Merton 3s v Old Salesians 3s – 8th October 2011
Not much fun.
On Saturday we were sloppy, off the pace and niggly. It was not enjoyable to manage or to play in.
Shaun Monaghan had car trouble and never made it to Ewell. Ricardo was late again and missed kick off, so we were very grateful for the late inclusion of Essex (Who had been called up to the 2s but couldn’t make their earlier kick off because of work) and a friend of his, Paul, who had agreed to help us out at the last minute. Without them we would have had to start with 9 men, which would have resulted in a bloody massacre.
Against a good Salesians side – who had several players in their ranks who clearly should be playing much higher than Junior level – we actually started reasonably well on the big, flat pitch – but it was Salesians who played most of the football throughout the game, and we faded after going 1-0 up – the ref awarded a penalty for a push in the box after 15 minutes, tucked away confidently by Essex.
There was an edge between the teams right from the start, largely stoked by their tall and physical number 6 (CM) who did not stop talking for the whole game. Everything they did, everything, was lauded by him as brilliant, every other thing that he said wound up some or all of our team. It was incessant and we, (or at least some of we), allowed it to get to us completely. Salesians had been slick on the break but we looked like we were going to get through to the break 1-0 up when, just before half time, the number 6 used his physique, but mainly his long arms, to rob the ball from me in the left back position, after we had spurned several chances to clear the ball; he dribbled into the box and drew Neil into a rash challenge. A stonewall penalty, comfortably dispatched with the last kick of the half by their goalkeeper and captain.
It was a horrible, bad tempered match to play in, characterised by two teams whining at the ref and bickering at each other, and it just got worse in the second half. The young ref had a difficult game, but it was not a game that any sane person would have chosen to try and control. While I disagreed with some of his decisions, particularly with the second penalty he gave against us, he did his best in trying circumstances.
We went 2-1 down 10 minutes into the second half, when, following a cleared corner, we were too slow to close down their centre forward (i.e. we didn’t at all) 25 yards out who scored high past John, who should have got a firmer hand on it, but he saw it late and didn’t. Ricardo came on for a strangely out of sorts Neil and did very well when he came on.
Salesians’ 3rd goal, the killer, and ultimately the main talking (and yelling and swearing) point of the match came with about 20 minutes to go. Ben challenged their number 6 for a header, contact was hip to hip, there was little or no appeal but it was given by the referee. The keeper scored again, but the ref asked for it to be retaken after more than one Salesian player encroached quite far into the area. For some reason, known only to himself, the keeper thought the Ref should “F*** off”, and told him to do so, loudly. Nevertheless, he was pretty confident he could re-take the penalty, re-spotting the ball, and telling the players near him that he was only getting a yellow card. He was pretty wrong about this and responded to his bad news by booting the ball away as far as he could, and yelling a stream of 4-lettered abuse at the referee as he stomped off. I estimate he could have earned at least 3 reds and a yellow in less than 20 seconds, which is impressive work, even in such a bad tempered match. It will be interesting to find out how long his ban is for.
While we were relatively galvanised by these events, and did create a number of chances as we pushed forward in the final quarter of the match, we were also picked off on the break more than once, and relied on John’s last ditch heroics on one particular occasion to prevent the scoreline getting even worse. During the game we actually had more clear chances than Salesians but it wasn’t our day in front of goal, and we didn’t deserve anything from it to be honest.
After an uncharacteristically coherent move, with 5 or so minutes to go, I released Simon Murphy in space in the inside left channel (look it up) who hit a decent low shot on target, it was spilled by the replacement keeper into the path of Dan Kelly who made no mistake from 6 yards. We got very close to getting an equaliser a couple of times in the dying moments of the game, but it didn’t quite happen, and the whistle went, which was almost a relief after what had gone before.
We had 3 players booked, but it could have been more. We were lucky not to have anyone sent off and the constant yelling and whingeing at the ref was embarrassing for me and a stain on the club. I spent way too much time, in the second half getting in between people, trying to calm them down, reassuring the ref, trying to defuse situations again and again and again. It clearly didn’t work, because when players reassure you they are calm and will not do anything stupid (again) and they still go and do it a few seconds later then clearly something is not right. There were a few people who did not get involved, but too many who did and let it affect them.
Everyone there on Saturday, myself included, needs to have a long hard look at themselves and try to come up with something better which will fit into an effective TEAM. I am not interested in being involved with a side that behaves in this way, and players who want to be involved in the 3s must shut up and listen when it’s time to listen, and stop moaning at the ref and the opposition and each other when I tell you to. This is non-negotiable.
We have looked good in a couple of games this season, but that team spirit and cohesion was missing on Saturday. Broomfield at home this week is now a massive game for us, and I see it as a major crossroads in theseason. We must pull together, get smarter and be a team who enjoys playing football together again. I said it a lot on Saturday (not that anyone seemed to be listening much) but we have to calm down, and start thinking, otherwise we won’t achieve anything. We have the squad to be successful, but it means absolutely nothing without the focus and discipline needed to make good things happen.
On Saturday let’s do things the right way. (Everyone) get there on time, prepare properly, warm up, stretch and be ready to go for it and play smart, positive football from the start. Let’s be the team we were beforeSaturday (i.e. No moaning, no bookings) and we can go back to enjoying playing football, because that’s kinda the point, isn’t it?
Team: John Himsworth, Ben Bakker, Marc Cottrell (c), Ryan Perry, paul Riches, Shaun Jones, Neil Sullivan, Chris Callus, Simon Murphy, Dan Kelly, Darren Pearce. Sub: Ricardo Iglesias.
MOM: Paul Riches
Written by: Shaun Jones