It was a much changed team this Saturday, with various people missing for many different reasons. Luckily, we had good players to come in & we were very confident of extending our unbeaten run of 1 game. However, the first half was indeed a very strange affair; it started with 2 bad injuries, with Andy Bitmead falling awkwardly on his wrist [and his left hand too, much to Mrs Bitmead’s despair], and an opposition player dislocating a knee cap and damaging his ligaments. He left in an ambulance, and we all wish him a speedy recovery.

Now, for the action.

It would not be an understatement to say that we completely dominated the first half. Apart from hitting the outside of the post from distance, which Kieran had well covered, our defence marshalled by two men in the middle of outstanding beauty, kept them well at bay. Kieran could be seen at half time on ebay buying a deckchair, much was our dominance. At the other end…well, Dulanjie kindly requests not to be reminded in writing. His first opportunity was a chance he wonderfully created for himself. He picked the ball up out wide, skipped past a couple of defenders and had the goal at his mercy. Swinging at the ball with real intent, his effort sailed marvellously high and wide putting us 6 runs ahead. His second 1 on 1 was not as easy, however. Played through by Dwayne with a ball that was reminiscent of his assist last week, he latched on and had just the keeper to beat. He was fast off his line however, rushing Delanie into a lob that went agonisingly wide. Sensing a pattern? Enter Ryan.

There were two times when Ryan had golden opportunities in the first half. He had indeed seen Delanie’s first miss which confused him greatly. One on one with the keeper, he smashed high and wide for 6, putting us 12 runs ahead. His second, much like his first, was a 1 on 1 from a slightly tighter angle; we might well let him off that one. The closest he came was when the ball hit him and sailed just over the bar with the keeper beaten! Even papa Burchell got in on the act! The ball bounced to him in the 6 yard box, and under pressure, Steve calmly put it out for a corner goal kick.

Thank the lord for Andy Bitmead.

Somewhere in between, Andy decided that enough was enough. He knocked the ball round their right back, and latched onto it himself. Arriving just before their centre back, he knocked it past him too to leave himself with a 1 on 1 – surely not? With confidence, he hit it towards the bottom corner, leaving the keeper with no chance. I asked the referee if we could convert our 12 runs into a goal, however the motion was cruelly denied and we went in at half time 1 – 0 ahead.

We started the second half strongly, and we knew this may well be our day when Ryan found the target! His effort, however, was well saved by a rather strong keeper. I am sure Delanie missed a couple more in the second half too; however he has left me with so many to remember that I must had given up trying by that time. Luckily, a tragic defensive mistake would allow us back into the game. Their defender played it back to their keeper, who looked nervous, as if he shouldn’t pick it up. This was, in fact, reiterated by their defender shouting “DON’T PICK IT UP!!” Of course, he picked it up. The same defender realised that it was indirect [a bright spark this one] and told his players to move off the line as Bitmead couldn’t shoot. They didn’t budge, and Bitmead hammered it at one of their players on the line. It deflected in to give Merton a deserved second.

They through the kitchen sink at us, and in truth created quite a few chances from it. There were a lot of shots from range, they hit the post, and missed one really good chance from inside the box. Our task could have been made easier when that man Delanie had a golden opportunity 1 v 1 with the keeper, but this time decided to gently pass it to him. There must be a rule that only one person can score per game that I’m not aware of, however there will be other times when we need those goals so best to save them I guess! They did, however, score one just a couple of minutes from the end. We played the offside trap, and from looking across the line, the man was definitely offside. The referee was not sure therefore could not give it, and he squared it to their other striker who chipped Kieran to ensure a nervy ending. A pinball in the six yard box looked to be heading for the corner of our net, however Kieran acrobatically jumped at the ball and held with two players steaming in on him to save the 3 points for us. A much, much tighter game then it should have been, but a well-deserved win.

This week’s MOM, as elected by the team, was a fantastic Andy Bitmead. He soldiered on with a dodgy wrist, and proved to be the difference between the two sides with a commanding all-round performance. Also worthy of a mention is the whole of our defense who as a collective were superb, with Steve Burchell marshalling it well and Josh Fitzgerald-Smith putting in a very mature performance for a young man. Clive provided a very effective shield in front of the defense, and although chances were squandered, Delanie did very well to create them, as well as putting their defense under great pressure throughout the game.

Very good performances all round. A win next week will succeed our points tally for last year, so that is certainly the aim – and how better to achieve in then at home in front of our thousands of cheering fans?

Posted in Match Reports 5s