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.  

Posted in Match Reports 1s