3s vs Old Blues – 21.11.15
An emphatic scoreline masked a somewhat odd game worthy of the moniker “a game of two halves,” as Merton returned to winning ways at the hood.
Once again there was pre-match drama as the game was switched from Ham to the Joseph Hood and then threatened once again by the familiar end of week rain and in this case the less familiar snow.
Neal in particular was so convinced the game was going to be off he kept talking about his planned saturday IKEA trip and Pete Jennings confided that he was staring a long day of carpet shopping full in the face if the rain didnt let off.
What other home furnishing plans the rest of the squad had on was not disclosed, but it wasnt all bad news for the industry when the game was declared on as Dan bought a broom from homebase (and dressed for a full-on artic expedition) to sweep some excess moisture from the pitch.
With the returning Denys back in the first XI in the only personnel change from last week, Merton did revert to a 4-4-2 for the visit of Old Blues, with Tony, Reece and Joel (also all returning) cheering the “polar boars” from the subs bench.
Old Blues started with 10 as players were running late, and Merton had the benefit of a baltic wind at their backs so the plan was to use this advantage to build up an unassailable first half lead. So the scene was all set for an onslaught and it duly arrived with Old Blues struggling to get out of their half and Merton well on top.
The chances came thick and fast. And went thick and fast as Merton put on a masterclass in how not to finish. Dan got in behind two or three times and couldnt pick out a square pass or finish. When he did find Denys courtesy of a fortunate ricochet that left the ball at Denys feet and both keeper and defender sprawled on the floor, Denys incredibly managed to hit the previously ko’d defender with his shot. In a rare moment of quality, Dan crossed to Reece (on for Tom midway through the half) who controlled and laid the ball off for Dave to hit from 12 yards, only for the strike to go wide.
Dave then returned the favour to Reece a few minutes later a little later, looping the ball over the stranded keeper and centre back for Reece to steer home at the back post with the goal at his mercy. You can guess what’s coming. With Merton players already celebrating, Reece (some would say unforgiveably) leaned back and blazed over the bar. It was not going to plan.
Merton did get the one goal, and perhaps unsurprisingly it came via the boot of the opposition, the full back showing Merton how it was done by slicing a crossed free kick over the keeper and into the top corner under some pressure from Dan at the back post.
At the other end, Old Blues were sporadically threatening down the right wing, with Mustard drawn into a few clumsy tackles by their tricky winger. As per usual however, his penchant for sods (that’s sniffing out danger) remained undiminished and resulted in a crucial goal line block after Old Blues had got in behind and managed to beat Paul Ellis.
So, to Merton’s disgust it was just 1-0 at half time and with a second half into the wind to come there were concerned discussions at half time. Had we missed our opportunoty? A change was made (Tony on for Mustard) and the team was put on notice that more would be made if we didnt shape up. The strikers were particularly singled out and warned that included them if they didnt take their chances.
And so the second half kicked off with Merton desperate to atone for their first half profligacy. But how would the wind affect them? As it turned out not very much, Merton continuing to dominate just as they had in the first half.
The second goal came quickly. Dan and Seb harried the full back off the ball on the halfway line and Seb played in Denys. There was still a bit of work to do, but with an easy square ball to Dan removed as an option by an outrageous off the ball foul, Denys instead calmly guided past the keeper from a narrow angle for 2-0.
Two quickly became three when Neal played in Dan with a beautifully weighted through ball for him to tuck under the keeper. 3-0 and Mustard, seeing his strikers react to the threat of substitution for poor finishing by both scoring within 10 minutes, promptly subbed off Dan to bring Tom back on. Lesson learned.
Merton were now utterly dominant as Old Blues lost all shape. Tom bullied his way past the frankly rather beleaguered left back, drove into the box, and finished very crisply indeed, waiting a moment for the keeper to commit himself before blasting the ball home from 12 yards.
Denys bagged a second with a close range finish following good work down the left with Reece.
Neal then strode imperiously through a series of tackles only to air kick just as he went to clip the ball past the keeper. Mike Stone, moving into centre mid as Joel came on for Neal, then did something similar to Neal (less
imperious ghosting past players, more actual finish), only for Tom to poke the ball in on the line and cruelly deny Mike a first Merton goal. There was some slight justification in the nearby presence of a covering defender.
At 6-0 more changes were made to rotate the team and game somewhat petered out in terms of Merton chances.
There was, though, still time for some defensive shenanigans (to be fair this is more related for amusement purposes as the defence were very good throughout).
Mustard managed to pass to the opposition striker ten yards from him instead of Vin when everyone else was forward waiting for the free kick to be crossed in. The oppo could not take advantage though as Merton recovered well.
Secondly, there was much hilarity on the sidelines as first Vin slipped, and then slipped again trying to turn and catch an attacking winger. Mustard then threw himself in to intervene only to miss man and ball entirely but just when all seemed lost Joel slid in on his knees platoon-style and block the ball out for a corner. That is commitment.
Last but by no means least, the final action of the game saw Paul Ellis make a great full length stop and then Mustard (the sod – that’s sniffer of danger) to bag another goal line block and ensure a clean sheet.
So, very much the proverbial game of two halves (in terms of finishing at least) and ultimately an emphatic win.
Defense was solid throughout, good to see Joel, Reece and Tony back and all did well. Tom B continues to improve and had a great second half when he returned, but Motm this week went to Seb who picked up an assist in a high energy display from the right wing.
Dotm went to Reece for that miss. The ball is probably still rising.