Not a good day. A late no-show from our keeper saw Mustard step up manfully and take the gloves and John Cutts make a late dash to North East London (well, frankly Essex) to bring us to a full squad of 14. 
The good:
The first half saw Merton defend robustly and keep Old Parks at bay, albeit without having too much of the ball. Ryan shielded the back 4 expertly in a holding midfield role, and Mustard effectively played sweeper-keeper in behind, making some timely interceptions. Joel and Vin were contained the Parks strikers well. Going forward, Nick P looked dangerous when on the ball in space, and was having some joy down the right flank. Seb had a chance from the corner of the box after nice work from a throw in but his cross-eluded both the bottom corner and the onrushing Nick. Denys was battling hard for knockdowns and had a couple of half chances. Dan flicked on a free kick past the far post, again neither quite a cross or a shot. Approaching half time, Merton took the lead, rolling substitute Chris P nudging the goalkeeper (who had run miles out of goal for some reason) off the ball, which fell to Nick to lift over the stranded keeper from fully 35-40 yards with a delightful finish. Merton withstood a late first half rally to go in at half time 1-0 up and were feeling pretty good about things. 
The bad:
Merton could have got a dream start when Dan intercepted a pass from the keeper to the fullback just a few minutes, but in two minds whether to shoot or pass to the screaming Darcy, instead passed to an opposition defender. Fail.  
The second half saw Merton under increasing pressure. With the team reshuffled with Ryan off injured, we lost our shape somewhat and were guilty of having too many men piling forward and not tracking back. On top of this the ref, who to be fair had a decent first half, suddenly decided after one too many robust Denys tackles, that “enough was enough” and the game became non-contact, which served to frustrate Merton further. As the pressure built, Joel and Vin were increasingly exposed, and the pressure told with Merton giving away a soft penalty near the touchline. Mustard very nearly made a fantastic save but couldn’t quite do enough. 1-1. Very quickly, it was 2-1 as a cross from a (short?) corner found its way along the floor almost along the goal line without meeting a clearance, and was smashed in at the back post. Merton made some changes to try and get back in the game, but unfortunately a miskicked goal kick saw Old Parks one on one and resulted in another goal. 1-0 to 1-3 in less than 10 minutes.
The ugly
At 3-1, it looked like an uphill battle. Things quickly got worse. Riccardo reacted to a ridiculous challenge (studs around his shoulder/face) with a couple of jabs to the opposition player and was sent off, no complaints there. However, in switching to a 3-5-1 to chase the game, Merton unravelled and turned a 3-1 defeat into a 5-1 hammering. Poor passing, lack of fitness combined with not showing for the ball all led to a horribly exposed back 3, and Old Parks took full advantage, scoring a couple of goals that to be honest were rather embarrassing to concede.
The Verdict.
It was a very disappointing end to a game that had such promise in the first half, but hopefully will be remembered by all concerned to ensure it does not happen again this season. We need to build on the positives from the first half, continue work on our fitness, and fight to the end. If we can do this, we can do well this season.
MoM: Nick, with honourable mentions to Ryan (we rather fell apart without him) and Mustard for stepping up and taking the gloves.
Posted in Match Reports 3s