4s vs Carshalton – 28.01.17
Merton 1-2 Carshalton
For a somewhat beleaguered 4s outfit, who’d won just once in their last 6 games, the prospect of table-topping Carshalton seemed a grim one – particularly after last week’s poor defeat to relegation rivals Old Wilsonians.
Nevertheless, a strong-looking squad diligently did their warm ups, waiting patiently for the men in green to arrive. And they waited. And they waited some more. Eventually they sauntered up the King George’s ‘turf’ 20 minutes late, protesting that they’d been sent the wrong venue by Merton’s fixtures secretary. Apparently the ref had seen evidence of this misleading email too. Merton were dubious (justifiably so in the end, as Mark Chappell later confirmed in the clubhouse). But it meant, at the time, that the Yellows had to let things be, and start the game at Carshalton’s leisure.
Perhaps that added extra inspiration though, because Merton started the game with a bang. With the sun and the wind at their backs, the hosts were simply all over the oppo. On a pretty poor surface, they were playing it on the deck, using the wings and barely letting Carshalton get a kick. Will’s return was hugely notable, and his impact was profound. And upfront, Mike Vogt was simply excellent, making incisive runs and putting in plenty of delightful through balls.
The breakthrough was fortunate, but no more than Merton deserved. A tame ball appeared to have been safely gathered by their keeper. But with barely anyone watching – other than a prowling Sonny – he coughed it up out of nowhere. A gleeful Sonny pounced, and slammed it home into an empty net. 1-0, delight for Merton.
The next 20 minutes were a contrast of high quality and frustration. Merton didn’t just carve out chances. They carved out great chances. Sonny later found himself one on one with the keeper on the edge of the box, but blazed over. Frankie, in a similar position, then forced an incredible save from their keeper. And then later Frankie found himself with a free header at the far post, but unfortunately steered it wide from point blank.
There were some other decent chances too, and on another day, Merton would have been out of sight. But failing to take your chances often can come back to haunt you, and it did so here just before the break – albeit in desperately unfortunate circumstances. An incoming ball was missed by both attacker and defender. Kieran, who initially took a knock, bravely got up and hacked away what seemed like a decent clearance. Sadly, it struck Will in the mid section, and ricocheted into the path of the Carshalton striker, handing them an equaliser on a silver platter. Outrageously unjust, no one to blame, but whichever way you cut it, the score was 1-1.
A disbelieving Merton trundled off for the half time interval, incandescent that their best performance in recent memory had yielded so little fruit. But now was the time to make it count. With the wind now in their faces, could they do it?
From the get go, the intensity never dropped. Yes, Carshalton grew into the game, began to enjoy the lion’s share of possession and spent the greater amount of time in the Merton half. But so solid was Merton’s shape, and so relentless was their work rate, that this scribe barely remembers Kieran having a save to make.
Yes, he had some good interventions with the occasional parry here and there, came off his line well; while Carshalton also skewed a few long range shots. But the best chance of all actually came at the other end.
Merton won a free kick. The delivery caused havoc in the area, with Mike eventually flicking it on to Dan Gridley, who was just a few yards out. Unfortunately with the rising ball on the bounce, his shot just cleared the cross bar, and it stayed 1-1.
And with about 10 minutes to go, the sucker punch came. A throw in was flicked on to a Carshalton player, but it seemed fairly harmless with the lad a good few yards outside the area. Alas, he lashed it home into the bottom left corner, leaving Kieran no chance at all. 2-1 Carshalton, and absolutely cruel on Merton.
But in keeping with their performance, they never gave up. With 5 minutes to go, a stricken Dom came on for Mike, as they threw everyone forward. And in the dying seconds, a through ball scuttled it’s way through to Sonny. He carried it forward into the box and was one on one with the keeper. Surely….
No. It just wasn’t to be. Sonny did everything by the book, sending it low and to the keeper’s right. But somehow, with perhaps the power of some Deity looking down, the keeper thwarted it.
And that was it. The final seconds ticked by, the final whistle went, and Merton had to leave the field digesting one of the most unjust defeats you’ll probably ever see. But they also did so with their heads held high. It dawned on them that they’d just outplayed a team who are running away with the league. This is how the Merton 4s know they can play. So can they do it in the rematch against Wilsonians next week? If they do, then three points will almost be guaranteed.
Team: Kieran Lee (GK), Ed Plaistow, Mike Todt, Chris Outred, John Gridley, Will Harrison, Akram Choudhary, Michael Vogt, Frankie Kaligorou, Sonny Kennedy, Aaron Loftus
Subs: Joe Plumridge, Dom Plumridge, Dan Gridley