Another glorious Spring morning dawned for the 4s’ second game of the Spring Cup at Woking on Saturday. Or so it seemed, until a potent bucket of rain descended upon what was already a fairly poor (and small) pitch. The lads who were there took refuge in the change rooms. Others were heading anti clockwise down the M25 at the time. And Kieran did his standard bi-monthly no-show.
Sub: Tiago Carvalho
MOTM: Sonny Kennedy
Merton 2-4 West Wickham
The last day of winter was also the first of the Merton 4s’ Spring Cup campaign. It’s been a disappointing season which has sadly ended in a second relegation in a row. But results haven’t always reflected performances, and here was a good opportunity to put that right, and get some momentum going in order to finish on a high.
“High” being an interesting choice of word, as it may or may not have accounted for two absentees on the day – one of whom was good enough to call in “sick” 2 hours before kickoff, the other entirely uncontactable. We won’t mention names, except to say that, surprisingly, Kieran wasn’t one of them!
Anyway, onto the football, and a decent squad of 12, including some firepower in the form of Denys and wily cunning from the old warhorse Conor Murphy, took to the pitch and electing to go into the wind first up. The theory was that with a bit of grind and damage limitation, the Yellows could set themselves up nicely for a second-half assault.
And that’s pretty much how it went. This was actually decent stuff from the home side, despite adverse conditions and a poor pitch. Don’t get me wrong, free flowing football was at a premium, and this surely would have made for a woeful spectacle for any onlookers. But Merton were working hard, communicating well, and even looking very dangerous on the break occasionally.
Understandably, West Wickham with the wind at their backs enjoyed the better of territory and possession. Yet Kieran didn’t have a save to make. Which is why the opener, on about the half hour mark, was a bit disappointing to concede. In truth, Merton were a bit sluggish in closing down on the left, the ball bobbed about on the fringes of the box, and a very useful left-footed finish was applied into the top-left corner. 1-0 WW.
Although it was hardly cause for panic. A 1-goal deficit into that wind was about par if Merton could hold it to the break. Yet they went one better (it seemed). With minutes remaining in the half, a superb ball from Aaron fed Dom. He still had plenty to do, but beat a defender and slotted it under the keeper with aplomb to make it 1-1.
Celebrations, but with parity at the break now imminent, Merton shot themselves in the foot. A header was lost in the air, and the ball fell to their striker, who was in oodles of space. Kieran darted out to thwart the danger, but there was nothing he could do. 2-1, and the half time whistle went.
A disappointing blow, no doubt. But this was still a very respectable score line, and Merton should have been able to kick on from there with the wind now at their backs.
But, quite frankly, they never got going in the first 15 minutes of the second half, and, but for a decent early chance for Dom, Wickham were much the better side. The third goal was a tad unfortunate – a cross/shot that wickedly got caught up in the wind, and Kieran’s parry couldn’t keep it out. Kieran was perhaps a bit more accountable for the fourth goal, as he was unable to claim a loose ball that he’d come off his line to take.
That said, given the mediocrity of the all round second-half team performance, being 4-1 down was probably not much worse than Merton deserved. In fairness, the lads began to play much better for the final quarter of the game thereafter, and put a lot of pressure on the visitors. There were countless half chances upfront and plenty of goalmouth action, but the ball just wasn’t quite falling for them. Eventually they got one back, with a blatant pull in the box, which, for some reason the Wickham players saw fit to argue about.
Anyway, once all that died down, Dom stepped up and tucked his penalty away, perhaps slightly fortuitously, under the keeper. 4-2, and 10 minutes to go.
Merton kept up the pressure, and half chances continued to come thick and fast. But this seemed destined to be another one of those days. Another game that got away – one where, for the majority, Merton had played more than decently, but, due to silly errors, had left them departing the pitch shaking their heads in defeat. Still, plenty to build on, and hopefully with a full squad, a win lies in wait at Wokingians next week.
Goals: D Plumridge (2)
Team: Kieran Lee (GK), Ed Plaistow, Joe Plumridge, Mike Todt, Conor Murphy, Will Harrison, Mikey Elgar, Frankie Kalogirou, Aaron Loftus, Denys Zhurbiy, Dom Plumridge
Sub: Akram Choudhary
MOTM: Conor Murphy
DOTD: the two men mentioned in paragraph 1
Lloyds Warren 3s vs. Merton 4s SAL Minor Division 2 South Saturday 25th February 2017
After last weekend’s impressive display at home against Bank of England, plus the return fixture back in January where we triumphed 9-2, we knew that another three points was the only result. Knowing this, we approached the game like any other, with the mind-set that it could go against us and we could end up on the losing end.
The focus was there as it was still mathematically possible to stay up depending on other results. We had to ensure that we won this game for that to come to fruition however.
We were without our skipper Mike Todt this week as well as Michael Vogt with John Gridley also missing through injury. We did however welcome back Ryan Burchell and Mikey Elgar.
We started the game well and we on the front foot from the off. Frankie was like a man possessed in the middle of the park, winning each and every ball that he challenged for and doing well with it when it was in his possession. He did so well in fact that he won a free kick on the right by-line. Aaron Lotfus stepped up from more than 30 yards out to bury the ball into the back of the net, something that he predicted the night before.
Not long after the restart were we able to double our lead through Dom Plumridge. After a ball into the box failed to be cleared from Dom’s initial effort, he buried it to the keeper’s bottom right at the second time of asking. 2-0 and cruising.
Not long after doubling our lead, Dom picked up a freak injury when claiming the ball after it had gone out of play. Our job was going to be a lot tougher without our talisman but we knew we had capable replacements on the bench. Jake replaced Dom in a straight swap.
It remained 2-0 going into the break and it was a lead that was sell deserved.
The second half started with the opposition opting for a change in keeper however this did not seem to change the outcome as we increased our tally by a further two goals with Dan Gridley scoring with a free kick from the left and Frankie getting on the scoresheet for the first time this season with a high looping effort from 20 yards that the keeper could do nothing about.
4-0 was the final score. A second win on the bounce however was not enough to stay in the league as Civil Service won. Unless Bank of England and Old Wilsonians loss their remaining games (both whom still have Lloyds Warren to play) we will be situated in Division 3 and facing back to back relegations.
Our league position doesn’t justify our performances throughout the season. We have been unlucky in most of the games we have lost. Next season you will see a more determined Merton 4s with only one aim…..promotion and a league title!
FINAL SCORE: Lloyds Warren 3s 0 – 4 Merton 4s SCORERS: Aaron Loftus, Dom Plumridge, Dan Gridley, Frankie Kalogirou MOTM: Frankie Kalogirou
STARTING LINE-UP: Kieran Lee (GK), Ryan Burchell, Mikey Elgar, Joe Plumridge, Edward Plaistow, Frankie Kalogirou, Will Harrison, Chris Outred, Sonny Kennedy, Dom Plumridge, Aaron Loftus
SUBS: Dan Gridley, Jake Hewitt
Maybe it was just the warmth and sunshine. After all, it would seem ridiculous on the face of it that a team who’ve lost five games on the bounce – especially with the latest being a 6-0 reverse at Polytechnic – should have reason to feel confident. But then again, this was a team who’d started to play some really good football recently, and therein lay the main reason for them feeling confident as they set foot in their hallowed turf at the sadly-vandalised Hood for this clash against mid-table Bank of England.
Team: Kieran Lee (GK), Ed Plaistow, Mike Todt, Joe Plumridge, John Gridley, Will Harrison, Michael Vogt, Chris Outred, Sonny Kennedy, Aaron Loftus, Dom Plumridge
Subs: Dan Gridley, Frankie Kaligorou
As the snow tumbled down, 13 men who, by Saturday, don the mighty yellow, expectantly checked their phones that morning, with the text from Scholesy that the game against Poly would be called off seemingly a racing certainty.
But it never came, and an almost reluctant Merton 4s slowly gathered in the change room. The late arrival of the manager meant the kit was hurriedly put on – not that anyone really fancied a warm up anyway.
Given the adverse conditions, the pitch was in surprisingly good nick, and after some encouraging performances in recent weeks, Merton said about asserting themselves.
But the first couple of minutes were almost a perfect microcosm of the 4s season so far. For about 120 seconds from the kick off, they pinged the ball around beautifully, getting ball to feet, and building two very dangerous attacks in the process.
It didn’t yield a goal though. Well, not for Merton anyway. One hoof upfield from Poly, a mix up in defence, and the hosts gleefully poked it home. And just like that, a deflated Merton were 1-0 down.
The lads kept their heads up though, and, impressively, they kept playing football. After 15 minutes, it is fair to say Poly had barely had a kick, and yet were 1-0 up. Not only had Merton bossed the midfield, but they’d opened up their opponents down the wings a number of times too.
Yet they were always vulnerable on the counter, and that’s how Poly’s second came about. Their striker got in behind, and Kieran initially made a fine save. Unfortunately, he lost his footing a touch on the follow up, and his palmed second save could only send the ball over his head and rolling agonisingly into the net. 2-0 Poly.
And still Merton kept going, as the midfield continued to have the better of things, with Sonny and Akram doing a fine job in the middle of the park. But then came a nasty injury to Chris Outred, as he clashed heads with a Poly player as both went in for a full-blooded header. And full blooded it was, as an astonishing amount of the red stuff came from Chris’s forehead. After a few minutes of checking for concussion and performing some relatively amateur first aid bandage work, Chris was escorted from the field. We do wish him a speedy recovery.
The third and fourth goals came just after half time, although this scribe was in the clubhouse attending to the wounded at the time, so no details of how it happened are currently available.
There is no fun in getting a battering. But credit to the Yellows, they kept going, and still continued to produce some pockets of good football. That said, Poly were by now the more dominant side, and as injuries accumulated for Merton, they became very stretched.
Poly’s 5th goal came about from some good interplay down the left, although the shot which finished it was something of a worldie. It left Kieran with no price whatsoever. The same could not be said of the 6th goal though, as Merton were caught out trying to play it from the back.
At the other end, Ryan Burchell made a good run that almost yielded a goal, while Danny Gridley also made a fine surge upfield, which led to a decent chance.
But it wasn’t to be, and the final whistle mercifully sounded to end a bitterly disappointing day. After a result like that, the acid test was going to be just how acidic the recriminations were in the change room. Yet nothing of the sort ensued. Instead, the lads shared frustration, but took pride in the quality of football they produced. True, the sloppy goals they continue to give away, and their profligacy in front of goal are a big concern. Yet in amongst all that is also some very, very good football. It’s time to convert that into a result against Bank of England next week.
Team: Kieran Lee (GK), Ed Plaistow, Joe Plumridge, John Gridley, Dan Rist, Dan Gridley, Akram Choudhary, Chris Outred, Frankie Kaligorou, Sonny Kennedy, Dom Plumridge
Subs: Clive Corrigan, Ryan Burchell, Mike Todt
After a heartening performance against Carshalton the week before, the Merton 4s had every reason to feel positive going into this relegation 6 pointer at Old Wilsonians. Despite the dire weather predictions, the game went ahead under sunny skies.
Team: Chris Outred (GK), Ed Plaistow, Dan Gridley, Joe Plumridge, John Gridley, Will Harrison, Michael Vogt, Frankie Kaligorou, Sonny Kennedy, Aaron Loftus, Dom Plumridge
Subs: Mikey Elgar, Lee Lenihan
Merton 1-2 Carshalton
For a somewhat beleaguered 4s outfit, who’d won just once in their last 6 games, the prospect of table-topping Carshalton seemed a grim one – particularly after last week’s poor defeat to relegation rivals Old Wilsonians.
Nevertheless, a strong-looking squad diligently did their warm ups, waiting patiently for the men in green to arrive. And they waited. And they waited some more. Eventually they sauntered up the King George’s ‘turf’ 20 minutes late, protesting that they’d been sent the wrong venue by Merton’s fixtures secretary. Apparently the ref had seen evidence of this misleading email too. Merton were dubious (justifiably so in the end, as Mark Chappell later confirmed in the clubhouse). But it meant, at the time, that the Yellows had to let things be, and start the game at Carshalton’s leisure.
Perhaps that added extra inspiration though, because Merton started the game with a bang. With the sun and the wind at their backs, the hosts were simply all over the oppo. On a pretty poor surface, they were playing it on the deck, using the wings and barely letting Carshalton get a kick. Will’s return was hugely notable, and his impact was profound. And upfront, Mike Vogt was simply excellent, making incisive runs and putting in plenty of delightful through balls.
The breakthrough was fortunate, but no more than Merton deserved. A tame ball appeared to have been safely gathered by their keeper. But with barely anyone watching – other than a prowling Sonny – he coughed it up out of nowhere. A gleeful Sonny pounced, and slammed it home into an empty net. 1-0, delight for Merton.
The next 20 minutes were a contrast of high quality and frustration. Merton didn’t just carve out chances. They carved out great chances. Sonny later found himself one on one with the keeper on the edge of the box, but blazed over. Frankie, in a similar position, then forced an incredible save from their keeper. And then later Frankie found himself with a free header at the far post, but unfortunately steered it wide from point blank.
There were some other decent chances too, and on another day, Merton would have been out of sight. But failing to take your chances often can come back to haunt you, and it did so here just before the break – albeit in desperately unfortunate circumstances. An incoming ball was missed by both attacker and defender. Kieran, who initially took a knock, bravely got up and hacked away what seemed like a decent clearance. Sadly, it struck Will in the mid section, and ricocheted into the path of the Carshalton striker, handing them an equaliser on a silver platter. Outrageously unjust, no one to blame, but whichever way you cut it, the score was 1-1.
A disbelieving Merton trundled off for the half time interval, incandescent that their best performance in recent memory had yielded so little fruit. But now was the time to make it count. With the wind now in their faces, could they do it?
From the get go, the intensity never dropped. Yes, Carshalton grew into the game, began to enjoy the lion’s share of possession and spent the greater amount of time in the Merton half. But so solid was Merton’s shape, and so relentless was their work rate, that this scribe barely remembers Kieran having a save to make.
Yes, he had some good interventions with the occasional parry here and there, came off his line well; while Carshalton also skewed a few long range shots. But the best chance of all actually came at the other end.
Merton won a free kick. The delivery caused havoc in the area, with Mike eventually flicking it on to Dan Gridley, who was just a few yards out. Unfortunately with the rising ball on the bounce, his shot just cleared the cross bar, and it stayed 1-1.
And with about 10 minutes to go, the sucker punch came. A throw in was flicked on to a Carshalton player, but it seemed fairly harmless with the lad a good few yards outside the area. Alas, he lashed it home into the bottom left corner, leaving Kieran no chance at all. 2-1 Carshalton, and absolutely cruel on Merton.
But in keeping with their performance, they never gave up. With 5 minutes to go, a stricken Dom came on for Mike, as they threw everyone forward. And in the dying seconds, a through ball scuttled it’s way through to Sonny. He carried it forward into the box and was one on one with the keeper. Surely….
No. It just wasn’t to be. Sonny did everything by the book, sending it low and to the keeper’s right. But somehow, with perhaps the power of some Deity looking down, the keeper thwarted it.
And that was it. The final seconds ticked by, the final whistle went, and Merton had to leave the field digesting one of the most unjust defeats you’ll probably ever see. But they also did so with their heads held high. It dawned on them that they’d just outplayed a team who are running away with the league. This is how the Merton 4s know they can play. So can they do it in the rematch against Wilsonians next week? If they do, then three points will almost be guaranteed.
Team: Kieran Lee (GK), Ed Plaistow, Mike Todt, Chris Outred, John Gridley, Will Harrison, Akram Choudhary, Michael Vogt, Frankie Kaligorou, Sonny Kennedy, Aaron Loftus
Subs: Joe Plumridge, Dom Plumridge, Dan Gridley
The first game of 2017 for the 4s finally came to pass, albeit with a bit of pitch shuffling required. Ambitiously scheduled to play at the Hood, the fixture against fellow relegation rivals Old Wilsonians was then moved to the delightful Wimbledon Common Extensions. However, upon arrival, the designated pitch was truly awful. Fortunately, there were an array to choose from, and after various inspections, play was declared possible on the furthest one, which was bathed in sunlight.
Onto the game then, and the Merton squad looked a good one, with only a couple of notable absentees. The formation was a sort of 4-5-1, albeit with a few nuances to it. Anyway, with the sun at their backs, sporting an AC Milan-style kit (with very ‘snug’ shorts), Merton faced the kick off in a confident mood, and immediately had the ascendancy in the game. Despite the poor surface, there was some good passing on the deck, and Aaron and Mike Vogt were providing excellent outlets on either side.
Chances and half chances came thick and fast, and Merton deservedly took the lead about 15 minutes in, with some good buildup in the midfield, and then a fine through ball sending Mike Vogt on his way. He still had plenty to do, but his finish in the top right corner of the net was pinpoint. 1-0 to Merton, and no more than they deserved.
The lads continued to work hard, but a cruel blow was struck soon after. Wilsonians hit a ball down the left-hand touchline which went out by a good few yards, before curling back in. Merton understandably stopped, in expectation of the throw. But the ref, who hadn’t seen it, waved play on. A brief shambles in the box ensued, before a blocked clearance landed at the feet of the fortuitous Wilsonians striker, and he swept it home from point blank.
1-1. An entirely underserved equaliser, but unfortunately it changed the flow of the game. The visitors were suddenly dominant, and Merton, sans an injured Miley Elgar, were under the cosh. There was an air of inevitability about the second, although, credit to Wilsonians, it was an excellent team goal, finished off clinically between their two strikers, who shared an impressive exchange of passes.
2-1, and the worry was that the floodgates may open. But with a little over five minutes to go in the half, Merton were handed a lifeline out of nowhere. Having been under a lot of pressure, they produced an excellent team move, and after a series of Barcelona-esque passes, Aaron was put through on goal, and dabbed home in clinical fashion. 2-2; a fine goal to boot, and it gave Merton a wave of confidence as they finished the half strongly.
The chat was positive at half time – something that wasn’t necessarily the case during the game itself – and there was genuine belief that this game was there for the taking. Rightly so, because once play got underway, Merton made a number of chances for themselves: Ed with a good run down the byline put in a dangerous ball, but no one could finish. Frankie put a powerful header just over the bar. And while Aaron’s deliveries were superb, it was an attempted direct free kick which nearly found its way in at the near post.
But for all their chances, Merton weren’t necessarily dominant, and Wilsonians were very much in the game too. And unfortunately it was they who made it count, as, midway through the half, Merton were unable to clear their lines after an oppo counter attack, and Wilsonians lashed home a resultant shot that bounded into the net, despite Kieran getting a good hand on it.
3-2 it was, and it’s fair to say the heads dropped somewhat. That said, Merton kept going, and a couple of good chances, and many more half chances, continued to accrue. Merton gave as good as they got. With a little under 10 minutes to go, the hosts then had little choice but to go for broke, eventually going with three at the back. Initially, it gave them good forward thrust, but it left them open at the back, and the killer blow arrived a few minutes later. With a massive overlap, the Merton defenders initially did well to close their opponents down. But the interception fell kindly to a Wilsonians players, and he put it away into the bottom corner.
4-2, and that’s how things stayed, with the game petering out, and no clear cut opportunities thereafter. As the final whistle went, there was a clear sense of disappointment in the ranks. This was a relegation 6 pointer, and Merton had come off on the wrong end of it. More than that, it was a day where, despite a woeful pitch, they had actually played some decent football at times. Thus all the more frustrating to not get a result. Hopefully though, the good things get taken into next week. They’ll need to, because Carshalton lie in wait!
Team: Kieran Lee (GK), Ed Plaistow, Mike Todt, Joe Plumridge, John Gridley, Mikey Elgar, Chris Outred, Michael Vogt, Sonny Kennedy, Aaron Loftus, Dom Plumridge
Subs: Frankie Kaligorou, Joe Vaughan, Bill
Team: Kieran Lee (GK), Ed Plaistow, Mike Todt, Joe Plumridge, John Gridley, Mikey Elgar, Dan Gridley, Chris Outred, Ryan Burchell, Sonny Kennedy, Dom Plumridge
Subs: Mike Vogt, Aaron Loftus