Merton 5 – 0 Civil Service
It was a sombre week for Merton Football Club, with the tragic passing of Nick Papanastasiou. All teams wore black armbands and observed a minute’s silence before their matches as a mark of respect. It certainly put many things into perspective.
That said, for a steadily improving Merton 4s outfit, it also provided ample inspiration to put in a good performance, and to try and go a small way to honouring Nick’s memory. Civil Service were the oppo, a team who had already beaten Merton 4-1 earlier in the season, but the hope was that, on home turf, things would go differently this time around.
And, unlike pretty much every game this season, Merton came out of the blocks flying. The hunger was there for all to see, 50-50 challenges, duels, and second balls were all going the way of the mighty Yellow, and, to boot, they were even keeping it on the deck and playing football. Chances accrued too: Ryan Burchell narrowly blazing over the bar while both Dom and Sonny had a few half chances in the box.
But for all Merton’s superiority, the goal stubbornly refused to come, and Civil Service nearly pulled a fast one at the other end, as a long-range effort ricocheted off the corner post.
It would have been a grave injustice – not entirely out of keeping with the story of the season – but Merton soon went up the other end and put things right. Some excellent build-up play saw Sonny receive ball to feet, and, from the left-half of the box, he swotted it into the right corner with aplomb. 1-0.
One very soon became two. Dom beat the offside trap to get on the end of a through ball, and, as he rounded the keeper, the gloveman bundled him over with a woefully mistimed dive. The ref had no choice but to point to the spot, Dom stepped up, and duly dispatched it into the bottom left corner. 2-0, and the lads were buzzing.
Key to the performance already was the clever use of rolling subs, and one of those, Noor, turned provider for the third. His delivery from a corner was right on the money, and Sonny’s volley from close range was never going to miss. 3-0. Scenes. Johnny Gridley said it best at that moment: “Pinch me, I’m dreaming.”
At the break, there wasn’t really much to say, other than to keep it up. To not switch off. To keep the hammer down. This is a team who’ve conceded a three-goal lead before, so remaining clinical was crucial.
And, by and large, they did just that. Everyone to a man, subs included, did their job superbly, and the visitors barely got a kick. The fourth goal took about 15 minutes to arrive in the second period, but it was a beauty. Dom did extraordinarily well to beat the offside trap again, and somehow carved out a cross from the byline. Waiting in the wings was Danny Gridley, and from point-blank range, he duly smashed it into the roof of the net. 4-0. Unbelievable.
You could probably make the argument that Merton’s intensity dropped off a bit thereafter. But not by much. Civil Service might have scored from a free header at a corner, while on another occasion Kieran came off his line to collect a through ball and got lobbed – waywardly though. He made amends anyway with a fine reaction save from a volley at a corner.
That was about as good as it got for the away side though, and in truth it was Merton who had the greater chances. Jake, making a welcome return, unfortunately fluffed his lines when it may have been easier to score. Both Dom and Sonny missed some late chances too.
But the icing on the cake eventually arrived with a few minutes left on the clock. Once again, it was composed build-up play which set the foundation, and Dom latched onto a through ball. One on one with the keeper, there really was only going to be one outcome, and he calmly dinked it into the left corner for his second and Merton’s fifth.
That’s right. 5-0. And a perfectly just scoreline really. The final whistle went soon after, and the boys rightly rejoiced. What a thoroughly comprehensive and impressive performance this was from start to finish. Special mention to Kieran for playing 180 minutes on the day without conceding (he kept a clean sheet for the 6s too), but this was as good a team performance as you’re likely to see.
Savour the moment, and remember what this feels like lads. Let’s make sure this isn’t a one off, and sets the tone. Because a memorable season awaits if this sort of form continues.
Team: Kieran Lee (GK), Ed Plaistow, Mike Todt, Joe Plumridge, Will Harrison, John Gridley, Chris Outred, Dan Gridley, Ryan Burchell, Sonny Kennedy, Dom Plumridge
Subs: Noor Emad, Robert Tye, Jake Hewett
Goals: Sonny Kennedy (2), Dom Plumridge (2), Dan Gridley
MOTM: Will Harrison
DOTD: No one. Can’t give it after a game like that