Saturday 23rd September 2017 14:00

Having had a great second half performance last week against Old Actonians confidence was high in the Merton camp.  As usual the meet time set by gaffer Clive was well in advance of the kick-off.  Some might say he doesn’t have much faith in the team’s time keeping capabilities.  Luckily this time wasn’t wasted and we managed to catch the start of the early game in the bar which Lenners asks “Is it ok to have a beer?”

Once changed we were out on the pitch with plenty of time to warm up, however most of the time was spent kicking balls into the carpark and retrieving them.  With about 20 minutes before kick-off Clive took us through the usual routine of running, jumping and skipping and some stretches.  The game plan was to keep the ball as much as possible and try to play football on probably the best and biggest pitch we will play on all season.  Dwayne “Forrest” Bedford was named captain for the day which he offered the advice of “When taking a throw in, let’s work the line as much as possible, do not throw it into the middle of the pitch, it’s massive and we will probably lose it!”

Straight from kick-off the ball breaks down out left hand side, Stormzy, playing left full back today holds the pacey winger off, looks up while facing goal, and shapes up to pass back to Sam.  Cue shouts of “NOOOOOO!!!!” but the shouts are too late and Stormzy rolls the ball back towards goal, the forward reads exactly what is going to happen and intercepts the pass, he rounds Sam and fires his shot……. off target.  What a let off!  Maybe today will be our day.

HSBC continue to press and about 10 mins into the first half, Lee lands badly after clearing the ball and is forced off.  Chris comes on in place at centre back.    A bit later on we get a throw in near the halfway line.  Stormzy, must have forgotten what Dwayne said before the start of the game, shapes to throw it up the line and then calls “Clive” and throws it into the middle of the pitch.  This is promptly intercepted and again the HSBC forwards are off target. 

Having been under pressure from the start, Tiago who has been running around like a crazed dingo with rabies is forced to take a break and is replaced by Aaron A.  During this opening half hour we looked second best.

We did create a couple of changes, Dulanie pulled off the same trick rolling the ball sideways three times and created enough space to take a shot which was off target.  HSBC’s clearance was weak and fell to Clive who was about 25-30 yards out and unfortunately hit his shot high and wide.

Clive not being able to see what’s going wrong with the game plan decides to make a change.  New boy, and Aaron B’s mate (I’m sure he’s bringing someone new each week just so he can get reduced subs) Endy Bisong into centre midfield.  Just as well we have rolling subs as in under 35 mins we have made three changes.  Endy made a positive impact, having seen Dulanie get away with the same trick three times in a row he copied and the defence fell for it as well.  Instead of shooting he rolled a pass to Stormzy who was storming up the pitch but the shot, like many of our warm up shots, ended up in the car park.

Close to 40 mins into the half HSBC make a good passing move leaving us exposed at the back and finally the forward gets a shot on target and they take the lead.

We go in at half time, feeling a bit flat, but knowing we can do better.  After last week scoring three in one half we know we can get at least one here.  We come out from the kick off with purpose and the ball breaks to Aaron A just inside our half.  He looks up and places a great ball in the left hand channel.  Josh and Dulanie are both gunning for it, Josh gets there first and it looks as if Dulanie might tackle him for it, but eases off.  Josh takes the ball forward and smashes it past the keeper into the roof of the net.  Screams of “YEAH, COME ON!!! TWO GOALS THIS SEASON!!!” from Josh.

Confidence is now high and we start making use of the flat pitch and get the ball into good areas.  It’s now our turn to put the pressure on.  The pressure leads to a set piece and the ball is played in dangerously towards Dulanie and Dwayne at the back post, a shout for “Pull it back” from Darren is heard and Dwayne knocks the ball between the 6 yard box and penalty spot.  It bounces at a perfect height for a diving header, connection is made, it’s powerful, it’s goal ward bound, beats the keeper and is cleared off the line by a defender.

We keep up the good football and make a few changes to keep everyone fresh.  The ball is sent down into the channels again, similar to the first goal, Dulanie runs onto it and smashes it past the keeper into the bottom corner, 2-1 Merton.

We keep up the good play and create a great change for Endy to score on his debut, but shot is easily swept up by the HSBC keeper.  HSBC also make a few tactical changes and we start to sit a bit deeper.  The winger broke down our right, got his pass to the forward who managed to get a shot away and luckily for us it hits the post and bounces to safety.  We managed to soak up the pressure and Aaron B makes a breakaway move, is one on one with the keeper, ready to put the nail in the coffin, and he gently rolls the ball back to him to collect.  Is that something we might live to regret?

HSBC keep on pushing and the forward breaks through the middle, rounds Sam and shoots low and hard towards the bottom left hand corner, Chris Outred makes a fantastic sliding goal line clearance to put the ball out for a thrown.  Points saved?  Hopefully, there’s still another 10 to go.

We defend close to six corners in the last ten minutes, most were low, hard, in-swinging which were difficult to defend.  Sam stayed strong in his goal, punching and screaming when the ball came near.  The mantra of “What would Lenners do?” is finally sinking in.

With two minutes to go a player who was on the bench at the time, had a disagreement with the ref.  This led to a card being shown.  We grind out the last minute of the game with long clearances.  The final whistle goes, with us picking up the first 3 points of the season.

MOTM: Josh Fitzgerald-Smith – great goal and all round performance.

DOTD: Lee Lenihan – Maybe the mantra of “What would Lenners do?” isn’t always appropriate.

Line up
Posted in Match Reports 5s