Merton FC 2 – 3 West Wickham

Fresh off a much-needed win the previous week in the Cup, it was back to league matters for the Merton 4s against West Wickham at the Hood. The game was delayed owing to a horror injury for Tom Reid (wishes from all of us for a speedy recovery mate), but the game did eventually get going about half an hour late.

Dan Gridley was missing this week, which was a shame, but a similar formation was adopted with Will sitting in as a midfield screen once again. It became apparent within the first few minutes that it would be a game of few chances though, with both teams very evenly matched – almost cancelling each other out. But Merton were giving as good as they got, looking solid in defence, and occasionally threatening with their pacy legs upfront.

But as has become typical, they conceded an awful first goal that came largely against the run of play, effectively undoing their good work. An entirely innocuous cross came in; Mike left it thinking Kieran was coming to claim, the ball bounced awkwardly between the two, and the striker, who couldn’t believe his luck, bundled it over the line.

A clusterfuck really, but it had nothing on the second goal. Once again an awkward ball came in over the defence. Again it bounced awkwardly, and the striker nodded it onto the crossbar – somewhat gently. Kieran did well to get a palm to the rebound, but succeeded only in doing so onto the back of the unsuspecting striker’s head. And, as is the way, this inadvertent ‘header’ somehow found it’s way into the goal.

2-0 down. Unbelievable Jeff. West Wickham had barely had a shot in anger! It was cruel on Merton, but now they simply just had to find a way to get back into it.

And they did just that. The spirits stayed up, the work rate never dropped, and, after a good sustained 10-minute period of plugging away, the reward came. Carl dinked a delightful ball through for Dom, who ran onto it with his usual ease and grace. Even from a tight angle, there was only ever going to be one outcome, and he slotted it past the keeper to pull it back to 2-1.

Merton pushed hard for an equaliser before the half, but, in truth, it was mostly with long balls and crosses, which their keeper had no problems dealing with.

At the break, the talk was positive; rueing the shambolic and unfortunate goals conceded, but with the belief that, with a bit more ball on ground football, a victory lay in wait.

Unfortunately, soon after proceedings resumed, the curse of the cheap goal struck yet again. Wickham won a free kick in a dangerous position, but the delivery was fairly bog standard. However, with a clever dummy run by one of their strikers, Kieran was put off, and the ball went directly into the net.

3-1. So unfortunate again, but also very frustrating. The visitors had barely carved out a single decent opportunity, and yet somehow had three goals to their credit.

Infuriating as it was, Merton just had to keep going. And they did just that, in fairness. No one switched off, solid work at the back provided a good base from which to build and everyone to a man worked their socks off. Ryan Burchell came on and provided a good outlet down the right too, and although much of the game was being played in midfield, Merton used the space out wide well, and got to the bylines on numerous occasions.

Chances were few and far between though. Ryan had one effort which went just over the crossbar, while Dom was well thwarted a few times having latched onto some scraps upfront.

Merton really played some good football in the final 10, and put Wickham under immense pressure. But time was running out, and the second goal arrived a bit too late. Dom got the ball just outside their box, and played a delightful through ball to Will, who’d made a lung-busting run down the left. Will took it on the run, rounded the keeper, and did ever so well to put it away from a tight angle.

3-2, with just a couple of minutes left on the clock. Merton then threw bodies forward, but unfortunately weren’t able to create anything. The whistle eventually went, and a gutting, narrow defeat was the final outcome. Undoubtedly, it was a disappointing one to lose, and things could have been so different.

But there were plenty of positives to take too, and Merton need not be too downbeat. The standard of play has improved dramatically since early season, the team spirit is far better, and you can’t help but feel that a decent run of results isn’t too far away.

Team: Kieran Lee (GK), Ed Plaistow, Mike Todt, Joe Plumridge, Will Harrison, John Gridley, Chris Outred, Joe Underwood, Cameron Brooks, Carl Kewley, Dom Plumridge

Subs: Noor Emad, Chris Dodd, Ryan Burchell

MOTM: Will Harrison

DOTD: Mike Todt, for the cock up in the first goal, and for giving Chris the spoon in the bar afterwards!

Posted in Match Reports 4s