Merton 5s 3 – 3 Merton 6s

This game was as bizarre, eventful and action-packed as a low-budget Arnold Schwarzenegger film so I apologise for playing fast and loose with some of the detail!

The fixture man certainly enjoyed the first game because we’re not even half way through the season and found ourselves playing our sixth team once again. These are horrible games to play as a higher team, and being 6 points behind the sixes at the start of the day this was not one we could afford to lose.

The beginning of the game was quite finely balanced, with the 5s having the best of the early chances. Most notable was Dulanjie being played through 1 on 1 with the keeper, however uncharacteristically not able to slot it away. We pressurised them, winning free kicks and corners and this ultimately bore fruit for the first goal. A good run onto a direct corner by Phil Truman saw him unmarked right in front of goal. He seemed to almost “dab” it, heading the ball onto the top of his shoulder and into the net. A good start for the 5s never usually bodes well.

This balanced the game even more, and the 6s got right into it through good runs from their pacey forwards. They found themselves in some fairly promising positions, however were unable to capitalise. The game was see-sawing and on our attack midway through the half, Dulanjie was played through again. He did not get there and the keeper cleared, however it landed at the feet of our remarkably elegant, handsome dream of a left back. He took a touch, the ball sat up nicely and he wellied it from 40 yards lobbing the keeper and putting the 5s 2-0 ahead.

Two things the 6s do well is press quickly from the front and break with pace. They employed both on this occasion to pull one back. Delman was either waiting for movement [he might still be on the pitch waiting] or daydreaming about impending cuddles with Dwayne, but either way, the ball was pinched and played into their central midfielder. Allowed the run, he took it 10 yards forward and played a nice chip over Sam and in for 2-1.

Just before half time we just about notched a third goal to restore our 2 goal cushion. The ball was crossed in and landed at the feet of Josh, who slotted it home for 3-1.

There were 4 goals in the half however it didn’t feel like a half that should have been high scoring. The millions of fans watching at home must have wondered, “How could this game get any more interesting”? The second half certainly answered that question.

The 5s team talk concluded along the lines of not sitting back and trying to score more, as we’d likely concede if we played a bit more defensively. Having beautifully ignored that advice, we immediately started the half on the back foot and it looked as if it could be a long half. They prodded and probed, creating some decent chances and really stretching our back line.  It was not much of a surprise when, after spurring a couple of chances, they pulled one back, however the manner in which they did was surprising indeed.

The ball came in for a corner and a group of players competed for it. Everyone missed it and the ball bounced in the box and hit Josh’s hand from two yards away from the group. He didn’t have much time to react and it was rather unfortunate, however whenever the ball hits a hand in the box there is always the risk. The real issue of contention was yet to come. The 6s took the penalty and hit the post, and with players rushing to block/clear any rebound the whistle went. All players didn’t know what was going on, and the referee ordered a retake to our bemusement! Yes, we did have a player or two in the box however they certainly did too and therefore it never should have been retaken. A different player stepped up for the retake and hit it hard and low. Sam did well to get a hand on it however the pace was just a little too much, and the 6s closed the deficit to just the single goal.

We reacted well and, for the first time in the half, started putting some pressure on with the final ball just lacking. The one time it did find its mark, we were very unfortunate to be denied. The cross from a free kick found Phil Truman in acres of space, who headed home. To our surprise the whistle went as the linesman flagged offside – a decision that can only be described as “dubious”. The score remained at 3-2.

Our good spell only lasted 10 minutes before the 6s got on top as they chased the game. It was there turn for some misfortune as Phil tripped chasing the ball. Their player ran onto it and was one on one with the keeper; however the whistle went for a free kick to us. There didn’t look to be much in it so we were fortunate.

For all their good play in the half, their third and final goal was scrappy and wholly avoidable. The free kick came in and got muddled up between our defenders. We failed to clear the ball and it landed straight at the feet of their player, who easily slotted home from 6 yards.

There was not long left of the game; however they had some very good chances and could have won it. There was one shot very well saved by Sam, who tipped it onto the post, one clearance off the line and a couple of good chances spurned. The game ended 3-3 in what was a highly entertaining match for the neutral.

Man of the match was shared out between a good half of the team, which was great. Despite three goals conceded each player in the back 4 received a man of the match nomination. Tiggsy and Stormzy were busy in the middle of the park, Dwayne Aaron and Josh were a constant threat and Dulanjie up top was unfortunate not to get on the scoresheet right at the start of the game. If there’s one criticism from this performance it is that we need to keep the ball better and be a bit more incisive in the final third, however we can take a lot of heart from the way we battled, especially in the first half.

Now that we do not have to play the 6s again this season, we wish them all the best for the rest of the season and we certainly hope and expect to be up there with you at the end of the season. A 1st and 2nd finish on the cards perhaps?

Posted in Match Reports 5s