Old Owens 2nd XI 1 – 1 Merton 2nd XI
Old Owens win 6-5 on penalties.

Merton suffered a heartbreaking penalty shootout loss against an Old Owens side several divisions above them, denying them a famous win/cupset/insert giant killing metaphor here.

With 12 brave players making the trip outside(!) the m25 to Potters Bar for this fixture, Merton immediately made use of their relative unfamiliarity by taking the unusual step of not warming up with a football. No pre game intelligence (or a football) at all…until the referee gave us a ball with 5 mins before kick off. The best laid plans…

Despite (or because) of this Owens started the stronger, moving the ball well and threatening from wide positions and set pieces. Sherbs had already plucked a couple of dangerous crosses from the heads of opposing players before another whipped cross just failed to be turned in at the near post.

After weathering this initial pressure, Merton began to grow into the game and slowly began to force Owens back. Jason started to get some joy holding up the ball in his lone forward role and the midfield began to get on the ball as a result. Mike, Andy and Darcy in the middle began to find Joe and Alex on the wings. As Merton grew into the game, the chances began to come. First a great channel ball from fullback Clowesy brought a throw in near the corner flag and neatly worked to pick out Alex at the back post. Despite a great leap the ball just went over the crossbar.

More half-chances at both ends came as the half continued, with Mike Stone volleying wide from the edge of the area after great work from Alex and Darcy. A brilliant crossfield diagonal from Alex almost saw Dan K in behind on the opposite wing before being cut back to Darcy but Merton couldn’t quite find the finish. At the other end the back four of clowesy cookie pearcy and connor was soaking up everything Owens could throw at them.

Then, just before half time Merton took the lead. Great work down the left saw the ball worked into the area and to Alex’s feet. As time seemed to stand still suddenly Darcy’s voice could be heard saying “hit it, son”, and Alex duly delivered, striking the ball inside the keeper’s near post. 1-0. Darcy claimed all the credit for his prophetic advice.

Merton survived until half time without any serious alarms and at the half time team talk Merton felt the game was there for the taking.

The second half saw Old Owens start fast, determined to reassert themselves against their upstart visitors. With Merton struggling again to get out of their half, chances began to flow for the home team, with the post coming first to the rescue and then a series of last ditch tackles. However, just as Merton seemed to have weathered the storm an equaliser came. Andy helped a clearance on the edge of the area and as more Merton players closed down the shot from the edge of the area a scuffed, sliced effort dribbled through towards Sherbs. Merton fatally relaxed as the spin on the ball took it away from goal and an Owens player benefited from a lucky ricochet as Sherbs just beat him to the loose ball, walking the ball over the line for 1-1. Gutting.

Worse almost followed as Owens hit the crossbar from close range following a cut back from the right, and then Sherbs pulled off a blinding save, tipping a shot at full stretch round the post.

Merton rallied, and with just a few minutes to play they almost snatched the winner. Dan closed down the opposing fullback, and his block found Joe Grew running in on goal twenty yards out with just the onrushing keeper to beat. Said Keeper did well to block Joe’s attempted lob and force the ball wide, but the chance was still alive with 2 Merton plauers screaming for a cross. The cross came in; Darcy got the faintest of touches from his head, forcing Dan to readjust and the ball them fell to Andy who stabbed wide from 12 yards. Merton saw out the rest of the game without alarm and the decision was made to go straight to pens.

It all started so well. Sherbs saved the first penalty of the shootout and very nearly the third. Merton converted penalties 1 to 4, and had their fifth kick to win the tie. Jason stepped up as the rest of the team looked on, only for his penalty to be saved by the keeper to his right. Three more successful penalties followed leaving Dan K having to score to take the shootout to an eight penalty. He did not, blazing over with a poor effort, and that was it.

So a great team effort (everyone played well and worked their socks off) but in the end there was nothing to show for it. We go again next week.

Motm – Cookie (marshalled the defence superby and slotted his pen)

Dotm – Jason edged Dan to the award for the missed pen

Posted in Match Reports 2s