Weekend Preview: Football Returns!
The OHAFC 1st XI kick off their 2021/22 campaign with a tricky home fixture to the side that has proven the main challengers to the Old Carthusians dominance of the Arthurian League in recent seasons: KCS Wimbledon Old Boys.
The two clubs have forged a strong relationship since Wimbledon were admitted to the League in the early 2000s and the Blues certainly enjoyed the better of the early skirmishes, winning six of the sides’ first seven meetings in the Premier Division.
But the latter years have seen fortunes dramatically change, with the side from south London having enjoyed the better of things to exactly the same degree: six wins in the last seven meetings. 2020 saw the two teams meet twice, with Wimbledon winning 1-0 on the Hill in October and 3-0 on the astroturf in Southfields back in February.
The Blues, led once again this season by goalkeeper Fraser McGuinness, embark on another tough season of Premier Division football with survival their main aim. A high rotation of players over the past few seasons, combined with long-term injuries to key players, has left the skipper with a tough job of finding both the quantity, and quality, to meld a squad capable of competing with the Arthurian League’s strongest sides. To that end, four youngsters will be handed their OHAFC debuts on Saturday: George Taylor, Christian Boland, Jasper Gray and Ben Harrison will all done the blue shirts for the first time, alongside more seasoned campaigners such as Cyprian Owen Edmunds, Dan Firoozan and Charlie Bick.
With tricky fixtures against the Old Carthusians and away to the Old Brentwoods to follow after the Festiphil, any kind of positive result on the astro on Saturday would provide the 1s with a huge lift at the start of the season.
The OHAFC 3rd XI will follow on from the 1s on the Harrow astroturf on Saturday afternoon, welcoming familiar foes the Old Shirburnians to the Hill for the opening Division Four fixture of the season. The two sides met once prior to the termination of last season, the Blues suffering a 3-1 defeat on the astroturf in Chiswick despite holding their own for the first hour.
The previous season the two sides shared the spoils, with the two fixtures sandwiching the Christmas break in between: Shirburnians won 3-0 on the Hill in mid-December, the OHAFC returning the favour with an excellent 2-1 victory at Hampton Sports 3G a month later. The sides have yet to meet on natural grass and Saturday’s game on the Harrow astro will continue that particular run.
Skipper Ed Nicholson names a fairly experienced squad for the first outing of the campaign, with Moyo Adebayo, Jake Speed and Henry Collins set for their OHAFC debuts and defender Jose Linares in line for his first ever League outing following a couple of appearances in the David Woolcott Trophy. Otherwise, some regular faces return, with Tom Mitchell donning the gloves, Will Monroe and Olly Roberts manning the midfield and Cameron Mahal and Tarquin Strickland in attack. Henry Kirby returns from the wilderness for his first appearance for the club for several seasons.
With Shirburnians having won all five of their fixtures played last season, this should provide the OHAFC 3s with a stiff early test of their Division Four credentials.