Category: Match Reports 1s

1s vs Crouch End Vampires – 01.04.17

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)

DOD: Kearnsey

Starters: Siri, Kearnsey, Connor, Chaz, Browner, Clappers, Will Low, Sam Harvey, Johnny, Charlie, Tom Rowe. Substitutions: Kiran, Woody, Bosh

1s vs Actonians Assoc – 25.03.17

It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold; when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade. In other words, for the second week running it was blowing a gale down at the not-so-fortress Hood.

Brilliant drying conditions for clothes, and indeed football pitches. As a result, the mini-mud peaks and bunkers of the upper pitch had turned into crusty mud divets, the pitch had turned ultra-bobbly. The chances of playing decent football anywhere near the middle of the pitch had evaporated – I would love to see Iniesta and Xavi play their tunes on this particular instrument.

But then the winds and waves are always on the side of the ablest navigator, so one should not complain.

Everyone was largely on time, so well done for that. And congrats to Kearnsy who had celebrated his birthday the night before. A good excuse for turning up bleary eyed, but it is difficult to tell with Kearnsy due to his permanent extra-enthusiamo American exterior. Less so with Charlie, who turned up looking a light shade of green. Meanwhile, on the fashion front, Vanny had decided to finally put his winter denim Bon Jovi outfit into the closet, but had obviously got a bit confused and accidentally pulled out his camp-rodeo comboy outfit. Unfortunately for him, he was the only person to turn up in fancy dress.

You might tell by this stage that I don’t really want to talk about the actual football match. The 1s are heading towards mid-table mediocrity, where the points don’t matter that much. We are not used to this – in the 10+ seasons I have been at the club, we have only been in this position once before. And we don’t seem to be reacting to it well.

But it does allow some room for succession planning. So Clappers started on the side line for the first time in my memory, with Sam taking over the captain’s arm band. His first coin toss for the club resulted in us playing into the wind (which was going diagonally across the pitch) in the first half.

The football was pretty horrific to watch. We struggled to pass our way forwards on this pitch, and high balls were blown back by the wind, so our best avenue out seemed to be low-ish long balls into the corners, where Johnny in particular looked like he might have the better of his man. But then (as Rat insisted on shouting at least 5 times) horrific football was fine by us as long as we went in nil-nil at half time as we would be playing with the elements in the second half. For 44 minutes and 55 seconds that is exactly what we achieved. The new Chaz-Browner centre back partnership was mopping up everything that made it through the midfield line of Wilgo, Van and Sam, which was not much.

Just one more long throw to defend and it would be mission accomplished. But the Chaz-Browner partnership fell apart for a crucial 5 seconds. Chaz called for it, the wind took it, it flicked off his head, hit Browner on the shin and nestled firmly into the far corner. The first goal a Merton player had manged from open play in over 200 minutes. The half time whistle came 10 seconds later. Wind (and Browner) 1 – Merton 0.

Playing with the wind in the second half, we duly dominated in terms of territory, but in truth we failed to adapt to the conditions. Charlie was holding it up well, but then lacked decent options to then pass it off to. A few times we got in crossing positions, but crosses were overhit with the wind, and underhit against it, and we simply don’t have much pace to open up teams over the top.

The only real opportunity came from a corner. Rat whipped in an excellent delivery (probably the only such one of the day), and Chaz steamed onto it. He met it beautifully from about 7 yards. Anywhere but at the keeper and it was in, but it of course then went straight at him, and he palmed it over well. I struggle to remember another shot we had on goal. I struggle to remember another shot they had on goal. So either it was a terrible match or my memory is just poor. Giving credit where it is due, their defence played very well.

We had one final chance. With 10 seconds to the final whistle, we had a free kick inside their half. Rat had had enough of seeing more junior players overhit the free kicks straight out. These youngsters just don’t have the experience to adapt to the windy conditions. So he marched over to the free kick, shouted everyone away, stepped back, strolled up, and duly overhit it with the wind straight out. Wind 1, Rat 0. Summed things up nicely – we were certainly not the ablest navigators in these conditions.

And the showers were cold, so a pretty rubbish effort all round. The possible exception was the 5000-miles-away Tilley whose post-match photos from Vegas were far more entertaining that the match. Apologies to Snooks, Max, and whoever else turned up to watch on the side lines for this dross. But apparently the 6s match on the next pitch was a lot more eventful. So now you have wasted your time reading about this non-event, I suggest you turn to their report.

Someone other than Browner needs to locate their scoring boots for the season defining semi-final of the cup next week.

MoM: Chaz – almost no one left with much credit, but he formed a solid (apart from 10 seconds) partnership at the back, and was decisive throughout. Including when his attempted 35 yard back pass in the second half went out for a throw on next to the corner flag, thus providing a small amount of entertainment.

DoD: Browner – one OG and one nil means there is one obvious candidate for dick of the day. And the rest of the team lacked the imagination to vote for anyone else. I complained bitterly at the injustice, but at least (for almost certainly the first time) both MoM and DoD penalty pints went down in one. Centre backs may not be cool, but at least they can drink.

1s vs Weirside Rangers – 18.03.17

Merton 0 v Weirside 2


I’m afraid this report is a bit lacklustre and lacking in content. Which is in keeping with our performance on Saturday!


Having played pretty poorly when we met Weirside in the cup a couple of weeks ago, and scraped through on penalties, this was our opportunity to prove that are much better than that. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be the case.


Weirside were a better team than we played in the cup and had three or four new recruits who gave them a cutting edge in midfield and upfront. That said we should still have been a good match but just never got into our stride. It was a windy day and the pitch was bobblely but as the cliché goes “It was the same for both sides”.


The only significant action of a scrappy first half was a very dubious penalty award which resulted in us going in 1-0 down. My half time rallying call/bollocking really worked a treat and we were soon 2-0 down to a good finish from inside the box. This woke us up and we started to bite in tackles and push forward but it was all too little too late.


Well done to Weirside for showing the spirit required to pull themselves out of the relegation places and we’ll need to pull our socks up ready for our cup semi in a couple of weeks.


No MOTM or DOTD as everyone was too despressed.


Team: Sherbs, Chaz, Browner, Clappers, Kearnsy (Adam Sandler/Rafa Benitez), Nick Van Winkle, Sam, Will Low, Jonny (Kieran), Charlie, Tom Rowe.   

1s vs HSBC – 11.03.17

HSBC away, 11.03.2017


A game likely enjoyed by the braying twits in club ties cheering on the home side for the occasional malice exhibited by the hosts was a satisfactory occasion for the visitors in yellow, too, thanks to a hard-earned point. 

Proceedings quickly settled into a pattern of HSBC possession and Merton chances on the break. The Will Low/Wilgo combo typically broke play up. Ivan, as the third man in the middle, had his tail up and passing radar on high alert. His early pass gave Jonny a chance with which he shaved the post. 

It was simple, direct, decisive stuff. Shame Rat wanted no further part in it after 10 minutes, shuffling off for lunch while complaining about a twisted ankle. 

The Charlie Hockless penalty that gave Merton the lead might seem simple enough, too. In reality, his spot-kick was the decisive blow in an episode of physical and psychological warfare. First, after good work down the right from Jonny Graham, Charlie scrapped with defender and goalkeeper – and was eventually hauled down – to win his chance from 12 yards. He then had to retrieve the ball from somewhere in New Beckenham while fielding less-than-sporting posers from the less-than-sporting posers in red. “Don’t overthink it,” was among the advice doled out. Our boy didn’t. 1-0. 

If it was a game of tireless running from the front three, then that was reflected by the industry from the back four. Conor and Joe Grew on either flank impressed, the latter deservedly winning MotM. 

Browner and Clappers needed to be a muscular presence. They delivered. Silly Browner had such a good time he even forgot to EG his post-match tequila. 

Siri makes a habit of making saves he has no right to. This one was up there with his finest this season. A low ball drilled along the edge of the six-yard box from the left was intercepted by Willy Low’s outstretched foot, but Merton’s midfield engine could only direct it towards his own goal. One of HSBC’s shrieking forwards was already celebrating as Siri threw himself down low to his right, his impossibly-extended paw scraping the ball out for a corner. 

HSBC equalised from a low corner midway through the second half. That aside, the Merton wall stood firm. The midfield even won the majority of their headers, despite Clappers’ early (“reverse psychology”) predictions.

Tom Rowe ran himself into the ground for little reward. Milo looked bright on his introduction from the bench. The game remained an energetic encounter that became stretched. 

Charlie didn’t quite his feet right when presented with a good chance to grab a second after a Wilgo flick-on. Then Vanny could have won it, galloping through beyond the last man, only to misjudge his attempted lob. 

That was enough to bag him DotD, despite his otherwise stellar performance and Tom Rowe asking whether one needed an HSBC current account to play for the team. Marvellous scenes, truly. 

Siri (GK), Conor Murphy, Clappers (c), Peter Brown, Rat (Joe Grew), Will Low, Wilgo, Ivan, Tom Rowe (James Laughton), Jonny Graham (Milo), Charlie

Written by Wilgo

1s vs Bank of England – 18.02.17

Bank of England 5

Merton had won its two previous meetings against the Bank of England away this season going into
Saturday’s match and was looking forward to making it a clean sweep for the season.  The Captains of
both teams moved the game from the Hood to BoE’s pitch early in the week to ensure the game would
be played given the weather and conditions. In the league standings BoE trailed Merton by only two
points making this a must win for both teams.
Merton had their first real chance of the game when Van beat his man down the right side of the pitch
and delivered an angled pass backward from the BoE goal line to a wide open Nick in BoE’s box.  Nick
took a touch and shot but a BoE defender was there to block it.  Not long after Merton had a breakdown
on defense and BoE’s center forward flicked on a pass to their wide open right winger, who slotted it past
Siri from no more than 8 yards away. Siri had no chance.
Merton had another chance in the half when Vanny delivered a cross to streaking Johnny on the back
post, however, Johnny’s touch went straight to the keeper and Merton went into halftime down 1-0.
Against probably the weakest BoE side Merton had seen this season, they looked sluggish and played
poorly in the first half.
BoE’s second goal came off of a free kick from just inside Merton’s half.  Siri caught the free kick inside
Merton’s box but was fouled by a BoE player on his way down, and subsequently spilled the ball out to a
waiting BoE player, who scored.  The ref did not call the foul on the play.
Following BoE’s second goal, Merton played with a new spirit that created a few decent chances for
Merton.  Most notably, Johnny sailed a bouncing cross from Vanny over the bar from about 10 yards out.
Merton’s spirit did not last long and BoE’s third goal followed not long after their second goal. After BoE’s
third goal Merton pushed Clappers forward to try to muster some offense and salvage any last dignity
remaining, however, this led to a couple of BoE breakaways and meaningless goals four and five for BoE.
Saturday was a disappointing effort for Merton.
Playing in front of his father for the first time this season, Ivan’s dominance of BoE’s left back and
numerous crosses to Johnny earned him man of the match, while Kearnsey’s unprecedented three foul
throw-ins earned him nearly unanimous dick-of-the-day honors
With the loss Merton fell to fourth, one point behind BoE and five points behind Acton, who have a game
in hand.
Starters: Siri, Clappers, Brauner, Rat, Kearnsey, Nick, Sam, Tilley, Johnny, Ivan, Tom Row
Substitutions: Milo, James
MoM: Ivan Gladkow
DoD: Will Kearns

1st vs Ibis Eagles – 28.01.17

Merton 2 – 1 IBIS Eagles

With last week’s disappointing cup performance well and truly forgotten about it was back to business in the league and an opportunity to do the double over IBIS Eagles down at what is quickly becoming, fortress Hood. Due to several coinciding factors including daughter’s birthday parties and Lancaster student uni reunions, the changing room was a short of a few regular senior faces. Browner was quick to regale in the spirit of ‘Norseman away’ back in 2014, another occasion when we were without key personnel although able to come away with the points due to two key factors; an early Jason Marsh thunderbolt and the big yellow Merton bus which parked itself in front of our goal for the proceeding 80 minutes. I’ll never get bored of hearing that story.

Anyways, we set up in our familiar 4-3-3 formation and looked in control of the opening exchanges with CJ Rayner and Milo looking menacing in behind the returning Tommy Rowe although the Eagles keeper remained largely untroubled. Rat and Browner were marshalling the back line in Clappers absence with confidence and authority which was great to see albeit a tad surprising given the number of goals shipped with the two of them playing there together previously! Unfortunately our promising opening came to an abrupt end soon after the 20 minute mark when some sloppy play in the middle of the park led to a breakaway down our right flank culminating in a tidy finish by their striker which, left Siri with no chance. It was their first attack of note, but for all of our possession and running but end product we didn’t have much to complain about. It could have got worse if not for a smart save by Siri and Browner clearing expertly from inside our six yard box. At the other end Tom was doing a commendable job holding the ball and brining others in to play but without the midfield getting past him we were struggling to carve out any clear cut opportunities. On the occasions that we did get the ball in the right areas, we were frustratingly lacking a bit of quality to get back on level terms

The second half began in much the same way as the first with Sam, Wilgo and Tills now becoming more dominant in the middle of the park and getting us on the front foot. The introduction of James Laughton and Els on either flank paid immediate dividends and ultimately changed the game with both causing havoc in the final third and Els almost scoring with his first touch. We were now well on top and it seemed only a matter of time before we scored. After a succession of corners Wilgo picked the ball up down the right and delivered the cross of the game to find Tills in space inside the box to coolly slot home at the second attempt (well sort of). We continued pressing and soon after we were ahead. Some cracking work from Kearnsy and Sam resulted in Els picking up the ball 25 yards out. Still with plenty to do he walked past three defenders and tucked the ball away high in to the net to send the boys in yellow wild, it was a fantastic strike and worthy winner of any game. We closed the game out with some disciplined defending to secure the three points and a proper Merton win. A fantastic team performance demonstrating the strength in depth that we now have at the club and a some very exciting young talent coming through. On to EBOG next week for a top of the table showdown.

Team: Siri, Joew Grew, Browner, Rat, Kearnsy, Sam, Wilgo, Tills (Capt), Emilio, Rayner, Tom Rowe


1s vs Old Thorntonian – 21.01.17

Old Thorntonians away 21/1/17

We turned up for this cup quarter final full of optimism. We were on the back of a good run of results and had a strong squad. Sadly it wasn’t our day.

The pitches were in very good condition but the frost made them very hard and probably only just about playable. As the cliche goes “The same for both sides” and certainly this wasn’t the reason we lost.

We started well and put Old Ts under a lot of pressure resulting in a serious of corners. Woody was sending in some good deliveries and eventually one was shouldered home by Chaz. We continued to flow forward and one particularly good move saw a great cross from Van that Jonny just couldn’t get on the end of. 2-0 with our backs up could of seen us run away with the tie but equally we could of easily prevented their two goals.

A poor clearance was followed by some poor tracking and then finished off with a poor tackle. A poor team effort. This left their, very unpleasant, left winger free to send in his cross. Unfortunately his cross turned into a fluke that sailed into the far top corner. A few minutes later and we were 2-1 down. A long throw was flicked on to their centre forward who had the freedom of the six yard box and he smashed home.

Then came a mad few minutes. Some handbags escalated from nothing into two people being sent off for punches in a matter of minutes. Both reds were entirely justified but out of keeping with the rest of the game. Once everyone had calmed down, their manager and bar man had left the pitch, the last five minutes of the half were played out with no further incident.

The second half consisted of us applying lots of pressure, but perhaps without too much invention, and Old Ts defended it very well. Despite our pressure we couldn’t find the equaliser and the game ended 2-1.

The result was compounded by the aforementioned very unpleasant left winger, who was their man to see red, spending the second half stood on the sideline abusing our players and offering to “smash in” anyone who answered back. An unnecessary embarrassment for Old Ts who other than him were a well organised, fair and hospitable club.

The poor result coupled with the red cards made for a pretty depressing afternoon which isn’t what we look forward to all week.

Onwards and upwards.

Line up: Siri, Kearnsey (TR 70), Chaz, Clappers, Rat, Sam, Woody (Tills 80), Tills (Jonny 60), Jonny (Browner 45), Bosh, Van

1s vs HSBC 14.01.17

Merton 5 HSBC 1  (HT 2-1) (Scorers Woody, Johnny Graham, Vanny

Another good performance from our 1s saw them through to the Quarte-finals of the SAL Premier cup. But first we had to overcome the elements as the Hood had experienced a real battering from the snow and rain and pitches 1 and 3 were clearly unplayable. But with a bit of brushing and sand from the management team the pond at the centre of pitch 2 was absorbed. The downpour just before  kick-off didn’t help but the ref deemed it playable…just and we were able to get underway. I thought this was going to be a tough game as we had already played out a draw against HSBC earlier in the season in the league. Just before kick-off we lost Bosh who felt a twinge in his hammy.

We started the better but had little to show for it until Woody unlocked their defence with a quality free kick from just outside the box. Keeper no chance 1-0. Soon after that we were on level terms as Clappers played a strange cross field ball to their centre forward who was one on one with Sirij. Keeper no chance. Now Clappers has been with the club for nearly 10 seasons 300 games perhaps and I cannot remember him doing anything like this before. I do tend to hit the erase button on such events but apart from an OG in the Algarve when both he and our keeper were desperately hungover and rightly so that is it. So Forgive and forget , move on with  just a very firm ‘Dick of the Day’ nomination! The game was pretty even with us on top but susceptible on the break. A good passing movement saw Johnny played thru and he finished well from a difficult angle 2-1 at half time.

We dominated the second half and created a lot of good chances. Their keeper played well but had little luck and sometimes less cover. They were gruelling conditions and both teams tired. With a 2-1 lead I was surprised how much we pushed up and left ourselves exposed and on two occasions outnumbered on the HSBC counter attack. Mainly due to the conditions both sets of attackers found the final ball difficult. Our third goal came on about the hour. Vanny (?) putting away a loose ball inside their area, This was a relief for a number of reasons mainly though because the pizzas were being delivered with no allowance for extra time or pens. Nick back from hols in sunny climes was exhausted after a good slog through the mud and replaced by Tom  and Milo came on for Johnny Graham who had also run himself into the mud.. Fresh legs gave us a bit more impetus.

Tom Rowe making a welcome reappearance after his broken ankle scored our fourth goal shortly after coming on. He swung a foot at it from way out on the left wing. I thought nothing of it but shortly after I heard their keeper shout ‘oh shit’ and realised that the ball was destined to go over him and into the back of the net. He was surprised so were all of us on the touchline and even Tom looked a little bemused by the outcome..  We continued to press forward and squandered some good opportunities and were thwarted by their keeper. Our subs caused trouble down the flanks and on one such occasion having saved well milo got to the rebound to make it 5-1 for his first competitive goal. Sam was our Man of the match as he and his new orange boots put in a big midfield shift, Clappers Dick of the day and everyone put in a big effort for this win. The ref Bill Green controlled the game well and had to put up with a lot of chat. Pizzas and drinks very welcome at the end as was another good win for our 1s against a determined opposition who battled to the end. Now that Woody’s devastating delivery from set pieces is being brought to the masses by Facebook videos  we are seeking sponsorship for the rear of Woody’s shorts,  a tremendous advertising opportunity for BT Sport you may think!!!!

Team: Sirij (GK), Rat, Chas, Clappers, Kearnsey, Nick, Woody, Sam, Vanny, Johnny, James L, Subs Milo, Tom R.


1s vs South Bank Cuaco – 17.12.16

Merton 5 – 2 South Bank






It was the last game of 2016 for the 1’s down at the hood on Saturday, in a year that started with a relegation battle but finishing with a new look squad and thoughts turning to the opposite end of the table, with a promotion push and two cup runs to concentrate on in 2017. 

There was an air of expectation in the dressing room before the game given Southbanks position at the foot of the table, although Clappers prematch speech (phrase aptly coined by Kearney) centred on ensuring that nothing was taken for granted and that the basics were well covered. Team news was that Wilgo was back in for the injured Woody and Johny came in for Bosher. Rat had an extra big Christmas smile on his face after learning that Johny was playing in front of him, and not Van!

We started brightly on the front foot with marauding runs from Rat and Kearney from full back in support of Van (back to back games, what evs!) and Johny on either flank. One such run from Rat brought the opening goal as his delicious cross was met by a sliding Van who did well to get in front of his man and finish  with aplomb. We continued to press and chances came thick and fast, the best of which falling to Tills and Wilgo without success. Charlie wasn’t in the mood to mess about though and after good work from Johny, he doubled our lead going in to half time with a cool finish.  It was no more than we deserved but we needed to tighten up especially across the middle of the park. 

The second half started in the same vein with us making most of the running and it wasn’t long until Johny joined the party with two great finishes either side of a deserved strike by South Banks number 9. To their credit they kept going throughout and didn’t roll over. 

Our fifth goal was right out of the top draw and a collectors item for the vets! A searching back post cross from Van was met with a precise header from Tills only for MOTM Wilgo to control and smash home under pressure from two defenders. 

There was still time for SouthBank to claw back one more which should have been avoided, but a 5-2 victory was just deserts for a strong all round performance and a rise to fourth in the table. 

A great way to round off the year and we look forward to 2017. 

1s vs Actonians – 10.12.16

1st XI – Away against Actonian Association

Lost 1-0.

Away against top of the league: sounds tricky, but we had good memories of a last minute winner in the same fixture last year and three points would put us right in the promotion hunt.

Our line-up had an old school feel to it. For various reasons, the youthful injection that has made a big impact this season was largely missing. That meant that team selection was pretty easy – the 11 that turned up were the 11 that played (yes, Vanny, even you can start). Clappers’ pre-match speech reminder that we had a mediocre team last year (said presumably without realising that the starting 11 was the team we had last year) could not dent the confidence from a couple of good recent wins. The average age of the team might have shot up to the wrong side (or is that the right side) of 32, but you don’t win anything with kids.

Fortunately, we had all ignored Kearnsy’s invite to his Friday night lash-up housewarming – an invite that will see him deleted from the Gaffer’s Christmas card list. But the good pre-match news was that even before kick-off, Kearnsy had scored once and only narrowly missed out on second due to some careless finishing earlier that day. Anyway, enough of that – let’s get out there, smash into them into them in the first 10 mins, smash a result, and smash off on the long journey home.

The first 40 mins were pretty even. We were winning the midfield battle – the Tilly-Low-Woody tank formation generally does. Will in particular seemed to constantly be getting their ahead of his man – he must be damn annoying to play against.

We found some joy down the wings when we were able to isolate their fullbacks, and one great interchange between Vanny and Charlie brought a fine one-on-one stop from their 8 foot keeper. But if truth be told, Actonians were probably the more consistently incisive. The crossbar came to our aid when a chipped shot looped over Siri, and a couple of dreadful headed finishes came to our aid at other times.

With a satisfying goalless half time in view, a headed clearance from Clappers went up rather than out. When Browner decided he would decisively deal with it instead, he failed to realise that he would have to run through one of their players to get to the landing zone. Unfortunately that player turned out not to be a ghost, and went theatrically tumbling over. Clumsy – not a definite penalty, but not one you can complain about for too long. Their bloke calmly put the penalty right as Siri went left, and the non-existent half time oranges (where has that fine tradition gone?) tasted rather sour.

Actonians tried to up their physicality in the second half. A couple of studs up challenges, and at least one double footed tackle laid down the challenge. But these Merton Hogs never lie down, and the spirit in the second half really shone through on a day when the ref received more than one request to turn the floodlights on. 

As we pushed forward in search of an equaliser, the odd opening appeared in our defensive line. But Siri and the ref combined to keep us in it. In Siri’s case, it was a fine one-on-one save and another low to his left. In the ref’s case, it was ruling out their should-have-been-second with a terrible off-side decision, and not giving a penalty for a clear shirt pull from Clappers (although not according to Tilley who started some shovey-shovey by accusing the victim of a blatant dive as Clappers walked away sheepishly).

Meanwhile we were creating half chances at the other end. A Tilly header and a Browner volley both could have been equalisers if a yard lower. Bosher did excellently to get through the defensive line, but the finish (probably should have been cross) did not match the build up. An indirect free kick inside their area (thank you again ref) looked promising, but the routine was more Charlie Chaplin than Jackie Chan. Mani, who had arrived pitch-side during the game, came on and injected some real pace. But to give credit where due, the oppo’s defensive unit were good, if not as good as they thought they were.

Lots of endeavour, enough spirit to fill 3 drinks cabinets, but too many times the final cross or effort on goal lacked a telling bit of quality. Like the team sheet, it reminded one a bit of last season. So the promotion charge is on hold for the time being, but it still feels like there are good times coming up.

DOTD Browner: One mistake, one penalty, one goal, one-nil, one DOTD.

MOTM Will Low. Showed the same inspired determination that allowed him to smash through another 6 whiskeys even after chundering at The Earlsfield last Saturday. Last week that determination resulted in 3 hours sleep on the floor outside his front door (with a few more on the couch with a towel on his head). This week it got him MOTM.