4s vs Old Wilsonians 4 – 12.12.15
There was a certain swagger about Merton 4s as they arrived at Old Wilsonians, and understandably so after a first win of the league campaign the week before. And while Saturday’s opponents had hammered them 5-0 only a fortnight ago, the belief was there that a different outcome would be in the offing.
Relegated to the windswept, secondary pitches away from the clubhouse, it became clear that it would be a game of two very different halves. A huge slope, backed up by a stiff breeze meant that the team with the elements at their back had 45 minutes to make it count.
Lining up for Merton was Sam in goal, Mike and Steve Burchell at centre back and with John Gridley and Scholesy at fullback. Dan Gridley and Aaron were to occupy the centre of the park (although Aaron was replaced by Mike Elgar early on after an unfortunate injury), with Billy and Chris on the flanks. And it was left to Dulanie and Jake to provide the goals upfront.
After the coin toss, Merton were into the wind first half. Very quickly it became clear that this 45 minutes would be purely about damage limitation, and a lot of hard work. But the Yellows started very well, keeping their shape impressively, dealing with the enormous goal kicks, and largely restricting Old Wilsonians to passing it around in front of them, failed through-balls and hopeful long-range efforts.
Unfortunately, on 25 minutes, it was one of those hopeful long-range efforts that provided the opener. The hosts’ striker made great contact from 25 yards, and despite Sam getting a good hand on it, the awkward bouncing ball snuck into the bottom-left corner.
1-0, but no cause for panic. Certainly a single goal had been bargained for in these conditions, and the 4s thus kept their heads up, and stuck to their tasks manfully. There were even some handy moments upfront, reminding Old Wilsonians that there was still a goal threat to consider.
But it was at the back where much of the good work was being done, and for all of the home side’s dominance, clear-cut chances were actually few and far between. John in particular was outstanding in cleaning up loose balls, and keeping the left winger in check.
It’s what made the circumstances for the second goal all the more unfortunate though. With just two minutes to go until the break, Sam played a goal kick short to John, who was immediately under huge pressure. He tried a dummy stopover, but unfortunately the Wilsonians striker read it, intercepted, and calmly slotted the one-on-one past Sam.
2-0, and a crushing blow. 1-0 at half time would have felt like a lead, but a two goal deficit felt no better than par. The chat was good at the break, and Merton knew that with the wind at their backs, the chances would come. But, in truth, they were a little flat when the game resumed. By no means poor, but for 20 minutes there just didn’t seem to be much happening. No sustained possession, no real opportunities. In fact, about 10 minutes in, the ball fell kindly to a Wilsonians striker at the other end, and he ought to have done better with his shot from close range.
With the clock ticking, something inspirational was needed. Or so we thought. Dan did ever so well to win a free kick on the edge of their box, and after a bit of conjecture, it was decided that Jake would be the man to take it. He’d probably admit it wasn’t his career-best strike, but somehow it bounced and bobbled it’s way past the keeper and into the net. 2-1, and Merton had a lifeline.
But if the first was fortunate, the equaliser was pure class. The ball was scrambling around in midfield, and 25 yards out Dulanie did ever so well to control the ball. What followed was sensational, as he smashed it with his left foot into the right corner of the net. One of those strikes where it’s in from the second it leaves his boot, and no keeper in the world had a chance, let alone the host’s average one.
2-2 it was, and Merton were jubilant. They had all the momentum, and could smell victory. Yet with 10 minutes to go, disaster nearly struck at the other end, as, from open play, the ball ended up loose in the Yellows’ box. Fortunately, their two strikers rather got in the way of each other, and when the trigger was eventually pulled, Sam was able to make a good save.
Moments like that confirmed in the lads’ minds that maybe, just maybe, this was to be their day, and with five minutes to go, that magic moment arrived. Wilsonians were becoming increasingly troubled by long balls, and one found its way to Jake near the edge of the box. He controlled, he stopped. Time stood still. And then he dispatched it gloriously home, rattling the side netting, and setting off massive celebrations. 3-2, what a sensational comeback!
The home side were beaten, and they knew it. They offered nothing in reply in the final minutes, other than a nasty challenge on Chris. But he was okay in the end, and when the final whistle went, joyous scenes ensued. What a tremendous win! Two on the bounce, and evidence that, on their day, this spirited Merton side can beat anyone. One more game to go before the Christmas break. Can they make it three in a row? In this kind of form, you wouldn’t bet against it.
FINAL SCORE: Merton 4s 3 – 2 Old Wilsonians 4s
SCORERS: Jake Hewitt (2); Dulanie Richards
MOTM: Again, bloody tough. The whole team. Steve and John outstanding at the back, and Dan Gridley immense. Probably has to go to Jake though. Great effort son!
STARTING LINE-UP: Samuel Singer-Ripley (GK), John Gridley (Ryan Burchell), Steve Burchell, Mike Todt, Edward Plaistow, Billy Dowie, Aaron Ackerman (Mike Elgar), Danny Gridley, Chris Outred, Dulanie Richards, Jake Hewitt.