Not much fun.

Not our best performance, and after a good start to the game we were fortunate to take a point in the end.

Against a decent Finchleans team, much changed from last season’s Div 3 runners up side, we started strongly, using the windly conditions, pushing the opposition back and placing sustained pressure on the opposition defence from the kick off. After 5 minutes we took a deserved lead when a long throw from the right was only partially cleared, the ball was crossed to Dan Smith in space in the box and his slightly mis-hit snap shot was turned in smartly by Simon Murphy – 1-0. Merton continued to press on but Finchleans also started to look dangerous, creating danger with some fluid movement down the flanks and around the edge of our box.

While our 3-5-2/5-3-2 formation from last week gave us a strong foothold in midfield, it also seemed to leave us stretched at times. We struggled to track runners from midfield and Finchleans’ young number 14 in particular caused us problems with his movement. We allowed ourselves to be pulled around too much, isolating defenders in one-on-one situations, and it was a huge disappointment when a defensive mix-up between Ben and John led to a tap in equaliser from their useful number 10 (who normally plays for Finchlean’s first team, who didn’t have a game), slightly against the run of play.

Undaunted, we kept pushing, and soon after we were back in the lead as Dan Smith grabbed his fourth goal in two games with a typically sharp finish after being released with a yard of space on the left of the box. It could have got better still if Simon Murphy’s lovely angled chip from 25 yards had not hit the underside of the bar and bounced down and out soon afterwards. We really could’ve done with that one going in.

It wasn’t too long before Finchleans caught us napping again. I was in a prime position – i.e. dead in line – to see that the Finchlean goal scorer was a clear yard and a half offside when put through, but we were guilty of being static and not tracking runners so I guess we got what we deserved. Their forward rounded John for an easy finish and we were gutted to have given away two very poor goals.

Soon afterwards we lost Shaun Monaghan following hard knock to his ankle in a badly timed tackle, which possibly involved some ligament damage as well. Tiddy came on, (his first appearance since the London riots/looting) as a straight swap. Things atayed fairly even until half time but our initial fluency and confidence had not returned.

We changed things to 4-4-2 for the second half and while that tightened things up, and arguably secured us a point, we lost control of the game – passes went astray, and it only really looked as if Finchley could win it. However, Simon Murphy was unlucky once again, heading against the bar from a corner and Chris Callus, after he had come on for Ricardo, put a shot over the bar from 10 yards, but apart from those chances we didn’t create much of note. Finchleans, playing with the strengthening wind, looked much the better team, and it was down to a combination of good defending and poor finishing which kept us level. Simon and Dan were isolated up front and poor passing in most areas meant that we spent far too much time chasing the ball, which evidently led to fatigue in the last quarter of the match, and that really showed.

I could try to offer reasons why we weren’t good enough on Saturday; about players we were missing, or about Finchleans being bolstered by their first team, but they would just be excuses, so I won’t. At the end of the day you either turn up and deliver or you don’t and on Saturday, unfortunately, we didn’t. We all need a strong, positive reaction in the cup on Saturday, so we can put this performance firmly behind us.

Team: John Himsworth, Ben Bakker, Darren Pearce, Shaun Jones(c), Ryan Perry, Paul Riches, Shaun Monaghan, Ricardo Iglesias, Neil Sullivan, Simon Murphy, Dan Smith. Subs: Chris Callus, Kieran Tiddy, Mark Chapell.

MOM: Dan Smith

Written by: Shaun Jones

Posted in Match Reports 3s