Category: Match Reports 4s
Merton 4s vs. Polytechnic 7s
SAL Junior Division 4 South
Saturday 17th February 2018
Following last weekend’s exit from the SAL Cup, we were back in league action this week with Polytechnic 7s making the trip to Wimbledon Common Extensions. This was a game we needed to win in order to continue in our quest for promotion, if not the title.
Again, our squad was weakened with Sonny Kennedy, Akram Choudhury, Dan Gridley and Michael Elgar unavailable. We did however managed to piece a squad together with Darcy Yates, Ryan Burchell and Adrian Thompson (a Sunday League teammate of Frankie’s) being drafted in to help out. Jack Dethridge was also a new face within the mix. We would have been able to name two subs had Ricardo turned up however this did not materialise.
Having the right personnel we were able to line up in our usual 3-5-2 formation which has served us well throughout the season.
Although the playing surface wasn’t the best, we were on the front foot from the start. The wingbacks in myself and Ryan supporting the midfield three to cause the visitors all sorts of problems. Within the first ten minutes we got the breakthrough that we deserved. A slick move, which started from the back line, was completed when Ryan found himself in the box to fire a square ball from Dom into the roof of the net.
One soon became two and did so with one of the best goals witnessed since my time at Merton. A ball was played out of the back to Dom up top. With his back to goal, from 25 yards out, he teed up Jack, using a combination of his shoulder and chest, who unleashed a left footed volley into the back on the onion bag! 2-0 and cruising.
Twenty minutes before the break Jack bagged his second and Merton’s third after the keeper failed to keep out his long range effort. This however was as good as it got!
Joe Plumridge had to leave the field of play for ten minutes having picked up a booking for dissent, meaning he was the latest to participate in the sin bin trial. Fortunately we were able hold on without conceding during his absence which is how it stayed until the break.
The team talk at the break was a positive, which was expected taking into account the score line. Fast-forward to the team talk at the final whistle and it was far from positive, and this is the reason why….
Polytechnic reduced the deficit with a ‘worldy’ from the left which even had Gubby saying “What a goal” as it hit the back of the net. Polytechnic then reduced the deficit further when Gubby could only parry a long range effort into the side netting. The equaliser came shortly courtesy of a near post header from a corner. From 3-0 up at half time the score was now 3-3 with ten minutes to go. Then came the sucker punch!
The referee awarded a penalty to Polytechnic after Adrian raised his hands to protect his face. A harsh decision considering the distance travelled from foot to hand by we probably would have claimed had it been us.
For the third game in a row we have blown a three goal lead to lose. This result is a further blow to our promotion/title push but all we can do is keep going in the hope that other results go our way.
Next week we host the other Polytechnic side in our league which, on paper, should be an easier game if the reverse fixture is anything to go by as we won that 8-1. Unfortunaly football isn’t played on paper so we need to give all we can.
FINAL SCORE: Merton 4s 3 – 4 Polytechnic 7s
SCORER(S): Jack Dethridge (2), Ryan Burchell
MOTM: Will Toms
DOTD: Joe Plumridge – Sin binned.
STARTING LINE-UP: Michael Gubby (GK), Joe Plumridge, Will Toms, John Gridley, Ryan Burchell (Adrian Thompson), Edward Plaistow (Capt.), Will Harrison, Darcy Yates, Jack Dethridge, Aaron Loftus, Dom Plumridge
Merton 4s vs. Actonians Association 7s
ISEH Intermediate Novets Cup, Quarter Final
Saturday 10th February 2018
by Edward Plaistow
If there was any week in which you wanted a postponement, this was the one. With only seven regulars available, there was no other option but to seek help from elsewhere with Aaron Byrne, Luke Newman, Chris Outred and Phil Truman from the 5s stepping up to help following their postponement. Denyz Zhurbiy was also part of the squad. We were further strengthened when Matt Bosher, who had turned up at Joseph Hood for the non-existent 1s game, became our 14th man. When asked if he wanted to help out, it was pleasing that his response was ‘Well it’s better than going home’,
The playing surface at WCE was more like a swamp than a football pitch. In all honestly I wouldn’t have been surprised if the referee had called the game off due to the amount of standing water visible but with him and the opposition having “travelled a long way” the game went ahead.
Having not played the visitors before, we didn’t know what to expect. Their results in the league were nothing to go by having only played a fraction of the games we had. Although we had a shift in personnel, we were able to line up in our usual 3-5-2 formation. Michael Elgar replaced Gubby in goal with the latter unavailable with Chris Outred coming into the back three alongside Dan Gridley and Will Toms. The only other change saw Aaron Byrne partner Denyz up top in the absence of Dom Plumridge with Aaron Loftus dropping into a number ten role.
It was a slow start with the playing surface not helping. We were unable to string a succession of passes together which resulted in Actonians having a lot of the ball early on. Their number 4 in the middle of the park being the catalyst for everything they were creating. It wasn’t long until their dominance in possession paid off when Mikey was unable to keep out a low drive from 20 yards.
Conceding kicked us into gear. We were getting a foothold in the game creating opportunities. Denyz was holding the ball up well with Aaron Byrne causing all sorts of problems on the right hand side. On the half hour mark we found ourselves level courtesy of Aaron Loftus and that left foot of his. We were now on the front foot and we soon found ourselves in the lead with Sonny converting following a layoff by Aaron Loftus. We kept our composure for the remainder of the half.
We were playing some good football, as a result, the team talk at half time was possible. In order to freshen this up changes were made. John Gridley took the place of Mikey in goal as he was unable to continue following a collision in the first half. Luke came onto replace him taking Johns spot at RWB. Phil replaced Chris at the back and Matt came on in place of Aaron Byrne.
The second period started better than we ever could have imagined when two minutes in, Aaron Loftus gambled on a mistake by the keeper to fire a left footed shot into the bottom right of the net. This however was the trigger where things went downhill.
Within 10 minutes of increasing our lead, the game was level with Actonians bossing possession. Legs were tiring which were made worse when Sonny was sin binned for dissent. During his ten minute absence, which seemed liked a lifetime, the visitors used the extra man to their advantage. The extra man combined with some poor defending (the guys would agree!) the game finished 6-3 to Actonians meaning they were travelling back to Acton with a spot in the semi-finals.
This is a game to forget but hopefully we will have our revenge in the league fixtures.
With our cup run over until next season, we look forward to hosting Polytechnic at Joseph Hood next week hoping to continue our fine form in the league.
FINAL SCORE: Merton 4s 3 – 6 Actonians Association 7s
SCORERS: Aaron Loftus (2), Sonny Kennedy
MOTM: Aaron Loftus
DOTD: Sonny Kennedy
STARTING LINE-UP: Michael Elgar (GK) (Luke Newman), Will Toms, Dan Gridley, Chris Outred (Phil Truman), Edward Plaistow, John Gridley, Akram Choudhury, Sonny Kennedy, Aaron Loftus, Denyz Zhurbiy, Aaron Byrne (Matt Bosher)
Civil Service 6s vs. Merton 4s
SAL Junior Division 4 South
Saturday 27th January 2018
Following last week’s impressive 6-3 away to West Wickham, this week we were on the road again to visit Civil Service. Like last week the playing surface had seen better days but the adverse weather conditions were to blame for that.
With potentially our strongest squad available and present and the 3-1 win from the home fixture, we were confident of going back to Joseph Hood with all three points. The only changes from last week saw John Gridley return to slot back in a RWB and Danny Gridley returning to replace Will Toms on the back free in order to allow him to fill in the gap left by Michael Vogt’s unavailability.
The confidence that was with us at the start of the game took a battering throughout the first period as we found ourselves 2-0 down going into the break. We just couldn’t get into the game with the host capitalising on our performance to take the lead from a corner that we were unable to clear. They were able to double their tally after half hour following a lack of communication at the back.
Frustration was clearly evident during the team talk. It was a matter of composing ourselves by taking more time on the ball that would get us back into the game.
Cue the restart and it seemed like it was a new Merton side that had taken to the pitch. Crisp passing and winning every ball. It wasn’t long until we were able to half the deficit through Sonny Kennedy. His bullet header nestled in to top right hand corner of the onion bag. A short while after one become two courtesy of Dom Plumridge. His purple patch seemed to have gone AWOL the last few week but it found its way back through a smart left footed finish into the bottom left. We were now level and it was game on!
Confidence was oozing from every player on the pitch. Passes were being completed, interceptions made and tackles and headers being won. It wasn’t long before our dominance was rewarded. A cross from the right sat up nicely for Dom to connect with a volley however he opted for a smart disguised layoff for Will Toms to finish low just inside the area.
Will Harrison, the catalyst of most of headers and tackles being won (on par with Sonny!) was a solid presence in the middle of the pack having replaced Joe Plumridge. It was he that gave us a two goal cushion, albeit through a stroke of good fortune when an attempted lopping cross to the back post found its way into the back of the net, bamboozling the keeper.
You could say that the best was saved until last when Sonny, for his second of the day, unleashed a left footed half-volley that even the likes of David de Gea would have struggled to keep out.
The referee finally put an end to Civil Services’ misery.
Next week we host South Bank, one of the only teams to defeat us this season, who also took points off of our title rivals Old Salesians to reduce the gap to only one point. Unfortunately we need to keep doing what we are doing and hope that results go our way if we are compete for the title.
FINAL SCORE: Civil Service 6s 2 – 5 Merton 4s
SCORER(S): Sonny Kennedy (2), Dom Plumridge, Will Toms and Will Harrison
MOTM: Sonny Kennedy – Another solid performance in midfield capped off with two goals.
DOTD: Joe Plumridge – Anger issues need to be tamed although reaction was warranted.
STARTING LINE-UP: Michael Gubby (GK), Joe Plumridge (Will Harrison), Michael Elgar, Danny Gridley, John Gridley, Edward Plaistow (Capt.), Sonny Kennedy, Akram Choudhury (Matt Shreeve), Will Toms, Aaron Loftus, Dom Plumridge
Merton 6-3 West Wickham
After an excellent start to the new year, it was a good opportunity to
continue our fine form, especially on home turf. West Wickham had
proven themselves to be a decent unit, so this was a fixture that
required all of our focus.
Fortunately, the Yellows made a good start through goals from Dom
Plumridge and Aaron Loftus. 2-0, and the ideal way to lay down the
This being Merton though, few games are ever a cake walk, and West
Wickham hit back with a good goal which Gubby just failed to keep out.
It nearly got much worse too, as Sonny Kennedy gave away a penalty
shortly after. Fortunately though, the West Wickham striker blazed
over the bar, and Merton could breathe again.
They did more than breathe in fact, as Aaron got his second goal of
the day from a lob, following a peach of an assist from the manager.
3-1 at half time then, and the chat was mostly positive. Merton just
had to make sure they didn’t give their opponents an avenue back into
the game. Ryan Burchell, called up due to the 7s being postponed, then
extended our lead with a sweet right-footed drive into the bottom
right. It was the perfect way to get things going in the second half.
West Wickham pulled another goal back to give them some hope, but it
was soon extinguished, as Dom completed his brace.
Infuriatingly, West Wickham pulled yet another back, but it was always
likely to be too little, too late, and the impressive victory was
nicely capped off by Michael Vogt, who finished clinically towards the
end, completing a 6-3 score line which was very pleasing. Another 3
points, and the march towards the title – or promotion at the very
least – continues.
Man of the Match: Sonny Kennedy – Solid Performance as always
Dick of the Day: Sonny Kennedy – Gave away a clumsy penalty
Line Up: Michael Gubby (GK), Joe Plumridge (Chris Outred), Michael
Elgar, Will Toms, Ryan Burchell, Edward Plaistow, Akram Choudhury,
Sonny Kennedy, Aaron Loftus, Michael Vogt, Dom Plumridge.
Kew Association 3s vs. Merton 4s
SAL Junior Division 4 South
Saturday 13th January 2018
With Christmas now a distant memory, it was time to get back to football to try and do what was required to lose the weight gained during the festivities. Last week would have been the start had South Bank showed up for the SAL Cup fixture. Failure to do so resulted in a home walkover and a spot in the quarters alongside the 5s….without kicking a ball!
Our first game back after the break, taking last week out of the equation, saw us travel to Kington for a league fixture against Kew Association. The majority of the squad arrived by the required time however John Gridley decided to ignore the satnav, and everyone else in his car, to carry on to Chiswick! Definitely a contender for Dick of the Day but the outcome of who was awarded this will come later. Fortunately, everyone was present at the time of kick off.
Having defeated the same opposition 8-3 back in November in the home fixture, we knew what to expect. This time round however we were without Aaron Byrne, who, regardless of a request to step up, decided to remain loyal to the 5s. So without the scorer of 4 our or goals from the reverse fixture in the form of Aaron, Adam Collings and Mike Todt were also unavailable for the foreseeable future having been recalled to the army and migrating to Chester respectively.
We lined up in our usual 3-5-2 formation with yours truly slotting into my usual LW role. Akram Choudhury replacing the injured John Gridley at RWB. Will Toms dropped back to support Joe Plumridge and Michael Elgar. Sonny Kennedy was partners in the holding role by the returning Will Harrison with Aaron Loftus playing behind the strike force of Dom Plumridge and Michael Vogt. Matt Shreeve and John Gridley warmed the bench.
From the moment the French official blew the first whistle we were on the front foot. Each individual showing signs that this was clearly the first game for a while however giving it their all. The only notable moments to mention from the first 25 minutes were a few lack lustre chances that fell to Dom and Joe having to be replaced by Matt due to a split lip.
It didn’t take Matt long to make an impact from the bench as he latched onto a subline disguised through ball from Dom with his effort beating the keeper on the half hour mark. Not long after we found ourselves 2-0 up. Michael Vogt converting from a one on one opportunity.
Going into the break 2-0 up the team talk was positive however we knew that we had to change personnel round slightly if we wanted to maintain the level of performance we were giving. Having discussed as a team, we retook to the field with the most suitable shift work possible in place.
We were creating chance after chance within the first 15 minutes of the restart however were unable to extend our lead with most chances falling to Dom. One thing we can credit Dom for however is what came next……
Having been on the receiving end of a mistimed tackle following a free-kick my Mikey, a free kick was awarded in Merton’s favour 25 yards out. Discussions were had between Dom and Aaron on who would step up to take it. The latter took the reins and what a decision it was! His curling effort caught the keeper flatfooted and with no chance as the ball rustled in the top corner of the onion bag! This was one that Messi would have been proud of!
The aim now was to ensure that Gubby’s clean sheet was kept intact. This was aided by the man himself preventing a free-kick finding the back of the net with a top class save to tip it over the bar/around the post (can’t remember which!).
Aaron was causing all sorts of problems for the hosts with 3 men attempting to seize the ball from him the majority of the time. The shift in players opened up the left hand side allowing Aaron to deliver a 40 yard pass to yours truly. For a split second it crossed my mind to smash the ball as hard as I could however I opted for a well-controlled, well-directed and composed side foot finish that had enough on it to beat the outrushing keeper. Not evening his ‘Schmeichel-esque’ starfish attempt was going to stop the ball from finding the back of the net to make it 4-0.
The final whistle finally went after what seemed a lifetime to keep us second in the league, three points behind Old Salesians. Next week we visit West Wickham in the hope of continuing our impressive run of form and topple to league leaders.
FINAL SCORE: Kew Association 3s 0 – 4 Merton 4s
SCORER(S): Matt Shreeve, Michael Vogt, Aaron Loftus, Edward Plaistow
MOTM: Joe Plumridge – Solid as always at the back.
DOTD: Dom Plumridge – John Gridley was close to getting this having ignored direction and ending up in Chiswick however the vote went to Dom Plumridge due to chances wasted.
STARTING LINE-UP: Michael Gubby (GK), Joe Plumridge (Matt Shreeve), Michael Elgar (John Gridley), Will Toms, Akram Choudhury, Edward Plaistow (Capt.), Sonny Kennedy, Will Harrison, Aaron Loftus, Michael Vogt, Dom Plumridge
Merton 8-3 Kew
The in-form Merton 4s have been on a fine run, although it had, of late, been halted. Not by losses or draws, but instead by an unusual 3-week gap between games. So an inconsistent Kew side, who had registered three wins to date, represented something of a dangerous prospect, especially when just 11 Merton players arrived in time for kick-off. The setting was idyllic though. Cool, calm conditions with just enough moisture about to slick the surface. As games at the Hood go, this was about as conducive to free, flowing football as you’ll get.
The first 15 minutes didn’t see many chances accrue, but Merton were clearly in control of proceedings, pressing high up the pitch, passing the ball around beautifully, and maintaining a very solid shape. Mick Elgar was commanding the defensive line with aplomb, Bill and Sonny were pulling the strings in midfield, and Aaron Byrne, filling in from the 5s, was already beginning to look a threat.
The much-deserved breakthrough came, albeit in fortuitous fashion. A ball over the top found Dom, who managed to beat the offside trap. There was no denying that the ball struck his outstretched hand as he brought it under control. Nevertheless, you can only play to the whistle, and, in its absence, it still needed a good finish. And given the decisions which have gone against this side over the past season or two, no one in yellow was complaining. 1-0.
The rest of the half was, quite simply, a blitzkrieg. The second goal came just short of the half-hour mark – a skewed clearance finding Bill in the box. He still had a bit to do, but thundered it into the net with his left foot. If that was good, then what happened next was even better. Again it fell to Bill’s left foot, albeit considerably further out this time. Nevertheless, he once again provided a clinical, ruthless finish, and now Merton were flying at 3-0.
The fourth goal was one of the best of the day. As the ball fell to Mikey in defence, Frankie saw space up the right flank early, and made a rampaging run. The long, crossfield ball was pinpoint; although Frankie’s first touch wasn’t. Nevertheless, he benefited from a lucky ricochet off the defender, and then lobbed the keeper in sumptuous fashion. The first half rout was then complete when Aaron was put through on goal, and scuffed it over the keeper to make it 5-0. Perhaps an air of good fortune in the finish, but it was no more than he deserved after an excellent display.
At 5-0, after producing arguably the best 45 minutes they’ve ever played, the only real challenge for the 4s in the second half was to avoid complacency, and keep such impressive intensity going. That looked to be on the cards, as Aaron scored again to make it 6-0. However, it wasn’t quite the same thereafter, and Kew were next on the scoresheet – the striker somehow wedging his way between the yellow defensive line, with a mistimed finish that had just a bit too much for Gubby.
Celebrations were to follow though, as Aaron scored again to secure a second hat-trick in as many weeks. And, just when he thought it couldn’t get any better, he scored another – arguably his best one of the lot from the tightest of angles. Well played lad – what a performance! Shortly before that, Kew had scored a second, with a free kick that had somehow penetrated the wall. The visitors also had the final say with the goal of the match at the death, as one of their forwards blasted home a pile-driver from 30 yards.
But it was all academic really, and didn’t take the gloss off what was a scintillating display from a team which is playing at a level higher than the sum of its already-considerable parts. It’s good to watch, even better to be a part of, and if this continues for the rest of the season, it’s difficult to see how silverware – or promotion at the very least – will not follow.
Team: Gubby (GK), J Plumridge, Elgar, J Gridley, Plaistow (c), Kalogirou, Toms, Choudhury, Kennedy, Byrne, D Plumridge
Subs: Todt, Shreeve
Goals: Byrne (4), Toms (2), D Plumridge, Kalogirou
Merton 4s vs. IBIS Eagles 5s SAL Junior Division 4 South Saturday 21st October 2017
Having won so convincingly against West Wickham last time out, we were up against an opposition who had already given us one of the toughest games so far this season in IBIS Eagles. With both teams on 10 points going into the game, the victors would sit comfortably at the top of the table.
A shortage of centre backs meant that we had to seek assistance from the 1s and draft in Alan Clowes. We also had Jordan Cox on the bench as cover for John Gridley who had already played 90 minutes of football for the vets.
We lined up in our usual 3-5-2 formation with Michael Gubby in goal, a back three of Alan, Joe Plumridge and Mikey Elgar. John Gridley and myself were the wing backs on the right and left respectively. Sonny Kennedy and Adam Collings were the holding midfielders with Frankie Kalogirou getting a chance to shine in the number 10 role behind Aaron Loftus and Dom Plumridge.
The first half was one of few chances for both teams and this was evident going into the beak with the score goalless.
We knew that we were shading possession and that it would only be a matter of time before we broke the deadlock, all we had to do was continue the way we was playing.
About 20 minutes into the second period we were able to break down the visitors when Adam clinically converted a scissor kick into the roof of the net. 1 – 0 and in all honesty cruising.
The way the game was going it had 1 nil written all over it. Or so we thought….
A lapse in concentration and a long ball from the back caught Joe flat footed. This allowed the striker a one-on-one opportunity with Gubby which he took with aplomb. 1 – 1 and we were gutted.
Coming to terms that we were only going to take a point from the game, we were showing signs that the equaliser had got to us. Cue the 85th minute and a sucker punch! Another lapse in concentration produced a peach of a chance for IBIS which they took.
The final whistle went with the opposition celebrating like they had just won the FA Cup, celebrations which continued into the dressing room. This shows how important the win was for them as they knew that we were the toughest competition that they would have to face in the league all season.
It wasn’t our day but we played some good football. We need to brush ourselves off and get back in our stride against Civil Service next week.
FINAL SCORE: Merton 4s 1 – 2 IBIS Eagles 5s SCORER(S): Adam Collings MOTM: Michael Elgar – Solid as always at the back.
DOTD: N/A – Everybody put in a shift to be proud of.
STARTING LINE-UP: Michael Gubby (GK), Joe Plumridge, Michael Elgar, Alan Clowes, John Gridley (Jordan Cox), Edward Plaistow (Capt.), Sonny Kennedy, Adam Collings, Frankie Kalogirou Aaron Loftus, Dom Plumridge
Merton 4s vs. West Wickham 6s
SAL Junior Division 4 South
Saturday 14th October 2017
After back to back wins in the league, hope was there that we were able to continue the good form that has taken us to joint top of the league. A win would leave us two points shy of our entire points tally from the previous season!
With availability limited we were required to call up Phil Truman from the 5s to slot into the back three alongside Adam and Joe. With no Dom due to work, it was down to the partnership of Michael Vogt and the young Matt Shreeve to provide the goals. Hopefully Aaron would be able to chip in from the number 10 role.
Having found a formation that works after a few seasons of trying, we were spraying the ball around the park with ease. The opposition were unable to get a foothold in the game and whenever they did, Adam was there to clear up at the back.
Having been a long week before writing this report, it is hard to remember the type of goals that were scored. All I know is that we are 2-0 up at the break Aaron bagging both of the goals.
The second half started in the same fashion as the first however we were only able to add one more to our tally. The scorer…..Aaron for back to back hat tricks. These goals are burning quite a large hole in his pocket!
The only negative to take out of the game was Sonny getting sin binned. This didn’t seem to faze us though as this was the period when Aaron was able to grab his third goal.
Next week we host IBIS Eagles. Having drawn 2-2 back in September and with a win required to take us clear at the top, this game is a must win!
FINAL SCORE: Merton 4s 3 – 0 West Wickham 6s SCORER(S): Aaron Loftus (3) MOTM: Adam Collings – Aaron was a close second but a solid display at the back from our ‘striker’ could not be overlooked.
DOTD: Frankie Kalogirou – Going down too easy and injuring his shoulder.
STARTING LINE-UP: Michael Gubby (GK), Joe Plumridge, Adam Collings, Phil Truman, Frankie Kalogirou (Daniel Ford), Edward Plaistow (Capt.), Sonny Kennedy, Akram Choudhury, Aaron Loftus, Michael Vogt, Matt Shreeve
Old Salesians 3-5 Merton 4th
Having been humbled 6-1 by Old Salesians in the first game of the season at the Hood, the return fixture, and a chance to avenge that dismal performance, had come round remarkably quickly. The setting – Tennisonians Sports Ground – was an idyllic one, and the weather was just about playing ball too.
There was just one thing missing… a referee. Having made contact with said individual, he’d claimed shortly before the scheduled KO time of 14:30 that he was “just 5 minutes away”. However, this claim became increasingly dubious as the minutes ticked by. Come 3 o’clock, Mike – who was very conscious that this fiasco was starting to dent his Happy Hour drinking time – stepped up to ref. A rusted spare whistle was sourced, along with a belated chase for a mobile phone to keep track of time. And eventually, it was all systems go.
Merton started the game beautifully, shored up by a very solid back three, and Akram in the middle to break up play. But the most impressive bit of all was the willing to play the ball around on the carpet, and with plenty of enterprise to boot.
The breakthrough came courtesy of some good buildup play, although the finish from Adam – with his first 2 touches of the ball – was simply exceptional: a Cruyff turn, followed by a clinical left-footed finish.
Somewhat against the run of play though, the oppo equalised, with Merton not being able to clear their lines, and allowing a cross to come in that was duly dispatched. 1-1.
But rather than let the heads drop, Merton reasserted their dominance on the game, and soon reaped the reward, with Dom slotting home another smart left-foot finish. 2-1.
Then came the first of a number of referee blunders. Merton won a corner, but what followed was one man head-butting another. The 20 other players on the pitch, along with a sprinkling of spectators and their dogs, all saw it clearly. The ref, however, did not, and despite some (deserved) abuse that followed, it remained 11 v 11.
The salt was then very much rubbed in Salesians’ wounds. The first in slightly farcical circumstances, as the ref pointed to the spot prematurely after a handball, despite Aaron being through on goal with what would have been an advantage, and slotting it home. But they had to come back for the pen. Fortunately, the ref’s blushes were saved, as the little maestro blasted it into the bottom-right corner.
Then, just a minute later, Aaron was at it again, this time put through cleverly after some lax defending from the home side. 4-1 at the break, and Merton were well worth every bit of it.
With still no sign of the official ref, Mike continued to don the whistle for the second half. Merton knew that if they scored next, the game would be very much in the bag. But, for some reason, they were slow out the blocks, and just under 10 minutes in, Salesians punished them – albeit in maddening fashion. A probing, swinging corner was delivered to the back post, and the simplest of headed finishes was applied, with not a single Merton player anywhere near him. Very poor indeed, and at 4-2, it was now game on again.
Even more so in the minutes that followed, as Salesians squandered a number of good chances (although in one or two cases, they may have been the beneficiaries of some missed offside calls).
But with Merton just starting to get a bit jittery, that man Aaron stepped up to the plate again to complete his hat-trick – this time another clinical finish after some good interplay. 5-2, and game won.
The final minutes were all Merton too, with a number of chances going abegging. There was also time for one last moment of farce, as the goalkeeper dived in on an approaching Akram in the box. He tumbled over, and the referee pointed to the spot, much to the bewilderment of all involved. Even Akram, who quite reasonably pointed out that he hadn’t even appealed for the spot kick. With that, the decision was reversed – all very professional officiating, really.
With literally the last movement of the game, Salesians then won a free kick on the edge of the Merton box, and what followed was a quite-remarkable strike that flew in the right edge of the goal, sending the ole onion bag bulging. Very pleasing on the eye, even if it was the oppo.
Even more pleasing was that it meant the referee could finally call time on proceedings, and some celebratory drinking could commence. Deservedly, too. This was another fine performance from this rapidly-improving team. If they play like this every week, they definitely aren’t going to lose too many games.
DOTD: Joe Plumridge