A combination of cars, trains, taxis and mums transported the Merton men to Crouch End for their Southern Amateur League semi- nal cup matchup against the Senior Division I, Crouch End Vampires. The winner would earn a date in the nals with Senior Division I leader Polytechnic. The men (with the exception of Woody) arrived to the grounds on time, but before the kit, which was unfortunately stuck in tra c in Max’s car and arrived about half an hour before the scheduled kick-o . The team’s pre-match locker room banter (not to mention youth and style) naturally improved with the absence of Van, who was rumoured to be curling his young boy while posing for pictures at a wedding in Ibiza. The temperature on the day was pleasant, not too hot or cold and the sun shone down on the thick Crouch End pitch, which was spacious. In contrast to the gale force winds faced in Merton’s prior two outings at the Hood, the wind blew just softly enough for Siri’s punts to hang in the air and carry but not strong enough to disrupt play. Kick-o was delayed by around fteen minutes due to the ref and two linesmen’s late arrival. One of the late linesmen, who had a witty sense of humour, came over to Merton’s side to do the pre-match equipment check and ordered Siri to tape over the white of his socks that were showing. How lucky were Merton to have two linesman for this cup semi- nal! Despite the delayed start and team’s sluggishness of late, the Merton men came out strong when the whistle blew. The forwards pressured the Vampires o of the kick-o and nearly created an opportunity on goal early. Clappers’, lling in for a slew of injured central mid elders, played alongside Will Low and Sam in the middle and proved to be a dominant force in the middle, especially in the air. Merton had momentum and the best chances of the rst half. Chaz took a free kick from just outside the upper right edge of the eighteen yard box that hooked around the wall but struck the left post and ricocheted away. To end the half Charlie had a breakaway, but the keeper denied him, pushing the ball behind the goal to the right. Crouch End’s forwards, wingers and playmaker (#10) tried through balls, dummies, switching positions and everything they could muster to crack Merton’s defence but managed little for their e orts. Chaz’s aerial assaults and Kearnsey’s stingy man-marking impressed. It seemed like Merton really wanted this one. To start the second half Kiran replaced Johnny at left wing but otherwise Merton’s line up remained the same. Not long into the second half it became clear that a more sluggish Merton form, similar to their form of late had returned. Crouch End came out with a new level of intensity and dominated possession. A silly foul gave Crouch End a free kick from just outside the Merton eighteen yard box but fortunately for Merton, #10’s strike nearly missed wide left. Shortly after, a through ball slipped past Merton’s central backs to a wide open #9, but Kearnsey ran him down and contained him giving time for the rest of the defence to recover. Merton needed to wake up. Kiran showed ashes of brilliance on the left wing, using his speed to get by the right back on several occasions, and Chaz headed a corner into the right post, his second post of the afternoon. But it was a Crouch End corner with around 10 minutes remaining that crushed Merton’s SAL cup nal hopes. A corner from the left side of the goal bounced into a crowd, inside the six yard box, and the loose ball was knocked into the Merton right corner. Another terrible goal conceded. After the corner Bosher and Woody came on to give Merton a boost of energy, but spirits and energy levels were low. Merton only mustered a few chances in the nal ten minutes, primarily led by Bosher down the right wing. Kearnsey earned a yellow card running down a streaking right back and grabbing his arm in the process. A cheeky, o the ball attempted trip of the Crouch End #9 a few minutes later earned Kearnsey his second yellow, a seat in the locker room for the nal minute of the match and the meaningless second Crouch End goal and dick of the day honours. What a pleasure it is to play with two linesmen, who can see everything! Chaz’s two posts, leadership and stellar defence earned him his second straight man of the match. Honourable mention for man of the match with two votes went to Clappers for his solid play in the middle of the pitch.
MOM: Chaz (2nd week in a row)
Starters: Siri, Kearnsey, Connor, Chaz, Browner, Clappers, Will Low, Sam Harvey, Johnny, Charlie, Tom Rowe. Substitutions: Kiran, Woody, Bosh