Category: Match Reports 2s
The word ‘berserk’ derives from a group of Scandinavian warriors – ‘Berserkers’ – who wore wolfskin, got themselves into the sort of furious mental overload only usually witnessed on Arsenal Fan TV, and went into battle all flailing limbs and swords, taking down everyone in sight until their inevitable death in what amounts to an even more ancient form of Hara-Kiri. It made sense, then, that Merton 2s’ opposition, the hitherto unbeaten and admirably ball-on-the-ground Norsemen, spent 90 minutes in a relationship to “cool, calm and collected” akin to the one Denmark has with the planet Neptune: that is to say none whatsoever and most of a galaxy apart.
When the apparently blue boys in blue weren’t screaming at each other, us, the referee, and whichever poor saps stumbled across their path, there was, in fact, a decent match taking place.
“They can only play direct,” shouted one of the Norsemen, showcasing the way to his team’s weakness.
“CALM DOWN AND KEEP YOUR HEAD ON,” screamed another, centimetres from his face, in a manner anything but calming and including far more expletives.
There was a moment when the screaming, whinging and general grumbling stopped. It was the second or so Ackers’ lobbed opener looped 30 yards through the air in an arc so perfect God looked down upon it and wondered whether he should just pack up and quit. It was assisted by cross-field fade Gresty absolutely 100% intended, a ball begging to be professionally dispatched over the despairing, but unusually quiet, ‘keeper. It was the best surprise ball since Louis CK invited young female comedians into his dressing room.
Merton 2s harried and hustled, Ackers’ was presented with another opportunity following good work from AJ but narrowly dragged wide. Ackerman’s general hold-up play and quality would garner him man of the match ahead of the centre-midfield pairing of Big Scotty Scot and Ever-running Ever-ready Ryan Gresty who didn’t give Norsemen a moment’s peace all game.
Norsemen scored, a lovely goal that included some one-touch play and a smart finish. It whistled past debutant George who over the course of the match put in such a catlike performance that Pearcey spent most of the time in the changing room after stroking him behind the ears and talking to him in a baby voice.
Despite Norsemen’s quality, our heroes in yellow and black scored again. A long throw from Gresty, a flick from Ackers and DQ (putting in a Forest Gump performance: lots of running, often stupid) controlled with his head, rightly ignored the onrushing Ben Cook, and smashed the ball with such ferocity the only real surprise was the net stayed intact.
DQ was almost immediately given 15 mins rest to get over the excitement. AJ, up top in his place, skated through like Tonya Harding before the booze and leg-breaking and boxing and pornography, only to be denied by some excellent defending. Merton 2s were looking good but Norsemen’s threat was ever-present. Soon after, Jack did his best impression of Del Boy falling through a bar, only the bar was there, and was a football, and said football hit his arm, and it was a penalty.
“I can’t remember the last time the oppo missed against us. It never happens,” remarked Willgo from the sidelines. “They just seem to have remarkably clear heads.”
Berserkers to the last, the captain promptly missed the target altogether. Was it to be Merton’s day?
No, no it was not, because a win might’ve seen the 2s threaten to move away from mid-table security and that simply isn’t their way in 2018/19. Norsemen equalised, both teams pushed for a winner, one of the teams screamed more than the other, and a fair-ish 2-2 draw presented itself at the final whistle. An average single point return, but a match that wasn’t anything but.
Merton 2s, usually as steady on the road as Prince Phillip, nevertheless arrived in Dulwich with a full squad, full hearts, and, in Gibbo’s case, a full belly.
Dan ‘The Tinkerman’ Rist, the Ole Gunnar Solskjær to Willgoss’ Alex Ferguson, had ruminated long and hard over how to get the best out of his erratic team and ultimately decided on 4-3-1-2 – a narrow but attacking formation. Esoteric down to the last detail, Risty looked at the oldest person in the squad and said ‘you run the channels all day long’. Top management.
Much like Haydn on a night out, though, sometimes football’s simply a numbers game. Merton 2s had tried many different formations this year in easing themselves to mid-table obscurity; but, finally, Risty stumbled across a winner.
How so? Well, partly it was aided by a less-than-impressive opposition. South Bank lacked a great deal of pace or finesse, although they did boast the sort of goalkeeper who gets snow on his hands when he does a star jump.
Early doors, then, and it’s all Merton 2s. A four man midfield of Pritchard, Mario, The Great Scott and Everrunning Everyready Gresty controlled the game like Harold Shipman controlled patient numbers – efficiently. Chances were created and, with some predictability, DQ spurned the first because it was nowhere near his head, catching the 8ft goalie’s heel with an attempted nutmeg that resulted in a corner. The chance had been created by Sutton’s finest black cab filmmaker, Lewis Ackerman, who made like he does in the back of his fake taxi and promptly scored from two yards during a melee after another corner.
“I like the easy ones,” he said, and no-one knew whether he was referring to work or scoring goals.
DQ found himself in the once-always-and-now-increasingly-rare situation of being quicker than the entire opposition backline. Probably definitely onside, he promptly scored twice. The first saw a Pirlo-eque pass from Mario that had the Italian Galleon mamma-miaing in delight. Showing rare control and composure, DQ killed it and then dinked the world’s tallest man. The second saw big Scotty eschew his left leg and instead cross with the outside of his right while running down the left channel. It sounds beautiful. It really wasn’t. DQ scored from five yards while falling over.
And the chances continued, largely from Mario’s top quality set pieces or the occasional sojourn down the right-hand side from Rat, taking a day’s vacation in the 2s because he’s a lovely man.
3-0 at half time and all was well. Special shout-out to Max, in goal, who kept a clean sheet and couldn’t get the kit off quicker if he tried when handing over to Sam Pritchard for the second half.
Half two, then, and all did not go well. Pritch admired a fairly smart volley so much he waved it in at the near post like Mr Tumble signing to a deaf child. He then decided to mix things up by perfecting the along-the-ground goal-kick into the centre of the pitch.
Risty Dan had a plan, though, and changed to 4-5-1 to stem the tide, which kind of worked because the second half was largely appalling. Pearcey and Haydn had more to do but stood fast at the back. Conor moaned and crunched into tackles, because that’s what he does best. And Rat wondered just how bad 2s football could be. Willgoss, back from a lengthy lay-off, engaged in the odd enterprising run down the right and also Jackie Chan-ed a centreback in the head.
They scored again, mainly through Merton 2s being a bit pants by this point, but we still ended-up more than deserving winners.
And, thus, like the 19th president of the USA, a Mr Rutherford B. Hayes, Merton 2s’ season continues to happen, but not in such a way that anyone’s likely to remember it. A 3-2 win, if anyone’s counting.
Merton Res 1 Old Alleyns 3s 3
Despite all the rain the Hood pitches were just about playable. This was a good competitive game. It was afairly even game but Alleyns took their chances and we did not, particularly early on. After about 20 mins Alleyns took the lead with a good run down the left and finish. 2-0 seemed a little harsh when we misjudged a ball over the top and their winger ran on to it and finished well and that is how it was at Half time, It became 3-0 when a good effort from outside the box dipped over the keeper. But straight from the kick off Woody scored from the half way line catching their keeper out and me as I missed it too. It was a very competitive game and the ref did well to keep the game going. A couple of worrying injuries their keeper took a nasty knock to his knee and in the same incident DQ did his collarbone. As I said good game to watch and both teams played some good football. Our man of the Match was Conor who had a running battle with their winger and the referee. As ever he did not see eye to eye with either of them but that motivated him to a tireless effort to turn the game around. Ben Cook was voted DOTD I am not quite sure why but it could have been for any number of reasons,; hung over, late, getting booked, but none of it stopped him playing pretty well. Thanks to Dan for organising the team and playing a good captains role.
Bank of England 2 v 1 Merton 2s
High-quality game of football in the autumn sunshine was what Bank’s manicured pitch demanded. Merton and the hosts delivered.
Sherbs was superb in goal, saving from point-blank range shortly after Bank took an early lead. His athleticism and bravery keptTeam Handsome in it when their concentration was absent.
When it was, Merton were fast and fluid. A Conor throw-in found noble Ryan Noble-Gresty down the right channel, just inside the area. Gresty turned his man and dinked a perfect ball to the far post, where Ackers cushioned home one of the easier goals ofhis Merton career.
Cookie and man of the match Jack were superb as a centre-back combo. Conor and Ciaran were excellent either side of them. In midfield, it was Glenn’s introduction that really began to turn the tide in Merton’s favour. His pace caused any number of problems for Bank. But a second goal would not come before the half.
Bank scored again shortly after the break. Debutant Joe put in a fleet-footed and bright showing on his Merton debut. Dan Rist’spassing was, as ever, top notch.
The ref did his best to spoil a great game of football. He seemed, oddly, much more interested in giving Bank soft free-kicks than he did nailed-on penalties for Merton. That peculiar inconsistency remained a pattern throughout. He even booked Wilgo for asking him about it –but not Bank’s left-back for spear-tackling Joe (an illegal action in rugby, let alone football).
LINE-UP: Sherbs, Conor, Ciaran, Jack, Cookie, Dan Rist, Niall Kelly, Wilgo, Gresty, DQ, Ackers. Subs: Glenn, Joe
Merton 2-2 HSBC
Debuts for Jack Costello and Craig Bull (no, not that one – a considerable upgrade on the previous Merton man of the same name), the return of Gibbo after his London Marathon 15km and the reincarnation of Cookie were among the headlines for Team Handsome’s first league game of the season – away at HSBC.
That’s to take nothing away from Sam Singer-Ripley in goal, who saved his side more than once against an HSBC team with pace and no small intent. It was largely thanks to Sam’s heroics and savvy keeping that Merton came in at half-time two goals to the good.
Those goals, then: both intricate passing moves set in motion by the bravery, quick thinking and application of Merton’s defence and tireless midfield, epitomised by Cookie. Both moved from right to left, with Robert’s strength and quick feet buying him time and space to pick a pass. For the first, the ball found its way to Cookie, whose looped through ball bounced invitingly in front of Ackers. Our man was still at an acute angle, but his first-time (left foot!) half-volley was too much for the goalkeeper – who could only take a moment to admire the ball nestling in the opposite corner of his net. It was a passing move of awesome quality that got the finish it deserved.
Merton’s second was arguably better. Pearcey nicked the ball off his opponent’s foot and set us away. Robert–Cookie–Dan Rist, whose precise pass to Craig Bull gave Merton 2s’ new right-back-turned-left-back the space to cut in and fire the ball under the despairing keeper.
Honourable mentions go to Robert, who had obviously spent the first 20 minutes on the bench working out exactly how he was going to dismantle HSBC’s left side, and EJ, who were a constant menace. Ackers was superb as our lone striker – though at least this week he received plenty of support. Gibbo easily ran further than he did at the London Marathon (perhaps his local newspaper will interview him about this). We have missed his presence. Risty’s use of the ball was, as always, top-drawer.
Haydn and Jack at the centre of our defence were in a no-man-shalt-pass sort of mood; they were dominant in the air, brave and brilliant throughout. Wilgo, filling in at left-back after Craig found himself too tired to pass, had to help them out only the once – throwing himself across the box in the final minute of the game to stop what would likely have been a hugely dispiriting winner for HSBC. Merton had earned this.
The final word should go to the Man Most Handsome: not only did Cookie avoid being booked or sent off for 90 minutes, but his industry and quality was at the heart of everything Merton did. Ben, where have you been?
Goals: Ackers, Craig Bull
TEAM: Sam Singer-Ripley (GK) Craig Bull, Jack Costello, Haydn Dance, Paul Pearce, Dan Rist, Ben Cook, Gibbo, Wilgo (c), EJ, Ackers; Robert
Merton Reserves 2-2 Carshalton (h)
Scorers: Graham Willgoss, David Quainton
Team Handsome’s bare XI versus a Carshalton side looking to go top of the league: this was always going to be a tussle.
But then that’s a quality Merton Men can guarantee. Exemplified by Conor Murphy’s Man Most Handsome performance, the home side twice came from a goal down for a deserved draw.
Conor’s cohorts in defence were equally magnificent, with Joe Grew sorting out anything that came his way, Haydn imperious and PQ once again reminding everyone why he’s made the right-back spot his own.
Darcy and Dom in the middle of midfield crunched into their challenges time and again. Both also found scope to seek out Sherbs, in goal, from midfield while kicking against the wind. We can only assume they were hungry for more life-or-death 50/50s. And what a pleasure to have Pearcey back in the side. He showed this was exactly his sort of game, too, battling hard and showing no little skill in the right areas (but more of that later).
For his part, Sherbs not only remembered to stay in his box with ball in hand, he made one of the saves of the season to keep out a fine free-kick. Seeing the ball late as it arced over the wall, our man threw himself to his right and got an all-important strong wrist to it. PQ was alive to the subsequent danger, and his challenge was enough to put the onrushing winger off. Sherbs puffing out his cheeks as the ball finished up in the side netting was an absolute picture.
Up top, EJ was a pleasingly constant niggle and a persistent threat. DQ, meanwhile, had his best game in ages. It was the older Quainton, in fact, who set up Merton’s first equaliser. Sort of. A Conor throw-in from the left, and DQ tussled as only he can (like Mustard, but fairly). The resulting melee saw the ball bobble around the six-yard box before an attempted clearance by Carshalton rebounded off one of their own players and looped up for Wilgo, who volleyed home from eight yards.
Merton might have twice taken the lead at 1-1. Wilgo collected a Conor pass and skinned the right-back to pull the ball back to Pearcey, but his effort was well saved. Later, a Wilgo-Darcy-Wilgo pinball combo was cleared off the line three times. Frustrating. As it was, about as unsporting a Carshalton side as have visited the Hood instead scored in typically unpleasant fashion.
EJ was having none of that, however, and took the game to the oppo, working the ball into dangerous areas every time he received it. One such foray forward found Pearcey six yards out. Then, something wonderful happened: Pearcey and DQ agreed that one nawty back-heel deserved another. First, Pearcey’s, deliberately, to DQ. Second, DQ’s, to sweep the ball into the corner of the Carshalton net. Lovely.
Boys, if we score a more delightful goal this season, I can’t wait to see it.
Team: Sherbs, Conor, PQ, Joe Grew (DOTD), Haydn Dance, Pearcey, Wilgo (c), Dom Preece, Darcy, EJ, DQ
Hampstead Heathens v Merton 2s
Scorers: Wilgo, Dan Rist, Haydn Dance
Going on the name of the oppo, Team Handsome assumed yet another north London away day was in store. But in an SAL first, we were grateful to be playing in Lewisham in bright sunshine.
It was a bright start from Merton, too: Dan Rist, on the left, pinged an arcing cross-field ball to Wilgo running beyond his marker on the opposite flank. The skipper cushioned a first-time header beautifully into Ackers’ path, in space 10 yards out. Sherbs in goal was already audibly celebrating the only possible outcome. But Ackers found only the post.
He made up for it two minutes later with a flicked header from a Conor throw-in. Heathens’ keeper couldn’t deal with the looping ball in the sunlight, palming it only as far as Wilgo, who cushioned a volley home from close range.
Things started getting tasty soon after, Man of the Match Haydn the first to suffer a full-frontal assault and a four-inch gash across his knee. That this continued as a theme for the remainder of the game was apparently of little interest to the referee, who completely ignored – among others – a stone-bonking DQ penalty shout, Conor being pole-axed and Gresty being kicked five feet in the air. He was, however, very keen on seeing that Sherbs took a little time out in the sin bin for asking politely about the first on that list.
That alone was enough to earn Merton’s number 1 Dick of the Day (as nailed on an award as we’ve seen, with turning up nearly an hour early and unsettling the squad and wandering out of his area ball in hand among Sherbs’ other offences). He was still furious three days after the final whistle.
It should have been all over bar the scything come half time. Wilgo could have made it two when through on goal but for an excellent save. Then there was that nailed-on DQ penalty. Gibbo and Rayner injected a little more zip after half time, the former’s wild shoot-on-site policy worthy of a DotD nomination. Dan Rist did make it two, having all the time in the world to cut in from the left and pick his spot at the near post and sorting it out for us all. Thanks Dan.
With around 20 minutes to go, a Haydn notched Merton’s third with a close-range volley from a corner. Conor made an excellent save while replacing a sin-binned Sherbs while Rayner did an excellent impression of a brick wall as a fill-in left-back. Conor was having none of that when subsequently restored to his usual spot, and gave away a penalty.
It finished 3-1, and Merton third in the table.
Team: Sherbs, Conor Murphy, Peter Quainton, Haydn Dance, Joe Grew, Ryan Gresty, Dom Preece, Dan Rist, Wilgo (c), Ackers, David Quainton; Gibbo, Chris Rayner
A match report in Limericks…
“4-3-3, we know how to play, get stuck in.”
Ah, the tactical nuances of non-league football. Merton 2s merrie men nodded sagely, for they would line-up with four men at the back, three in midfield, and three up front. And they would get stuck in.
Captain, leader, ginger, Graham Willgoss led the getting in of the stuck by expertly bringing a Dan Rist ball under his spell, inviting the entire defence one way, dancing the other, and then sitting down the ‘keeper for good measure. 1-0.
St. James stroked the ball about and had a territorial advantage for the whole first half. They didn’t however, create a great deal of clear chances. They had one notable effort, cleared by Joe Grew before it crossed the line. Admittedly, goal-line technology may well have said otherwise, but we don’t use it, so tough titties.
Captain, leader, Grumpole of the Bailey, Willgoss had another chance and stuck it straight at the ‘keeper. Maybe we’d rue it.
We didn’t rue it. Team Handsome took far greater control of affairs in the second half. Nick rip van Tiddlywinkle – adhering to some sage advice to stay a bit wider in the front three – took a terrible first touch, a heavier second touch, and a toe poke into the back of the net. Liquid football from the Socceroo.
More attacks, a corner, an Ackerman header, a goal. 3-0. Easy street. So easy, in fact, that Ackers passed-up an easy chance, missed a penalty (quite possibly because it wasn’t a penalty, though one should be aware of the searing run that made it by the typically All Action Dom), and then set through DQ from a one-two after a a lovely move fully expecting the fourth goal of the day. The silver sub dinked the goalie, but the ball met the bar rather than the net. Wasteful.
St. James’ scored! That was silly. No matter, Merton 2s held out reasonably comfortably and all was well. Hell, it was better than well, as Ryan Gresty – absolutely toweringly superb for the full 90 minutes despite the fact he wears a sports bra – picked up man of the match and Captain, leader, later for his own team’s meet time, Willgoss convincingly won DOtD. Lovely stuff.
Peter Quainton is four inches over six feet tall.
“May I suggest putting him on the posts, he’s never headed a ball in his life,” says David Quainton, today’s substitute and Team Handsome legend.
Team Handsome legends Graham Willgoss and Alex Herbert nod sagely. PQ shall defend the post at corners. Merton 2s will play an attacking 4-3-3 with an emphasis on making the Old Blues look like ancient greys.
This decision happens long before the arrival of Gibbo, who turns up ten minutes before kick-off having decided the logical thing to do before a match in west London is spend the night in Manchester. Sporting his usual ragged and slightly startled appearance, akin to that of a student runner sat alone in a pub after a day on the set a Kevin Spacey production, Gibbo nevertheless tears into a helpless and admiring opposition like Dan Rist’s chat up lines on a night at the Exhibit.
Rist forms part of a let-the-ball-bounce-and-we’ll-sort-it-out-later defensive duo with Joe Grew. Towering. Imposing. These are just two of the words that will never be used to describe Team Handsome’s centre-backs, but sound reading of the game and no-little skill on the ball make for an incredibly effective pairing. To the left is the wingback’s wingback, Lofty, who may be a fish out of water but performs like the star of the latest episode of Blue Planet 2; erm, a fish in water.
Peter Quainton heads the ball.
We’re two minutes into the game, it must be some kind of accident. At right-back, he’ll probably be called to do it again. Grew looks surprised. Herbert in goal is astounded. Willgoss shouts encouragement from his attacking position on the right of the front three. At least it sounds like encouragement. Sometimes it’s hard to know. Words like ‘quality’ and ‘better’ are accompanied with the odd muttering curse. It sounds encouraging. It’s probably encouragement.
Willgoss subsequently proves it’s a good week for the bastard offspring of James Hewitt, not by getting engaged to an absolute smoke show, but by steaming past two players and tucking the ball in with his left peg. A cracking strike, it begins with a driven ball from PQ. The duo link up throughout the match, owning their side of the pitch.
Soon the lead is two. Alongside Gibbo, Dom and Darcy are smashing holes in the Old Blues midfield. Perhaps Darcy just enjoys not running around after a small human, the product of his own testicles, at the weekend. Whatever it is, he’s playing extremely well and tidily tucks away the second of the game from a(nother) Willgoss assist.
3-0 follows. It’s Nick, bounding in like Mitchell Starc with the new ball after watching the entire Merton front six get involved in the move. On the front foot, he smashes it for six into the top corner, and at halftime the game seems already won.
Peter Quainton heads the ball.
Our boy clears it off the line. Again. Sherbs is dizzy with excitement. So dizzy he drops the next simple cross, says ‘no’ more times than an aspiring actress at a Miramax party, and safely regathers. Ancient Grey Quainton is on the pitch, is fouled in the area, the ref ignores it. The referee, displaying less mobility than Prince Phillip at the cenotaph, is miles away. He misses fouls all day. He does not miss, however, a scrote who endears himself to absolutely no one by being a mouthy little trollboy all game, getting sin-binned (the second Old Blues player to do so) and then complaining about it so much that he receives both a yellow and red card. His presence is about as welcome as pneumonia at an old folks home.
By this point another three goals have been scored. Two to Old Blues, who rally as Merton tire, and one to Gibbo with a crisp strike from the edge of the area (assist: Wilgo). Benham, buzzing around relentlessly up top as ever, should have a goal of his own. He thinks he has it after tucking away the rebound after Wilgo hits the underside of the bar, but a shocking offside call at the moment the ball caresses the back of the net denies him that which he deserves. It is not the only poor offside call of the match. 4-2 it remains.
Peter Quainton is laughing.
Having secured joint MoM alongside bubbly, fuller-figure, goalscoring presence of Darcy, the teetotal talisman has given his pint to his older, handsomer, brother for downing.
“See, I can head the ball,” he says, as DQ dispatches his beer and contemplates a second having not even having managed to last a whole half without tweaking an injury. Sherbs, entirely too happy about this prospect, is reminded of just how many times he said ‘no’ when dropping the ball. For the fifth time this year, DotD is his. A proud record, and a proud victory for Team Handsome.
Team: Sherbs, PQ, Joe Grew, Dan Rist, Simon White, Darcy Yates, Dom Preece, Michael Gibson, Nick van W, Wilgo, Tom Benham; DQ