Kingsford FC 2 – 4 Merton Select XI

The Boars on tour defied travel logistics, council cock-ups, sleep deprivation and of course the obligatory hangover to return from Merseyside victorious.

Keen to ensure the Boars were exposed to the sights and sounds of the whole greater Merseyside connurbation, Neal cleverly booked the Boars in to a Fawlty-Towers-esque guesthouse in Birkenhead (aka “the dark side”), while Jordan lined up a pitch out of town on the opposite side of the city. For London readers, it was the equivalent of staying in Barnet and playing in Raynes Park.

However, challenge brings with it opportunity and after some grumbling about an early start, the Boars took advantage by taking the ferry across the mersey (complete with group pic and flag) before taking a taxi out of the city to the pitch.

Ah, the pitch. At first glance the freshly cut, lush, flat surface looked perfect for the brand of free flowing, passing football all amateur teams aspire to. However, on closer inspection the lush look was the product of some extremely long grass, and the pitch was absolutely massive.

Our hungover hearts sunk further when it transpired the keys Jordan had for the changing room and goals didn’t fit any of the multiple locks on the door. Jumpers for goalposts beckoned, but in true scouse style Jordan Lad jumped in a car and came back 10 minutes later with a drill to facilitate access in a more… direct way. Game on!

Ferry across the Mersey and some light breaking and entering. They do say you should embrace local culture…

So, to the game. Fitz lined the boars up in a 451/433 formation, with Chappell donning the gloves behind a back four of Jordan, Vin, Welchy and Connor. Mustard, Gresty and Neal formed a central midfield triumvirate bristling with aggressive intent if not masses of pace. Glenn and Joe (beard) filled the wide positions behind the indefatigable DQ who led the line. Fitz, DK, and Todty made up the 14.

Despite the hangovers, Merton actually started pretty well, with a few nice passing moves and an definite air of competence. Neal Davison was seeing plenty of the ball in the middle and linking the play, with Mustard shermanning his way through more than a few tackles in an advanced midfield role. Gresty, back after injury, was playing a new game, if not quite skipping and a jumping into tackles with his usual relish just yet. Glenn also looked a threat down the left but Merton couldn’t quite fashion a chance from a few promising positions.

At the other end, Merton were looking secure down the middle, but the home side did threaten sporadically down the wings. An early raid down the left saw a cut back just fail to be turned in, thanks to some sharp reactions from Chappell and Welchy. However, a flowing move down the right on the 20 minute mark saw the oppo get in behind again and this time a low cross was turned in from 10 yards, somehow slipping apologetically under Chappell as he dived to stop the shot. 1-0.

Merton were perhaps (and understandably) looking a little leggy and on the half hour Fitz brought DK on for Mustard to get more support around DQ. DK made a somewhat inauspicious start, inadvertently getting nutmegged within 5 seconds of coming on, but the plan soon yielded an equaliser. Jordan (now on the wing as Todty joined the fray) played DQ in behind, drawing the covering defender. DQ, doing his best James Dean hollywood ball, held off both players and threaded a delightful square pass through the pair to the supporting DK. The ball was duly slipped first time under the onrushing keeper for 1-1 and the DQ/DK axis was back in business for a new season.

Merton had a couple of other half chances, with both DK and Glenn spinning away down the left on separate occasions only to be tackled by the variable length grass on the pitch (DK) or just miss picking out DQ (Glenn), so 1-1 it was at half time.

The second half saw Conor come off – after a busy evening of sleeping standing up in various locales the night before, and Merton were determined to push on and get the win.

Ready to go a couple of minutes before the oppo, Merton watched them shuffle back on to the pitch and line up slightly raggedly. An exchange of significant looks and nods passed between DQ, DK and Neal as a plan was formed, and then time seemed to slow down.

The whistle went. DQ passed back to Neal on the edge of the semi circle, who took a touch and looked up to see DK already in motion, heading for the criminally large gap behind the oppo’s high line. Neal clipped the ball over the defensive line, DK surging on to the pass and chesting the ball out of reach of the desperately chasing CB. So far, so good. Then, a touch to steady as the ball came in the box and, as everyone collectively held their breath, a left foot finish from 9 yards across the keeper into the far corner. They had only gone and done it! Back into normal speed now and Merton were unashamedly cock-a-hoop. 2-1, and a quite brilliant opportunistic move to embarrass the home side.

Despite the jubilation, (and as John Mellancamp can testify), life goes on, long after the thrill of scoring has gone. And so it proved, as the next 25 minutes consisted of almost unceasing pressure on the Merton goal. Corners, attacking throw-ins, and diagonal crosses bombarded the Merton goal as the visitors struggled to do any more than clear their lines. And yet, every time it seemed a goal must come, a Boar would stand firm and defy the seemingly-inevitable.

Chappell made several brave claims as the ball pinged around the box. Todty and Welchy both made crucial clearing headers. Neal chased back after giving the ball away to make a crucial tackle from behind with no room for error, just as the striker was pulling the trigger from 10 yards. Vin would step out and read the pass, his composure helping Merton to pass their way out and relieve the pressure on occasion. Joe did likewise, winning a crucial tackle on the edge of the box as an oppo player skipped through a few tackles. On one occasion Vin took a yellow card for holding as stopped a dangerous break in beautifully cynical fashion. The message was unmistakable: the Boars were here to win.

Mustard and Fitz came on to add fresh(er) legs, and slowly the siege began to lift. Merton began to threaten again on the counter, as DQ continued to hold the ball up and play in Glenn, Joe, Mustard, and DK.

The momentum was shifting, and even when Welchy decided to channel his inner Lee Smith and fire a short free kick at the unsuspecting (and closely marked) Mustard, rather than clear long, the Boars survived, although Mustard’s very vocal displeasure as the ball was robbed precipitated round 56 of the Mustard/Welchy bickerfest.

As the game entered the last 15 minutes, Merton struck again. Just minutes after a heavy touch (understatement) cost him a great chance to make it 3, some smart interplay on the edge of the box from Fitz, Neal, DQ and Mustard saw the ball find DK on the edge of the box. A pause, then a short inside pass to DQ saw him once again find a delightful through ball, DK running on to the return, opening his body and arcing the ball past the keeper to the far corner. 3-1.

With just 10 minutes to go, Merton just needed to see the game out, but as the home side began to flag and Merton regained the ascendency they were guilty of over committing, as well as missing a few chances to finish the game off. Mustard almost pounced on a loose back pass only for the keeper to save, and great work down the left from Glenn saw 3 Merton players lined up for the cut back. DQ dummied to allow Vin to hit the ball, but he was denied his first Merton goal by a fine save at the near post.

Unfortunately, from the next Merton attack, it was the home side that got themselves back in it. Merton poured forward as Glenn led an attack, but a stray pass saw 6 Merton players on the wrong side of the ball. Two passes later the oppo striker ran through on goal through a massive hole on the middle, rounded Chappell, and slotted home for 3-2. Game back on with 5 to go plus injury time.

It seemed set for a nervy grandstand finish, but Merton defended solidly and then scored a killer fourth on the counter. Vin intercepted and clipped a ball over the top, taking a deflection along the way and wrong footing the defence. Fitz strolled in unopposed, waited in vain for the keeper to go down before smacking it at him, and then calmly stuck the ball in on the rebound. 4-2 and the game was safe.

A quite fantastic tour capped with an all important victory. Bragging rights return to London, along with more than one story. A massive thank you is due at this point to Jordan for making this all possible.

MOTM. DK for the hatrick, but DQ and Neal (both outstanding throughout) pushed him close
DOTD. A three way tie between Welchy (that pass), Vin and Jordan (wrong key).

































Boars on tour … ferrying across the Mersey