Kew Reserves 4 – 2 Merton 3s
48 hours after the game, I’m still a bit conflicted about how it went. On the one hand, we lost. on the other, we were the better team for much of the game. Or were we? A game that threw up more questions than answers.
Merton rocked up at Kew (really Ham) fresh from a 3 week gap without a game. Or in Gresty’s case, fresh from Heathrow airport having flown in from Zanzibar that morning. As you do. Would the rest be beneficial, or had it given time for everyone to lose fitness following the Mustard birthday drinking extravaganza a couple of weeks earlier? Looking at the heavily bedewed and tutfy pitch, another question came to mind. Were our boots still waterproof? A resounding no for most on that front.
To the game. Fitz lined up 4-3-3/4-5-1, and bravely volunteered to don the gloves once more in the absence once more of a regular keeper. Neal and Mustard (two prized defensively minded players in a squad full of forwards) breathed a sigh of relief having also sort of volunteered. Mario, Vin, Stone, and Mustard made up the back four, with a central midfield three of Dan B, Neal and Darcy. Glenn and Tom occupied the wide forward positions either side if Denys, with Emilio, DK and Gresty making up a strong 14 man squad.
Merton started brightly, looking for space out wide and behind the Kew defence. A couple of trademark Mustard surges down the right yielded an early corner, and from this Denys forced the oppo keeper into a decent parry to stop the ball sneaking inside the near post. Merton continued to press, once almost playing Tom in behind after a series of 4(!) linked headers/flicks starting in the centre circle, and twice good work from Denys giving Glenn a chance to run and shoot (unsuccessfully) from the edge of the 18 yard box.
However, as the half progressed, the game became more disjointed, not helped by the referee’s insistence on deeming most contact a foul, having all subs come on to the pitch exactly on the halfway line, and an exactitude around throw in positions. Mustard fell foul of the latter 30 minutes into the game and the throw in was reversed – a foul throw in some people’s eyes that earned him a couple of DoTD nominations.
Whilst fussy, the ref was consistent (the one thing we always ask for) and so it was distinctly disappointing to give away a string of free kicks for similar offences. Having survived a couple of scares, the home side took the lead from one such free kick just inside the Merton half. A deep free kick was lofted more or less straight at the goal, and caught perhaps a little flat, an oppo player deftly redirected the ball past Fitz from about 12 yards. Odd goal, lovely finish. 1-0.
One became two all to quickly as more indiscipline saw Merton penned back, and yet then leave space to allow their winger to find a pass into the striker all alone on the corner of the 18 yard box. Unchallenged, he advanced into the box and was able to get a shot away that skidded off the surface and under Fitz. 2-0.
Merton rallied and pushed hard for an equaliser as the half drew to a close. Some nice combination play from Tom, DK and Darcy saw Glenn played in on the overlap, but his cross was just behind DK and he couldn’t adjust to turn it goalwards. 2-0 at ht, but Merton rightly felt one goal would bring them back into it.
Merton began the second half as they finished the first; dominating territory and pushing hard for the goal they so desperately needed. Glenn was showing off his full repertoire of flicks, tricks and nutmegs down the left, and winning free kicks and corners. From one corner, Gresty headed back across goal and DK’s flick was cleared off the line, but that was the closest Merton came during that spell.
As they pressed and time ticked on, Merton were increasingly vulnerable to counter attacks, and so it proved, albeit sadly in another slightly calamatious way. Neal had done brilliantly to cover a developing attack and had the ball at his feet near his own corner flag, only to then lose it. A cross was fired in, but there seemed no danger as Darcy was well positioned to clear, only for him to hesitate as Fitz took a step towards the ball. The hesitation proved fatal as an oppo striker pounced in that moment of indecision and stabbed the ball home. 3-0 and the game looked over with only 15 to go.
However, this Merton team never give up and almost immediately they equalised, with Darcy scuffing/caressing a partially cleared corner back through a crowd of players and in off the post. Game (sort of) back on.
Merton continued to press (and by this I mean win a series of free kicks and corners without ever really quite threatening) and were once again done on the counter. Mario’s corner was cleared and their striker had the half to himself to score the fourth. However, before this Mustard secured some more DoTD nominations for an inexplicable 5 yard pass to no-one (apparently Vin failed to make a run) whilst in time and space on the halfway line.
Even at 4-1 with 2 minutes to go the game wasn’t quite done. Tom finally found himself with some space down the left and drove to the byline, cutting back to DK. Some surprisingly nimble skills (a hint of a drag back and a nod to a Cruyff turn) saw him get the space to hit the shot, which in turn was deflected across the goal. Denys, continuing his fine run of goal scoring form, snaffled it up for 4-2. And that was that.
The reasons for gloom: Another defeat, and some more poor goals to concede defensively.
More positively, Merton battled to the end, and with Iain and Walshy coming to watch despite their injuries, it shows the Boar spirit is still strong. We go again next week. Probably. Unless the SAL gives us another week off.
MOTM: Vin. Showed some class on the ball and made a few crucial interceptions. Plus by not “making the run” he also ensured that Mustard took home the DoTD award, to his disgruntlement.