A wise full-back once said, “One man’s mentalist is another man’s Julian Dicks” (I’ll let you take one guess who that bright young wordsmith was). However, that fateful statement long ago couldn’t have been any more fitting for this fixture. Bearing in mind the last time a Merton team travelled to Lower Green, the team from Esher had two of their own players sent off for fighting each other – we were expecting a lot of mentalists to arrive at Kimber Road ahead of the Seconds’ third game of the season.
Lower Green turned up clad in their customary avocado-shade kit with the omens well and truly stacked against them, I mean sure – looking at the league table they’d be feeling fairly buoyant, but let us not forget they’ve not beaten the seconds in their 4 previous attempts. Also, and perhaps the biggest omen of all, this fixture had all the markings that it was to mirror Morty’s first year in charge of the Seconds. After two opening defeats that year, a transitional twos hosted Lower Green in their third fixture – not only winning but notching 5 goals in the process. Fast forward 5 seasons and we all certainly hoped that the forecast would be the same, to kick-start Merton’s season.
As Wedding Flu continued to rob the squad of players, most notably Groom Abbey and Best-Man Moffatt (respectively, of course – they were close at Old Actononians, but not that close…), a few last minute calls were put in – unfortunately, Gary Goals was unavailable and Mike Wilcox had lost his boots trying to fish a turd out of the bath, but somehow after only having 8 players on Tuesday we had a full 14 come Saturday kick-off. Newlywed Adam Dunning came back for his first league appearance in nearly a year, bringing Shaun with him who had impressed in pre-season. A late cancellation of the first team game meant we could call upon Harry for his second match in three games and after having no service the week previously, Chris wasn’t put off and returned to lead the line.
There was only a short piece of drama when Rob Bevan got lost on the way to the changing rooms, then found them, then went for a massive dump when we left said changing rooms and got lost on the way to the pitch. Classic Beaver!
Having arrived on time, the nets went up and a more rigid warm-up began. Morton’s pre-match presser was all about professionalism so gone were the days of turning up for a laugh and centre-backs smashing balls at Scott as a warm up, it was time to get serious. With Harry, Bevan and Shaun on the bench, the latter was selected as the man with the flag - mainly thanks to Rob Bevan deciding to lie on the floor behind the goal and cover himself with bags and coats to avoid being detected and selected. Morton continued to wear the Armband and managed to win the toss, electing to stay as we were and grant Lower Green kick off.
For those present at Thursday training, our practiced ‘hunting in packs’ tactic of the winger closing down the man on the ball and the striker shutting down the easy pass started to pay off almost instantly. Forcing Lower Green back to their goalkeeper from the kick off meaning he had to leather the ball out for a throw in. Merton looked hungrier than Sam Wowk outside a nursery and began pressing them high up the pitch and forcing them back into their own third for most of the opening 10 minutes.
The front two combination of Chris and Will were working in tandem excellently, Will bringing down the ball laying it to the midfield while Andy Brown could get onto the ball and play it into the channels where Chris would be lively enough to have spotted the move and get his foot onto the ball. A couple of wonderful opening exchanges saw Chris in behind the back four, but after a great first touch to bring down the key pass, he unfortunately fired just wide.
While the lime-flavoured opposition had a somewhat justified reputation for being a bag of spanners, Merton were shocked when they appeared to only have one numpty in the starting line-up, a little left back that knew neither the rules nor the difference between his left and his right foot. The one piece of knowledge that might have been useful to him, he also didn’t have – a map to direct him out of Matt Elwell’s pocket. The one-time full back had been given a lease of life on the flank and fully intended to impress, taking on the arsey little defender time after time. One of the best moves of the game saw a lovely little one-two between Matt and Fryer, with Matt putting in a superb ball that was just nodded wide.
While the right had side had been dominated, the left had been under used, something Morton and Brown had tried to change in the middle, so it was no surprise that once we started to get John Wilson into the game, the pressure began to count.
When Chris got himself through on goal wide left, he was cynically brought down as he was about to fire a shot goal ward. Wilson looked at the skipper with a nod, it was clear that this man was not going to miss from 12 yards. The keeper, trying his best Derren Brown mind control tactics to try and shake Jon’s hand before the penalty, was absolutely futile as Jon cleverly followed the three-step Julian Dicks’ guide to taking a penalty:
Step 1: Aim for the underside of the crossbar
Step 2: Hit the ball harder than f**k
Step 3: Look hard as nails as you kick it
And just like that Merton had the lead, Jon Wilson wheeling away, both fists pumped and offering a woman walking her dog and the kids playing on the other pitch for a fight.
The lead was no more than Merton deserved, we’d pressed hard and high and made sure that we had limited the Green’s opportunities in the final third. Terry had shown he’d been a miss in the opening weeks by having a very mature performance, calling the line well and genuinely having one of his best games for Merton to date. Also, dominant on the back line was Joe, who along side Terry won everything he competed for.
It was just a little shame that on what was an otherwise great day for Merton’s defence, we conceded from a set piece. “There’s a spare man, there’s a spare man there’s a spare man” was the shout before a lad who resembled the younger member of Stavros Flatley, got up unmarked to net down the middle of the goal.
“we’re all over them, they’ve bottled it” was the shout from their far right winger (both in terms of the chalk on his boots and the EDL tattoo on his arse-cheek) that hadn’t been heard before now – mainly because Ian Taylor had excellently snuffed out anything that he’d tried to conjure.
On the right hand side of the defence Ian’s newly registered brother-in-law was having a stormer, the little Cruyff turn on the edge of his own box and beating three players was just one of the many highlights of what was a commanding game back.
In the past, many a Merton team would wither after surrendering a lead, but not this team and just before half time it was some excellent interplay from Morton and Elwell on the right hand side that saw a delightful ball swung into the area. Fryer managed to get a vital touch onto the ball to send it into the path of Andy Brown who rose higher than two defenders and powered his header into the top left hand corner of the net. Getting a fair old thump in the face for his troubles, the midfield man had to take a breather to clean the blood from his nose which saw Harry Parkin enter the game in a slightly unorthodox forward position.
Harry was instantly busy, buzzing in and out of defenders and beginning to school the opposition on his masterclass of how to anally rape a defender with your knob still firmly in your pants. Bevan also made his way into the frame and started with a bang, clattering into their centre mid to show that just because Andy was off the pitch-they weren’t going to be in for an easy ride!
Half time came and with it, came one man’s moment to shine. As the gang retreated slowly to their area for the half time team talk, Matt Elwell sprinted faster than Andy Moffatt to a Brylcreem convention to get into his bag. “Lads” he exclaimed. “Get a load of these…” what followed was spectacular. 10 Valencia Oranges, neatly quartered and boxed ready for consumption. Now, I know what you’re all thinking “Matt, why didn’t you get Naval oranges? Valencia oranges have seeds, varying in number from zero to nine per fruit!” well Matt had news for you doubters - not these bad boys, for young Matthew had carefully removed all the seeds so that none of the Merton players would be inconvenienced. A true modern day hero rarely seen since Max Trapani’s Jaffer Cakes of 2012. Fuelled by an important source of vitamin C and flavonoids and refreshed by the fruit’s stimulating taste, an inspired seconds returned to action.
The second half started quite well for Merton, Shaun had come on at right back for Adam and had started Adam had left off. Winning a couple of very strong tackles early on. However, against the run of play, Lower Green found themselves level. Committing too many for a corner, Merton soon found attack to be defence when the oppositions quick striker pulled wide to cross the ball, Terry was sprinting back and jumped well to get in front – but unfortunately the ball struck his arm and a Penalty was awarded. Up stepped the little podge to strike the ball from the spot. Scott dived superbly to stop it, but the ball just trickled under the keeper and into the net.
To give credit, Scott had been excellent the entire game without really having many shots to save, collecting the ball well in aerial battles and kicking from ground much further than usual. The custodian certainly didn’t deserve to have conceded 2 goals.
And if he didn’t deserve to have conceded 2, he definitely didn’t deserve to have conceded 3! One of the most flukey goals ever to happen at King Georges Park went against us. A long shot deflected off the back of a defender and dropped in the opposite corner. Balls!
Such is the fighting spirit of this newly christened Merton team, we weren’t going to give up that easily. Losing this game would have been a travesty after how well we’d played and we weren’t about to give up the three points just yet… Elwell volunteered to take himself off to get Andy Brown back on the pitch, which was a shame given how well he was playing, but that is the new Merton for you. Gone are the boys who just want pitch time and here are the men that make the tough decisions to get the team a win.
After a great move down the right hand side between Bevan and Fryer, it was the big man who turned the left back and bore down on goal. With an almost impossible angle to aim at and Morton stood unmarked on the edge of the six yard box ready to tap into an open net – Fryer decided to risk the wrath of his manager and go for glory. A brave move indeed… however, what a smart one. As Derren Brown tried to read the pull-back pass, Will Fryer spotted the gap and slammed the ball home with his left foot at the near post. Almost ripping the pegs out of the back of the net in the process. Cue jubilations as Merton had the footing to really take the game to the opposition and get their first win of the season.
The goal was exactly what Fryer deserved, he'd been absolutely outstanding and on top of that, his attitude was superb. Even when playing well, he rotated to make sure everyone got a fair crack of the whip.
Chairman Keith had heard the fans screams from his back garden and took the short trip down to see what all the commotion was about – and arrived just in time to see a Shearer-esque finish even the great Sir Lesley Ferdinand would have been proud of…
With about 10 minutes left, Elwell (back on for the injured Joe) played a great ball to Bevan and overlapped. While the left back went with Elwell, it created a gap between the ball and the back post. Rob Bevan wrapped his foot around the ball like that little Asian bird in Bend it like Beckham and whipped it with curl, power and pace to the back post where Harry “Parallel” Parkin rose like an absolute Salmon to smash home his header into the roof of the net. It was Harry’s first goal for the seconds and well deserved after a powerful performance up front.
With 10 minutes on the clock, Chris came back into the fold for Fryer, who left the pitch to a standing ovation from Keith and some bird breastfeeding on a park bench. Chris was keen to impress again and got straight into the action beating the offside trap to launch a shot at goal that was unfortunately saved.
There was still time for a few heart in mouth moments when the skipper’s cries of keep calm and carry on were ignored and we started to panic in possession and lump it back to the opposition, harry was booked for kicking away the ball and Bevan tried the same thing but luckily the referee took leniency. Overall we kept our composure and finally had the opportunity to put the cherry at the summit of the icing on the top of the cake.
The left hand side was slightly underused throughout the game, however whenever we shifted the ball there – Jon Wilson was at hand to make something happen. With seconds left on the clock, he turned his man inside out and was fouled inside the box. Landing awkwardly on his shoulder, we feared the worst and our expert penalty taker was feeling a little off colour. Not to worry, as Parallel had watched the lesson from Jon intently. As Derren tried his best to put off Harry by getting his balls out of his shorts, Harry Parkin followed the three step routine and smashed the ball off the underside of the crossbar and into the back of the net.
With that, the final whistle came and the first win of the season was earned – and well-earned at that. Everyone shook hands, the referee commented that he thought we were an excellent footballing team – something we’ve not heard in a long time and the season finally started for the twos – albeit it two games late.
Man of the Match
Picking one standout performer from this group was one of the hardest decisions there’s been to make. So many contenders and to a man, everyone was exceptional. Terry deserves special mention for a truly inspired performance after so long out of the game, Andy Brown was excellent throughout, Wilson got the goal that started and assist that ended the game and in between Harry was sensational. Will Fryer came a close second this week for his faultless endeavour and brilliant attitude throughout the game. However, man of the match this week is Matt Elwell. A truly brilliant first 45mins where he created so many chances from pinpoint crosses, his confidence at beating a man was second to none and he didn't stop running all game. Arguably the only thing better than his performance was his attitude. Even when having his best game for Merton, he still took himself off and came back on at Right Back with no fuss whatsoever. Matt – take a bow (and definitely more oranges next week please).