4s vs Actonians Assoc. – 26.11.16
Actonians 2-1 Merton
After an unfortunate result the week before, the Merton 4s looked to get back on the wagon on Saturday to regain some of the confidence that had been built up over the weeks before. With the 3s having no fixture, the 4s got a boost courtesy of some really good players such as Dan Rist, Joe Squire, Darcy Yates, Mike Gubby and also young Emmanuel Amoakoh.
A good thing too, because the opposition on the day were the table-topping Actonians, who have been in rampant form. Their main pitch provided a lovely setting, and with a solid-looking 4-4-2 formation in place, Merton were at the ready to put in a good performance.
But as has been the case quite often this season, they failed to get going in the early exchanges, and the first 10 or 15 minutes were all Actonians. Although clear-cut chance were few and far between, there was sustained pressure, and Merton were lucky to come out of it unscathed.
But the Yellows slowly began to gain a foothold in the game, and had some dangerous-looking attacks of their own. The midfield began to click into gear, and it was for this very reason that the opening goal came as a bit of a surprise. The ball was lost in the middle of the pitch, but the counter attack from the home side was brutally quick. Kieran came out towards him, but he was rounded, and the finish – from a very tight angle – was pinpoint. 1-0 Actonians.
It was a hammer blow, but Merton showed their mettle, and really dug in. In fact, they did more than that: they played some decent football, used the width of the pitch particularly well, and really looked a goal threat. And it was to pay dividends soon after, albeit in fortuitous circumstances.
Frankie eased his way into the box and got ‘clattered’ from behind. By his own admission, it was soft to say the least, but the ref blew his whistle, and, after some angry words from an incandescent home side, he pointed to the spot. Dom stepped up, with 14 sets of eyes praying he would slot it home. He didn’t! The keeper pulled off a good save to his right. But, ever aware, Dom was there for the rebound and poked it home to make it 1-1.
Merton were determined to make it count, and the heads went straight back on. And once again, they arguably looked the more likely of the two sides. Defensively they were solid, and each time the ball went down the flanks, Actonians looked unsure.
But once again, Merton fell foul to the pace of the oppo’s devastatingly quick strikers. This time Joe wasn’t quite able to get to a long ball, and their striker got in behind. A superb through ball put their striker one on one with Kieran, and the finish was clinical. 2-1 Actonians, and it was cruel on Merton just before the break.
But if the first half was a decent showing, the second half was arguably the 4s best period of play in the season to date. Certainly given the strength of the oppo anyway. From the get-go, they were getting stuck in, and with Emmanuel’s pace upfront and Dom as a constant threat, Actonians looked rattled. Numerous free kicks were won in their half, with Dom going very close, while Mike scrambled to get to a delivery that just didn’t quite fall for him.
The subs did a great job too, with Joe and Mike Gubby having a positive impact, while Ryan was as solid as ever, albeit in a left-back role as the manager took a breather. Merton were pinging passes around, and putting on a display that was even quietly described as ‘tika-taka’ by some. It really was good to see.
In a half that Merton dominated, Actonians had the best chance courtesy of a highly dubious penalty – Frankie was judged to have handled the ball, despite there being barely any appeals from the oppo. But their striker who stepped up to take the spot kick never looked confident, and Kieran did brilliantly to palm his strike clear. 2-1, it stayed. Could Merton snaffle an equaliser?
Unfortunately not. They threw men forward, and had a number of half chances. But the ball just never quite fell for them when they needed it to, and eventually the ref called time on what had been a tremendous game.
Narrow defeats have sadly become a bit of a feature of this league campaign. But none were as courageous as this one, and the lads walked off the park with their heads held high. If this sort of performance can be replicated against other teams, the points will fly in thick and fast.
Goal: Dom Plumridge
MOTM: Dan Rist
Team: Kieran Lee (GK), Ed Plaistow, Mike Todt, Joe Plumridge, Dan Rist, Will Harrison, Darcy Yates, Chris Outred, Emmanuel Amoakoh, Frankie Kaligorou, Dom Plumridge
Subs: Joe Squire, Michael Gubby, Ryan Burchell