3s vs Old Parkonians – 30.04.16
The boars signed off what Mustard describes as “one of his top-4 most enjoyable Merton seasons” in blistering sunshine on a parched Hood pitch which offered plenty of uneven bounce and an abrasive surface that looked like it would shred a few knees. Irrespective of pitch, knee trouble is surely on the horizon for the 3 veterans who lined up at the back: Merton legends Mustard, Lofty and Walshy, with a cumulative age of just 128. Relative scamps Neal Davison and Ricardo supported at wing back with Dave Scott playing third wheel to Denys and Tom Benham up top, both in the hunt for club golden boot at kick off.
Merton started sharply, and almost scored straight from the kick-off as PJ fed Tom who skinned his man but dragged his shot between the far post and Denys arriving square. The hotly anticipated tackle-off in central midfield (not to be confused with the event of the same name in the showers afterwards) saw Pete Jennings and Ryan Gresty adopt differing tactics. The former went for quantity – racking up roughly one foul per minute until he was finally booked; while the latter went for quality – ending the game for Parks’ tricky striker 5 minutes in with a trademark cruncher on the edge of the box. Gresty 1, Parks Nil. More importantly, it was Merton 1, Parks Nil soon after, as Dave Scott neatly played Tom in behind who stood up a cross at the back stick which Denys met with a diving bullet header to draw level in the golden boot race.
After last week’s record number of spectators at the Hood, normal service was resumed with just Max and the odd dog-walker checking in on proceedings. Perhaps a reflection on the quality of fare dished up last week. But even Gresty Sr on the other side of London tells me he heard Welchy shout “PAULS!!” as Parks knocked a ball into the box following PJ’s umpteenth foul of the half. Up went Paul… down came Paul… and the ball was headed into the Merton net past a helpless, somewhat bemused Frankie. Questions were asked about who was marking the Parks goalscorer, but let’s not dwell on that…
A wobble ensued, and almost immediately from the kick off Frankie had to bravely block at the feet of the striker, earning a bang on the noggin for his troubles and ignoring the UEFA concussion protocol to return between the sticks. That said, Merton had the better of the first half and should have had a pen when PJ bustled into the box and was kicked in the face (“anywhere else on the pitch, that’s a foul” was predictably uttered). More so, Merton were competing hard and getting under the skin of the whinging opposition who laughably suggested we should be taking it easy because it was the last game of the season and they needed to win to be in with a shot at the title.
With requests for mercy politely rebuffed, Merton started the second half by gifting Parks a free kick on the edge of the box. The otherwise faultless Lofty culpable this time. The kick glanced off Neal’s arm on the end of a strangely located wall and into the net. 2-1 Parks, but plenty of time for Merton to get something from the game. On came Chris Pap, nodding just wide at the near post with his first touch, blaming a failure of eyewear/depth perception for getting his angles wrong. Then Dave Scott got the ball on the edge of the box following good work on the left from Nick Pap. 4 defenders were in close proximity, so Dave tried the old Pro Evo trick of dribbling around in the box waiting for someone to foul him. Alas no foul came and Dave eventually shot wide.
In between Merton attacks Parks had plenty coming the other way, even if they didn’t really trouble Frankie again. Mustard was having a relatively quiet game at the back so, keen to be more involved, pushed on into midfield where he won a commanding header 20 yards backwards. Wing back Neal was also having a lonely time of it, starved of the ball for the most part. But on the other wing, Ricky wasn’t going to let trivial matters like the absence of the ball get in the way of a good kick, as he picked up a card for a clumsy hack at an opposition midriff. Walking a tightrope, he then put it the slide tackle of the day on The Riddler, who must be asking some serious questions of himself having been “solved” by Walshy (late handbags notwithstanding) before a mangling at the hands of the shortest man on the pitch.
Merton huffed and puffed but without sufficient composure and the game ended in a slightly harsh 2-1 defeat. Indiscipline throughout the 90 offered Parks too many opportunities to put the ball in the box, which ultimately cost us the game. What was not in question was effort and commitment, as has been the case all season and was typified by Ricardo’s energetic MOM performance. And by avoiding a 6-goal reverse we secured third position in the final league standings. Add to that having both the club’s top goalscorers in our ranks, incredible availability north and south of the river all year and even the odd good tune from Mustard’s iPod and it’s been a fine season for the boars.