Merton 2-4 West Wickham

The last day of winter was also the first of the Merton 4s’ Spring Cup campaign. It’s been a disappointing season which has sadly ended in a second relegation in a row. But results haven’t always reflected performances, and here was a good opportunity to put that right, and get some momentum going in order to finish on a high.

“High” being an interesting choice of word, as it may or may not have accounted for two absentees on the day – one of whom was good enough to call in “sick” 2 hours before kickoff, the other entirely uncontactable. We won’t mention names, except to say that, surprisingly, Kieran wasn’t one of them!

Anyway, onto the football, and a decent squad of 12, including some firepower in the form of Denys and wily cunning from the old warhorse Conor Murphy, took to the pitch and electing to go into the wind first up. The theory was that with a bit of grind and damage limitation, the Yellows could set themselves up nicely for a second-half assault.

And that’s pretty much how it went. This was actually decent stuff from the home side, despite adverse conditions and a poor pitch. Don’t get me wrong, free flowing football was at a premium, and this surely would have made for a woeful spectacle for any onlookers. But Merton were working hard, communicating well, and even looking very dangerous on the break occasionally.

Understandably, West Wickham with the wind at their backs enjoyed the better of territory and possession. Yet Kieran didn’t have a save to make. Which is why the opener, on about the half hour mark, was a bit disappointing to concede. In truth, Merton were a bit sluggish in closing down on the left, the ball bobbed about on the fringes of the box, and a very useful left-footed finish was applied into the top-left corner. 1-0 WW.

Although it was hardly cause for panic. A 1-goal deficit into that wind was about par if Merton could hold it to the break. Yet they went one better (it seemed). With minutes remaining in the half, a superb ball from Aaron fed Dom. He still had plenty to do, but beat a defender and slotted it under the keeper with aplomb to make it 1-1.

Celebrations, but with parity at the break now imminent, Merton shot themselves in the foot. A header was lost in the air, and the ball fell to their striker, who was in oodles of space. Kieran darted out to thwart the danger, but there was nothing he could do. 2-1, and the half time whistle went.

A disappointing blow, no doubt. But this was still a very respectable score line, and Merton should have been able to kick on from there with the wind now at their backs.

But, quite frankly, they never got going in the first 15 minutes of the second half, and, but for a decent early chance for Dom, Wickham were much the better side. The third goal was a tad unfortunate – a cross/shot that wickedly got caught up in the wind, and Kieran’s parry couldn’t keep it out. Kieran was perhaps a bit more accountable for the fourth goal, as he was unable to claim a loose ball that he’d come off his line to take.

That said, given the mediocrity of the all round second-half team performance, being 4-1 down was probably not much worse than Merton deserved. In fairness, the lads began to play much better for the final quarter of the game thereafter, and put a lot of pressure on the visitors. There were countless half chances upfront and plenty of goalmouth action, but the ball just wasn’t quite falling for them. Eventually they got one back, with a blatant pull in the box, which, for some reason the Wickham players saw fit to argue about.

Anyway, once all that died down, Dom stepped up and tucked his penalty away, perhaps slightly fortuitously, under the keeper. 4-2, and 10 minutes to go.

Merton kept up the pressure, and half chances continued to come thick and fast. But this seemed destined to be another one of those days. Another game that got away – one where, for the majority, Merton had played more than decently, but, due to silly errors, had left them departing the pitch shaking their heads in defeat. Still, plenty to build on, and hopefully with a full squad, a win lies in wait at Wokingians next week.

Goals: D Plumridge (2)
Team: Kieran Lee (GK), Ed Plaistow, Joe Plumridge, Mike Todt, Conor Murphy, Will Harrison, Mikey Elgar, Frankie Kalogirou, Aaron Loftus, Denys Zhurbiy, Dom Plumridge
Sub: Akram Choudhary
MOTM: Conor Murphy
DOTD: the two men mentioned in paragraph 1

Posted in Match Reports 4s