A good start, after a really bad start.

It’s a cliche, as ever, but this was very much a game of two halves. After a strong team performance the previous Saturday at Wilsonians we were unprepared for an awful first half display against a determined Citz side. Confidence, composure and cohesion were disappointingly absent from the first minute of the game. Frustration mounted, tempers started to fray and we didn’t deserve to be any better placed than 1-0 down at half time, even though that goal was the last kick of the half. We couldn’t retain the ball for more than a pass, or two at best, and only some valiant and at times desperate defending kept us in the game. Panic unfortunately set in at times and some frank words were shared during the break. Hopefully this will be recognised in hindsight as the worst 45 minutes of football we play this season, and it will be onwards and upwards from now on. We had a strong, attacking bench and we made two substitutions for the start of the second, a decision which ultimately turned things right around and won us the game. We had to do something drastic because it wasn’t working at all.

The game restarted with Dan Kelly and Simon Murphy up front, CC7 switched from RM to LM and Hailstone dropped deeper to RM having started up front with Ricardo. (Dan Kelly had been injured the previous week and was unlucky to have missed a good performance, which is why he was on the bench. Mr. Murphy was unlucky to have not missed a house party in Coulsdon the previous week, but he has apologised to the lads and has managed to buy a mobile phone at last).

It was a tough game throughout against decent opposition but in the second half we pressed OWC much higher up the pitch, all over the pitch in fact, and started cranking up the pressure on their goal with a succession of useful crosses and set pieces, particularly Neil Sullivan’s dangerous long throws. Confidence returned, and despite the windy conditions we were able to play some positive football going forwards, and looked much more secure at the back. The deserved equaliser came after an hour when Dan Kelly sped on to a through ball from the manager, rounded the keeper and slid it in from close range. 5 minutes later it should have been 2-1 to Merton when a right wing corner from Essex looked destined to be headed home by a leaping, unmarked Shaun Jones (yes me) but it was glanced horribly wide from 6 yards out when it looked easier to score. Gutted.

Thankfully the 3s positive play continued, chances came and went, and OWC posed very little threat apart from a few corners and a couple of breaks which fizzled out. Citz’ main striker, who had been a physical presence in the first half, cut an isolated, frustrated figure in the second half and started conceding free kicks as Merton’s defence dealt with everything he and they tried. Essex was highly fortunate at one stage when caught in possession trying to dribble out of defence but the resulting low cross was glanced narrowly wide, and that was arguably Citz last real chance to get something from the game.

The winner came with 15 minutes to go as Chris Callus took one touch to collect a high bouncing ball, 22 yards out near the left corner of the box, and volleyed a stunning, dipping volley over the vainly diving keeper and under the crossbar. Boom. Citz huffed and puffed to the end but never looked like getting an equaliser. Team spirit had returned in spades and we were never going to let the 3 points go.

Pearcey’s knee was on the verge of forcing him off for much of the second half, but he kept going to the end with regular use of cold spray and because he was taking great pleasure in dominating the OWC centre forward. This fact, and the closeness of the game, meant that unfortunately we were unable to bring Craig Cosgrove on as our 3rd sub, but he will get his chance.

I think we probably shaded it, even after the 1st half horror show, but it was a hard, competitive game throughout and we can look forward to a tough rematch in Mitcham later in the season.

We have a strong squad this season and there is no reason at all why we can’t be a force in division 2 this season. We expect every game to be tough, but we will be a tough team for anyone to play against.

MOM: Shaun Jones

Report by: Shaun Jones

Team: John Himsworth, Pearcey, Shaun J, Essex, Ryan, Shaun M, Neil Sullivan, Darren Wilson, Chris Callus, Ricardo, Hailstone. Subs: Dan Kelly (45), Simon Murphy(45), Craig.

Posted in Match Reports 3s