A pitch that would not have looked out of place in post-Katrina, New Orleans was the stage for a real battle of a game played with great deal of spirit from both sides, despite testing conditions. And, as the breaking levee created heroes and saw refuge sought inside the Big Easy’s most famous sporting arena, so 2013’s relentless precipitation saw Merton rise above the elements last weekend in the shadow of England’s iconic Wembley Stadium.

Merton began the match as they ended it – with a lot of ding and plenty of dong, frequently breaching Alexandra Park’s high backline with intelligent running from Chris Rayner, Will Taylor, and Matt Bosher. One such early foray from man of the match Graham Willgoss won a corner down the sodden left half of the pitch. Whipped in by Ivan Gladkow, it seemed to be another chance lost as the ball bounced harmlessly towards the back post. Lost to all except Liam Palmer, that is, who bulldozed in like one of Bob the Builder’s best friends, taking out the home captain and heading in, in what must rank as one of the best-ever goals scored from a yard out. That first Merton goal brought the score line back to 2-1. It began a theme that would continue throughout; Merton pressure – Merton concede – Merton score from a yard out.

Merton’s second was a goal from whippet-quick, tattooed, self-loving, well-endowed Welsh wunderkind Taylor. It came – again – after a good 20 minutes of possession and some dynamic midfield work by Willgoss. With 25 minutes to go, and the score at 2-2, manager Ian Lewis brought on his big guns; namely, the thighs of David Quainton, the quickness of thought of Olly Braid and the height of Henry Preston. The impact was instant (a whole 24 minutes later), a deft turn by Braid (during which he failed to actually touch the ball) saw the Alexandra Park winger steam in and score. 3-2 and seemingly all was lost. Hope faded in the dwindling light, despite Alex Herbert’s best efforts in goal – he was superb throughout in some awful conditions for any goalkeeper. But, like Bruce Forsyth, this is a handsome Merton side that just won’t die. A series of Merton throws resulted in the winning of a corner. A classic, muddy, chance-ridden scramble ensued before Taylor, keeping his head while all about him lost theirs, played the ball to Bosher in the area. Realising that the momentwas his, Bosher took his time, mishit the ball and then slid it in from a yard. Point earned and job done. Quainton got the Sambucas in. It’s what he does.

Report by:David Quainton

Posted in Match Reports 2s