Bouyed by an opening win at Crouch End, the 3s turned up full of confidence (and on time!) for an AFA cup duel with Old Paulines. Despite the well-publicised loss of some players to higher teams (thanks to Neal for a brilliant video), a strong team had high hopes of progressing and made the confident choice to take the larger top pitch, even though it meant bringing the goals in ourselves.
This may have been a mistake. A young, enterprising Paulines team took advantage of a flat start from Merton (perhaps getting there on time had upset the rhythm of some players football clocks!) to pass rings around us with some neat, if not unduly threatening, football. This changed about 20 minutes in, when after a corner was only half cleared at the near post by Paul Ellis, Paulines managed to guide it home through a crowd of players from seven or eight yards out. 1-0.
Neal then went off with a recurrence of his hamstring injury (Adam coming on in his place) and 4-3-3 reverted to 4-4-2. Perhaps due to the formation change, or equally likely, the desire to get back into the game, Merton rallied. Suddenly two or three yards sharper to the ball, they closed and harried the opposition out of their passing game and began to get on top. Dan fired over the angle of post and bar from a narrow angle, and also had a good shout for a penalty turned down after an exellent ball from Ryan. Denys was battling hard in the middle, winning headers and had a shot from distance saved. Several corners came as went as Merton put in a sustained spell of pressure, but even our pre-match corner planning failed to deliver this time. And this proved to be the story of the rest of the game, truth be told.
Unlucky to go in a goal down at half time, Merton kept up the pressure throughout the second half, without ever quite creating a clear cut chance. Mike Reed and Mark Chappel both went close after some pinball in the box in a grandstand finish. Yomi came on and did well, as debutant Adam with some nice touches on the ball. At the back, Vin and Mike were in control, with Mike Reed also putting in a couple of surging runs from full back. Ryan Gresty put in his usual combative performance, and so impressed was the referee that he rewarded his efforts with a yellow gold star, or was it a card, for a “reckless” one footed, ball winning tackle that had MOTD pundits calling for a retrospective 3 match ban afterwards.
At this point, a new section dedicated to Paul Ellis, who was cruelly overlooked from the match report last week, despite stepping in to play an unfamiliar left back role and doing a sterling job at it. This week Paul switched to a more familiar right sided role, and in his own words (disclaimer: some of these may actually be his) “had too many good moments to mention”. More importantly, the introduction of a new section to the match report helps to distract from the disappointing final scoreline.
But, back to the game. With even goal machine Darcy failing to deliver this week, Merton resorted to piling players in the box for the final few moments, hoping to salvage something to take the game to extra time. Alas, it was not to be, and in a further cruel twist of fate, Paulines added a second in injury time on the break despite a clear offside that the ref had the good grace to admit after the game.
Next week, Crouch End return in the other cup, aka the one we can win. Although that’s perhaps a self evident statement given the result above in the AFA cup
MOTM: Mike Stone for another assured and classy display at the back, and also now permitted to join the whatsapp group as evidence of his progression. Honourable mentions to Mike Reed (despite the caption competiton photo below), Denys and Vin.
Posted in Match Reports 3s