Weirside Rangers 3s vs. Merton 4s
SAL Minor Division 1 South
Saturday 30th January 2016

Battered, bruised, and perhaps a little embarrassed. That’s probably how you might have expected the Merton 4s to have felt when they arrived at Weirside on Saturday given the 8-0 hammering that was dished out by Alleyn the week before. Yet there was a surprisingly quiet calm about them on the day. A strong squad was assembled, the mood was pretty positive, and after a strong team talk led by John Gridley, the lads took to what was a relatively poor pitch primed for battle.

The action got underway with Merton into the sun for the first half. There was a slight breeze off the right, but the biggest element to contend with in terms of flowing football was the heavy and slow field, which made crisp passing difficult and was sure to take a bit out of the players’ legs as the match wore on.

Nevertheless, the Yellows started solidly, if not spectacularly, against a feisty Weirside Rangers outfit. There wasn’t much attacking thrust, but with the manager having packed 5 into the midfield, there was a definite stability and shape about Merton from the get go.

Dan Gridley shored things up notably in the middle of it all, Mikey and Jake were working hard, but the main attacking threat came on the wings, with Dulanie and Arnold chasing balls tirelessly and thanklessly. Perhaps the only frustration came from the fact that the handy crosses the two of them were putting in were to a largely empty box. Yet this was no reflection on Dom, who, on his own upfront, was magnificent in his hold-up play, and carving out little bursts when he was seemingly swamped by defenders.

But in the opening period, Merton were largely restricted to half chances; a few shots from the edge of the area, while Mikey was unable to hit the target with a free kick in a good position. At the other end, Rangers had been well contained, but did squander two gild-edged opportunities to take the lead. The first saw a shot from 10 yards out sail over the crossbar, while, on the stroke of half time, a free header from point blank was skewed wide.

It meant the relieved 4s had parity at the break at 0-0, and there was a buzz about them as they strode back out onto the pitch. They knew that, with the sun now at their backs, this was their chance to crack on. They began the half steadily once again, snuffing out any threats from Weirside, working even harder to close them down, and, for the first time in the match, were beginning to get on top of the opposition.

In a tight game like this though, with neither side giving an inch, it was going to take something special to break the deadlock, and it was Dan who duly delivered the goods. He held up a longish ball on the edge of the box with ease. He paused. He darted forward. He turned. He shrugged off the defence. He dispatched. And, gloriously, it flew into the back of the net. 1-0 Merton and delirium ensued.

Once the joyous scenes died down, it was all about getting the heads back on and doing even more for the remaining half hour. “Back to 0-0, boys” was the call, and too right it was. The hard work continued, and every man to a tee was in sync. The defence had the measure of what was being thrown at them, the midfield – now with Seb and Joe on the park as replacements – were getting stuck in, but it was Dom who was providing the outlet going forward; simply immense despite the workload he was shouldering.

However, as is inevitable, there were some heart-in-mouth moments with such a slender lead. Sam nearly made a mess of his effort to shepherd a ball for a goal kick, which the Rangers attacker intercepted and then smashed into the woodwork. Mike’s diving clearance avoided the ignominy of an own goal by a matter of inches. And, with the Yellow defence caught unusually short at the back, Sam did ever so well to come off his line in a one-on-one which resulted in their striker tugging his shot wide.

But a heavy-legged Merton outfit were hanging on, scrapping and giving it their all, and the decisive blow came with just five minutes to go. They won a free kick about 25 yards out, and with the wind coming off the left shoulder, the call came for a left footer to do the business. The man for the job was Dom, who’d scored with his last free kick at Old Wilsonians. On that occasion though, it was a mediocre strike which had benefited from a favourable bounce. What could he produce here?

In short, a rampaging, thunderous, out-of-this-world belter that was still climbing as it flew past the helpless Rangers keeper and smashed into the onion bag. Take a bow son. That was as good as you’ll ever see. 2-0 and the boys were in ecstasy.

A slightly hairy moment or two followed though – Weirside charged up the other end from the restart and threatened. There was a scramble or two at the back, but Merton survived again with some committed defending. And with the hosts now caught short at the back, Seb led the counter. He fed Dom, who in turn fed Dan Gridley. There was only ever going to be one outcome. He dummied, he pulled it inside, and slotted the ball home from a tight angle to make it 3-0, with what was almost the last kick of the game. What a finish!

The final whistle blew soon after, and a tired but proud Merton side departed for the change rooms. What an unbelievable performance it had been. After the humiliation of last week, three goals, three points and a clean sheet. You simply can’t fashion a more emphatic response than that. What belief this will give the 4s for the remainder of the season too. It re-affirmed the notion that, when this team is at full strength and reading from the same hymn sheet, there aren’t many teams who can stand in their way. Bring on Actonians next week.

FINAL SCORE: Weirside Rangers 3s 0 – 3 Merton 4s SCORERS: Dan Gridley (2), Dom Plumridge MOTM: Dom Plumridge. So tough on Dan G, who was superb and scored 2 goals. But it has to go to Dom. Sensational performance.

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

Posted in Match Reports 4s