With several key players out this week and a number of others unavailable for the trip to north London, we were already in battling mode by the time we arrived in Edmonton for the match against the top of table Norsemen.

At kick off we had the bare eleven which included Alex Rhodes who made his Merton debut, and had one sub, Ricardo Iglesias still battling his way through London traffic (and one exchange of insurance details…).

Despite the difficulties, our starting eleven looked strong, and from the kick off we were certainly a match for Norsemen. After an even opening 20 minutes, we began to dominate and were rewarded after good pressure resulted in a Dan Kelly goal. Ben Bakker’s long throw was flicked on by Darren Pearce, and the ball eventually found its way to Dan who headed in via a deflection.

We continued to press well for the remainder of the half, and had a few half chances while John Himsworth in goal made some solid saves from the one or two chances Norsemen created (outside of shots from 25 yards…). The confidence created was dented on the stroke of half time, when Paul Riches retaliated to nasty challenge, resulting in a Merton free kick, but vitally a red card to Paul.

While being down to 10, we started the 2nd half looking relatively solid, with Alex dropping back to left back and Dan K /Dan Smith alternating at left midfield. Kieran Tiddy took up a deeper defensive midfield position and despite the man disadvantage our shape was good, limiting Norsemen to long range efforts.

Following the red card, the game also developed into a very physical encounter with rash tackles flying in all over the show, several Norsemen players finding their way into the book.

After 60 minutes, Norsemen found an equaliser. An impressive corner we were unable to deal with and a quality header from 8 yards leaving John with no chance. With this Norsemen increased the pressure, with Merton limited to counter attacks when able to retain possession.

Ricardo came on for Simon Murphy after 65 minutes. 10 minutes later we were all square in terms of playing numbers. Their player stupidly raising a hand to Pearcey’s face, just after being booked, leaving the ref with little choice but to send him off.

With the even numbers, we pushed forward in greater numbers, but within 5 minutes of the send-off, we were 2-1 down. While doing well to win possession in our final third, Ricardo looking for options going forward was dispossessed. The resulting cross, found its way to a Norsemen player who placed his finish well.

We pushed forward during the last 10 minutes seeking an equaliser, but struggled to produce a clear cut chance. We were in need of some luck, yet none was forthcoming and a few minutes from time, a well-placed Marc Cottrell free kick drifted to the far post where Pearcey flung his body and arm at the ball. While the ball ended in the net, the referee adjudged (rightly) this had come via Pearcey’s arm. A second yellow was given and Pearcey was sent off.

We continued to press for a winner with 9, but were vulnerable to counter attacks, the first resulting in a clear one on one. John managed to force the centre forward wide who then looked to slot home from 15 yards, and with a goal looking a certainly, Alex (somehow…) managed to slide in to clear the ball onto the crossbar which bounced away to safety.

With the final whistle nearing, a deflected Norsemen cross deceived Alex and while pressuring their right midfielder, his shot/cross from a tight angle went in off the far post. 3-1 and game over with the final whistle blown straight after kick off.

Whilst a disappointing result, the attitude and effort was top notch in testing conditions, in particular the aggressive opposition (on and off the pitch). With a little luck and self-discipline we could and should have got something from this game. The same approach will be needed in 3-4 weeks when we meet Norsemen again in the Junior Cup.

Credit also to the referee Lee Addison, who despite the nature of the game and three red cards had a great game…

Team:John Himsworth, Ryan Perry, Ben Bakker, Darren Pearce, Paul Riches, Simon Murphy (Ricardo Iglesias), Kieran Tiddy, Marc Cottrell, Alex Rhodes, Dan Smith, Dan Kelly.

MOM:John Himsworth

by:Ryan Perry

Posted in Match Reports 3s