Another grey, wet Saturday; another day of authentic grassroots football in the mud awaited. With the Hood once again out of commission, the venue was Wimbledon Common Extensions – a place where the Merton 4s had suffered an 8-0 defeat a month before.

The opponents for this fixture were the table-topping heavyweights Polytechnics. However, with two successive wins in their back pocket, and four from their previous five, Merton had reason to feel confident of giving the pace-setters a run for their money. The line-up was announced, 4-5-1 formation it would be, and the lads were ready to go.

And as dream starts go, you’d struggle to have topped this one. Poly kicked things off, Merton pressed forward as one and intercepted. The through ball for Dulanie was too long, but he never gave up the ghost, laying siege to the advancing goalkeeper, who panicked, tumbled, and fumbled. Dulanie gleefully lapped the ball up, rounded him, and walked the ball into the net. 1-0, with less than a minute gone.

And then the referee blew the final whistle, and the Yellows celebrated a great win and 3 fantastic points!

If only.

A minute later, an almost identical goal ensued for the visitors, with Sam unable to cling to a long-range shot. Their striker walked the rebound in, and after two minutes – which may as well not have happened – the score was 1-1.

And a few minutes later, it got worse, much worse. Play resumed, and Poly were allowed to advance. They cut through midfield, put their striker through, and he rounded Sam. However, his resultant shot was weak, and Mike, who was tracking back, had the easiest goal-line clearance in the world to make. Yet he somehow failed to connect with the barely-moving ball, and it trickled through his legs and over the line. 2-1. Unbelievable.

Play resumed once again, and while 10 men in Yellow were probably still rueing the fact that Mike hadn’t stayed with the 3s after all (or just stayed at home!), Poly made it three with a bit of magic. Nothing much was happening as they advanced through midfield, until their striker unleashed a thunderbolt from 30 yards. It soared; it swerved and snuck in off the underside of the crossbar. No chance for Sam and a shell-shocked Merton were suddenly 3-1 down.

Things settled down somewhat, but the Yellows weren’t really at the races. The visitors’ defence was nothing too flash, and they gambled by playing three at the back. But the hosts were struggling to build any sustained interplay and thus never put them under much pressure.

But Poly had no such problems before the half was finished, their rampant attack added a fourth, and then a fifth, to leave a hapless Merton side digesting a 5-1 score line at the break. Game long gone, all that could happen now was an attempt to restore some pride. The plan to do so was to press higher, and set the offside trap.

And for 15 minutes of the 2nd half, it worked a treat. Merton advanced as one, squeezing their opponents, who seemed perplexed by the home side’s new-found savvy tactics. Spirits were steadily rising, the Yellows were cajoling each other, and with Arnold and Dulanie game fully chasing everything down, there was a significant goal threat to boot.

But then just after the hour mark, a poor bit of refereeing brought all of that crashing down. Poly had possession; the Merton defence squeezed forward once again, and played their strikers offside when the through ball came. Sadly, the ref didn’t see it that way. The silence of the lack of whistle was deafening, and the big Poly lad couldn’t believe his luck as he coasted onto the ball and put past Sam in a one-on-one.

6-1 it was, and it was the straw that broke the camel’s back. In amongst the humiliation of watching the scoreboard tick over from 6, to 7, to 8, and then 9, Merton were able to pull one back. The tireless Jake did ever so well to intercept in the opponents’ half, and he clinically rolled the ball past the keeper with his left foot to double the Yellows’ score.

But, his amusing goal celebration aside, it was scant consolation for a Merton side who were thoroughly thrashed on their home turf. Yes, the pitch was appalling, and yes, the opponents were clearly strong. But this had been a poor, poor performance. Dom said it best afterwards: “We’ll put this one down as a mishap boys.

Indeed, no point harping on about it, and this match was best consigned to history. After all, this team has done some good things in the last couple of months, and with three games still to go, will be hopeful of climbing up the table with significantly easier opposition awaiting. It starts next week against HSBC.

FINAL SCORE: Merton 4s 2 – 9 Old Wilsonians 4s SCORERS: Dulanie Richards, Jake Hewitt MOTM: Arnold Collier/Dulanie Richards

STARTING LINE-UP: Samuel Singer-Ripley (GK), John Gridley (Arnold Collier), Mike Todt, Chris Outred (Capt.), Edward Plaistow, Sevan Mutafyan, Joe Plumridge, Mike Elgar (Glen Porter), Jake Hewitt, Dulanie Richards, Dom Plumridge.

Posted in Match Reports 4s