Old Thorntonians 1-2 Merton 2s

(a), 18/11/2017

Perhaps the most satisfying moment of a rainy, cold Saturday afternoon the other side of Wimbledon Common was Thorntonians’ centre back imploring his teammates to work harder with the shout of “they want it more”. We really did.

Driven forward by a relentless midfield trio of Dom, Gibbo and Darcy, Merton were hungry. Snapping into tackles, pressuring their opposite numbers, forcing mistakes and breaking at pace. We’ve missed this.

For our finest example of pace, look no further than Tom Benham. Direct and menacing, Tom was a weapon. His goal broke the deadlock, from a Dom Preece cross of real quality, right to left. Tom’s appreciation of space gave him the time to control and finish. That was just for starters. TB didn’t stop running all afternoon.

Merton continued to press, EJ’s mix of free spirit, strength and skill causing the opposition all sorts of problems. On the right, Wilgo was finding plenty of joy and creating chances. It was the captain’s inch-perfect through ball that dissected the defence for Merton’s second. Darcy made it possible with a perfectly-timed run. Wilgo picked him out. Darcy’s flick gave it the finish the pass deserved.

Thorntonians pulled one back before the half, courtesy of a questionable offside decision (more on that later). But this game was about character. And Merton had plenty of it.

As the cup tie became more end-to-end in the second half, Conor, Dan Rist, Joe Grew and in particular Pearcey were heroic at the back. Each produced a manful display that ground out what Max rightly called an epic win. Joe Grew made some serious yards down the right, too.

A short paragraph must be given over to the referee, whose performance – and what a performance – is perhaps best described as flamboyant. Explaining his interpretation of the offside rule before the game would have been amusing were it not for the erratic 90 minutes of officiating that followed.

Last word, though, goes to Lofty. Having travelled the furthest, our side’s most senior member volunteered to go in goal and then produced a performance to be proud of. The final 20 minutes alone saw Lofty make at least five saves or catches that saved Team Handsome. Handsomest among Lofty’s stops was the iron wrist he used to tip over a swirling, goal-bound drive. Truly a Merton Man’s performance.

Merton 2s: Simon White, Joe Grew, Dan Rist, Paul Pearce, Conor Murphy, Dom Preece, Darcy Yates, Michael Gibson, Graham Willgoss (c), EJ, Tom Benham. Subs: Ben Cook, Andy Holder Ross

Posted in Match Reports 2s

Old Finchleians (h) 0-3

Let’s get the positives out of the way first.

Good, hope that didn’t take up too much of your time. On to the match, which was to Merton 2s’ confidence what Kevin Spacey is to future box office success.

Merton surged into a 1-0 deficit courtesy of Joe Grew’s face when Finchleians began with the bit between their teeth. Wicked deflection, Sherbs had no chance.

Still, the men in yellow could look to the unstoppably chirpy and puppy-like EJ for some bounce. He spent the first half gallivanting up and down the right side with something that looked like purpose, but squandered the best chance when through on goal after a delicious Wilgo through-ball.

That was about as good as it got for Team Handsome.

Clowesy got sent off. Early doors, second half. It was absolutely a red: a ‘tired dad’ kind of challenge when the quickest guy on the pitch was through on goal. Something of a farce followed in the form of a discussion as to what exactly constituted being ‘away from the pitch’; the Joseph Hood changing room car park was eventually deemed suitable. Clowesy watched on from afar, mercifully away from the field of play, many wished they could have joined him.

We conceded twice more: once was a tip-toe around Sherbs, who made a tired dad kind of attempt to stop it happening. Up top, DQ made a tired old man attempt at scoring goals. Dom got a bit angry. EJ smiled. Cookie managed not to get a booking. Yes, there we have it, the positive. Cookie managed not to get a booking. And Merton were out of the cup.

Team Handsome: Alex Herbert, Dan Rist, Joe Grew, Alan Clowes, Conor Murphy, Graham Willgoss (c), Andy Holding Midfielder Ross, Dom Preece, David Quainton, EJ, Michael Gibson, Ben Cook, Peter Quainton

Posted in Match Reports 2s

Oct 28: Merton Res v Hampstead Heathens


D Quainton

A lot of huffing and more than our fair share of puffing just about got Team Handsome the result they deserved against Hampstead Heathens. In the end.

Playing a home game after what felt like a season-long exodus (‘What do you mean we’re not playing in north London this week?) was clearly such an unfamiliar experience that Merton struggled to click into gear early doors. Free-kick conceded in the danger zone after two minutes. A less-than-solid wall. 0-1.

Merton might have controlled the game from that point onwards, but could not break down the composition of the Heathens’ chemistry on a day when the Joe Hood pitch was not exactly an oasis. You’ll have to ask Sherbs in goal how the away side went two up from a corner when it looked for all the world like a routine catch was on the way. Still though, our number one redeemed himself late on, throwing himself to his left to repel a ferocious drive and preserve a point. Merton cleared. That was much more like it, Alex.

In between that faux pas and moment of redemption, David Quainton pulled one back with a header from a Dom Preece cross. Wilgo then latched on to a Woody through-ball to scuff a cross along the six-yard box. The Heathens defence were having none of that, however, and returned the ball to Merton’s skipper, who shifted the ball from his right to his left and (finally) slotted home. Relief.

Dom Preece and Dan Rist could walk off the pitch with their heads held highest, sharing as they did the Man Most Handsome award. Woody was also a typically robust presence, full of quality on the ball.

Dick of the Day went to Joe Grew for any number of sins witnessed by Mustard, dressed as He-Man for his birthday, and his band of increasingly merry men on the touchline.

They will have enjoyed a game played in good spirit on both sides but, in all likelihood, little else. On to next week.

Alex Herbert, Joe Grew, Dan Rist, Paul Pearce, Peter Quainton, Conor Murphy, Wilgo (c), Darcy, Dom Preece, Chris Wood, David Quainton, Andy Holder Ross, Nick Van W, Chris Rayner

Posted in Match Reports 2s

Old Owens (a) 14-10-2017


Merton has never been a club to put too much stock in omens. But when, as skipper, your referee for the day asks if you’re wearing yellow while your entire team is standing around you, all of you resplendent in the very shade Merton has made famous in every corner of London, well… you have to wonder.

Especially when the man in black has then somehow managed to make a complete muddle of the coin toss. Long day ahead? You bet.

This is not the forum for complaint, however. You can draw your own conclusions as to just how wildly inconsistent the man in the middle’s behaviour was during the game.

Instead, a few Merton highlights.

Dom Preece put in a hell of a shift in the middle of midfield. Outshining the energy of Craig Usher and Ryan Gresty is no small feat, but our man did exactly that.

Ahead of him, David Quainton led the line with Tom Benham admirably. Benham’s goal – twisting the defence inside out after latching on to a precise Peter Quainton through-ball – was joyous. Having sat the defender down for what seemed like a third time, Tommy B rattled the ball high past the keeper with his left foot. From the look of determination on his face immediately afterwards, he drew no little satisfaction from doing so.

Sherbs in goal was as reliable as ever. He could do nothing about the penalty (the ref was possibly only sorry he couldn’t take it himself), and made two or three excellent stops.

Dan Rist exudes a style and presence all of his own. Man of the match here, his delivery was pin-point from all over the pitch, and he even found himself on the edge of oppo area to force a fine save from a stinger of an effort. Also worthy of mention is his fondness for the over-elaborate dummy at centre-back. Gets ‘em every time.

Special mention, though, for Peter Quainton. Off the bench after less than 10 minutes, Pete podiumed for Man Most Handsome from right wing-back. Affecting the game when you have the best player on the pitch to mark is one thing. Coming off the bench to show the rest of the lads how it’s done is quite another. Well played.

There was something of a spiteful playground atmosphere about the whole affair, hardly helped by the coin toss cocker-upper. A long way to go for little reward. But this was a game, in the end, that was not without its lighter, brighter moments. In yellow.

Herbert (GK), Grew, Rist, Cook, Rayner, Willgoss (c), Preece, Usher, Gresty, D Quainton, Tom Benham. Sub: P Quainton

Posted in Match Reports 2s

AFA Cup 1st round: HSBC 2-4 Merton (2-2 FT)

Last season, Team Handsome’s effort across three cup competitions could be summed up like this: not pretty; didn’t get very far. Three matches and three losses – clearly some work to do.

Still, a  trip east-ish to play a bunch of bankers in this year’s AFA cup offered a chance to redress the balance and even the hope of securing some silverware.

Imagine a carpet, but the carpet is made of grass and it’s really nice grass and everyone likes playing on it. That was the pitch. No doubt buoyed by the un-Hoodness of the playing surface, Merton 2s tore into HSBC while also achieving the remarkable feat of actually talking to each other during the match and keeping the team shape.

The onslaught was spearheaded by Chaz, a kind of footballing Hurricane Irma who scored the opening goal with a Tim Cahill-esque header from a fine Dan Rist cross (adapting finely to a midfield berth). A momentary loss of shape through substitutions and EJ’s inability/refusal to throw a football saw HSBC equalise, but there was always the sense Team Handsome would pull through. It just took a while.

Ackerman, splendid until a late injury that will keep him out for a few weeks, strode through in the second half, played in ageing lothario DQ who left a defender on his backside and who handed the ball to Chaz on the edge of the area. Chaz’s in-no-way-scuffed shot found the bottom corner. 2-1.
Sadly, another collective bit of pony defending saw another HSBC goal and extra time beckoned.

Ackers’ last contribution, before accelerating one hip flexor too many, was to watch an HSBC defender sit on the floor and to roll the ball into the corner of the net. 3-2, and in truth Merton were very much in control. The scene was set for Chaz’s hat-trick. Pearce, once again defending stoutly, released DQ who ran the length of the pitch.

Ian Lewis, supportive as ever from the sidelines, was screaming for the pass to EJ – magnificent after the earlier defensive snafu – DQ duly obliged by giving it to Chaz instead. Chaz could’ve scored straight away but decided to turn a defender before doing so. And why not? Why. Not.

That was more than enough for man of the match, although special mention must go to Adam Crawshaw in centre midfield who had an absolute stormer, often closing down the entire opposition on his own (and loudly demanding some assistance while doing so). Todger of the Tag? Step forward Alex Herbert, for turning up late with the kit. Again. He’s on for the hat-trick on the 14th.

Line-up: Alex Herbert, Gabriel Draghici, Conor Murphy, Alan Clowes, Paul Pearce, Joe Grew, Chaz Martin, Dan Rist, Chris Rayner, Lewis Ackerman, David Quainton. Subs: Adam Crawshaw, EJ

Posted in Match Reports 2s

Home versus Cambridge Heath

At least once a season, a team should be left short of a goalkeeper. It’s one of amateur football’s unwritten rules. But Merton 2s proudly boast at least two men who will take one for the team and take a turn between the sticks when their team is in need. Take a bow Pearcey (for the first half) and Dom Preece (for the second).

Alan Clowes was on a mission from the start that neither stand-in sticksman would have to lift a finger. Deservedly Man Most Handsome, Clowesy was outstanding.

His performance was typical of a hard-fought game played in good spirit. Cookie, too, had a lovely time in midfield, tackling hard and using the ball effectively. Still, few chances in the first half saw Merton go in a goal down.

The introduction of Adam Crawshaw and Chris Rayner at half time shook things up. Merton looked an altogether meaner machine. Sustained possession and no little pressure gave the men in yellow the break they were looking for: Gabby’s first Merton goal – a blast from 30 yards – was well deserved for his boundless energy alone, even if it was helped in by the keeper.

Ackers was incredibly unfortunate to be the first 2s man this season to experience the Sin Bin. He spent his time-out prowling the touchline, twitching and flexing like a prize fighter, itching to get back into the action, and wondering if the ref was an Uber driver.

That seemed to drive the temporarily 10 men of Merton on. Rayner, fresh, slotting in behind the front two, his sat nav for goal fully functioning, found the freedom to ping one from 25 yards. The keeper could only watch and pray as it hit the upright.

DQ had another excellent game, perpetually in fifth gear. He ploughed on up top alone in Ackers’ absence, again creating chances all by himself through sheer force of will. The goals will come for our man, but not today.

Ackers’ return couldn’t quite break the deadlock. Still, a point each was not unfair, and Team Handsome remain unbeaten.

Squad: Pearce (1st hero GK), Draghici, Murphy, Grew, Clowes, Rist, Cook, Willgoss (c), Preece (2nd hero GK), Quainton, Ackerman, Crawshaw, Rayner

Posted in Match Reports 2s

Carshalton (a), 16.09.2017
Leafy, desirable, full of undesirables, a kebab shop called ‘Kebab World’ (presumably something of a Disney resort for the cholesterol-arteried of the area, one of whom appeared to play for the oppo), and traditionally the venue of a little bit of needle. Carshalton: our kinda town. 
Well, a town anyway, and it’s where Merton 2s’ first away match of the season took place.
A slightly delayed kick-off due to unforeseen clubhouse-opening issues made a mockery of the fact everyone turned-up within good time. Messrs Murphy and Usher (back for his first game for two years after spending a prolonged time in Sheffield, poor lamb) found the whole experience very easy, living but ten minutes away; and Lewis Ackerman was delighted to be able to finish filming a morning’s Fake Taxi in Sutton with plenty of time to hose down the back seat, remove the smell of lady, and still make it by the designated hour. 
Captain Willgoss ruminated over how to squeeze the best out of a strong squad, replete with faces old and new, and a front line the sunny side of 70 years old. The ‘respected cycling journalist’ ultimately devised a 5-3-2, utilising Draghici and Murphy’s energy down the flanks and packing the midfield. 
Merton started like a house on fire, in that they were very soon engulfed and looking rather weaker than hoped. A long clearance was flicked on by a lunk familiar to anyone that’s played at this level over that last ten years, and a leaden defence admired the quality of the finish. So far, so disappointing. 
But this, as mentioned before, was a quality Merton line-up, and they picked themselves up, dusted themselves down, and resolved not to make the same mistake again.
Instead, Merton took control of the game. Willgoss and Usher intercepting everything in midfield, Gibson alongside finding space and demonstrating class of touch. Ackerman hit the bar, DQ had a half-volley acrobatically tipped over, and minutes later was elbowed in the back of the head by a Tubby Angry Man, securing a free-kick on the edge of the area. Having already had one sighter, Gibson stepped up and arced the ball deliciously into the top corner. 
1-1, and more was to come. 
DQ had a super game up top, making so much through his own physicality and determination. He won the ball in the area, beat the keeper, and saw his shot cleared off the line by the head of the smallest player on the pitch. Murphy and Draghici increased their sorties into the opposition half. Carshalton complained lots. Merton were unlucky not to lead at half time.
Willgoss told everyone they had played just spiffily well and to do exactly the same in the second half. Draghici – full of energy throughout – listened intently, took to the pitch, stole the ball from the left-back, powered into the area and won an absolutely stone-bonking penalty. Ackerman scored it. Because he’s deadly. 2-1.
Willgoss rang the changes: PQ on for the hobbled Murphy, and Preece on for the captain himself. Usher took over the armband, his reintegration into the Boars thus complete. 
Preece, evidently bored by the mundanity of a penalty goal, strode onto a clearance and half-volleyed unstoppably into the top corner from 30 yards. A real beauty. Even the Carsharlton players stopped whinging, such was the professional quality of the strike. DQ had a further two shots saved, PQ whipped in some testing set-pieces, and Shields – on for Ackerman – stole onto a short backpass, calmly rounded the keeper, and pulled the shot about ten yards wide.
By the end of the match, Carsharlton had been given such a runaround that half the team had cramp or somesuch and it was an altogether comfortable end for the men of Merton.
Sherbs – another excellent game in goal – tends to make at least one save per game that he has no right to. No change here, Alex acrobatically tipping over a stinger of a ping that thrashed through the air, surely destined to make the last 10 minutes a little uncomfortable for the men in yellow. Sherbs wasn’t having it. 
The whole event was a thoroughly promising affair, and 4 points from two games means the 2s are starting to look more than a little handsome again.
Preece secured DOTD after celebrating his worldy by attempting to air-Cruyff-turn a goal kick. But mostly for wanting to shoot off early to get some DIY done. Usher, Crusher, dear sweet Craigy, edged MOTM for a typically action performance. It’s good to have him back.
Merton (3-5-2): Sherbs, Clowes, Dance, Grew, Draghici, Murphy, Usher, Willgoss, Gibson, Ackerman, David Quainton. Bench: Peter Quainton, Dom Preece, Ally Shields  
MOM Craig Usher
Posted in Match Reports 2s


By no means a classic worthy of comparison with Henman v Ivanisevic at Wimbledon, but Merton 2s – settling
for a home draw with Norsemen – can at least point to a rain (storm) break five minutes from the end
that turned the tide just as effectively as it did in that fateful SW19 match-up.
Mario Del ‘Trotter’ Prestito’s appetite in the final third piled the pressure on early doors. Josh Fitzgerald-
Smith, as tall as two players (and with the name of at least three), marked his 2s debut by latching on to
an Ally Shields flick to slot home the opener. Just minutes later, the very idea of Chris Rayner bearing down
on the defence was enough for Norsemen to deflect the ball into their own net for 2-0.
The visitors bagged one before half-time. They also forced a flying, textbook – neigh, picturebook – save
from Sherbs in goal. They would continue to have the best of it in the second half.
That was despite the obvious quality of Lewis Ackerman, who put in a man-of-the-match-performance in
midfield and spent much of Wednesday evening at training feebly, but not unenjoyably, answering Clappers’
questions about why he was trying to hide in the 6s. Gabby ran him close with his constant foraging
down the flank from right-back.
Ackers and Gabby combined could do little about Norsemen’s equaliser, however – a deflected shot that
looped over Sherbs’ best efforts. By that stage, though, Norsemen were banging on the door almost as hard
as the rain.
One damp squib worth mentioning, unrelated to the result: we’re sure the referee’s assessor will have some
interesting things to say to the man in black about elbows and dangerous play. Still, a good point to start
the season. Far from a wash-out.
Squad: Alex Herbert (GK), Mike Reed, Dan Rist, Paul Pearce, Gabriel Draghici, Luke Mora, Graham Willgoss,
Josh Fitzgerald-Smith, Chris Rayner, Lewis Ackerman, Mario Del Prestito, Ally Shields

Posted in Match Reports 2s

Merton 2nd XI 5 – 2 Weirside Ranger 2nd X/XI

Revenge is a dish best served cold, and it is cold, very cold… well actually it was a bit Spring-like if we’re being totally honest.

Anyway, after a cruel 1-0 loss first time around, Merton won the return fixture in style.

To whet your appetite for what is to come, I can promise Bromance, Banana shots, potentially illegal goals, and a naked Holly Wil…hang on, scratch that last, belongs on a different thread.

With Mustard making a welcome return to the 2s alongside Neal, Glenn, Dan and Dan, there was the delight of a pre-game playlist of energising songs to look forward to. After a bright start, Rock DJ prompted a few groans and Dan (K) then proclaimed listening to it was akin to water-boarding… to the guy that it turned up had picked the song. Awkward.

On the pitch, Merton lined up 442 and were raring to go. Weirside lined up with just 10 men, while their first team boasted a full complement of substitutes a full 5 yards away on the adjacent pitch. Over-confident? Did the two side really hate each other? Could they just not count? All was revealed later.

Merton went at the oppo from the outset, with Glenn in particular looking both classy and threatening down the right wing.

After some early pressure, the DQ/DK axis up top yielded the opener. DK managed to win a header and force a pass on to DQ, who returned the favour and played DK in on goal. So far, so good. As pretty much every player, and most definitely Andy Holder-Ross, waited for DK to ‘just score already’, DK, convinced he was offside, decided to do… nothing.

Minutes passed. Tumbleweed rolled by. The hitherto frozen defence and keeper came to the belated conclusion that they could move, and closed in to make the tackle. At this point, DK decided, offside or not, he’d take action, and as enough time has elapsed for DQ to run into the box, he squared the ball to DQ ten yards out to apply the finishing touch.

To me. To you. In a moment of chuckle-brothersesque synchronisation, DQ took aim… and squared the ball back to DK. To me. To you.

AHR had a small apoplectic episode.

DK thought this was a lovely gesture and decided it was probably time for a shot, given there were now approximately 13 players inside the penalty box and the half time whistle might beat him to it at this rate. He sent a left footed (strike is probably too strong a word but it’ll do), strike towards the bottom corner.

DQ watched DK shoot, thinking what a lovely time they had had. Probably. Or he may have been thinking, not for the first time, that he had chosen the wrong song earlier and it really should have been McAlmont and Butler for the uplifting track. These decisions can really haunt you.

Anyway, the shot lollopped along towards the bottom corner, only for the keeper’s big right mitt to temporarily stop its progress. So DQ decided he had better pop the ball in the net, given he had an open goal for a few yards out.

Andrew Holder Ross was not amused. Pearcey, on the other hand, lovely Pearcey, came and called both frontmen heroes, if just for one day.

If any of those still reading are thinking that was an inordinately long description for one goal, then you now know what it was like to watch.

1-0, and Merton continued to press. Mustard was hungrily snapping up loose balls, Glenn was having a whale of time tormenting his full back, AHR was, well, angry, and poor old Rayner was shouting a lot for the ball and not really seeing much of it. When he finally did get the ball, he delivered an absolute peach of a cross to the far post, only for it to be utterly wasted by falling to DK. For most people it would have been a poor miss. DK headed it over and felt a bit pleased he had made contact.

Better was to come however, as more nice link up play by DK and DQ saw DQ this time played in on goal. DQ saw the supporting DK outside him and squared the ball like a scholar and a gentleman for DK to crash home. Lovely forward play, and Pearcey came up, called them heroes again and muttered something about a bromance. AHR just muttered something.

The footballingly simpatico and handsome front duo were beginning to resembe the great goalscoring partnerships of bygone eras: Dalglish/Rush. Bergkamp/Henry. Chas/Dave. Jedward. Alas, in keeping with time-honoured tradition, Lofty hooked DK after scoring and after just 30 minutes of magic, and the DQ/DK axis was done for the match. Manny came on in his place and Darcy also replaced AHR. Which gave him plenty of time to tell DK exactly what he thought of the first goal.

At this point, Weirside had noticed their first team had players to spare and were formulating a cunning plan to swipe one of them, so a third goal before this happened would have been handy indeed. And so it proved, Manny robbing the ball out of nowhere and playing in DQ. No square ball this time – instead he opened up his body and passed the ball ever so crisply into the bottom corner. Think early Michael Owen. Except Ravenelli grey. And around 17 years older.

3-0 at HT.

Weirside did indeed start the second half with 11, but it was Merton who extended their lead early in the second half. Manny had already missed a good chance when he once again robbed an oppo player and bore down on goal. A good tackle or maybe an interception later, he had recovered the ball and had it on the touchline just inside the box. Eschewing a cross with his left foot, he instead turned 270 degrees and chipped the ball up with his right with a sort of Phil Mickleson bunker flop shot. The ball bananaed away and then back towards goal, and perhaps with half an eye on the onrushing DQ, the keeper could only help the ball into the top corner. 4-0.

Manny had time to play in DQ one more time, only for him to blaze over before being replaced by DK for the final half hour.

Weirside then got one back with something of a sympathy penalty after a swift counter. Cookie looked to have got back to make a good tackle but the referee was having none of it.

The game had got a bit scrappy at this point, but a fine ball from Dan (full back, also excellent throughout) saw DK get in behind the defence down the right wing, and from this move Merton restored their four goal advantage.

Looking up to see only Manny in the box, DK nevertheless decided to cross low and hard into the box. The keeper went to snap this up only for the bouncing ball to tw*t him in the face as he went to pick it up. Manny daintily wandered past the disorientated keeper and knocked the ball in from 2 yards. 5-1.

Or so we all thought. Clappers on the adjacent pitch later swore the ball went wide, through the side netting and then into the net. Manny was unavailable for comment. Dubious goal??

At this point, Cookie had had enough of pretending to be a centre-back and got himself involved in some midfield action. A late tackle (on him), a bit of wrestling and a lot of swearing later he and a Weirside player were being told off by the ref. Said referee was distinctly heard saying no cards were necessary, only for Cookie to get bored and wander off the pitch, leaving a proffered hand and then a yellow card in his wake. Lofty came on in his place to guide the team through the last quarter.

There was still time for a bit more incident. First, Manny almost had a hatrick late in the game after nice work from Darcy and a flick on from DK, but a fine one handed stop denied him.

Then, with just a few minutes to go, the otherwise excellent Mustard wound up (and massively telegraphed) a throw in in-field only to spanner it up royally and concede the foul throw. That’s DotD sown up, literally everybody said to themselves.

Everybody, that is, except Neal, who from the resulting throw-in waited until ball was in the box and beautifully shielded before taking a 5 yard run up and shoulder-charging the Weirside player in the back. For the second time the referee pointed to the spot. Blatant doesn’t even begin to cover it. Dan got a hand to the pen, but it still snuck in. 5-2.

A thumping victory, made all the sweeter when back in the changing room Pearcey asked Mustard when his song was going to be on… as it was playing. This was pointed out with some amusement to the somewhat shamefaced Pearcey.

Pearcey, Mustard and DQ shared MotM spoils, and despite Neal’s best efforts, Mustard also doubled up with DOTD for that throw in. A pint of wine (plus sambuca) was polished off with not only aplomb but also approximately seven bags of steak crisps.

Posted in Match Reports 2s

Old Blues Reserves 0 – 1 Merton Reserves

Merton returned to winning ways with a hard fought victory at Old Blues, courtesy of a late DK/DQ strike. Truth be told, it was not a dissimilar game to last week, featuring a lot of effort, some accomplished defending, not much in the way of goal mouth action, and a goal that could also be described as a big bag o’shite. Considering the game last week was vs the champions-elect and this week we faced the 2nd bottom team, it shows how closely matched this league is.

With Lofty arriving and then dropping out ill and Emmanuelle applying his now-standard disregard for meet times, the 10 players who were on time conducted an exercise in democratic formation selection. The varying merits of 4-4-2, 4-5-1, 3-4-3, and 4-4-1-1 were considered, before the choice was made to adopt a 3-5-2 designed to put legs at wingback in the form of Milo and Emmanuelle, and in the hope that giving Ben Cook his promised role in mf would bear fruit and minimise rage possibilities. Pearcey, Jordan and Connor formed a back three in front of Sherbs, with BDS, Cook and Rayner in the middle, and a DQ/DK frontline. Reassuringly, the home side only had 11 as well, so were all set for iron man football as the game commenced.

Merton almost struck from the outset as Milo released DK and his cross was close to being turned in by DQ. However, after this, the game became more attritional, or in more blunt terms the referee spent most of the half giving Merton free kicks as Old Blues idea of tackling was, shall we say, old-school. To compound matters, he would then almost immediately balance things up by calling Merton offside from almost every free kick he had just awarded. Frustrating. Occasionally, some football did break out, and it was Merton who showed glimpses of quality most often. In particular, Emmanuelle was finding space down his wing, and linking up with DK, and in particular DQ, to good effect.

One such move saw DQ almost in behind; with DQ, covering defenders and keeper converging, DQ’s squared header was deflected just behind DK or a goal would have been (mostly) certain. Big Dave Scott threatened next after more link up play down the left, but blazed wide after being set up on the corner of the 18 yard box. DK then span his defender following a cleared corner and looked set to gallop free down the left, only for a blatant shirt pull to end the danger as he was hauled down. The referee remarkably decided this warranted a free-kick, a fact no doubt noted by defenders on both sides for future reference. At one point Cookie was also crudely brought down by a sliding tackle from behind, before telling Connor to “leave it” as he came to protest. Merton were collectively stunned, and made a note to enquire (after the game) just who this player was and what he done with Ben Cook.

At the other end, Merton were largely looking comfortable at the back, with Connor, Jordan and especially Pearcey sweeping when needed and reading the game with aplomb. Ahead of them, the midfield three were working hard to close down space, with winger-turned-CM Chris Rayner throwing himself into Noble-Gresty-like tackles and headers like he’d played there all his life. There were a few scares from set pieces, but Sherbs didn’t actually have a save to make. 0-0 at HT, and Merton felt the game was theirs for the taking, if only they could turn their possession into some clear-cut chances. And not succumb to a set piece in the meantime.

For once, they were right. With Merton keeping the intensity level high, they remained the dominant team. Chances remained at a premium, with a free DQ header (over the bar) from a Rayner corner the clearest sight on goal for 30 minutes of effort. Old Blues continued to throw themselves into some questionable tackles, and their right back finally received the yellow card he deserved in the first half partway through the second, but were still failing to trouble Merton. It was definitely the sort of game where you felt one goal would be enough, and finally, Merton managed to take their chance and bag a winner.

First, great closing down won a throw-in deep in the opposition half. Connor slung the ball in and Dave Scott made enough of a nuisance of himself to knock the ball down. DK reacted first and hit what can only be described as a laser-guided trundler of a side-foot from the corner of the 6 yard box. It dipped, bounced, DQ and covering defender desperate lunged at it (to no discernible effect, although DQ claimed it brushed his foot), and then almost apologetically bobbled into the far corner. Literally unstoppable. 1-0.

With 15 minutes to go, Merton held out comfortably (for once) and the three points were theirs. An absolutely solid performance from players 1 to 11, with everyone working for the team.

Jordan bagged his first three point haul with the 2s and promptly hightailed it to Manchester to celebrate, leaving 10 to decide on awards. Ben Cook and Connor Murphy shared MOTM accolades, with Sherbs rather bizarrely picking up one vote despite not having a save to make. DQ was harshly voted DOTD despite putting in a heroic shift in terms of blades of grass covered, for reasons varying from the missed header to a flat “I just don’t like him”. Harsh, but the predator (with disaronno, no less) was brutally dispatched with aplomb.

This week, a new feature; player ratings. Well, performance descriptions to be precise. Everyone played their part and felt like this should be recognised.

Sherbs: Comfortable throughout, swept well when called for.
Jordan: Immense. Slotted into a back 3 like the old pro he isn’t and dealt with everything thrown at him
Pearcey: Composed throughout, reading the game brilliantly and captaining his defence (and the team).
Connor: What other epitaph befits other than relentlessly, remorselessly solid. At all times.
Milo: Worked his socks off for the team, covering when needed and providing a valuable outlet down the right.
Rayner: Tigerish. Never stopped fighting for the team.
Cookie: Protected the back four when needed whilst ghosting past midfielders when on the ball. Classy
BDS: All action display of no little physicality and chipped in with an assist.
Emmanuel: Offered threat down the left, supporting the strikers, and worked hard defensively.
DQ: Closed down the oppo relentlessly, effective at linking play, and won his share of challenges to boot as well. Inspirational. And apparently a dick. For the day.
DK: His usual mix of energetic closing down, misplaced passes and short-range goal-sniffing.

Posted in Match Reports 2s