3s vs Old Owens – 14.01.17
Merton 3s v Old Owens 3s – 1:2
With Merton 3s embroiled in a relegation battle and playing the team directly above them in the table, this was considered to be a crucial and winnable game, especially given that the 3s won a hard fought game against the same opposition (or so we thought) earlier in the season.
With the inclement weather ruling all but one pitch at The Hood out of action, this match was switched on Saturday morning to Wimbledon Common Extensions (WCE). Arrangements were put in place to ensure that everyone could get to WCE in time for the 1pm meet. Unfortunately though, things did not go to plan as an accident on the A3 significantly delayed Neal’s arrival, but to add to it, he was transporting Mustard, Denys, Chris (returning for his first competitive game this season) and crucially, the kit. Denys spotted an opportunity to depart from the static car and use an overhead bridge to take the kit to the waiting team, who were no doubt also missing the delights of the pre-match Motown playlist. Everyone had arrived by 1.40 and the team was able to get onto the pitch in time for a quick warm up and team talk ahead of kick off. Walshy was keen to stress that we needed to be aware of the sticky pitch and to not take any chances on it. Oh how we should have heeded his words….
The opposition, whom appeared to have none or possibly just 1 player from the reverse fixture, kicked off. However within a minute, a Walshy through ball had put Glenn through with a good opportunity. Similar to how Andrew Cole took his first chance for Man Utd on his debut v Blackburn Rovers in January 1995, Glenn lashed at it and the ball went high, wide and not so handsome past the near post. Good positive start though we thought; we’re going to be able to cut this team apart! One minute later, we were a goal down. The sticky pitch had either caused Jack to get his foot stuck in the mud or caused the ball to bounce differently to what he expected. Either way, he didn’t connect with the ball and a routine ball forward by Old Owens had found it’s way straight through the defence to allow their striker a clear run on goal to round Dan B and slot home. On reflection, not such a great start.
Within five minutes, it was 2-0. Neal played the ball to Mustard in centre midfield and the sticky pitch had claimed its second victim as Mustard was unable to move the ball out of his feet, was disposed and within a few passes, Old Owens had created another goal scoring opportunity and scored it. Poor Dan B must have been feeling Claudio Bravo at this point, 2 shots, 2 goals.
We needed to get a grip of the game and started to do so, led by the hard working Neal (Streetboy) Davison in the middle of midfield. Merton were awarded a free kick midway inside the opposition’s half, near the touchline. Judging by the week before, this was definitely within Dan Rist shooting territory. Dan, probably conscious that the opposition keeper would have heard of his wonder goal exploits from the week before, elected to cross the ball instead and found a stooping (or perhaps stumbling?) Walshy, whom guided the ball home with his head to make it 2-1. He was very excited and celebrated with a few fist pumps of sort and it was now game on.
Merton 3s being a single goal behind is definitely something that we’re used to, coming back to get the points from this position, we’re not used to so much, although we had done it against this club’s 3s earlier this season, so there was definitely room for optimism.
Getting the goal had inspired us further and we started to play better and created a few chances, one with Glenn putting a great ball in for Denys, who didn’t seem to fancy taking a shot, which allowed the defender in to make a tackle. Another opportunity saw Iain through on goal, but from a wide angle, which prompted him to try and chip the keeper but he couldn’t get enough elevation on it to go above the keeper. As the game progressed, some challenges were getting a little tasty and the opposition also had some lively chat, including some very witty banter, such as referring to Vin as a JCB and Walshy as a “long streak of p*ss”.
In the second half, the game petered out a little and there wasn’t a great deal in terms of goal mouth action. The opposition did hit the post, Dan B made a great save with his legs and he also took the opportunity to have a wholesome laugh at their striker’s attempted overhead kick, where he’d failed to connect with the ball. We brought on Joe Squires and Chris Pap to try and find a different way of breaking them down but we were unable to test their keeper. There was still time for Mustard to be penalised for a foul throw (although the author definitely disagrees with the decision) and after receiving a long throw from Iain in the penalty box in the last minute, to be accused of diving after going down under pressure – the general consensus was that if it had occurred anywhere else on the pitch it would have been a foul. However as it wasn’t given, it was determined to be a dive by the players and adding that to the foul throw, the lateness and being involved in the opposition’s second goal, Mustard had no doubt cemented his position as DOTD – not a good day.
The game finished 2-1, which is the seventh time this season that Merton 3s have lost by the odd goal. At times we’ve been unlucky, other times the opposition have simply been better, we’ve always been competitive but there are areas as a team we can improve on, such as better levels of fitness, tracking back more, increased availability and a bit more composure, especially when it comes to finishing. All of these things are within our gift to work on and they could be the difference between losing the game by the odd goal, to winning the game by the odd goal.
Team: Dan Bridgeman, Dan Rist, Jack Rowe, Vincenzo Di Matteo, Walshy, Iain Evans, Neil Davison, Mustard, Glenn Pittman, Darren Fitzgerald, Denys Zhurbiy. Subs: Chris Papastanasiou, Joe Squires
DOTD: Mustard (for a foul throw and alleged dive).