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.