Merton 0 – 8 Old Wokingians (AFA Cup)
A pair of 4-1 defeats had marked the start of a thus-far disappointing season for the 4s, but the AFA Cup presented a welcome distraction, and a good opportunity to turn things around against Old Wokingians 4s.
Perfect conditions at the Hood, with barely a breath of wind, the occasional drizzle to slick the surface and nice mild temperatures. Sadly, the ground staff had seen fit to hollow tine the pitch during the week, so it was hardly at its smoothest.
Nevertheless, Merton were in a good frame of mind as the game kicked off, opting for a 4-2-3-1 formation which had a good feel about it. Yet it was Wokingians who dominated possession upfront, and pinged the ball around with a bit too much ease. That said, Merton were working hard, and seemed to have the measure of their opponents.
It made the opening goal slightly galling to concede. Kieran had done the right thing coming off his line, but the scuffed shot from their striker from outside the box just beat his fingertips, and the ball agonisingly nestled in the side of the net. 1-0, and pretty tough on Merton really.
Not so the second and third goals though. After not conceding from a single corner in 2015/16, the shocker conceded three weeks ago was followed by a calamitous Mike own goal here. Having initially lost his man for the corner, he recovered to get in front of him again. However, with his body facing the wrong way, he was faced with the choice of leaving it for their big ogre-like captain to tap in, or do the job himself. Courtesy of a high, ugly shin, Mike opted for the latter, and smashed it into the back of the net.
Will, who was one of the players of the day, might have done better with the third goal though. Having done well to get on the end of their corner, he wasn’t able to clear his lines, and just like that, it was 3-0.
It was pretty grim at that point – the scoreline more a reflection of three completely avoidable goals rather than any Wokingians’ dominance. Merton showed real character though, and produced a stirring 15 minutes where they closed their opponents down, and even looked a threat. The voices were becoming louder, and there was hope of nicking one back before the break.
Alas, when it rains it pours, and Wokingians scored twice more in the closing minutes of the half – the first a result of some good interplay and a great run from their little striker, and the second a thumping first-time volley.
5-0 at half time. What do you say? Impressively though, the talk was constructive at the break. There was still pride to play for, and the plan was to adopt a high line, and play some football in the opponents’ half for a change. And for 20 minutes, it really worked a treat.
Wokingians were being snuffed out, and Merton had some chances of their own. A teasing free kick from Dan lacked the finish from Mike in the box. Dom then found himself with a free header after a fine corner from Carl, but alas his powerful effort just went over the crossbar. Then Scholesy found himself on the receiving end of a long ball, and almost through on goal. However, his first touch just got slightly away from him, and the keeper did well to snuff out the chance.
Unfortunately things didn’t finish well either. Wokingians ‘beat’ the offside line a couple more times, and the score escalated to 6, then 7, and then at the death an 8th goal to add insult to injury. Grisly stuff indeed, and a sad way to end.
But all 14 boys gathered in the change room afterwards and engaged in what was a proper heart to heart. After three weeks with no improvement, something had to be done, and everyone to a man voiced their opinions about how to sort things out. Everyone walked out the change room feeling better than when they went in, and credit to the manager – and every player – for that.
Of course, it is actions on the pitch, rather than talk, which is needed to turn things around. But this is a team who know they can do the business when their tails are up. All it needs is a result to go their way. Hopefully that will come against Poly at the Hood on Saturday.
Team: Kieran Lee (GK), Ed Plaistow, Mike Todt, Will Harrison, Ryan Burchell, Chris Outred, Joe Plumridge, Dan Gridley, Chris Dodd, Sonny Kennedy, Dom Plumridge
Subs: John Gridley, Carl Kewley, Noor Emad
Booked: Dan Gridley
MOTM: Dan Gridley