carthusians – the 3s cried off late from their first game of the season, the 2s have lost both their openers – it would perhaps have been a kinder start for Geoff Taunton-Collins’ men had the original fixture stood. Instead, a rampant Eton side travel to the Hill for an 11am kick-off.
Not only have the Old Enemy started this season in spectacular style, they also finished last season top of the pile in Division Two, albeit having played several games more than their closest challengers. Indeed, the scale of the challenge facing an inexperienced OHAFC 2s side tomorrow is laid bare by last season’s scarcely completed table: Etonians top having lost just one of their ten games played, the OHAFC eighth having failed to win any of their seven games played.
Nevertheless, the two sides have enjoyed a remarkably even tussle since the OHAFC’s promotion from Division Three in 2017. Seven League meetings have produced three wins apiece and one draw, with both sides having scored fifteen times against the other. Even the record victory and defeat for each side is by the same margin, the Blues losing the opening encounter 5-2 back in September 2017 but winning, famously, 3-0 at Eton in the return six months later.
Skipper Geoff Taunton-Collins is still a couple of months away from a return to action following his ACL injury suffered almost a year ago to the day, with many other regulars either injured or unavailable. Alex Ellis is a welcome addition to the squad at the back, with the likes of Lederman, Massey, the David brothers and Will Payne providing the experience. Luke Berry is set for just his second ever 2s appearance, Miles Kellock returns from university whilst Ben Butcher and Giacomo Grassi make their OHAFC debuts.
Following their opening weekend 1-0 loss at home to the Old Shirburnians, the OHAFC 3s welcome another familiar foe to the Hill, to do battle on the Harrow School astroturf. The Blues have faced the Old Stoics five times in Division Four over the past three seasons, largely enjoying the better of things with three wins and a draw to show for their efforts. There was just the one meeting last season prior to the abandonment of proceedings, the OHAFC winning 3-2 on the Hill just before Christmas courtesy of two goals from Will Glover and one from Seb Mahal.
The Stoic have yet to get their 2021/22 season underway, so the hosts will be seeking to take full advantage of some rustiness, having already played ninety minutes against the Shirburnians, along with further action in the Festiphil played last weekend.
A strong squad of thirteen is named, despite the availability problems suffered by both the 1st and 2nd XIs, with no less than eight players returning from the Shirburnians defeat. There are season debuts for Charlie Lupton, Mikey Watford, Jamie Evans, Ollie Atkinson and Toby Colehan.
This weekend also sees the remaining sides in Division Four play their first games of the season.