Before anything else, I'd like to wish a speedy recovery to Ethon who was in hospital over the weekend. Get your feet up, mate.
Deputising for Ethon was Nick Wright, who was attempting to beat Ed Mac's long distance travelled record. Unfortunately he only travelled 36.7 miles from Bishop's Stortford as opposed to Ed's 50+ every week. Still, much appreciated as at one point on Friday it looked like Bally was going in net and we'd have no subs , which also provoked a panic text to the 3s to retrieve Louis who was hoping to get 90 minutes under his belt in order to return to rip roaring goalscoring form for the first team (more on that later). After careful negotatiations where we threatened to take their keeper instead we secured his return.
Merton arrived at the pitches and their jaws hit the floor. Despite warnings from Moffatt that he'd played on them before and they were usually covered in Canada goose shit, the lads found a sight to warm the cockles. Bathed in warm sunshine, 12 pristine, freshly cut playing surfaces awaited them, no goose shit to be seen, Canadian or otherwise. Nick Ball had also previously played cricket on these pitches and was regaling tales of a massive six he once hit there. So it was with a spring in their step that Merton bounded over to the changing rooms to ask which of the pitch-perfect pitches they were playing on. Turns out they were at the wrong place and they were playing two minutes down the road at Goose Shit Lane.
Ollie was running late, which meant I told the ref tat he would be on the bench, only for him to show up 2 mins before kick off. As it was a hot day and he's our fittest player we did the quick switcheroo and Eddie took a break from his pivotal role of warming up the keeper to give Ollie his shirt. We somehow only had 11 despite buying 15 new ones for this season, fingers were quickly pointed at Alex who took them home last week. Eddie then grabbed the linesman's flag and started running the line without being asked while Louis and Anstey giggled. What a super sub! So we lined up with Nick in goal, Aron, Kiran, Nick and Alex at the back. Danny Dom and Harry in midfield, with Kyle and Moffat on the wings and Ollie up front on his own.
Merton started really positively and dominated the opening exchanges, Ollie having real joy running in behind and tested the keeper a couple of times early doors. Having seen Ollie stretching the defence, Merton seemed to think this was their only attacking option and abandoned their short sharp passes, our hallmark when playing well, for those long raking balls which end up giving back possession far more often than not. Kyle then unfortunately picked up a knock which saw Eddie drop his flag, retrieve a shirt and take up position on the right wing, with Moffatt switching to the left. Merton then went behind. Their bulky no9 on the right had been causing us problems and he managed to square another ball across our six yard box. Their striker did well to reach the ball first and slid the ball past nick. Not what Merton had envisaged but probably what we deserved after looking shaky for the previous 10/15 mins. But back came Merton. One of those long raking balls which end up giving back possession far more often than not from Moffatt, found Eddie in acres of space. If he hadn't just come on I would back him to find the net nearly every time. He beat the keeper but the ball agonisingly hit the base of the post and bounced away. Kiran also went close off one of Moffat's dangerous corners. Speaking of which, Moffatt's carefully planned set pieces and hand signals were confusing the opposition. Unfortunately they were also confusing Merton as we hadn't run through them before the game! Merton eventually managed to get the ball down and play and Harry also got in behind but couldn't quite beat the keeper. Merton were now rampant and were intent on drawing level before half time. With that in mind, Anstey put Louis on up front to help Ollie and pushed Harry back into midfield, bringing Danny off for a breather until half time. Ollie then had a one on one and looked certain to score, the keeper however made a good save and Louis dragged the rebound wide. Merton equalised almost instantly, another good passing move down the left culminated in Moffatt swinging the ball into the box for Ollie to leap like a salmon on February 29th. To be honest he did well to even get his head on the ball but he somehow managed to send a looping effort goalwards which beat the keeper and sent merton's fan crazy.
So half time at 1-1 and it was the normal team talk. "We're always better when we pass the ball, cut out the Hollywood balls. Composure and the goals will come, etc..." Unfortunately Kyle's knee injury had seized up while off the pitch and couldn't come back on. Danny came back on for Harry in midfield and Merton kicked off with renewed vigour. Buoyed by his goalscoring exploits for the 3s, Kiran had looked dangerous from set pieces all day and it wasn't long before he had the ball in the net. A corner from the right was swung in, Kiran lost his man and calmly slotted the ball past the helpless keeper. My only criticism, and I know I am a perfectionist, is that it was at the wrong end and Merton had just gone 2-1 down. This prompted yet another change in formation. Harry had looked good going forward in the first half so Anstey brought him back on in midfield for Alex and Merton went 3-5-2 with Eddie on the right, Moffatt on the left and Ollie and Louis up front. The game continued on with Merton slowly starting to assert themselves again. Louis was making an absolute nuisance of himself up as only he knows how and Moffatt still had the beating of the LM United full back. So much so that after a torrid time for much of the game he was replaced. This didn't stop Moffatt, who delivered another sumptuous ball into the back post and Louis had the easiest job in the world to head the ball into the empty net. It's just a shame that Louis was wearing his sheriff badge head and the ball was sent into the trees.
Luckily, moments later Merton equalised. Again from the left flank, Merton probed and the ball found its way to Harry on the penalty spot. Cries of "shoooooooot" from the touchline echoed around Goose Shit Lane but Harry calmly checked his hair in the mirror, lit his cigar and laid the ball to Louis, who as surprised as anyone by this development, smashed the ball goalwards with his right foot, cannoning back off the crossbar and down. Shades of England v Germany 2010 as the lack of goal line technology thwarted merton's claims. Louis had hit the ball so hard that the second bounce still hadn't come back down 6 yards out. Eventually an ice crusted ball fell to Eddie who risked a boot in the face to bravely get Merton back on level terms with his head. 15 minutes to go.
After briefly staying with 3-5-2 to try and get the winner we were twice saved by Aron Jackson's brilliant defending, common sense prevailed and Merton switched back to 4-5-1 with Kiran at left back to try and deal with their no9 and Eddie back into right back and Ollie on the wing. LM United though looked like a team on their last legs going into the last 10 minutes and Merton were flooding forward in search of the winner. Dom had had a quiet game but was now pulling the strings like Gepetto. 3 minutes left he found Ollie on the right who then had the opportunity to release the overlapping E
ddie down the right flank. He decided probably wrongly against that option, instead trying to switch play. Luckily for Ollie the ball deflected perfectly into Eddie's path who out-stripped the defence and cut the ball across to Louis. Louis opened his body and steered the ball left footed into the far corner. A few calculated hoofs from the back 4 saw Merton home.
Merton did deserve the 3 points but had made really hard work of this opposition. The mood after the game was one of relief but I got the impression most people were still annoyed at our performance, which I think is a great example of what we expect from ourselves.
I thought Moffat showed real class throughout and Ollie was a constant threat while Aron was Aron at the back. Resoundingly with nearly all of the MOM votes though was Eddie who grabbed a goal and an assist and not for the first time this season turned in a quality performance. Really pleased with the last 20 minutes from everyone and our desire to get the winner.
After the game we went back to the Wandle. Not only did we all revel in the Japan win over South Africa and West Ham's win at City but the manager finally gave us our sponsorship money. This means training tops are in the pipeline! WIth initials Kyle ;-) The only remaining loose end from the weekend remained the missing shirts. After some good cop/bad cop interrogation from Anstey and Webber and accusing half the squad, our enquiries led us back to the kit bag where Louis found the missing shirts in the end pocket. A great weekend all round. County Cup next weekend, a competition we still have unfinished business with following Puma-gate 2 years ago and then Kiran getting sent off last season. Availavbility on Whatsapp or email to me and Gary, please.