Merton FC 1-2 Ibis Eagles
News had been flying in from everywhere of games being cancelled, with the 7s game at the Hood also being called off. However, after a wet morning, the rain relented, and the 4s were given the green light.
The oppo were mid-table Ibis Eagles, but with the 4s significant upturn in form, there was every confidence of getting a result. Sonny returned to the starting lineup, while Joe had recovered from his injury the week before to take his place in the centre of defence. All in all, a full-strength side really, bar the absences of John Gridley and Ryan Burchell.
In truth, Merton were a little bit slow out of the blocks when the game got underway, and although there was a limited amount of goalmouth action, Ibis were making all the early running. But around 15 minutes in, Merton began to get a foothold in the match; playing a bit more football, and, significantly, exploiting a lack of pace in the Ibis defence.
They had some decent chances too, with Dom having a couple of nibbles and a one-to-one with the goalkeeper that got thwarted. Mike might have done better with a header from a corner too.
But it was as Merton grew into the game that the hammer blow came. Merton won a free kick on the halfway line, but quickly lost possession. In a flash, Ibis countered, delivering a pinpoint cross that cleared Joe’s head and found their striker. Kieran came out of goal in an effort to force the error, but the lobbed finish was superb. 1-0 Ibis. Gutting, and somewhat against the run of play.
In the final passage of the first half, Merton again gave as good as they got, but there was little in the way of clear-cut chances. The score line remained unchanged going into the break, and the manager’s message was to keep it on the ground and back ourselves.
It seemed the message had gotten through, because from the kickoff Merton intercepted the ball, and, after some delightful interplay and slick passing, very nearly scored. But immediately after that, disaster struck. A longish pass unfortunately hit referee Dave Laughton, and with Merton shaped to attack, the substitute Ibis striker swiftly countered. He beat one, then two, and then smashed it home to complete a quite brilliant individual goal. 2-0. Sometimes you just have to tip your cap to the oppo.
In fairness, Merton didn’t feel sorry for themselves though, and once again they began to get the better of the match. The Ibis defenders were nothing special, and Dom was having few issues in beating them. But what was needed was a goal, and with about 20 minutes remaining, it came. Predictably, it came courtesy of Dom, who somehow wriggled his way towards the byline down the left. He cut inside, and despite the keeper getting a hand to it, couldn’t stop the ball nestling its way into the net. 2-1. Game on.
And so it was, as Ibis seemed to be rattled. There had been plenty of needle in the game anyway, but it did seem as though Merton had got into their heads somewhat. Chances came too, but their keeper was as solid as we’ve come up against all season – most notably making a fine diving save after a Dan Gridley thunderbolt from 25 yards which seemed destined to go into the right corner.
Time was running out, and Ibis were just about doing enough to keep Merton at bay. With a few minutes remaining, Merton went three at the back and threw the kitchen sink at it. The last couple of minutes saw them inflict a barrage of pressure, with corner after corner. Again, Mike won his aerial battle, but failed to direct his header on target. Kieran even came up to the halfway line too, and it was frantic stuff at the end as Merton put everything on the line in pursuit of an equaliser.
But it wasn’t to be, and the final whistle brought the curtain down on yet another gallant, but ultimately disappointing defeat. A 2-1 reverse for the second week in a row, despite yet another impressive display. It is hard to stay upbeat when results are going against you, but this side need to take the positives, and be proud of the marked improvement in performances. We’ve become a hard team to beat, and that’s something to build on.
There was, however, a victory of sorts later in the day, as the 4s quiz team put in a solid effort to beat Clive’s 5s. Although the free beverage felt more like a punishment than a reward!
Team: Kieran Lee (GK), Ed Plaistow, Mike Todt, Joe Plumridge, Will Harrison, Robert Tye, Chris Outred, Dan Gridley, Frankie Kaligorou, Sonny Kennedy, Dom Plumridge
Subs: Noor Emad, Joe Underwood, Lee Lenihan
Goals: Dom Plumridge
MOTM: Robert Tye