Merton overcame both a hamstring-killing pitch and a series of rather dubiously disallowed goals to take all 3 points in this midweek fixture.
With an unprecedented 17 players available for a midweek 6pm away kick-off, the lucky 14 selected arrived to find a sunny, spring afternoon in Dulwich, a picnic bench next to the pitch and an open bar. Ryan and Lofty also came to spectate/manage/have a pint making it 16 boars in a strong showing.
Merton lined up in a 4-4-2 and immediately created a chance against a somewhat ponderous/elderly back 4, with Tom helping the ball on to Dan only for his snapshot to be mishit at a covering defender. Dan almost redeemed himself after being played in down the left by the retuning Pete Jennings, accelerating past two defenders and into the box and crossing to the far post. Either Tom or Denys looked certain to turn the ball home, only for a South Bank defender to appear from nowhere and somehow smuggle the ball clear. The pitch then claimed its first victim with Dan pulling up with a hamstring strain midway through the first half, with Ricky coming on in his stead and Tom moving up front.
However, on a bobbly pitch, Merton were guilty of trying to hit a ball over the top too early and were struggling to create a clear chance. Tom was finally through on goal just before half-time only for the ball to get somewhat stuck under his feet just as he would have wanted to pull the trigger. Other than that it was really a rather scrappy affair.
Half time, and Lofty made another change, with Welchy coming on for Nick, and a four-way positional swap that most notably saw Neal move from fullback to wide midfield. Even more notably, the opposition retriever decided to have Frankies gloves, taking them off his hands no less and running for the hills. Frankie was not impressed (those are £40 gloves!) and there was a short delay whilst various people chased the dog around the field. All that was missing was some Benny Hill music.
Keen to be involved as the second half began, Welchy immediately embarked on a lung busting surge down the line, followed by a misplaced pass and another pulled hamstring. He limped off to sit on the sidelines next to the similarly crocked Dan.
For the next ten minutes, South Bank had their best spell, a series of set pieces resulting a goal bound shot that Frankie did well to save and a great clearance off the line by Tony. However, Merton regrouped, and with the substitutes Ricky and Tony making a big impact and Neal having more of an influence in his midfield role, the chances began to come.
First, a quick-thinking free-kick from Darcy, passing rather than shooting from 25 yards, saw a Merton player slot home from close range after an inital miscontrol. Unfortunately, the referee ruled it out for offside. Next, Tom did excellently to win a flick-on, Ricky steamrollered through one defender before being clattered by another and then the keeper. The referee decided in his wisdom that somehow it was a home free-kick. Thirdly, some excellent play down the left involving Ricky, Nick and Tom saw Tom played in to finish with aplomb from just inside the area, but was again ruled out by the referee.
It didn’t look like it was going to be Merton day, but as the game entered the final quarter, Merton found a goal even the referee couldn’t argue with. Tom was played in once again, after some neat interplay aorund the edge of the box, and this time there was no whistle, his slightly sliced shot rising over the keeper and finding the top corner. 1-0, and well deserved.
Merton continued to press, one highlight a quite delightful blind reverse pass from Neal that saw Tony cynically chopped down as he ran into the box. Another quite brilliant moment saw one of the South Bank players scream at the referee “Don’t listen to him Ref, this man is a liar!”, as Mustard called for a header. I think it was the combination of pure outrage and politeness that really made it.

However, a second goal did come, with Ricky again bustling through tackles and lifting a goal-bound shot over the keeper that Tom made sure of by stabbing home as the defence scrambled after the ball. 2-0, and a well deserved win after a much improved second-half performance.

So, all in all a rather eventful game featuring two hamstring injuries, a dog running off with the gloves, 3 disallowed goals and the most polite/comical liar accusation ever heard on a football pitch. Oh, and don’t drink the (vanila-essenced infused?) Carling.

MOTM: Darcy upped the drama stakes in the vote, as the returning PJ was closely matched by Pete, and even a vote for Pete J, before he realised they were in fact the same person.
DOTM: Mustard for persistant foul throwing and/or throws that looked like foul throws (there may have only been one foul throw).
DOTPM (dick of the post-match): Darcy for the above MOTM cock-up
DOTE: (dick of the evening): Dan for taking everyone first to a pub that was shut and then to one that didn’t show the football. Fail.
Pete Jennings
Mike Reed
Vincenzo Di Matteo
Mike Stone
Nick P
Darcy Yates
Neal Davison
Tom Benham
Dan Kelly
Denys Zhurby
Ricardo Inglesias
Tony Postlethwaite
Paul Welch
Posted in Match Reports 3s