4s vs Old Wilsonians – 21.01.17
The first game of 2017 for the 4s finally came to pass, albeit with a bit of pitch shuffling required. Ambitiously scheduled to play at the Hood, the fixture against fellow relegation rivals Old Wilsonians was then moved to the delightful Wimbledon Common Extensions. However, upon arrival, the designated pitch was truly awful. Fortunately, there were an array to choose from, and after various inspections, play was declared possible on the furthest one, which was bathed in sunlight.
Onto the game then, and the Merton squad looked a good one, with only a couple of notable absentees. The formation was a sort of 4-5-1, albeit with a few nuances to it. Anyway, with the sun at their backs, sporting an AC Milan-style kit (with very ‘snug’ shorts), Merton faced the kick off in a confident mood, and immediately had the ascendancy in the game. Despite the poor surface, there was some good passing on the deck, and Aaron and Mike Vogt were providing excellent outlets on either side.
Chances and half chances came thick and fast, and Merton deservedly took the lead about 15 minutes in, with some good buildup in the midfield, and then a fine through ball sending Mike Vogt on his way. He still had plenty to do, but his finish in the top right corner of the net was pinpoint. 1-0 to Merton, and no more than they deserved.
The lads continued to work hard, but a cruel blow was struck soon after. Wilsonians hit a ball down the left-hand touchline which went out by a good few yards, before curling back in. Merton understandably stopped, in expectation of the throw. But the ref, who hadn’t seen it, waved play on. A brief shambles in the box ensued, before a blocked clearance landed at the feet of the fortuitous Wilsonians striker, and he swept it home from point blank.
1-1. An entirely underserved equaliser, but unfortunately it changed the flow of the game. The visitors were suddenly dominant, and Merton, sans an injured Miley Elgar, were under the cosh. There was an air of inevitability about the second, although, credit to Wilsonians, it was an excellent team goal, finished off clinically between their two strikers, who shared an impressive exchange of passes.
2-1, and the worry was that the floodgates may open. But with a little over five minutes to go in the half, Merton were handed a lifeline out of nowhere. Having been under a lot of pressure, they produced an excellent team move, and after a series of Barcelona-esque passes, Aaron was put through on goal, and dabbed home in clinical fashion. 2-2; a fine goal to boot, and it gave Merton a wave of confidence as they finished the half strongly.
The chat was positive at half time – something that wasn’t necessarily the case during the game itself – and there was genuine belief that this game was there for the taking. Rightly so, because once play got underway, Merton made a number of chances for themselves: Ed with a good run down the byline put in a dangerous ball, but no one could finish. Frankie put a powerful header just over the bar. And while Aaron’s deliveries were superb, it was an attempted direct free kick which nearly found its way in at the near post.
But for all their chances, Merton weren’t necessarily dominant, and Wilsonians were very much in the game too. And unfortunately it was they who made it count, as, midway through the half, Merton were unable to clear their lines after an oppo counter attack, and Wilsonians lashed home a resultant shot that bounded into the net, despite Kieran getting a good hand on it.
3-2 it was, and it’s fair to say the heads dropped somewhat. That said, Merton kept going, and a couple of good chances, and many more half chances, continued to accrue. Merton gave as good as they got. With a little under 10 minutes to go, the hosts then had little choice but to go for broke, eventually going with three at the back. Initially, it gave them good forward thrust, but it left them open at the back, and the killer blow arrived a few minutes later. With a massive overlap, the Merton defenders initially did well to close their opponents down. But the interception fell kindly to a Wilsonians players, and he put it away into the bottom corner.
4-2, and that’s how things stayed, with the game petering out, and no clear cut opportunities thereafter. As the final whistle went, there was a clear sense of disappointment in the ranks. This was a relegation 6 pointer, and Merton had come off on the wrong end of it. More than that, it was a day where, despite a woeful pitch, they had actually played some decent football at times. Thus all the more frustrating to not get a result. Hopefully though, the good things get taken into next week. They’ll need to, because Carshalton lie in wait!
Team: Kieran Lee (GK), Ed Plaistow, Mike Todt, Joe Plumridge, John Gridley, Mikey Elgar, Chris Outred, Michael Vogt, Sonny Kennedy, Aaron Loftus, Dom Plumridge
Subs: Frankie Kaligorou, Joe Vaughan, Bill