I recently attended a Match Report Writers Association gathering, of which they all offered their condolences. “How do you remember all those missed chances?” they ask me, fully understanding that misses are harder to remember then goals. In truth, it is impossible – there are just so many! However, I will yet again try my best, but when you are sitting down for supper on a Saturday night, spare a thought for the poor match report writer, scratching his head with one hand and holding a pen in the other, struggling to recall the misses of the day and which ones to include in the report.

We started the match positively, opening the scoring within the first 3 or 4 minutes – a situation that we found ourselves at the tail end of last year far too many times. The ball was played to Dulanjie, who turned with it on the half way line and made like Usain & bolted. Breaking free of the defence, Dulanjie found himself 1 v 1, a situation that he has found himself a couple of times this season. This time, however, he confidently and firmly stroked the ball into the far corner of the net to put the mighty 5s 1 – 0 up. It must be pointed out that Dulanjie is now on a 3 in 3 record – a very commendable one for a striker. Could this be the day where we run away with a game? Could it be an easier match report to write? Of course not.

In truth, a sure-fire sign that this was going to be a strange game was when I found myself uncharacteristically with the ball at my feet in a 1 v 1 in the box. I had already wrote the glorious finish into the match report in my head by the time I realised I had gently passed the ball harmlessly out for a goal kick. As if this situation was not strange enough, a free kick flicked on by Clive found its way to Lenners in the 6 yard box. He took it down superbly and the first thought was “surely not”. Sensing that this couldn’t be happening, the referee blew for offside, however it is worth noting that the keeper pulled off a brilliant save anyway.

Then came the strong penalty shouts. Like a tiger, Dwayne pounced onto the loose ball in the area. Sensing the onrushing defender, Dwayne put his body in the way, enticing the rather foolish contact from the Actonian’s defender. Despite a slight tap, Dwayne ended up spread-eagled on the deck, ready to receive as if it were naked Lee time. Dwayne smashed the penalty down the middle, with the keeper kindly moving out the way to make it 2 – 0. Followed was an even stronger shout. Aaron Byrne beat the defender in the box and short of a metal chair to the face, this could have been a wrestling move. Aaron was wrestled to the floor when he would have been 1 on 1, but the shout was no penalty. The half ended with us 2 – 0 up.

A particular positive from the half, which would be continued in the second half, was how comfortable our defence was – not something that we could say often last year! The back 5 [keeper included] of Sam in goal, Josh, Darren, Lenners and Delman were equal to anything that they threw at us. Apart from one chance towards the end of the game where they missed a header from just a few yards out, they did not create many meaningful chances at all. This was to be the first time that I have seen the 5s hold out for a clean sheet – a marvellous defensive effort for the team.

It would be easy to be consumed by the misses at the other end of the pitch, however it is worth remembering that we are creating a lot of chances per game – it would not be an over exaggeration to say that we could easily have at least +15 goal difference from our first three games. If this goes on for much longer, however, Disney could probably make a film of our woes called Merton 5s and the Curse of the 2 Goals; such is our aversion to scoring more than 2 despite the chances that come our way. Latching on to through balls, Dulanjie manufactured more 1 on 1 situations, yet their goalkeeper made a few good saves. However the film would mainly be starring our Chuckle Brothers Aaron & Dwayne on this occasion; admittedly there was much more of the “to me” as the “to you”. Dwayne cut in beautifully from the left, attracting their full back on the far side over. A simple ball across would leave Aaron with an empty net, however on the stretch Dwayne hit the ball out the park for a home run. Aaron then returned the favour, cutting in from the right and attracting their defence over, leaving space for Dwayne on the far side. Aaron’s shot was powerful, but at the keeper. Both players aghast that the other didn’t pass, I think we’ll call it even on this occasion – but the way the chances were created is a very encouraging factor.

We threatened to open the floodgates, but then remembered that the pitches at Merton probably would be unlikely to hold, so left it at 2 – 0 for the remainder of the game. And we were not short of man of the match contenders this week. Dwayne scored his first for the season, Dulanjie increased his tally to 3 in 3, Aaron B tore their left back to shreds and Ackers deputised for Andy Bitmead in an attacking role expertly, using the ball well throughout the game. However it seemed inevitable that in our first clean sheet that the award would go to one of our defensive players. Delman and Josh were faster, wiser and stronger than their counterparts, not allowing anything to come down the wings. Lenners was strong in every tackle he went for and did not get sent off despite us having a ref partial to a red card for dissent [very much worth a mention]. However, the man of this match is Darren Avey, who was completely dominant at the back, winning everything in the air and alleviating so much pressure when they were throwing the kitchen sink at us. He was denied the taking of the penalty despite being the best taker at the club, but played a big part in our clean sheet and is a deserving winner.

Posted in Match Reports 5s