Forty two long days had passed for the mighty Merton 4s since they had last trudged onto the field together. The Christmas break,  combined with the ongoing problems with waterlogged pitches had scuppered the momentum of morale-boosting, back-to-back wins in early December, so the task of toppling the table-topping Alleyn Old Boys on a dreadfully boggy Wimbledon Common Extensions pitch was a stiff one.

Nevertheless, with a near full-strength squad, the Yellows had no reason to fear, and made a steady, albeit defensive start to the match. Getting out of their own half was proving difficult against a visibly superior Alleyn outfit, who showed impressive quality passing the ball around on a woeful surface. It didn’t lead to any goals for the first 25 minutes though, as Merton dug in gamely.

But the breakthrough had an air of inevitability about it, as one of their pacey strikers beat the offside trap and slotted home clinically to make it 1-0. The second came 10 minutes later; again some good interplay that proved very difficult to deal with. The finish was clinical too, Sam had no chance, and 2-0 it was.

Yet while it wasn’t exactly an unfair score line, it was a little tough on the hosts, who had done well to carve out some decent chances of their own through direct football. Dulanie got on the end of a fine cross from Mikey, and was unlucky to see his header on goal well saved.

There was also some controversy, with Dom brought down by the last man when it appeared he was clean through on goal. A free kick, but no card, and it became a bit farcical as Billy’s subsequent effort with the dead ball was deliberately handled on the outskirts of the box – again no card from the official though.

And seconds before the whistle came for half time, a delightful overhead flick found Mikey just a few yards out, but a difficult finish to execute slid agonisingly wide. Still, the heads were up at the interval. At 2-0 the game was far from gone, and with the whole team working hard and Dom and Dulanie chasing down and holding up long balls admirably, there was hope.

The first 15 minutes after the restart were decent too, with Merton putting in some good tackles and working hard. But the third goal was the straw that broke the camel’s back. A simple through ball managed to squeeze through the defensive line, and the Joleon Lescott-esque Alleyn forward simply had too much pace, and tucked it away to make it 3-0.

The heads hadn’t quite dropped at that stage, and Merton charged up the other end soon after and had half a chance to pull one back. But with that attempt foiled, Alleyn counter attacked, and with the Yellow’s caught short, the opposing striker again found himself one on one with Sam and made no mistake.

That made it 4-0, and the rest, quite frankly, was a nightmarish blur. The goals flew in from all angles. Among them was a goal where the player was clearly offside, but like the South African cricket team losing wickets, the scoreboard kept ticking over. 5. 6. 7. 8.

Mercifully, the referee may have called an end to proceedings a few minutes early, with the damage kept to single figures. A cold shower afterwards seemed like a fitting end to the dispiriting two hours of football before it.

But the lads should also keep a cool head when assessing the performance as a whole. The opponents have a 100% record in the league, and for an hour, we held them at bay and caused them a few problems of their own. Yes, the wheels came off for the final half hour, but that’s best forgotten about. There are winnable games to come – let’s consign this one to history, and continue the run we started at the end of last year.

FINAL SCORE: Merton 4s 0 – 8 Alleyn Old Boys 4s SCORER: None MOTM: Dom Plumridge

STARTING LINE-UP: Samuel Singer-Ripley (GK), John Gridley, Steve Burchell, Mike Todt, Edward Plaistow, Chris Outred, Mike Elgar, Seb Lechanoine (Arnold Collier), Billy Dowie, Dulanie Richards, Dom Plumridge.

Posted in Match Reports 4s