4s vs Economicals – 07.11.15
Economicals 4s vs. Merton 4s
AFA Minor Cup, First Round Round
Saturday 7th November 2015
by Mike Tod
Courtesy of their sole victory of the season, Merton were through to the first round proper of the AFA Cup, and Saturday’s assignment was to make that count against the New Malden-based Economicals.
Yet the venue of this away fixture had been very much up in the air owing to poor weather in the week, and on Friday it was decided the game would be played on a 3G pitch at the Kings Sports Ground in Chiswick. Just for some added irony, the pitch was literally next door to the scene of the previous week’s surrender of a three-goal lead.
It was also the scene of some great football prior to that though, and the men from the Hood were hoping to draw from it. Insider information hinted that the Economicals were going to be a tough proposition, but having seen the efforts of Salford City in the FA Cup the night before, anything was possible.
A strong starting line-up had Dulanie and Dom upfront, with the midfield loaded up with Mike Elgar and Jake in the middle, along with Chris’s Outred and Dodd on either side. The back four was made up of Glen, Saffer Mike, gaffer Ed and the returning John Gridley.
A strong XI, but not as strong as the element a lost coin toss pitted them against – wind. After a minute’s silence, the game was underway, and it immediately became clear what a slog it would be with such a potent headwind. Clearances were coming back like boomerangs, passes were coming to a standstill, and the Economicals, well – they simply swarmed the Yellows.
But Merton are a determined bunch, and for all the intense pressure they faced, they kept a lid on things for the first 10 minutes. In fact, the first real chance of the game was carved out by Dom, whose thunderous shot from just outside the box looked in for all money, before being tipped onto the bar.
But that was when the tide really turned, and, my goodness, was it grisly. Around 15 minutes in, an innocuous through ball from the left caused a bit of miscommunication in defence, and the Economicals striker was clean through. His finish was clinical and they had the breakthrough.
Close your eyes for a minute. Open them. 3-0. That was how it felt for a hapless Merton, although the two goals that followed were of the highest order. One, a left-footed curler nestling in the top corner, and the other a bullet from outside the box.
Merton were shattered, but the encouragement levels went up. They knew they’d have the wind at their backs for the second period, but they couldn’t let this slip anymore. The tackles flew in, the passes were kept along the deck, and, for a brief passage of play, they looked a better side.
But still, they just couldn’t escape their half of the field in the face of both the relentless breeze and the relentless opponents, and the fourth carried an air of inevitability about it. And it came to pass too, a speculative shot catching Sam out of position. Then, a minute later, came the fifth – the result of a poor back pass by Saffer Mike. And then came the sixth – again, a sublime finish.
It was the stuff of horrors, and there were still 10 minutes to go until the break. Luckily, Merton held out without further damage, but 6-0 meant it was a quiet half time chat.
A couple of changes were made, but the most significant of all was a change in strategy. It was decided that a high line would be the best approach for the second half, and almost straight away, it was vindicated as the Economicals speedy number seven was caught offside looking to make a break for it.
It was actually to be the theme for much of the second period. An increasingly confident Merton defence squeezed up as one, and time after time the referee obliged, with the home side seemingly unable to adapt the timing of their runs. It was brilliant to watch, and had the added advantage of minimising the gap between the Yellow defensive line and the midfield.
Yet even with this new disciplined shape, there was to be little on attack. It wasn’t anything like the backs-to-the-wall stuff in the first half, but, despite the change in sides, there was still only one team who looked like scoring. Glen cleared one off the line, as did Chris Outred, and there were a couple of good tackles in the box.
Most notably though, Sam was absolutely superb. Not only was he making inspired saves, but his work as a sweeper was excellent, as he commandingly came off his line to claim any nagging through balls. All in all, it was a collective exhibition by the defence, and the greatest compliment that could be paid was that a team who were 6-0 up had become genuinely frustrated.
It was thus a bit harsh on them when the seventh goal eventually did go in; a well-worked move which was nicely finished off. But for the remaining 10 minutes Merton were solid once again, and at the other end substitute Alex did ever so well to create a chance for himself which just snuck past the right-hand post.
It was a spiriting end to what had had the potential to be a crushing afternoon. By the time the final whistle blew, Merton were actually in the ascendancy, and thus marched off the pitch with their heads held high. Yes, it had been a mauling. But once again, there were genuine positives to be taken, and with the league now the only order of business remaining, the belief will be there that these can be translated into points.
FINAL SCORE: Economicals 4s 7 – 0 Merton 4s SCORERS: None MOTM: Chris Outred
STARTING LINE-UP: Sam Singer-Ripley(GK), John Gridley, Mike Todt, Glen Porter, Edward Plaistow, Michael Elgar (Alex Carver), Chris Dodd, Jake Hewitt, Chris Outred, Dom Plumridge, Dulanie Richards.