Actonians Association 6s vs. Merton 4s
SAL Minor Division 1 South
Saturday 6th February 2016

John Gridley said it best after the men in Yellow had made the not-insignificant trek from the Actonians clubhouse to the fields where the game would take place: “This is going to be proper grassroots football today, lads.” Indeed, with ominous skies, a howling wind and a truly awful pitch, the 90 minutes that followed were never going to be a footballing masterpiece.

Nevertheless, the 4s, on the back of an impressive 3-0 win at Weirside Rangers, fancied their chances against the struggling Actonian Association 6s, and once again lined up 4-5-1. Starting off with much of the wind against them, they made a fine start, keeping good shape, working hard, and even showing some composure on the ball. 

The first 15 minutes were a bit of cat and mouse, with no real opportunities coming for either side. But Merton were just starting to build some momentum, and just shy of midway through the half, they hit their hosts on the counter. Some good interplay in midfield saw the ball find its way to Dulanie, who made a great run and fed Dom in the box. Hustled by a defender and with the keeper to beat, he made a decent stab at it with his left boot, but the wind took the ball agonisingly wide of the post.

Salt was then rubbed in the wounds soon after, as from about 30 yards out, Actonians took a shot that was seemingly well blocked. However, it lobbed up, rode the wind, and somehow snuck just under the crossbar. 1-0 to the men in blue, and a cruel blow for Merton.

But the lads seem to be made of sterner stuff these days, and kept their heads up from the resumption. They continued to work hard, and after some resolute defending, again produced a counter attack. Once again, it was Dom who found himself carving out a shot in the box, despite being circled by numerous defenders, only this time it was the keeper who tipped his effort inches wide of the same post.

But he wasn’t to be denied for too much longer. Five minutes before the break, Merton won a free kick 25 yards out, 10 yards to the left of the left post. For Dom, and a man who had scored his previous two free kicks, you could barely have placed it better. And so 10 men in yellow held their breath. The 11th, Dom, had no such doubts though. The ball once again absolutely flew off his left boot, seemingly picking up speed as it went despite the wind. The keeper dived despairingly, but never had a price. It smashed into the goal off the inside of the far post, and every man to a tee mobbed the little genius. 1-1, a crucial equaliser before half time, and unbridled joy for the lads.

Nothing much more doing in the closing minutes, and the talk was good at the interval. The 4s fancied putting 3 or 4 past these opponents, especially with a bit more help from the wind. But first and foremost, it was the three points which were needed. Actonians came out after the kick-off with purpose, but the midfield three kept digging their heels in, and, in truth, didn’t leave a great deal for the defence to do.

And the surging home side were always going to leave themselves vulnerable to a counter attack. This time it was good work from Joe and Jake up the right which led to a free kick in a dangerous position around 10 minutes into the second period.

Now it was Mikey who stood over it, and he delivered a menacing ball into the box. With a sea of yellow trying to get on the end of it, the Actonian defender appeared to be taken by surprise as the ball landed at his feet, and his attempted clearance resulted merely in a meek finish past the keeper. Own goal, Scholesy might just about claim the assist for a “flick on”, but Merton didn’t care a monkeys how it had come. It was 2-1, and another 3 points were in sight.

But there was still a long way to go, and the key was going to be to keep the focus and concentration up. No team really bossed it at any stage, but it’s fair to say the opponents spent more time in the Yellows’ half than the alternative. But each time any man was called upon to thwart the Actonians, they did their job, and the manager made some good substitutions too with Arnold and Billy showing good energy when they came on.

In truth, for 85 minutes, the home side weren’t even allowed a clear opportunity at any stage, with even their earlier goal being somewhat fortuitous and speculative. But a generally peaceful game had a bit of late drama, as Dom took exception to the harrying of an Actonian defender. He put an impressive rugby tackle in after the whistle had gone for a foul, which incensed the opponents. This in turn drew all in sundry to throw their handbags in – including those on the bench – with rumours that a punch had been thrown escalating things. 

The fracas eventually died down and play resumed for the final few. Perhaps a now slightly distracted Merton side had their first real heart-in-mouth moment in the dying stages, as the opposing winger put a ball in that awkwardly trickled across the face of the goal in front of Sam. But with no blue shirt able to get on the end of it, that hairy moment passed as quickly as it had begun, and the sweet sound of the final whistle followed soon after.

And so it was… a 2-1 victory. Not one that will go down as an all-time classic. Far from it, in fact. But the steadily improving 4s had done what they needed to do, and largely cruised to what was now a 4th win in 5. This really is a team beginning to hit its straps, and although HSBC will likely present a tougher challenge next week, Merton will have every confidence that they can do the business.

FINAL SCORE: Actonians Association 6s 1 – 2 Merton 4s
SCORERD: Dom Plumridge, Own Goal
Joe Plumridge

STARTING LINE-UP: Samuel Singer-Ripley (GK), John Gridley, Chris Outred, Mike Todt, Edward Plaistow (Billy Dowie), Jake Hewitt (Arnold Collier), Michael Elgar, Neal Davison, Mike Elgar, Dulanie Richards, Dom Plumridge

Posted in Match Reports 4s