Match Report - 13 Apr 2013, Old Wykehamist Football Club 2nd XI beat Old Harrovians II
OWFC2 3 – 1 Old Harrovians 2nd XI
Match Report written (at great length - ED) by Joe Flaherty & Tom Guest
‘That’s their quality’
I imagine that there is a bizarre sort of gallows humour that pervades a side whose fate is completely assured. It frees a team from the shackles of expectations and one is left to play not for points, nor for plaudits, nor for the rumoured £9.95 windfall resulting from the new exclusive TV deal with the Arthurian League (available on ITV 7); one plays for the sheer love of the game, for pure enjoyment. Relegated the OWFC 2s may be, but Wykehammical bloody-mindedness always meant that if we could still be generally irritating and cause difficulties to those around us, so much the better. Harrow, one place above us, certainly had more reasons to be jittery as their destiny was, and is, still in their hands.
Like all good captains, Freddie Blackett is not just a skilled exponent of the game on the field, but also a diligent student of the game off it. Eschewing the time-honoured warm-up routine of headers ‘n’ volleys, Freddie, channelling his inner Phil Neville, led the Azzurriscuri [tr. dark blues] on a fancy warm-up involving stretches, a tight passing drill that the Spanish refer to as “ronda”, and definitely no running backwards followed by a ¾ sprint to the touchline. Apparently he got all of this from a website. Bemused, Harrow looked on, wondering quite what the men in blue were up to.
In the return fixture earlier this season, Harrow had mirrored the slickness of their new changing facilities with some stylish passing football and had overcome OWFC 2s 5-2. Winchester’s second half display had been as drab and lifeless as the frankly abysmal sandwiches which passed for match tea afterwards. This time however, it was cold, soaking wet and Estadio Doggers was not conducive to precision passing or tasty tika-taka; a fact that had surely not been overlooked by Captain Blackett in his meticulous planning before the game.
Tactically, we would have to ask Michael Cox of zonalmarking.net whether the Blues started in a 4-2-3-1, a 4-5-1 or a bastardised 4-3-3 but, from an attacking perspective, Foster led the line and linked well with the wide players Wilson, Morse and Lascelles, the latter of whom rolled back the years with some truly mesmerising inverted wingplay. The side also showed some impressive tactical flexibility as, at one stage, Wilson was pushed up to complete a conventional front two and Lewis proved remarkably versatile, playing in the middle, on the wide right and in the No.10 role. Halling and England roamed the midfield and the back line was made up of two adventurous full-backs, in Guest and Lowe, and two ball-playing CBs, in captain Blackett and James Rand, the latter nicknamed in the truly uninspired England cricket team style – Randy. In goal, Flaherty kept beautifully – he is surely more than a ‘stand in’ ‘keeper these days (Tom Guest wrote this bit, in case you were wondering).
But this was still to play out as Harrow started the game brightly, with their absolute unit of a centre forward – all power and pace; a particularly physical presence – making life difficult for the Winchester back two. The Reds’ endeavours were nearly rewarded when said forward, wearing No.7, found himself one-on-one baring down on the Blue’s goal, only for Blackett to appear out of nowhere to take ball, and very much man, just as the trigger was about to be pulled. Had there been a crowd, they would have lost count of the number of goal kicks Flaherty had to take as Harrow bombarded the Winchester defences, only to be repelled time after time. Winchester showed signs of good football as England and Halling combined well in the middle, but OWFC 2s largely struggled to get their passing game going as Harrow made hay down the flanks, but all to no avail. 0-0 at half-time and both teams were feeling as if the game was theirs for the taking.
One particular event of the first half suggested that the tide might turn for the home side. At one point an unfortunate miskick saw an OW player hoof the ball straight out for a throw in. In rather ungentlemanly fashion, the serial banter-avoiding Red No. 7 looked to rally his superior side: ‘That’s their quality’ he cried. Left-back Guest seemed to take great personal objection to this slanderous accusation. Moments later the same OH forward squandered a particularly presentable chance (what might have been his third or fourth bad miss of the just 30-minutes old game – but who’s counting?). Unable to resist temptation, Guest quipped, ‘that’s their quality’ as the No. 7 was pondering his misfortune. Mental battle had begun and a campaign of cerebral disintegration of which the pioneering Steve Waugh would have been proud of was underway.
The second half started and Gus Morse, who had been playing well down the right hand side made way for Ed Lascelles (as the former had tickets to the Hammers’ visit to fortress Pochettino and had to rush off to the train station.) Right from the off, things felt different (and not just because the rain had managed to penetrate the shivering Flaherty’s second layer of clothing). Winchester got the ball down, played intelligent football and Harrow were unable to find an answer. Blue full-backs bombed forward à la européenne and it was through their endeavour that the Men of Wykeham were rewarded. Following some neat play down the left, Ed Lascelles, having a fine game on the wing, squared the ball for Rob England who thwacked (yes, that is a verb, I checked) the ball from the left corner of the box into the far right corner of the net. A truly marvellous strike, and 1-0 to the home side.
Shortly afterwards, the lead was doubled as England found himself on the edge of the Harrow box and proceeded to waltz (or ‘mosey’, as my Harrovian counterpart described it on the vastly inferior OHAFC match report) through three challenges to toe-end the ball home. In an eerie premonition of his goal, England and Flaherty had been mulling over the merits of the toe-poke before the game; they concluded that the lack of backlift gives it the surprise factor which often makes it so successful. And so it proved to be. Winchester were now cruising at 2-0.
A third goal, which surely would have put the game out of Harrow’s reach, duly came as Winchester’s total dominance of midfield finally told. Ed Lascelles, belying the state of the pitch, impressed with fine close control and insouciant play down the left and it was from that wing that Winchester claimed their third. And. What. A. Goal. Following a clumsy foul some way outside of the Harrow box, John Wilson, who had been making merry hell down the right hand flank, lined up to the take the kick. Winchester’s diminutive wizard smashed it over the wall and into the far corner, Ronaldo-esque. This free kick would have been described as a Russian meteorite, but Jamie already nabbed that metaphor a couple of weeks ago. Suffice to say, this thing flew into the top corner. However, your humble author and goalkeeper confesses that, despite being 3-0 up with 15 minutes to go, he found himself wondering just how OWFC 2s could conspire to throw this one away.
Proving the old Guardian Football Weekly adage that 3-0 really is the most dangerous scoreline, Harrow finally came to life. A deep cross from the left eluded Flaherty’s spirited but ultimately fruitless flap as the ball was bundled in to the Winchester net at the far post. However, this was to be our day. The defence and the midfield performed heroically in the final minutes, withstanding Harrow’s desperate salvoes. It finished 3-1 and no-one could argue that the superior side triumphed.
In retrospect, perhaps Gus and some of the Saints’ faithful would have been vastly more entertained had they made the journey the other way up the M3. Not only is the standard of catering at the Queen vastly better than at St. Mary’s (trust me, I worked at St. Mary’s once – it was grim), but the football on show in SO21 was gritty, passionate and engrossing; much better than the rather tepid affair served up in Southampton.
However, let us not kid ourselves – we are relegated and have been so for a while. After fighting so hard for promotion last year, the niggling feeling is that this season has been one of what-ifs. The main one being “what if we had scored more and conceded fewer?” That said, regardless of league position, a win does feel pretty good. The final match of the season, and our last chance to salvage some pride before resuming our erstwhile place in Division 4 of the Arthurian, is against Eton. While this is very much the warm-up act before the Arthur Dunn Cup Final, Wykehamists of a certain vintage, memories of the Auld Place unsullied by such vulgar modern contrivances as “Winchester Day”, will all tell you that Eton Match is the only one that truly matters. Let’s sign off with a bang - we have the quality.
Old Wykehamist Football Club 2nd XI 3 - 1 Old Harrovians II ()