After a return to winning ways in the league last week, Merton 1s prepared themselves for their first actual cup game of the season having progressed in all three first rounds via fortuitous byes. While the team has been known to regularly complain about away league games being in the middle of nowhere, the county cup games always step it up a gear. Not only were we made to play in the arsehole of nowhere (Staines), the match was also moved to a 12 noon kick off in order to play on a better pitch. After arriving 2 hours before kick-off last week preceding a 3-0 win, Anstey was adamant we should all arrive as early as possible again meaning most were up before 9am on a Saturday and not in the best spirits to play football- Bruiser was particularly frustrated as he has only had a blowjob. Danny hadn’t.
However, to everyone’s amazement the squad all arrived on time, even Jox and Harry, although Jox did seem a bit more buzzing than usual after being up all night at some house party. He didn’t drink though….
Thanks to Anstey’s midweek scouting report, which we were all really thankful for and committed to memory we all knew that Lyne had won their last 10 on the bounce, including their last cup game 9-1. We trudged out of the changing rooms to find they had a squad of around 17 players all in their own club tracksuits who were out warming up a good hour before the game. They also looked like they had an average age of somewhere between 18-21 years old and even used cones to warm up. Clearly a real professional outfit. Merton headed out and started booting the ball to each other for 20 minutes. With Webber in the line-up, Merton’s average age had risen slightly above Lyne’s. They also valued the state of their facilities, asking Merton to warm up on the area next to the pitch, something 12 out of Merton’s 13 players managed. Danny scored some early psychological points by warming up a yard on the pitch. Legend.
Merton’s main changes from last week were at the back with Kiran, Nick Ball and Broughy all missing from the previous two weeks. Eddie also had an injured heel and was unsure if he would be able to play for long but as is customary at Merton the injury cleared up about 5 minutes before kick-off. Kyle and Al were both missing so it left Merton with 3 full time defenders and Anstey, who doesn’t really have a position these days. We lined up as below. The aim was to make a quick start like the week before.
Anstey Aron Bruiser Eddie
Quinn Dom Danny Moffatt
Merton did make a quick start. Having won a free kick in the first minute, Andy played a great free kick in the box which Dom met with his head from only a couple of yards out. Should have scored but somehow he put it wide.
The pitch was beautiful and Merton were playing the ball around well. However, disaster then struck as Lyne scored two goals from nowhere in quick succession. Around 8 minutes into the game and with their first attack, Lyne’s skipper Felipe who had looked a tricky player, scored a 20 yard screamer when he dropped his shoulder and burst through from midfield. Ethon had no chance. Within a couple of minutes Lyne found themselves 2-0 up with a similarly great strike down Merton’s right hand side. Quinn and Anstey thought they had him where they wanted him. They clearly didn’t as he spanked another 20 yarder into the far corner having started the shot somewhere near the corner flag. More bent than a 9 bob note. Second worldy of the day.
Merton decided to make a couple of early changes to the system. After 20 minutes Harry replaced Gary to try and go man for man with Lyne’s three man midfield. Gary looked like he wanted to both cry and kick Anstey in the balls. Harry was asked to sit on Felipe to stop him dictating the game for Lyne. The midfield disagreed and Dom tasked himself with man marking Felipe, allowing Harry to try and influence play with his slick passing. Both these changes paid dividends as Merton got themselves back into the game with a great team goal.
Merton started to pop the ball around well and following some good play down the left by Eddie and Andy, Harry found the ball in the middle of the pitch and with his head up, he played a sumptuous through ball to Quinno who had made a run off the right wing. It is hard to do the pass justice as it took three Lyne defenders out of the game and put Quinn clean through. Under pressure from the keeper he slotted the ball into the net for his first Merton goal and brought us back into the game.
The rest of the half was fairly even although Lyne did have a further chance to score before half time. Eddie was beaten to a header on the left hand side which put Lyne’s striker through against Ethon. He responded with a great double save at his near post though saving Eddie’s blushes. Aron had also made life difficult for the striker with some robust defending.
Bruiser had clearly had enough of playing in defence and started stepping out with the ball to great effect. Clearly inspired by the two Lyne goals, he had a few goes from distance, all of which failed to find the target but at least registered Merton’s intent to not lie down.
The other highlight of the first half was Anstey stepping in to make a tackle down the right hand side only to get nutmegged and the winger run straight past him.
Merton continued to look dangerous from set pieces and kept committing men forward which exposed them on the counter. Aron had to cover by making a horrific snapping foul. Nobody could quite understand why he didn’t get booked for it.
Half time and Merton made another change, this time bringing Louis up top for Jox. We felt we had played well and were playing some good football but needed to make a few more chances. We agreed defensively we had been fairly solid and there wasn’t much we could have done about either goal.
Lyne also made a couple of changes which resulted in them bringing an absolute monster of a centre forward on up top and a slightly smaller monster on the left. The left winger from the first half, himself pretty monsterish switched to the right to produce a pretty intimidating front 3.
The new centre forward caused Merton a lot of problems as he regularly wrestled for possession with Bruiser and Aron. Lyne won a free kick 5 minutes or so into the second half and Merton were punished again. They swung a good ball in which Aron and then Bruiser headed away. This fell to Lyne’s left winger who smashed another unstoppable strike on the volley into the far top corner to make it 3-1.
Merton however did not back down and were still very much in the game. We looked dangerous through Quinno’s runs on the right and Louis was causing loads of trouble up top, muscling their defenders off the ball. Merton were looking much more like their normal selves and were now completely dominating the ball, passing and moving in little triangles all over the pitch. At half time Quinno had suggested that our full backs should decide whether to go forward based on whether our other full back had joined in the attack. Merton had a throw-in on the left wing and Anstey had wandered into the area hoping Merton would swing one into the back post. Eddie, having not checked whether Anstey had gone forward before jogging forward himself leaving us with two at the back got shouted at. He shouted back. With Eddie and Anstey shouting at each other about which full back should go forward, Quinno threw the ball to Eddie who instantly gave the ball away back to Lyne…. He quietened down a bit more after this.
With about 65 minutes played Merton were back in the game. The ball found its way to Louis after some great Harrying from Dom. Confusing. There are few greater sights on a football field than Mayne embarking on a trademark rampage. It was truly vintage Mayne as he charged like a rhino through the middle of the pitch, skipped past one Lyne player and smashed an unstoppable strike from the outside of the box across goal off the post and in.
Now it was game on and with no extra time, Merton needed one goal to take the game to penalties. Bruiser came into the game more and more with marauding runs from centre back, exchanging one-twos with Harry on a regular basis. He nearly equalised through this route smashing a 30 yard strike off the bar and then firing the rebound just over the bar.
Merton looked dangerous from set pieces and Bruiser nearly equalised again, this time planting a header from an acute angle against the crossbar. He could have placed the header back across goal where teammates were lurking but should have scored himself. Anstey also had a good header that went wide from a corner- Quinno’s deliveries were really testing Lyne. However, Lyne still threatened on the counter attack. Aron had been dominant in the air but he slipped as a long ball came over the Merton defence leaving Lyne’s striker one on one. He lifted the ball over the onrushing Ethon. Merton hearts sank as it looked a certain goal but the ball could only hit the crossbar and rebounded to Ethon. A lifeline! They also looked dangerous on the right hand side where they seemed to have a different winger playing there every 15 minutes or so- everyone of them easily skinned Eddie on at least one occasion but luckily the final ball was letting them down and the back four stood firm.
Jox came back on for Andy on the left wing as Merton looked to find that equalising goal. As Gary was contemplating where to bring himself back on in the final 15 minutes, Quinno pulled up so also needed to come off. Anstey shouted for Moffatt to come on again instead even though he had injured his hamstring. With Andy stating he couldn’t play, Anstey reverted to Plan B and let Webber come back on at right wing.
Webber’s first contribution was a throw in on the right hand side which he let squirm out of his hands and commit a horrendous foul throw that the referee allowed him to retake to everyone’s amazement. Merton were dogged to the end, Dom and Aron committing a professional foul apiece to thwart the centre forward. I still have no idea how Aron did not get booked. With the final few minutes of the game, Merton went to 2-4-4 throwing Bruiser and Anstey up front and encouraging Danny and Aron to hoof the ball into the box. With our final chance of the game, Bruiser lifted a free kick into the box, Louis stretched but headed just wide and Lyne won 3-2. They said it was definitely one of the hardest games they had played this season.
Following the game, Merton had a couple of beers in the clubhouse but as the rugby was playing, it took too long to get back to Earlsfield so everybody went home apart from Eddie and Anstey who got some pizza and shared 3 pints apiece in the Fog for old times’ sake where a 7 year old befriended us both. He told Anstey he looked like Harry Kane and told Eddie he was better at football than him. Both have had worse. Eduardo and the Landlady send their regards.
MOTM votes came in and there were a few contenders after a solid performance by most. Louis had a great 45minutes and scored a brilliant goal. Quinno had his best game yet on the right wing and gained a couple of votes after a good goal. You should all look into getting hip injections as they seem to work. Aron was solid as ever at the back and Harry played great in the middle probably keeping possession better than anyone. However, MOTM rightly went to Bruiser who was solid at the back and a force going forward, unfortunate not to get Merton level after hitting the woodwork twice. Back to the league next week and more performances like this and we will not lose too many games.