Category: Match Reports 2s

2s vs West Wickham – 18.03.17

Merton 2nd XI 5 – 2 Weirside Ranger 2nd X/XI

Revenge is a dish best served cold, and it is cold, very cold… well actually it was a bit Spring-like if we’re being totally honest.

Anyway, after a cruel 1-0 loss first time around, Merton won the return fixture in style.

To whet your appetite for what is to come, I can promise Bromance, Banana shots, potentially illegal goals, and a naked Holly Wil…hang on, scratch that last, belongs on a different thread.

With Mustard making a welcome return to the 2s alongside Neal, Glenn, Dan and Dan, there was the delight of a pre-game playlist of energising songs to look forward to. After a bright start, Rock DJ prompted a few groans and Dan (K) then proclaimed listening to it was akin to water-boarding… to the guy that it turned up had picked the song. Awkward.

On the pitch, Merton lined up 442 and were raring to go. Weirside lined up with just 10 men, while their first team boasted a full complement of substitutes a full 5 yards away on the adjacent pitch. Over-confident? Did the two side really hate each other? Could they just not count? All was revealed later.

Merton went at the oppo from the outset, with Glenn in particular looking both classy and threatening down the right wing.

After some early pressure, the DQ/DK axis up top yielded the opener. DK managed to win a header and force a pass on to DQ, who returned the favour and played DK in on goal. So far, so good. As pretty much every player, and most definitely Andy Holder-Ross, waited for DK to ‘just score already’, DK, convinced he was offside, decided to do… nothing.

Minutes passed. Tumbleweed rolled by. The hitherto frozen defence and keeper came to the belated conclusion that they could move, and closed in to make the tackle. At this point, DK decided, offside or not, he’d take action, and as enough time has elapsed for DQ to run into the box, he squared the ball to DQ ten yards out to apply the finishing touch.

To me. To you. In a moment of chuckle-brothersesque synchronisation, DQ took aim… and squared the ball back to DK. To me. To you.

AHR had a small apoplectic episode.

DK thought this was a lovely gesture and decided it was probably time for a shot, given there were now approximately 13 players inside the penalty box and the half time whistle might beat him to it at this rate. He sent a left footed (strike is probably too strong a word but it’ll do), strike towards the bottom corner.

DQ watched DK shoot, thinking what a lovely time they had had. Probably. Or he may have been thinking, not for the first time, that he had chosen the wrong song earlier and it really should have been McAlmont and Butler for the uplifting track. These decisions can really haunt you.

Anyway, the shot lollopped along towards the bottom corner, only for the keeper’s big right mitt to temporarily stop its progress. So DQ decided he had better pop the ball in the net, given he had an open goal for a few yards out.

Andrew Holder Ross was not amused. Pearcey, on the other hand, lovely Pearcey, came and called both frontmen heroes, if just for one day.

If any of those still reading are thinking that was an inordinately long description for one goal, then you now know what it was like to watch.

1-0, and Merton continued to press. Mustard was hungrily snapping up loose balls, Glenn was having a whale of time tormenting his full back, AHR was, well, angry, and poor old Rayner was shouting a lot for the ball and not really seeing much of it. When he finally did get the ball, he delivered an absolute peach of a cross to the far post, only for it to be utterly wasted by falling to DK. For most people it would have been a poor miss. DK headed it over and felt a bit pleased he had made contact.

Better was to come however, as more nice link up play by DK and DQ saw DQ this time played in on goal. DQ saw the supporting DK outside him and squared the ball like a scholar and a gentleman for DK to crash home. Lovely forward play, and Pearcey came up, called them heroes again and muttered something about a bromance. AHR just muttered something.

The footballingly simpatico and handsome front duo were beginning to resembe the great goalscoring partnerships of bygone eras: Dalglish/Rush. Bergkamp/Henry. Chas/Dave. Jedward. Alas, in keeping with time-honoured tradition, Lofty hooked DK after scoring and after just 30 minutes of magic, and the DQ/DK axis was done for the match. Manny came on in his place and Darcy also replaced AHR. Which gave him plenty of time to tell DK exactly what he thought of the first goal.

At this point, Weirside had noticed their first team had players to spare and were formulating a cunning plan to swipe one of them, so a third goal before this happened would have been handy indeed. And so it proved, Manny robbing the ball out of nowhere and playing in DQ. No square ball this time – instead he opened up his body and passed the ball ever so crisply into the bottom corner. Think early Michael Owen. Except Ravenelli grey. And around 17 years older.

3-0 at HT.

Weirside did indeed start the second half with 11, but it was Merton who extended their lead early in the second half. Manny had already missed a good chance when he once again robbed an oppo player and bore down on goal. A good tackle or maybe an interception later, he had recovered the ball and had it on the touchline just inside the box. Eschewing a cross with his left foot, he instead turned 270 degrees and chipped the ball up with his right with a sort of Phil Mickleson bunker flop shot. The ball bananaed away and then back towards goal, and perhaps with half an eye on the onrushing DQ, the keeper could only help the ball into the top corner. 4-0.

Manny had time to play in DQ one more time, only for him to blaze over before being replaced by DK for the final half hour.

Weirside then got one back with something of a sympathy penalty after a swift counter. Cookie looked to have got back to make a good tackle but the referee was having none of it.

The game had got a bit scrappy at this point, but a fine ball from Dan (full back, also excellent throughout) saw DK get in behind the defence down the right wing, and from this move Merton restored their four goal advantage.

Looking up to see only Manny in the box, DK nevertheless decided to cross low and hard into the box. The keeper went to snap this up only for the bouncing ball to tw*t him in the face as he went to pick it up. Manny daintily wandered past the disorientated keeper and knocked the ball in from 2 yards. 5-1.

Or so we all thought. Clappers on the adjacent pitch later swore the ball went wide, through the side netting and then into the net. Manny was unavailable for comment. Dubious goal??

At this point, Cookie had had enough of pretending to be a centre-back and got himself involved in some midfield action. A late tackle (on him), a bit of wrestling and a lot of swearing later he and a Weirside player were being told off by the ref. Said referee was distinctly heard saying no cards were necessary, only for Cookie to get bored and wander off the pitch, leaving a proffered hand and then a yellow card in his wake. Lofty came on in his place to guide the team through the last quarter.

There was still time for a bit more incident. First, Manny almost had a hatrick late in the game after nice work from Darcy and a flick on from DK, but a fine one handed stop denied him.

Then, with just a few minutes to go, the otherwise excellent Mustard wound up (and massively telegraphed) a throw in in-field only to spanner it up royally and concede the foul throw. That’s DotD sown up, literally everybody said to themselves.

Everybody, that is, except Neal, who from the resulting throw-in waited until ball was in the box and beautifully shielded before taking a 5 yard run up and shoulder-charging the Weirside player in the back. For the second time the referee pointed to the spot. Blatant doesn’t even begin to cover it. Dan got a hand to the pen, but it still snuck in. 5-2.

A thumping victory, made all the sweeter when back in the changing room Pearcey asked Mustard when his song was going to be on… as it was playing. This was pointed out with some amusement to the somewhat shamefaced Pearcey.

Pearcey, Mustard and DQ shared MotM spoils, and despite Neal’s best efforts, Mustard also doubled up with DOTD for that throw in. A pint of wine (plus sambuca) was polished off with not only aplomb but also approximately seven bags of steak crisps.

2s vs Old Blues – 25.02.17

Old Blues Reserves 0 – 1 Merton Reserves

Merton returned to winning ways with a hard fought victory at Old Blues, courtesy of a late DK/DQ strike. Truth be told, it was not a dissimilar game to last week, featuring a lot of effort, some accomplished defending, not much in the way of goal mouth action, and a goal that could also be described as a big bag o’shite. Considering the game last week was vs the champions-elect and this week we faced the 2nd bottom team, it shows how closely matched this league is.

With Lofty arriving and then dropping out ill and Emmanuelle applying his now-standard disregard for meet times, the 10 players who were on time conducted an exercise in democratic formation selection. The varying merits of 4-4-2, 4-5-1, 3-4-3, and 4-4-1-1 were considered, before the choice was made to adopt a 3-5-2 designed to put legs at wingback in the form of Milo and Emmanuelle, and in the hope that giving Ben Cook his promised role in mf would bear fruit and minimise rage possibilities. Pearcey, Jordan and Connor formed a back three in front of Sherbs, with BDS, Cook and Rayner in the middle, and a DQ/DK frontline. Reassuringly, the home side only had 11 as well, so were all set for iron man football as the game commenced.

Merton almost struck from the outset as Milo released DK and his cross was close to being turned in by DQ. However, after this, the game became more attritional, or in more blunt terms the referee spent most of the half giving Merton free kicks as Old Blues idea of tackling was, shall we say, old-school. To compound matters, he would then almost immediately balance things up by calling Merton offside from almost every free kick he had just awarded. Frustrating. Occasionally, some football did break out, and it was Merton who showed glimpses of quality most often. In particular, Emmanuelle was finding space down his wing, and linking up with DK, and in particular DQ, to good effect.

One such move saw DQ almost in behind; with DQ, covering defenders and keeper converging, DQ’s squared header was deflected just behind DK or a goal would have been (mostly) certain. Big Dave Scott threatened next after more link up play down the left, but blazed wide after being set up on the corner of the 18 yard box. DK then span his defender following a cleared corner and looked set to gallop free down the left, only for a blatant shirt pull to end the danger as he was hauled down. The referee remarkably decided this warranted a free-kick, a fact no doubt noted by defenders on both sides for future reference. At one point Cookie was also crudely brought down by a sliding tackle from behind, before telling Connor to “leave it” as he came to protest. Merton were collectively stunned, and made a note to enquire (after the game) just who this player was and what he done with Ben Cook.

At the other end, Merton were largely looking comfortable at the back, with Connor, Jordan and especially Pearcey sweeping when needed and reading the game with aplomb. Ahead of them, the midfield three were working hard to close down space, with winger-turned-CM Chris Rayner throwing himself into Noble-Gresty-like tackles and headers like he’d played there all his life. There were a few scares from set pieces, but Sherbs didn’t actually have a save to make. 0-0 at HT, and Merton felt the game was theirs for the taking, if only they could turn their possession into some clear-cut chances. And not succumb to a set piece in the meantime.

For once, they were right. With Merton keeping the intensity level high, they remained the dominant team. Chances remained at a premium, with a free DQ header (over the bar) from a Rayner corner the clearest sight on goal for 30 minutes of effort. Old Blues continued to throw themselves into some questionable tackles, and their right back finally received the yellow card he deserved in the first half partway through the second, but were still failing to trouble Merton. It was definitely the sort of game where you felt one goal would be enough, and finally, Merton managed to take their chance and bag a winner.

First, great closing down won a throw-in deep in the opposition half. Connor slung the ball in and Dave Scott made enough of a nuisance of himself to knock the ball down. DK reacted first and hit what can only be described as a laser-guided trundler of a side-foot from the corner of the 6 yard box. It dipped, bounced, DQ and covering defender desperate lunged at it (to no discernible effect, although DQ claimed it brushed his foot), and then almost apologetically bobbled into the far corner. Literally unstoppable. 1-0.

With 15 minutes to go, Merton held out comfortably (for once) and the three points were theirs. An absolutely solid performance from players 1 to 11, with everyone working for the team.

Jordan bagged his first three point haul with the 2s and promptly hightailed it to Manchester to celebrate, leaving 10 to decide on awards. Ben Cook and Connor Murphy shared MOTM accolades, with Sherbs rather bizarrely picking up one vote despite not having a save to make. DQ was harshly voted DOTD despite putting in a heroic shift in terms of blades of grass covered, for reasons varying from the missed header to a flat “I just don’t like him”. Harsh, but the predator (with disaronno, no less) was brutally dispatched with aplomb.

This week, a new feature; player ratings. Well, performance descriptions to be precise. Everyone played their part and felt like this should be recognised.

Sherbs: Comfortable throughout, swept well when called for.
Jordan: Immense. Slotted into a back 3 like the old pro he isn’t and dealt with everything thrown at him
Pearcey: Composed throughout, reading the game brilliantly and captaining his defence (and the team).
Connor: What other epitaph befits other than relentlessly, remorselessly solid. At all times.
Milo: Worked his socks off for the team, covering when needed and providing a valuable outlet down the right.
Rayner: Tigerish. Never stopped fighting for the team.
Cookie: Protected the back four when needed whilst ghosting past midfielders when on the ball. Classy
BDS: All action display of no little physicality and chipped in with an assist.
Emmanuel: Offered threat down the left, supporting the strikers, and worked hard defensively.
DQ: Closed down the oppo relentlessly, effective at linking play, and won his share of challenges to boot as well. Inspirational. And apparently a dick. For the day.
DK: His usual mix of energetic closing down, misplaced passes and short-range goal-sniffing.

2s vs South Bank Cuaco – 18.02.17

MERTON FC 0
South Bank 1
W e lost 1-0. The goal was an absolute bag o’shite, being as it was scored from a corner ballooned up into the air
and poked in during the resultant in-box melee with all the grace of Jason Thomas trying to reach down and touch
his aging toes during warm-up. Talking of JT, he didn’t last the match, winning a  50/50 battle after an hour but
sadly losing the injury war.
Such battles were a feature of a game that took place on a pitch more sticky than Jordan’s y-fronts after a night
with one of his ‘Scouse princesses’. Incidentally, Holder Ross, who was  involved in many a midfield ding-dong, has
a new princess of his own who he revealed was acquired in no small part thanks to liquid lubrication provided by
Messrs Quainton and Willgoss on a surprise meeting in Brixton a few weekends ago. AHR formed a midfield three
with Big Dave Scott and the unlikely but happy-to-run choice of the aforementioned Quainton. In truth, the best
player on the pitch was none of the three but, in fact, the opposition’s number 15, who gave them the runaround
most of the day.
Up top JT was flanked by Tom Benham and Dan Kelly, and the attacking trio provided a threat similar to that which
a pint of beer causes Man of the Match Conor Murphy: it looks and should be dangerous but the ease with which
he destroys it renders it somewhat effete. Murphy played with Pearcey, Alex Welch, and Jordan in-front of Sherbs.
None of the back five ever looked in trouble aside from set pieces which a) South Bank were pretty good at and b)
we looked altogether wobbly.
Shots on target? We had maybe two, one a 15-yard shot on the run from DQ saved by the ‘keeper’s legs, and the
second a Cruyffed flick by Benham that resulted in another smartish save. Towards the end of the match when
subs required the formation move back to a 4-4-2 we perhaps looked a little more threatening, but Storm Doris
probably caused more damage in the south east this week.
Not brilliant, then, but it were a lovely day out, and that’s key. The most lovely aspect was watching our usually
calm, considered and upstanding goalie raise his hands towards the goalscorer’s face after he ‘over-celebrated’
(claiming he’d been fouled in the build-up to his goal). Sherbs raised himself to his full 5 feet 3 inches and gave the
shaggy-haired pillock a little palm to the face. A yellow and DotD ensued. It should’ve been a red. Sherbs had a
Predator instead, with none of the swiftness of Conor Murphy, but I’m sure just as much enjoyment.

2s vs St James Old Boys – 28.01.17

Merton Reserves 0 – 4 St James Reserves
 
Merton came into this game looking to cement their promotion credentials, extend their unbeaten home record and move above the visitors into third. And to avenge the undeserved 2-1 defeat earlier in the season, the memory of which still cast a shadow over some players. This did not happen, or ever look like happening. Instead, Merton were, in the end, soundly beaten by a very good St James side. And Merton’s GK was MOTM…which rather says it all. Since this will be a bit depressing to both read and write, look out for the Oasis song lyrics throughout as a means of keeping up interest.
 
With no Clowesy or Cookie, Joe Grew looked set to partner Pearcey at CB, only for a late call up to the 1s to scupper that plan. Rayner and Wilgo had already been moved to the 1s earlier in the week, giving the reserves squad something of an unfamiliar look this week. Mike Stone (a centre midfielder still battling the label of CB Gresty gave him 18 months ago) moved to CB in a back four of Murphy, Pearcey, Stoney and Welch, with Sherbs jetting in on the morning of the game from Antigua to reclaim goalkeeping duties. Big Dave Scott and (former) lucky charm Alberto started at CM, with DK and Ian Evans out wide. DQ and JT continued their always ever older forward partnership, with Emmanuel and new recruit Adam on the bench. A family full of eccentrics, some might say. Sadly, rumours of a Lofty return proved unfounded, but we hope to see him back soon.
 
Despite the squad changes, Merton were right up for this game, and conducted a lengthy warm up, in contrast to the visitors, who appeared just a few moments before kick-off. Perhaps they needed more time. Sherbs conducted some classic motivational speaking before the game by urging us to attack the ball from defensive set pieces, because he didn’t like the ball near his face (or something like that), and then it was time to get started. The knowing reader will note that this match report has spent some time describing events before the match, because frankly this is as good as it gets.
 
So, to the game. The first half hour or so was actually pretty tight and evenly matched. St James were looking better on the ball and spreading the play wide whenever they could, but some stout Merton defending in the wide positions was just about keeping the visitors in check. Offensively, Merton were struggling to string more than a couple of passes together, but there was some joy to be had on the counter attack through early balls forward. DQ had held the ball up for DK to join the attack a couple of times, with a particularly cynical trip stopping one such foray on the edge of the area. A series of throw ins also failed to yield more than this massively contrived sentence about throwing it back to you.
 
The game was getting pretty physical at this point, as both sides realised that the referee was not inclined to blow his whistle for very much at all. Appeals for pushes, trips, kicks, two-footed tackles, or indeed handballs were met with utter indifference from the referee, and some of us were beginning to suspect that perhaps he had lost his whistle and didn’t want to admit to it. No doubt fully aware of this, Jason Thomas then proceeded to brazenly ignore the offside rule to slip inside the visitors’ defensive line, only for the keeper to make a good double save.
 
This chance was probably the high-water mark of this particular game for Merton. As the half went on, St James became more and more dominant, with their tricky wide forwards increasingly finding space down the flanks. One such spell of trickery saw a goalmouth scramble, with Pearcey at one point desperately trying to head the ball whilst on the floor (we don’t know why), Sherbs making a couple of reaction blocks, and ended with a St James player sliding in to poke the ball home. The visitors celebrated, only for the referee to astonish everyone and blow his hitherto misplaced whistle for a foul of some unknown description. A lucky escape, but the warning was not heeded, as only a couple of minutes later more or less the same thing happened again with no such referee intervention. 1-0, and rather gut-wrenchingly, the referee blew up for half time immediately afterwards. As no commentator remarked on the sideline, that rather changes the half-time team talk.
 
Said team talk came and went, but the game continued to drift away from the home team. Adam and Emmanuel had replaced DK and Ian at 30 and 45 minutes respectively, but the change in personnel failed to change the game. The second half  saw a brief flurry of Merton pressure, Adam playing in a couple of fantastic set-pieces to no avail, but all too soon the visitors took control again, dominating possession and territory as Merton simply found no easy way out of their box for long spells. With the strikers half a world away from what was resembling a back 8 at times, Sherbs kept the home side in the game with a string of fantastic saves, before blotting his copybook somewhat with a mishit clearance that was promptly smashed back over his head for 2-0.
 
At this point, Jason decided he had had enough for one day and departed the ground for a better place to play, an overreaction if ever there was one.  With time slipping away, DK returned up top, and almost made an immediate impact – running on to a deflected pass after good work by DQ, ghosting past the covering defender and then forcing a good save from the keeper. Alas, a couple of minutes later, the ball then went back up the other end in a flowing move that even super Sherbs couldn’t stop. 3-0. It really was a great goal, but it’s not going to be described in any more detail than that, so feel free to decide for yourself how it was scored. At this point Connor’s ongoing battle (physical and verbal) flared up for the umpteenth time. “What’s the matter with you?” an exasperated opposition player was heard to say. The referee had also decided enough was enough, and proceeded to lecture them like naughty school children for their constant bickering. A finger was even wagged.
 
Sherbs managed to stop a fourth with a full length dive down low to his right shortly afterwards, garnering applause from the opposition for its sheer brilliance, but it proved only a temporary measure as another late goal was added with just a few minutes to go.  I’m sorry but I just don’t know exactly this one was scored either, but it wasn’t as good as the third one.
 
So, all in all, a bit of a shellacking. Credit to the visitors who played some great football, and on the day were simply a lot better than the home side. For Merton, a time to regroup and go again – with a need for a bit more quality and a lot more intensity next time out. Promotion just got harder, but is by no means impossible with teams taking points off each other at the top of the table. After all, there are better days that have yet to come for this side.
 
MOTM: Jet-setting Alex Herbert for a string of saves.
DOTD: Connor Murphy, whose ongoing feud with the opposition winger saw the referee threaten to send them both to the children’s playground where they belong. I really wish he had, it would have been brilliant. An amateur league version of being sent to the stands.
 

2s vs Lloyds Warren – 12.12.16 & 21.01.17

Lloyds Warren Res (A) 12/12/2016 
Lloyds Warren Res (H)  21/01/2017  

 

I was trying to find out what the ballyhoo Lloyds Warren stood for exactly and, aside from a bunch of pages dedicated to amateur football scores, the main results seemed to concern opinions as to why the not un-rich octegenarian Warren Buffet should buy Lloyds Banking Group. It’s because, apparently, the bank with the horse is very much the UK version of Wells Fargo. I bring this up because: 

A) I well like the movie Fargo 

B) We had to go well far to play Lloyds Warren in the first of a double-header separated only by over a month, Christmas, New Year, two football matches (one cancelled), and the general downfall of western civilisation. 

Still, unbeknownst of our fate we ploughed on to Beckenham for the first fixture, this time mercifully without Chris Rayner chirping about how some dogs can run as fast as trains. The squad, what with it being December and the Herbert working season, was shorn of quite a few of its talents. Willgoss, for example, was combing his ginger mane; Cookie was retired/suspended/still in Infernos; Dan Kelly was recreating Apocalypse Nowand Ryan Noble-Gresty was trying to fix his ankle using sticky-back plastic, Smash, and cheese strings. He didn’t make the second fixture either so we can only assume he failed. 

Anywho, we had a great match didn’t we? All blood, sweat, and the aging gears of Jason Thomas pounding the ground up-front like Paul Pearce pounds the ladies in Magaluf: a lot of effort, a red face, quite a bit of tutting before eventually scoring largely due to the ineptitude of someone else. 

In this case, that someone else was DQ, dummying missing the ball at the near post after some excellent work by Glenn down the right. Glenn, of course, is less than half big Jase’s age, and almost exactly four times younger than the combined age of the front two. The JT/DQ partnership created a geriatric record bettered only in the second match against Lloyds Warren by Merton Reserves’ very own Statler and Waldorf playing up top again.

It was a tough old win in fairness, the 1-0 victory courtesy of some stoic defending and the combative midfield presence of Big Dave Scott and Slightly Smaller Mike Stone. We left with our heads, and Conor Murphy’s magnificent facial hair, held high. 

And then we waited. Hours passed into days and long nights. Winter came and bit the soil. Dan Kelly returned from south east Asia. There he’d watched a snail crawl along the edge of a straight razor. He said it was his dream, his nightmare: crawling, slithering along the edge of a straight razor. Then he remembered that ‘Nam was years ago, pulled himself together and dug his heel into Merton’s turf. 

‘How’s the ice, Dan, gone yet?’ 

‘I love the smell of Deep Heat in the morning. Smells like victory.’ 

‘Yes, but is the pitch playable?’ 

‘Some day this war’s gonna end.’ 

‘I’ll just ask the ref.’

The ref, diminutive but excellent, responded in the affirmative and despite the efforts of Jack Frost and the protestations of the whinny git of a manager that seemed to accompany Lloyds Warren this time around, a match was afoot. 

It was a pretty stupid match for at least the first ten minutes. 22 grown men prancing around literally like Bambi on ice struggling for grip.  

Struggling for a different kind of grip altogether was Lloyds’ manager, suggesting that slide tackles should not be allowed, making about 37 first-half substitutions, and regularly annoying his captain through the spouting of general nonsense. None of this prevented Lloyds Warren from taking the lead, largely due to a defensive snafu which we’ll politely just blame on the pitch. 

The pitch got better, and so did Merton. Alan Clowes, manager for the day and eventual man of the match, organising a solid old Conor/Clowes/Pearce/Alex back four that spent the remaining 80 minutes repelling attacks with such ease it almost suggested the opposition wasn’t very good. 

But they were good, Merton Reserves were simply better, equalising before half time with Big Jase slotting home following a through-ball from DQ. Quainton had received the ball from none other than Christopher Rayner, who took his mind off swift canines for long enough to provide a spiffy old corner in the second half which Andrew Holder Ross gleefully headed shouldered home. 2-1. Perhaps it should’ve been more, because plenty of opportunities slipped by, none more notable than Ez, arriving later than his fixture availability messages, but sadly missing the ball altogether. 

By the end things were starting to get chilly again and Ez was complaining that his toes were getting ever-so-cold, so the ref’s final whistle was welcome. As were the three points. Six points I mean. Six delicious points against Lloyds Warren Buffet, such is my understanding. Now that’s a return you can bank on. Avoid cliches like the plague, that’s what my Mum always said.

 
 
 

2s vs South Bank Cuaco – 07.01.17

Merton Reserves v South Bank

2 – 2

Goal scorers: Graham Willgoss © , Jason Thomas

Team Handsome misses the chance to close the gap at the top!

Merton Reserves will look back at this a missed opportunity to close the gap at the top! Bundles of energy, spirit, effort & good football were on show – all until we managed to go 2 -0 up!

The first half was a pretty tight affair, and it seemed it was always going to take something special (that little moment of magic) to break the deadlock. Step-up captain marvel Graham Willgoss, who is having a cracking season! It was he, who basking in this purple patch of form, felt the audacity to twist and turn a couple of South Bank defenders on the left-hand corner of their box, before looking up and measuring a delightful chip – in off the far post – to send Merton 1 – 0 up. (It definitely was not a cross, no matter what anyone or every player says……I jest…..and to be clear GREAT GOAL….).

Ten minutes into the second half, Emmanuel worked a clever short corner to Connor Murphy, catching them and us by surprise, Connor whipped in a great left footed cross, and big Jase nodded it home. 2-0!!!

Now nobody panic! Oh no wait….! Whether it was a wave of naivety, recklessness, or over confidence it doesn’t matter – within seconds Sherbs was saving a one on one, and from the resulting corner their skipper headed home 2-1.

2 minutes later we are 2-2, another corner (there is a pattern here), and a bundled home equaliser, having failed to clear our lines. It could have got worse, as Sherbs saved another one on one, before we woke up again and had a series of good chances with Tom Benham pretty much creating them with magnificent solo runs, speed and strength – but the ball never quite fell right for the final finish!

With the last kick of the game – South Bank shot wide – when it seemed easier to score.

2-2 in the end a fair result. But having been 2-0 up – it hurts a little!

MMH  – Tom Benham

2s vs HSBC – 03.12.16

2s match report – 3rd December 2016 – HSBC 2s (away)

A beautiful, crisp day, a wonderfully green, flat pitch and a dog faster than (or at least as fast as) a train (spotted only by Rayner who relayed the message to the rest of the group) greeted Merton 2s in South East London last Saturday. Ian Lewis was sat in the dugout, watching on and looking more managerial than ever having purchased Ron Atkinson’s sheepskin coat at auction earlier this week. His regular support and words of encouragement are very much appreciated.

Merton were quicker out of the blocks and took the lead after 20 minutes. Some great work by Willgo, Alex and Joe (and possibly more) down the right led to the ball being crossed low to Dan Kelly 10 yards out who took a touch and rifled into the bottom corner. As is often the way, Merton then relaxed and HSBC scored two quick goals before half-time. One because a chasm suddenly appeared in the Merton defence and another due to a good switch of play by HSBC and a very nice finish.

The second half started evenly until, on the hour mark, HSBC scored an extremely fortunate pinball style goal. Shortly after this Cookie decided to turn up the heat and it all got a little hairy…

He was on one of his ill-advised dribbles around his own penalty area. Impressively keeping the ball but encouraging some optimistic attempts from HSBC players to snaffle it off him. One player in particular, who we’ll call Brian, took one too many scrapes at the back of Cookie’s legs and so Cookie fronted him up and pulled Brian’s hair. Brian attempted to pull Cookie’s hair in return before realising that he may have been scratched by Cookie in the kerfuffle. With Brian in shock about the scratch and on the verge of tears in the ongoing argument, Brian’s girlfriend mistakenly thought she would try and save him from more embarrassment by charging onto the pitch to protect him. Unfortunately someone shouted out “who let their dog on the pitch?” which we all thought was very rude and simply not funny.

The referee asked both Cookie and Brian to vacate the pitch by raising his red card which he did, as he did everything, very slowly. Cookie marched off to the changing room, got changed and went straight to Infernos. Brian went on to complain about an invisible scratch for the next half hour – this was extremely annoying if you were playing on the same side of the pitch that him and his girlfriend were standing.

The referee probably should have called up for a foul long before this incident got to where it did although, at the time of going to print, the referee has not issued a public apology for his behaviour and that is absolutely understandable.

With both sides down to 10, Merton pulled a goal back through a Rayner corner, DQ head and (unconfirmed) Joe flick but it wasn’t enough.

Good performances from many Merton players this week. Willgo and Andy Ross controlled the middle for large periods of the game. The back four, apart from two moments where they all went for a coffee while HSBC mounted an attack, were again very assured. Our five or six regular defenders are considerably more comfortable on the ball than any of the other defences in this division and we need to leverage this more by playing across the pitch and intelligently out from the back.

Pearcey, Alex and Conor all had very good games but it was Conor who took home (or drank) the MOTM trophy. He was calm and assured at the back and showed great energy on the overlap when charging past the ageing, but still handsome, Rayner.

Special mention goes to Jason Thomas who completed his move back from centre forward, through central midfield and defence and is now a goalkeeper (he also came to the game almost directly from one of London’s airports after a 20+ hour trip back from the land down under). Both Sherbs and Jason himself should be worried about team and position selection next week after a great performance.

And Dick of the Day? Well it turns out that for some people the sighting of a super-dog just doesn’t make the headlines. Fortunately, Cookie will also be meeting the Predator on his return to action in 2017. We all look forward to that.

 

2s vs Kew Assoc. – 26.11.16

“Such stuff as dreams are made on,” remarked nobody as we squeezed into the almost-never-used changing room 2 before kick-off. Cookie, ever nervous, newly old, was struggling to find a seat.

“Be not afraid,” Pearcy, didn’t say. “The changing room is full of noises, sweet sounds and airs that give delight and hurt not.”

“I’ve brought the wrong bloody boots,” DQ did say, panicking, knowing ‘Dick of the Day’ was his. Things were not going well.

Still, Pearcy had spare boots, Merton 2s (as opposed to Merton 2’s, who are some weird outfit to which Lofty often refers) had a handsome squad of 14, and the weather was clement. To add to the joy, swathes of Kew’s squad had decided to get some Black Friday weekend shopping done and they’d turned-up with ten players.

We kicked-off, full of vigour, and not a little vim.

“We should break these down, just need to be positive,” said Gresty, hobbled, supporting from the sidelines.

“Pearcy, you clown,” said Ian, capturing the atmosphere as only he can.

In spite of Pearcy’s defensive shank (followed by a overwhelmingly solid performance and a delightful, loopy, deflected own goal), Team Handsome was playing something like well.

“He’s lost that,” said DQ, watching DK Milan Baros his way through the centre of the pitch. In actual fact, DK hadn’t lost it, and dragged the ball apologetically in the corner for 1-0. 

2-0 came quicker than Cookie in an Asian disco, DK foxing the defence and lobbing the keeper like the wily old pro he isn’t.

Annoyingly, Kew scored. A free header from a free kick. 

“Bugger this,” thought Wilgo, sending a delightful cross over to Big Dave Scott, who made like Les Ferdinand in his better days and headed powerfully home. Later, BDS would score again, almost cracking a smile while doing so. His all-round play earned him ‘man-of-the-match’. So that was nice. The swift, cold pint, less so.

Scott’s second goal came midway into the second half and was one of nine, as the 2s romped very comfortably home. Wilgo scored one that was almost identical (right-hand side of the area, bottom-left corner finish) continuing his Indian summer in the Merton yellow. 

Talking of ageing goalscorers, DQ did his best Nwankwo Kanu impression after a sexy Wilgo through-ball, curdling the defender’s blood before finishing probably in the corner he intended. He added a second after robbing the keeper 40 yards out and playing into the empty net. Sadly for Kew, their goalie was one of their two best outfield players.

Who were the other two scorers you ask? Well, not Tom Benham, who did everything but, ending the match more frustrated than Sherbs failing to avoid playing a game of Predator at the Christmas party. Chris Rayner, however, he scored, with his left foot, naturally. And Cookie, dear old Cookie, he did too, barrelling through and toe-poking home.

“I ain’t scored for two years,” Cookie said, hugging their left-back. The left-back didn’t seem to really care.

Mustard cared, Sherman-tanking around during an effervescent midfield cameo, though sadly not enough to get over technological snafus and muster his usual celebratory changing room DJ set. Instead, we all just gave each other high-fives, and handsome pats on the back, and fulsome compliments. 

And that was that, our little match, rounded with goals. 

2s vs Kew Association – 19.11.16

Kew Association 1-1 Merton

When the last of the Merton squad rolled into Ham to face bottom of the league Kew Association last Saturday it was with just thirty minutes to spare (some advice: don’t try to travel to Twickenham by train at noon on a Rugby match day). Upon arrival we were informed that we were a bare eleven with our substitute James Laughton currently playing for the 1s on the adjacent pitch. Safe to say the team picked itself.

Following a somewhat truncated warm-up the game got underway and Merton quickly were in the ascendency. Finding a fair amount of joy down the wings (with Ben Victory in particularly swashbuckling form) the Boars carved out a number of promising attacks in the first twenty minutes while Kew were seemingly happy to sit back and counter when the opportunity arose.

It was surprising therefore that Merton’s first big chance of the game came as a result of their own counter-attack when Dan Kelly was played through on the left-hand side of the area after a lovely build up move. Unfortunately his shot lacked the bend to beat the keeper who made a good save, but the signs for Merton seemed nothing but promising.

Kew rarely threatened, except for at set pieces – most notably the occasion when Alex Herbert in goal was particularly bamboozled by the flight of the ball and flapped somewhat, under pressure from the strikers closing in on him. His appeals that he had been impeded in the air were remarkably tenuous, and they rather entertainingly earned him no joy save the referee advising him to “man up”. Not sure whether that is an official method for dealing with dissent endorsed by the FA… 

At the other end the breakthrough should have come just before half-time when a textbook training ground throw-in routine saw Tom Benham spurn a golden chance six feet out with the goal gaping. Unfortunately his volleyed effort soared over the bar and Merton went in at half-time level but with their tails up and a goal seemingly only a matter of time.

As it was they somewhat struggled to get going in the second half, and the game became very scrappy – lots of long balls and headers rather than Merton’s heretofore “keep it on the turf” passing game. In fact, it was a style very much suited to the hosts who visibly grew in confidence the longer the game remained goalless, and as such they started to carve out chances of their own, even hitting the bar twice.

Then after approximately an hour played, Tom Benham was played into the box and rounded the keeper only to be taken out. Never one to be denied a goal-scoring opportunity, Dan Kelly seized the advantage and attempted a shot at the open goal, only to see his effort rattle off the inside of the woodwork. In the post-match debrief in the bar, Dan would insist that the angle made it nigh on impossible, but this reporter still requires convincing. Despite this, the referee called play back and awarded Merton a penalty, much to the chagrin of the opposition who claimed the advantage had been well and truly played (and squandered). Surely now Merton would break the deadlock?

Before we get to that, some caveats: Firstly, the penalty spot was in truly an horrendous state and even to get the ball off the ground in such circumstances should be considered a feat worthy of applause. Secondly, with the cries and recriminations of the opposition ringing in the air it is understandable that a penalty taker could be wholeheartedly put-off. Thirdly, there were not exactly an abundance of volunteers to take the penalty, and responsibility was very much thrust upon the shoulders of yours truly. Despite these factors, I stepped up very confidently and with the skill and accuracy of Owen Farrell (doing the very same thing just a few miles away in Twickenham) sent the ball soaring high over the posts…0-0 it remained (and if we are being honest, justice was probably served…it was a very very very ropey advantage call by the referee).

So the game continued and Merton’s depleted squad soon suffered a few niggles, none more notable than Ben Victory who received a big whack to the knee and had to hobble off to be replaced by an already injured substitute. Ben returned to the fray five minutes later with just under ten minutes to go, visibly limping and saying a quick hail Mary. Whether it was divine intervention or not, as the ball was cleared from a corner it fell to him to start a counter attack. He then set off like a greyhound up field, seemingly free of all pain, and was able to finally bundle the ball past the dumbfounded keeper. Cue wild celebrations. It is unclear whether Ben was crying with joy or agony…

The celebrations were short-lived unfortunately, as with the last action of the game, Kew managed to find a – probably deserved – equaliser and round off a very frustrating game from Merton’s perspective.

Still, we choose to see it as an away point gained, and have the chance to finally put a few past the same opposition this weekend as we host them at the Hood.

Man of the match: Paul Pearce – captain for the day and a veritable rock at the heart of the Merton defence which performed very steadily all game

Dick of the day: Andrew Holder Ross – the fall guy, cruelly and harshly punished for his penalty miss

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2s vs HSBC – 13.11.16

Merton Reserves 0 – 0 HSBC Reserves

Merton welcomed leaders HSBC to the Hood and had to settle for a point in a tight, hard fought encounter.

Lining up 433 once again, Merton started brightly with Ryan Gresty in particular breaking up play in the middle and initiating more than one counter attack. Ryan had almost played in both Dan (skied effort) and Tom (tackled) inside the first 10 minutes, clearly smarting at not being mentioned 8 times in last weeks match report. A man on a mission and a man in motion but unfortunately this (st elmo’s) fire led Ryan into a bone crunching tackle on the edge of the opposition box and a trip to hospital (via touchline, bar, and an earlsfield night club for initial tests – no break thankfully).

With Ryan off, Dave Scott came into central midfield as Merton continued to look for an opener in a tight game. A succession of set pieces failed to yield a clear chance; Browner’s panic-inducing nod-back from beyond the far post almost but not quite yielding a chance.

Then a good move down the left involving the excellent Alex Welch, Andy, Lofty and Rayner (with Ryan shouting approvingly from the sidelines) saw Lofty put a tempting cross in. Dan read the flight, ghosted between the two centre backs, jumped, met it with his forehead as the cross just cleared the head of the covering defender…and headed over. 2 DOTD votes ensued.

Tom was the next to have a chance, played in on the angle and striking a shot on the run from the edge of the area that the keeper beat away.

At the other end, a well organised Merton defence had restricted the visitors to only set pieces and the occasional scare on the counter, with Rayner doubling up as forward and wingback on occasion to deal with the dangerous oppo wide player and forward who were their main out ball.

0-0 at half time and Lofty urged us to push for the win, noting that this was unlikely to be a game with more than one goal. Ryan (just about still standing) agreed and urged Merton to get after them.

The second half was as tight and scrappy as the first. The best chance came early, and it fell to the visitors. Peter Brown missed a header for the first time in the game, and as the rest of the side gaped in disbelief, quick work from HSBC saw the ball squared for the oppo striker to sidefoot home from 10 yards. Sherbs, however, had other ideas and flung himself to his right, a strong hand keeping the ball out. The danger wasn’t over yet as the ball fell invitingly for HSBC, only for Cookie to bravely block the goal bound shot and then Browner to complete the clearance. A massive moment in the game.

At the other end, Merton were still probing away looking to get Tom in behind. Some nice interplay down the right between Alex King, Dave and Andy saw the ball squared for Tom to hit from the edge of the area, only for the shot to be blocked. Next, Dan screamed down the left wing and into the box, only for his cut back to be cleared.

DQ and Mike Stone came on to try and provide the moment of inspiration needed to win the game. Max in particular was convinced DQ would deliver, pronouncing it his time as Merton won a late series of free kicks. Alex King was also finding space down the right; initally to fire in a series of crosses that didn’t beat the first man, but then with increasing effect and culminating in a burst in the box and a dangerous centre that was hacked clear.

In the event, it was at the other end that the final piece of drama played out. A rare HSBC attack saw both Alex and then Cookie drawn out of position and beaten. As the attacker surged towards the box a recovering Cookie slid full length and made the tactical decision to end the attack taking man ball and half the pitch with him. HSBC were a little upset and demanded a red, but with covering players in the vicinity and the fact that Cookie tackled pitch man and ball in that order, a yellow was about right. Cookie took the booking very professionally and all seemed well until a HSBC player said something and Cookie crumbled, unleashing the west country rage and confronting said player.

Foreheads bumped. Oppo subs ran onto the pitch. Sherbs enquiry of “what do you think you’re doing?” (or similar) was met with a response that they thought someone was going to be punched. Maybe they were planning a dive in front of any punch like a secret service bodyguard, who knows.. It should also be pointed out that the hitherforeto unmentioned (in the second half) Ryan Gresty did not hobble on to the pitch to get involved. Professional.

In all event people were dragged away, it all calmed down and Cookie escaped a red. And then the free kick went wide. Escape complete.

Merton’s late rally failed to yield a clear chance and the game ended 0-0. Probably about fair in a tight game with few chances.

Motm: Alex Welch convincingly edged Alex King, with Alex Herbert also picking a vote.

Dotd: Cookie the west country monster.

P.S. Ryan (8)
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