With players unavailable due to various reasons there was once again a slight reshuffle in the pack this week. A new player Ryan Tillman was at our disposal and also the return from a long absence of Dean Porter after a late call up gave us our starting 11 and the two named subs.

Pressure was high on us this week with recent results still painful in the memory and with a rapid slide down the league table this had turned into a relegation battle game and a must win. With the manager serving a touchline ban this added pressure on the players to deliver a performance.

The game kicked off and we started putting a few passages of play together but the ball not falling right for our attacking line. With Richard at right back he was able to bomb up and down the flank superbly beating their left back all day long. Unfortunately the crosses and the passes into the box were just not falling for us.

Our defence was newly formed again this week and it was clear that there were some communication errors here that needed to be fixed quickly. Unfortunatelty these were not fixed quick enough and with esthamians realising that their chance would come by dropping the ball over the top of the defence for their pacey strikers, it was this style of attack which unlocked our back door. A throughball straight through the middle of our defence and the line staggered, playing their number 8 onside, allowed him to slip through unmarked and slide the ball easily past Chris Outred in goal. Heads instantly dropped and our game became sloppy, the ball constantly pinballing from attack to defence. It was all of 10 minutes later before another similar style of attack from esthamians, this time however with Chris scampering out, their player used a clever dink to lift lift the ball into the back of the net, a good finish and now 2-0 down.

Half time came and a defeated looking Merton strolled from the pitch. In honesty it was a poor first half performance with no determination to get a result.

Words were said and it was good to hear constructive criticism and people agreeing as to where the mistakes were made. I think this actually brought the team together to realise we had to work harder as a unit and take more responsibility on the ball and support others. With one change at half time, Nikko off and Ryan Tillman on, the team entered the second half with a little more fire in the bellies.

From the first seconds of the second half we were hussling for the ball and pressing much higher up the pitch. Ryan Tillman making an instant impact taking on players and creating chances for the forward line. With Dan Outred and Richard Egglestone pressing on from the back we really had Esthmanians on the back foot and despite pumping the ball forward our class was starting to show. Thomas Taylor crashed a shot on the turn against the bar, Perry had a shot from distance wide and Mike Reed sent a header just wide of the post from a corner.

Dean Porter then came on for the injured Shaun and Leon left centre back to use his power and pace up top. The pressure was on and it was almost an instant effect as Leon used his strength to hold off their defender before a cross swung into the box found its way across to Ryan Stevens on the back post who easily tapped home for 2-1. Game on.

The defence was comfortable as the game was now being played in our attacking third. It was just a matter of getting another goal and it was duly deserved when Ryan Tillman hit a great finish from the corner of the box which rifled home for 2-2.

Thomas Taylor hit the post and then a long ball from Dean in defence sat up nicely for Taylor to knock home but he scuffed it under pressure past the post. Another cross from the impressive Ryan Tillman wouldnt sit up for Perry or Ryan who were both anxiously trying to poke the ball home and a late cross and attempted diving header from Ryan Stevens that was missed by a matter of inches was the story of the game. If we finished our chances we could have easily had 6 or 7 in the second half.

Full time 2-2.

The return leg away with Old Esthmanians is next on the agenda and is a must win game! Judged on our second half performance if we get out of the box quicker and ensure we finish our chances there is no doubt that we can start putting distance between us and relegation and back to a more respectable league position.

We showed heart in the second half and the man of the match was split this week between Mike Reed and Richard Egglestone.

MOM:Mike Reed, Richard Egglestone

Report by:Dean Porter

Posted in Match Reports 3s