1s vs Old Finchleians 18.11.17
1s Match Report – 18th Nov 2017 – Away vs Old Fincheians FC
Another away game in very north London. There are always a few complaints about the 1.5 hr travel time, but I’m pretty sure that in reality no one has anything better to do. And it allows the potential for a multi-stop stop drinking tour on the way back down the Northern Line if a win eschews, so its hardly all bad. A strong incentive to get a victory if ever I heard one.
After 20 minutes of Arsenal vs Spurs in the host’s bar, we headed to get ready. In an oddly coloured light-pink dressing room, Clapper’s decided an old-fashioned 4-4-2 was the way to go on a narrow, long pitch. Chaz got his wish to start up-front as part of a heavy weight combination with Charlie, but one that has more pace than you would expect looking at them. Rather than try to match the strength of their big, blond lad in central midfield, the decision was taken to back the agility and dancing skills of the sub-6 foot duo of Big-Hat Jimbo and Usher (yeah, yeah). They would have to cover the ground of the usual 3 men between them.
We spent the team talk reminding ourselves of how to play 4-4-2, a formation that has nose-dived out of fashion to a similar level as Clapper’s wardrobe. I was a little sceptical about the plan. But in fairness, it worked very nicely indeed in the first half. Their centre backs, maybe used to marking one upfront most of the season, could not handle our front two. They were able to receive balls to feet/ chest, turn and slot through balls into either one another or the wingers. At the other end, the old man defence (average age 34, even with mid-twenties cube-head that is Harrison it in) was holding out well enough, aided by Jordan playing more like a left wing back at times and covering an awful lot of very wet ground in the process.
An early one on one chance was spurned by Charlie after an excellent Chaz turn and through ball, but we eventually got our deserved lead. A hard, low cross from the right by someone was met by a sliding threesome (and it was an excellent day for a slide) of Charlie, Jordan and one of their defenders. Jordan is honest enough to admit it was not him that got on the end of it, Charlie is not, but I think we all know that it was the defender that actually applied the tidy finish. About ten minutes later and we were two up: a splendid free kick delivery to the far post from Big-Hat Jimbo was pulled back by a sliding Chaz to arrive at Clappers feet who duly slotted it away.
Half time was spent reminding ourselves that we had put in a similarly good first half the previous week and ended up losing. Perhaps as a result, we scored a third shortly after the break when Jordan put away another good right wing cross. But we had only delayed the on-set of complacency and in a 15 mins period we went from comfortably coasting at 3-0 up to nervously hanging on at 3-2. The first of their goals came from a quick-ish-ly taken corner that arrived at a completely unmarked Finchleian. Siri did well to keep out the initial header but could do nothing about the rebound. No one was eager to admit the lapse of marking, so lets just blame it on Van – it was probably his fault somehow.
Their second was also poor defensively. A high ball should have been cleared, but ended up with their left winger who bore down on goal. Everyone was expecting Rat to throw in a tackle at some point, but it never came – apparently a Shakira standard hip sway from the winger was the cause. The finish into the far post left Siri with little chance.
While it was a bit nervy after that point, we did manage to pull out of the tailspin and actually had the better chances for the rest of the game. With just about the last kick of the ball, a goal shaped cherry was put on top of the cake. Someone did a very good job of closing down the keeper, the attempted clearance rebounded off him and into Charlie’s path, who cooly slotted home. More finishes like that would be appreciated for the rest of the season.
Credit goes to Old Finchleians’ hospitality. The club house does not look up to much. But it has very good hot showers that were thankfully received on a cold, dark, wet day and it serves an excellent tea (sausages, beans, hash browns – a double helping for Chaz, obv). A good start to the multi-stop celebratory drinking tour that duly took place. Pit-stops were taken at Kentish Town and Waterloo before arriving at Earlsfield.
Coming out worse from the drinking games were probably Harrison (who is only slowly getting better at them) and Chaz (not EJ’ing an 8 pint jug early in an evening is really school boy). Someone anointed them as Merton’s Bebop and Rocksteady, and I doubt that duo were very good at drinking games either. Marks also go to (i) Clappers for starting a game of categories with “Numbers under 20, to my right, starting with 20” (Doh!), and (ii) Jordan’s attempted ‘disguise’ so his TfL employers don’t recognise him during the shinangans on the Tube.
Drinking continued with the help of Todt’s birthday celebrations. One of those post-win sessions that ends with everyone slurring how much they love everyone else (or was that just me). Sore heads the next day, but worth it. There is a high quality spirit in the squad at the moment and it feels like this win could be the start of a push up the league as long as the right people keep on making themselves available. So watch this space.
MoM: Chaz. Faced by his towering performance, their centre backs didn’t really know what to do. Could this be the start of a great Merton centre-forward career? A nod goes to Clapper’s two-up front call and to the centre mids for making it work. Jimbo managed to pull out a cracking game after one of the worst training session performances I have seen earlier in the week.
DoD: Browner. 3 votes were enough as no obvious candidates were available. Two votes were harshly given for a foul throw. One much more justifiably for a ludicrous attempted 30 yard full-back to full-back cross-field ball that was beautifully visualised but not so beautifully executed. Don’t think I have ever tried one of those before in a 10+ year Merton career, and I might leave it in the locker for a while after this. But at least you benefit from a semi-literate match report rather than Van struggling to do it again.