2s vs Old Thorntonians – 18.11.17
Old Thorntonians 1-2 Merton 2s
Perhaps the most satisfying moment of a rainy, cold Saturday afternoon the other side of Wimbledon Common was Thorntonians’ centre back imploring his teammates to work harder with the shout of “they want it more”. We really did.
Driven forward by a relentless midfield trio of Dom, Gibbo and Darcy, Merton were hungry. Snapping into tackles, pressuring their opposite numbers, forcing mistakes and breaking at pace. We’ve missed this.
For our finest example of pace, look no further than Tom Benham. Direct and menacing, Tom was a weapon. His goal broke the deadlock, from a Dom Preece cross of real quality, right to left. Tom’s appreciation of space gave him the time to control and finish. That was just for starters. TB didn’t stop running all afternoon.
Merton continued to press, EJ’s mix of free spirit, strength and skill causing the opposition all sorts of problems. On the right, Wilgo was finding plenty of joy and creating chances. It was the captain’s inch-perfect through ball that dissected the defence for Merton’s second. Darcy made it possible with a perfectly-timed run. Wilgo picked him out. Darcy’s flick gave it the finish the pass deserved.
Thorntonians pulled one back before the half, courtesy of a questionable offside decision (more on that later). But this game was about character. And Merton had plenty of it.
As the cup tie became more end-to-end in the second half, Conor, Dan Rist, Joe Grew and in particular Pearcey were heroic at the back. Each produced a manful display that ground out what Max rightly called an epic win. Joe Grew made some serious yards down the right, too.
A short paragraph must be given over to the referee, whose performance – and what a performance – is perhaps best described as flamboyant. Explaining his interpretation of the offside rule before the game would have been amusing were it not for the erratic 90 minutes of officiating that followed.
Last word, though, goes to Lofty. Having travelled the furthest, our side’s most senior member volunteered to go in goal and then produced a performance to be proud of. The final 20 minutes alone saw Lofty make at least five saves or catches that saved Team Handsome. Handsomest among Lofty’s stops was the iron wrist he used to tip over a swirling, goal-bound drive. Truly a Merton Man’s performance.
Merton 2s: Simon White, Joe Grew, Dan Rist, Paul Pearce, Conor Murphy, Dom Preece, Darcy Yates, Michael Gibson, Graham Willgoss (c), EJ, Tom Benham. Subs: Ben Cook, Andy Holder Ross