Carshalton 3-1 Merton
Carshalton. A game where the only guarantees are niggle and bad blood. But for the 4s, who’d come off the back of a number of narrow defeats, it looked a tough assignment against second from top of the league – especially with a depleted squad. No Dan Gridley or Joe Plumridge, and Sonny went into the game carrying a significant injury.
Nevertheless, the game got underway, and Merton perhaps surprised themselves at how comfortable they were. Not only was their shape rock solid, giving Carshalton short shrift in attack, but the Yellows were passing it around on the deck. Despite being into a noticeable breeze, they arguably had the best of things.
Central to it all was Will, who was immense, and won just about every challenge – both in the air and on the floor. Ryan, too, was an absolute rock at right back. But further up the pitch, Gubby and Mike Vogt were providing good outlets for attack, and Dom was getting ball to feet. The moment critique came around midway through the half, as Dom forced the keeper (aka utter mentalist) into an incredible reflex save.
In fairness, Carshalton had a couple of chances too, with Kieran making a fine one-on-one save with their striker, while Chris made a great clearance off the line to thwart another goal-bound shout. But the hosts were by no means bossing things, which is what made the opening goal all the more disappointing to concede.
For once, Will wasn’t quite able to clear his lines with a header, and the wind cruelly brought the ball back towards the danger area. A bit of a scramble ensued, but the goal itself was technically offside, as the man who tapped in the ball that was squared to him had only Chris in front of him, with Kieran a few yards off his line. But despite the protests, the goal stood, and it was 1-0 to Carshalton.
In truth, the goal rocked Merton somewhat, and they were under the cosh in the last five minutes of the half. But they just about hung on, and with the wind at their backs for the second period, they fancied their chances. The difficulty was that Sonny had already hobbled off, while Mike Vogt had picked up an injury too. That left the Yellows with the bare 11, and that soon became 10 as Frankie was forced off with a toe injury.
Still, Merton gamely battled on, and stayed right in the contest. The flashpoint came about 15 minutes into the half as Dom, who was causing their defence all sorts of problems, was bitten in the face by their disgraceful goalkeeper after chasing a ball down. Suarez-esque, and absolutely extraordinary. The keeper didn’t even deny it during the inquest that followed, but the referee hadn’t seen it, and thus couldn’t give it.
Unfortunately, the hammer blow came soon after, as the home side managed to get a bit of an overlap on the outskirts of the Merton penalty area, and somehow eked out a low shot which nestled in the bottom left corner of the net. 2-0, and it now looked a long way back.
Frankie had managed to get himself back on the park, but he wasn’t fully fit. Carl too, was also struggling, and with John Gridley still in the latter stages of his recovery from a calf problem, the 4s effectively only had eight players at 100%. Yet still they continued to show remarkable fight, and even managed to carve out some very decent attacks.
But the nail in the coffin came with about 10 minutes to go, as their striker made a good run down the right, and fired an absolute tracer bullet from a tight angle, which went in off the under side of the bar. It really was a thumping, unstoppable effort, and a deflated Merton outfit were now 3-0 down.
They gave it their all for the last few, determined not to let the scoreboard spiral out of control, and unjustly reflect on what was actually a good performance. Chris, who himself had been superb at centre back, took a brutal knock for his efforts, as their striker sent a high boot flush onto his nose. The subsequent blood and bruise was a fairly apt way to sum up Merton’s day.
But the reward for their continued endeavour came at the death. They won a corner, which Frankie expertly drifted into the box. The excellent Will rose highest, and hammered home his header to make it 3-1. A fine finish indeed.
The whistle went soon after, and the warrior 4s just about hobbled off the park with their heads held high. Perhaps it can get tiresome to consistently commend losing performances. But the biggest possible compliment and vindication came later in the change rooms, as the Carshalton captain said that it was the toughest game they had had all season, and that he was astonished that we were second from bottom.
Says all you need to know. Now to turn that into three points against fellow bottom dwellers Lloyds Warren next week.
Goal: Will Harrison
MOTM: Will Harrison (special mention to Ryan Burchell for a great game too)
Team: Kieran Lee (GK), Ed Plaistow, Mike Todt, Chris Outred, Ryan Burchell, Will Harrison, Michael Gubby, Michael Vogt, Sonny Kennedy, Frankie Kaligorou, Dom Plumridge
Subs: Carl Kewley, John Gridley