Merton defeated Lloyds TSB Bank at Joseph Hood on Saturday to book their place in the fourth round of the AFA Intermediate Cup, where they’ll meet State Street of the South London Alliance League.

This eagerly awaited all-second division clash promised much for the players and spectators alike. However, due to a combination of the poor playing surface and blustery conditions, it turned out to be one of the worst games likely to be played in AFA competitionthis season. Coping slightly better with the conditions, the home side settled much the quicker and went ahead as early as the 5th minute, thanks to a Ben Cook opportunist effort. Cook, whom Merton manager, Ian Lewis had opted to start in a central midfield role rather than his customary centre back one, doubled his and Merton’s tally after 13 minutes. Despite being two down, Lloyds weren’t aboutto lie down and roll over and, but for a spectacular tip over his bar from Alex Herbert in the host’s goal, they would have pulled agoal back midway into the half. Buoyed on by this, the visitors increased the tempo of their play, appearing keener, sharper and generally more up for the challenge than they had previously. The away side’s resurgence saw the Merton back four coming under pressureforthe first time. And they quickly succumbed, allowing a Lloyds forward to leap unopposed to meet a cross and find the back of the net with the simplest of headers. Moments later, Marc Wilson restored his team’s two-goal advantage – the Merton skipper quickest to react as Lloyds failed to clear at their far post following a Chris Rayner corner. With half time approaching, Femi Arogundade met another Rayner corner, bravely heading home from a yard out to effectively end the game as a contest.

The conditions having worsened after the break meant the second half was a real struggle for both sets of players. Notwithstandingthis, Merton continued to create chances, although these were either too easily squandered, or dealt with efficiently by the visitors. So poor had the game become, the only incident during the remainder of the tie worthy of any note was match official, Mr Doe’s ruling out of a Rayner effort that seemingly had gone through a hole in the net. Closer inspection of the net by the Merton President, Terry Baker confirmed there was indeed a hole present and Rayner, therefore, could count himself extremely unlucky not to have got offthe mark for the season. Mr Doe finally brought an end to the proceedings, with Merton happy to have progressed after such a dire encounter.

Back to league action next week for Merton when they travel to the Muswell Hill Sports Ground to face early pace setters and tabletoppers, Crouch End Vampires. If they are to get anything from the game they will need to improve on their performance today.

Report by:Harry Hood

Posted in Match Reports 2s