Month: January 2017
Nottsborough 4s – 6
Merton 3s – 3
2017 had arrived and with it some extremely cold and wet weather but following what was by all accounts a great occasion for the New Years Day memorial game, the weather certainly did nothing to dampen the optimism amongst the lads that the 3s could turn their season around. A string of closely contested games before the Christmas break had brought no reward and we found ourselves locked in to a relegation battle as we entered January.
An uncharacteristically late confirmation of the squads from Lofty left everyone in suspense as the clock ticked by on Friday morning, but when they finally came in the excitement at the prospect of a strong result was only fuelled further with a strong 3s squad which, despite some notable absentees called up to the 2s, contained a returning Vin and the man mountain Mike Todt who’d earned another call up following a strong showing including a goal for the 3s earlier in the season.
Game day arrived and the news broke that the reliable Dan R’s sofa had been safely delivered and he was on course to make the game. Unfortunately however, others weren’t quite so keen to make the game and failed to show face (or notify) despite the close proximity to the Hood leaving the 3s with a bare eleven for a tough away fixture at title challengers Nottsborough.
The game kicked off with Merton in solid 4-4-1-1 shape with Fitz given license to get forward and support Denys up top. A very respectable pitch gave the team an opportunity to get our foot on the ball and play our passing game which had the positive impact of seeing Merton start the game the faster for a change, Frankie on the left and Mustard just inside him in particular were causing problems for the opposition.
Around 5 minutes in to the game came the first incident of note. Denys’ hold up play drew a challenge around 20 yards out and saw the defender play the ball back to the opposition goalkeeper who duly picked it up. As the referee blew up for a Merton indirect free kick on the edge of the 6 yard box, Mustard and Denys’ were on the same wavelength and charged to the spot of the infringement leaving everyone else in their wake. On their arrival a quick free kick saw Denys square the ball to Mustard who duly passed the ball in to the net. Genius. Oh no, hang on, wait. In a moment I can only compare to the infamous Henry/Pires passing penalty, Mustard had inadvertently overrun the spot of the free kick (or Denys had taken too long to take the free kick, it depends who you ask) and their quick thinking had been ruined by a lack of composure on execution as the referee blew up for offside. 5 minutes in and dick of the day was surely sewn up already.
The score may have been 0-0 but the opposition were clearly rattled as Merton continued to press and surge forward with numbers almost every time we had the ball. The attacking play did leave Merton exposed on the counter attack occasionally and Dan in goal was forced in to a couple of top class saves to prevent a goal against the run of play before Merton were finally able to take the lead at around the quarter hour mark. A ball was whipped in from out wide and the Nottsborough defence’s ineptitude at dealing with the arial threat was exposed, the ball not sufficiently cleared resulting in some penalty box pinball. While Mustard and Denys engaged in a spot of mud wrestling with their respective defenders (claiming penalties) it was left to Fitz to rifle the ball home from close range, and this time the goal stood. 1-0 Boars and Fitz’s first goal for the club.
The game continued in a similar fashion for the next 15 minutes or so before a Nottsborough counter drew a cynical but necessary challenge from Dan R in the middle of goal around 20 yards out. After what seemed an age with the opposition changing goalkeeper, the referee finally allowed the kick to be taken and a low skimmer across the wet surface and around the wall left Dan in goal disappointed he hadn’t made the save. 1-1.
Unperturbed, Merton continued to play in the same fashion and posed further problems to the Nottsborough defence. By this stage however, the opposition were starting to come in to the game more and it was certainly a game with the attackers on top. 40 minutes in and Merton won a free kick on the right hand side around the half way line. Sensing an opportunity, Mike hurried forward to pose the opposition further threat in the air. Dan swung a great ball in towards the far post and although it eluded Mike who had drawn attention from the defence, Frankie was able to win the header at the back stick and loop it back across goal. What should have been a regulation catch for any normal sized goalkeeper turned out to be too tall a task for the diminutive opposition keeper at the time, who could only haplessly flap at the ball leaving Mustard the simplest of finishes from close range. 2-1 Boars.
Disappointingly, hopes of getting in at half time with a lead were dashed almost instantly as a great individual run from an opposition midfielder yielded a goal when he cut through our midfield like a hot knife through butter, side stepped Vin and slotted home neatly in to the bottom corner from the resultant 1 on 1 with Dan. 2-2 when half time arrived.
The lads came in at half time feeling hard done by not to have a lead following what had quite frankly been the best half of football the Merton 3s had put together all season. We knew we needed to come out firing early in the second half and get a lead, as with a bare eleven the final 20 minutes were always going to be a challenge.
Unfortunately, Nottsborough began the second half strongly, presumably buoyed by the fact they were level despite being outplayed during the first period, and after a period of early pressure and a string of corners the hosts took the lead for the first time in the game. The SAL Junior Div 2’s answer to Adebayo Akinfenwa picked the ball up in the centre of the park and bulldozed his way to the edge of the box (with Dan later quoting “I just bounced off him for their 3rd goal”) where he squared to a teammate who finished low in to the corner from around 12 yards out. 3-2 Nottsborough.
For the next 20 minutes or so Merton came back in to the game but were never able to regain the dominance shown in the first half and it was relatively even affair. Some more great stops from Dan in goal along with some resolute defending kept the Boars in it before Merton’s first real opportunity of the second half arose. Some lovely footwork from Dan picking the ball up at right back and cutting inside past two opposition players before sliding a great ball through to Fitz who’d made a great run in behind and thought he found himself through on goal. That was until the opposition’s last man savagely scythed him down on the edge of the box (think Sol Campbell’s never ending slide tackle but more man and less ball). To the dismay of every single boar, the referee failed to give the decision (perhaps not wanting to dirty the new red card he got for Christmas) and waved play on.
From this point on the lack of substitutes and soft ground began to take its toll on Merton’s legs and before long it was 4-2 with the Nottsborough forward finding too much space on the penalty spot and drilling one in to the corner. Swiftly afterwards it became 5-2 as the little opposition midfielder, now relieved of his duties in goal, picked the ball up a full 30 yards out and drove a high dipping ball towards goal. Dan back-pedalled rapidly and rose to get a hand on the ball sending it skywards before landing on his back on the goal line. Time seemed to stand still at this point as the ball dropped and the lack of any attempt to get up from Dan left the rest of the team to assume another top save had been made and the ball was dropping over the bar. This was not the case however, as the ball dropped under the bar and over the line to the bemusement of pretty much everyone, Boars and opposition alike. Not least Dan who claimed landing on his back had left him momentarily in shock and stopped him from moving as the ball dropped down over him. Perhaps the dick of the day vote was opening itself up again after all.
5-2 became 6-2 not long after as the fight had seemingly been knocked out of Merton by the time we entered the final 10 minutes, a run down the wing from the oppositions star man (AKA “the lad in the blue boots”) left three Merton players for dead before cutting inside and slotting home at the near post from close range. Nottsborough continued to pile on the pressure in the final ten minutes but unwilling to concede a seventh Merton battled away in defence and with Dan able to make another couple of top saves (sore back eh?) it was the Boars who were able to have the last laugh. Merton were awarded a foul on the half way line in a similar position to that from which we had scored our second and once again Dan Rist, who had been having a strong game going forward all day, stepped up to take it. Not keen on delegating responsibility for scoring a consolation to any of the lads in the box, Dan stepped up with a goal of the season contender (also his first goal for the club) bending the diagonal ball across and finding the top corner off the underside of the bar – think Ronaldinho free kick against England in the 2002 World Cup, but from the half way line.
And with that came the final whistle, a day that had started out with so much promise (and plenty of new boots) for the 3s had ultimately ended in defeat, as have so many other close fought games this season. But a strong performance from the lads for 70 minutes is something we can take heart from for the rest of the season, with the opposition skipper commenting post game that we were the best footballing side they had faced all season and with a bit more fitness or some substitutes available it could have been a different story.
Man of the Match – Dan R
Dick of the Day – Dan B
Scorers – Fitz, Mustard, Dan R
Time to blow cobwebs away and play footy.
Kingstonians overcame Merton for the second time this season with a 1-0 win to boost their league position.
Number 7 tapped in a volley after the Kingstonians left mid was given too long on the ball and curled in a brilliant cross only for the unmarked centre attacking midfielder, lurking at the back post, to tap it into an open goal.
Merton dominated in the centre of the pitch and were very unlucky in the closing minutes of the game, when the ball came in from a corner and Jamie Esteban rose above the defenders to smash a header onto the crossbar.
Dan and Darren’s side, who are 7th in the league only 2 points behind whitton wanderers, have played four more games than Kingstonians, who sit 5th very comfortably. Although Merton showed good pieces of play in the first half, Kingstonians got the result that was expected and their defence played a big part.
A year ago Merton were 12th in the league and had only one point after 15 games so to think that they travelled to Kingstonians and came away with a 1-0 loss is very respective. They showed good spirit and battled till the last minute.
Kingstonians are by far the best defensive team in the league and there are a lot of stats to back that up. They have only conceded 2 in their last 5 games and conceded 11 in 7 games this season. Merton found it hard to find a way through and Kingstonians built from the back. The yellows strikers Sam, Bradley and Felix just couldn’t beat the defence.
It could be argued that Merton deserved a penalty when Bradley controlled the ball, knocked it forward and accelerated past the centre back but was then pushed in the back to stop the counter attack.
Connor, the Kingstonians goalkeeper, pulled off some great saves in the closing five minutes of the game when Merton really piled on the pressure. Alex, Merton’s right attacking midfielder, played a neat one two with Harrison and took the shot at speed, dipping right into the top corner. However, it was stopped by a great dive from the goalkeeper.
At this point the reds made it clear they were looking for the goal to kill off the game by bringing on their tall, pacey striker. For one moment it looked over when he turned on the ball and beat two Merton centre backs only to skew his shot weakly wide.
A breakthrough for Merton seemed imminent. Attack after attack, shot after shot but the back of the net just wasn’t found. The rain poured down on the pitch and it made it hard for both teams to play their football.
One minute injury time wasn’t enough for Merton and it was clear the game was done. Kingstonians won it because of their defence. Merton dominated because of their midfield. It seemed an unfair result for such an even match.
However, Merton have to look on the bright side and finish this month in a high because their 3 upcoming fixtures could potentially all be wins. Hampton away will be a test but it’s safe to say if Merton perform the way they did today then they will win comfortably.
On the other hand, Kingstonians face a few challenges with Haworth away, whitton away, Bedfont away and Wallington home. Last time the reds faced whitton it finished in a 3-0 deficit. So Kingstonians know they are certainly still in the title race and need to keep putting in these performances.
Merton, who are surely aiming for a mid-table finish, will keep working on their defence and will probably work on scoring more goals and creating more chances. The yellows are under new management this season and are doing well to pick up the pieces from last season miserable 3 point finish.
A new-look Hood!
For those who you who have popped down to the Hood since the dawn of the New Year, you will have noticed it’s had a pretty significant series of improvements. On behalf of the entire club, we’d just like to say a huge thank you to Darren Fitzgerald, who so selflessly gave of his time over the holidays, and single-handedly did all the painting and repairs that have given our beloved clubhouse the facelift it so badly needed.
For those of you who don’t know, Darren is one of our newer members who plays for the 3s. But he has also taken on the role of managing the U/15s, in conjunction with Daniel Woollard, and the duo have done a fantastic job so far this season. We thank Darren kindly for all he is doing to help the club, and we hope you enjoy making use of the much-improved facilities at the Hood as a direct result of his efforts.
08/01/2017 Merton FC vs Motspur Park
Things started badly, and we went 2-0 down quickly. Poly scored a couple of goals on the break. Merton finished the half strongly though, with a lot of pressure from corners. The Poly keeper made 2 quality saves, one from Steve Burchell.
The second half started slow again, and we conceded 2 quick goals.
A couple more Poly goals later and an Aaron Ackerman cross into the box was bundled into the goal by the Poly CB under pressure from Gibbo. The goals panel eventually decided to generously award the goal to the Welshman, who may or may not have got a touch on it.
A few more Poly goals later and the end result wass 9-2. A poor result, but let’s put it out of our minds, and get back to winning ways next week.
MOTM: only one candidate – Dwayne Forest Bedford
Excellent day of Youth football to kick off the new year…
Today’s results as follows:
U9s No game
U11s beat CB Hounslow 5-4
U13s beat Motspur Pk 5-4 on pens. 3-3 after normal time.…
U14s no game
U15s lost 1-0 against Kingstonian Yth
And below is a pic of the 5 brave U13s who stepped up and slotted their penalties, along with the goalkeeper, who made a spectacular, match-winning save in the shootout. Well done lads, and to all the Youth players today!
1s got 2017 off to a great start with a 4-3 win at Bank of England in a tense close game. 4-1 up at half time but held on against a very determined BOE side. Goals from Vanny,Jonny,Tills, Clappers). 2s drew 2-2 with South Bank.(Tim Benham MOM) 3s lost 6-3 at Nottsborough and 5s lost 9-2 to Poly 9s But in the big one the 6s edged out the 7s 2-1 in a close encounter.
MATCH REPORT: Nick Papanastasiou Memorial Friendly
New Year’s Day marked a very special occasion at the Hood, as Merton FC gathered to commemorate a very special young man, Nick Papanastasiou, who tragically passed away in October 2016. In his short time as a member of the club, Nick had made a significant impact – most notably with his impressive football skills, fine bowling action, and a smile that was as infectious as any.
The occasion to honour his memory was a friendly fixture of a composite Merton XI in the iconic Yellow, who took on a team comprised of Nick’s family and friends, donning white. There was no shortage of sore heads among the Merton contingent in the wake of the New Year celebrations the night before. Fortunately for manager Clappers, he had an inflated squad of 19 at his disposal.
His first act was to ambitiously/dubiously promise all the players an hour of football each – the sort of mathematical manipulation that would have put him on a par with the likes of Einstein or Nash, given the squad size and the limit of 90 minutes that comprise a standard football match.
Nevertheless, the forecast rain remained at arm’s length, and it was all systems go. The Merton gaffer opted for experience in defence, with no fewer than 282 years, and 11,319 games under the belt of the back four. A crocked midfield three provided the foil for a more energetic trifecta at the top of the pitch, with Tom Benham and Nick’s brother Chris leading the charge.
The game started at a ‘leisurely’ tempo, although the whites unquestionably had the better of things. Their sustained pressure resulted in a misplaced pass from Welchy, and the opposing striker looked a sure bet to score having intercepted and charged away. However, Sam spared Welchy’s blushes with a good outstretched hand to maintain parity.
Merton eventually began to grow into the game, with Tom in particular causing the opposing defence some problems. He was controversially ruled offside when clean through, and then had another effort cleared off the line.
The whites were still offering a bit going forward, but a crunching sliding tackle from Welchy stifled one attack, while his partner Darren Avey was doing a good job with the aerial battles. The latter, though, displayed his attacking limitations shortly after, as he somehow conspired to blaze over the bar with the goal at his mercy from a corner. The belated offside call could hardly be used as a scapegoat either, and Max showed his videographic acumen by capturing the whole saga on camera, much to the delight of the onlooking crowd.
Clappers, though, had seen enough, and hauled Darren and six others off the park in what proved to be an inspired change. A scrappy through ball put Tom through on goal, and he made no mistake, hooking the ball home with his left to make it 1-0. Tom then looked to have made it two shortly after as he rifled one past the keeper and into the net. However, he was adjudged to have been offside once again.
The whites then hit Merton on the counter, as their striker – correctly adjudged to be onside after some ‘attentive’ linesman work from Mike – cottoned onto a ball over the top. A corner ensued, and the resultant chaos from the delivery looked sure to produce an equaliser. However, Merton somehow managed to scramble clear to maintain their slender advantage going into the break.
The oranges were much enjoyed by the tiring players, as Clappers attempted to shuffle his rather sizeable pack. Confusion reigned as Welchy attempted to substitute himself, but eventually clarity was restored.
Merton began the second half strongly too, and had a number of half chances to double their lead. The whites keeper made a fine one-handed save early on, while Darcy later looked sure to score, but contrived to take long enough to allow a goal-saving block to be put in. It was one of a number misses from the buccaneering 3s midfielder; something his teammates gleefully alerted him to on each occasion.
The second goal eventually came, and from an unlikely source, in an unlikely manner. Vanny put in a cross, and Mustard was on hand to nod it home. His finish was all the more impressive given the levels of contortionism required to get his head so low to the ground – a side-footed tap in may have been the path of least resistance in retrospect. Nevertheless, a goal to be remembered, aptly chronicled by Max, who remarked, “That must be the first header Mustard has ever scored. In fact, that must be the first header he’s ever produced that could be classified as a positive intervention.”
But the whites weren’t about to keel over, and they hit back soon after, as their big number 5 stormed through the Merton defence, and finished with aplomb to make it 2-1. And they looked set for an equaliser too, as a bullet shot stung Sam’s fingertips a few minutes later. He fumbled, the ball spewed in front of him, but as the opposing striker descended upon it, Sam just about toed it away to safety.
The rain began to teem down thereafter, and this scribe, among other spectators, fled for cover. A third goal was allegedly scored by Vanny at the death, albeit with differing accounts as to the quality thereof. Some onlookers described it as a ‘scuffed’ finish, while the man himself later spoke of beating four defenders en route to glory.
Either way, Dave Laughton called time on proceedings soon after, with the final score of 3-1 an irrelevant one. Far more important was the occasion itself: an entertaining match, played in great spirit, in honour of a wonderful man, and a New Year’s Day tradition that looks set to endure. The packed bar afterwards summed up the success of it, and, despite the weather, it was a day thoroughly enjoyed by all. A big thank you to Chris, family, friends and all the players and helpers on the day.