For those of you who owned any early additions of Pro Evolution Soccer the commentator’s opening gambit “the sun is beating down but the wind is shooting through the stadium” was apt here to describe the meteorological conditions facing the mighty Soash at kick off. In preparation for dealing with the testing conditions we warmed up by whacking our gorgeous new match balls (Nike not Sondico) at Nick and commenting on how much they moved in the wind.
We then warmed up proper, looking really dapper in our new training tops, while the Petersham Pumas arrived just before kick off. looking
like a real rag-tag bunch.
The line up:
Kiran Aaron Broughy Kyle
We went for a classic 4-4-2 with two big men up top and wanted to use the tactic from last week of knocking the ball into the big men’s feet laying it off into midfield and then feeding through to our diminutive yet pacey wingers to deliver. Just before we kicked off Harry wanted us to “Mason noise” reminding us we would go 2nd in the table with a win.
Despite Harry’s rallying cry and the fact the Pumas didn’t really warm up we started a bit sluggishly and were struggling with the wind and clearing our lines, meaning the pitch was compressed and our back four deep. We couldn’t really make it stick up top early on and the Pumas were putting our backline under pressure without creating any concrete chances. However the back four were looking very solid and dealing well with the conditions.
We started to build on this solidity as the half progressed and looked to get the wingers involved as an outlet and Massey used his pace to tear past their fullback a few times. He managed to get the ball across with Anstey waiting for the tap in only for the ball to be diverted away by their defender. Massey again skinned his man after good work from Collier and Harry down the right and with Eddie waiting at the back post Massey flashed the ball across only for the keeper to save.
Taking encouragement from this we got the ball down and played some good football with neat one-twos from Dom and Harry to the wingers and full backs, Kyle and Ki, but mainly in our own half with the final ball slightly lacking. However, we continued to get a bit of joy down the wing with one slick move in particular down the left that resulted in a corner, but alas nothing came from it.
We started to assert ourselves more in the final 20 minutes of the half with some good pressure on the Pumas. Eddie was leading the charge in putting pressure on the Pumas defence and was scurrying around and making a general nuisance of himself; his hard work almost paid off as he popped up from nowhere and nicked the ball off their lumbering centre back. He teed up Anstey on the edge of the area who he struck firmly and stung the palms of the Pumas keeper.
Harry took a breather for Quinno on the 30-minute mark to try and take advantage of our strong end to the half to add some craft and guile and create some chances. But we couldn’t make the breakthrough.
The half ended at 0-0; we were defending well in the conditions with the wind against us and sun in our eyes. Aaron and Broughy were solid, composed on the ball and didn’t let anything through with good distribution from the back. Their best chance was probably when Kiran aimed to knee it into the far corner of his own goal, a heart in the mouth moment, before it snuck past the post, as it looked like the defender would be adding to his impressive oggy tally for the season! The best moment of the half for me was when Eddie slid in consecutively and the ball twatted him in the face, leaving him looking a bit dazed and confused. Broughy also claimed he got punched in the face by a tight wearing dandy i.e. their centre forward, the least likely looking person to kick off we have possibly ever played against. Al was looking solid at lino.
We had weathered the storm in the first half, literally, and the gaffer’s team talk called on us to steamroller the Pumas in the second half. Al came on for Kyle (an LB2LB special) and Ki withdrew for Louis with Eddie switching to right back and big Lou up top – Quinno switched to the right, Massey to the left and Bruiser dropped into midfield. Unfortunately we didn’t start the second half very well. We continued to be under a lot of pressure as we were going for the game and rushing a bit, which left us a bit short in the middle. Dom and Bruiser were getting stuck in but the Pumas had an extra man in the middle causing us a few issues defensively.
To shore things up in midfield Harry came back on in the 60th minute for Eddie. With Massey slotting in at right back, apparently his favourite position, Anst and Bruiser up top and Lou on the left wing; the Merton players highlighting their positional versatility, both a blessing and a curse for gaffer Anstey.
We started to create a couple more chances and after a corner the ball fell to Bruiser just inside the area on his left foot and he let fly with a half volley. However the classy Scot failed to line up his shot and the ball screwed high and wide. It was not an easy chance but one that McLean has put away in the past.
Enter Yiddo – as the Pumas were making a substitution mid-way through the half (more on this guy later) manager Chris Anstey asked the ref quite reasonably why the Puma’s substitutes weren’t running the line, in accordance with general common sense and good Saturday league manners. This caused Yiddo to go apoplectic, steam coming out of his ears and foaming at the mouth he took up the flag and charged across the pitch. En route he called me a boring bastard (which is ironic because I’ve actually been reading a really interesting book at the moment) threatened to chin Quinno/Anstey/anyone who was vaguely beardy and chinnable. Basically he really wanted to chin someone. He then threatened to put his flag up on every occasion Merton attacked, and he held his side of the bargain. Luckily the ref has a bit of commons sense and ignored some of his more ridiculous flag waving.
To add to this strange pocket of aggression an absolutely coked up nutter came on up front - accused Kiran of over zealous lines-manning then proceeded to say really weird aggressive things to everyone, including a bizarre exchange which left Broughy laughing hysterically and almost taking to his phone for a selfie.
Anyway back to the on field action. Still at 0-0 we managed to create a couple more chances with Al (still yet to score for the Soash) lurking in the box, he cushioned the ball down well but could only conjure a tame effort on the half volley that landed softly into the keepers hands; a back pass of sorts. Al then followed this up with a break out of defence a one two with quinno, who released him perfectly only for Al to rush his shot and drill well wide into the fence, as he had practiced in the warm up.
On 75 minutes Anst gave way for Eddie with Louis returning to his favoured strikers berth. However, the tide turned the other way as Aaron got a ball in his schnoze - lost his contact lens but still maintained composure and made some key clearances in the box - including one pretty much off the line. Wrighty was marshalling his box well, with a lot of balls in the box and corners, coming out and making some decent saves and one amazing last ditch tackle in our box, when the Pumas seemed certain to score. Broughy and Aaron had to do a hell of a lot of defending with the black and reds unable to clear their lines. We finally succumbed to the pressure, the goal coming from a melee in the box including the Pumas all over Wrighty in the build up. In fairness it was a sure finish from their right-winger who popped up on the left hand side of the box and coolly slotted into the far corner from a tight angle.
The goal enraged Merton and one man in particular. Reinstated up front Louis led multiple charges and rampages on the defence straight from kick off. After some good pressure from Merton the Puma’s centre back who had been so sure of his lumping the ball up top tactic for most of the game froze in terror at the sight of the onrushing Mayne and the rhino nicked the ball from his momentarily stunned opponent and with neat footwork and a deceptively hearty dose of gas he left the Puma’s defence in his wake and found himself one on one with the rotund keeper. Dropping his sizeable shoulder he jinked to the right and produced a miraculous finish with his weaker foot that saw the keeper scurrying desperately back only to slide into his own net. Louis had scored. Game on.
The Mertonians could’ve clinched it in the end with a couple of breaks. But couldn’t quite eek out the chances – Massey was released in the last minute but the defender did well to put him off his finish and he couldn’t quite find the target with a lofted effort from the left hand side.
A 1-1 draw with an aggressive team that started the game on the front foot. The consensus was that we could’ve gone on to win the game with a couple of counter-attacks at the end but that we didn’t really deserve the win in the end, as we had failed to truly assert ourselves. However, a great team effort defensively to stave off the pressure and the long balls they pumped into the box and into the channels. But we will feel that we should be putting teams like this away and have missed the opportunity to go 2nd. Lets just hope we have a bit more magic in our boots next week.
Aron and Broughy both received a couple of votes each for a sterling defensive effort and Dom continues to accumulate at least one or two votes every week but Man of the Match went to the man who made the telling contribution at the other end. The Rhino bulldozed his way through the Puma defence and into our hearts, The composed right foot finish said it all. Louis Mayne, well played.
Great pub vibes at the Wandle. Classy refurb and 10 per cent off with our training tops, this seemed quite hard to confirm with the bar staff but they eventually caved in. A real treat for us all as Loveday came down after playing for the threes. He was giving it loads with some outrageous Dugout transfer dealings with Anstey and smashing back at least two big shandies. Hilarity ensured as some serious sass from the Earlsfield Spanish contingent was displayed as ‘el classico’ was dropped from the big screen for the all-conquering EPL.
Next week gaffer Anstey and assisstant Eddie are away so skipper Danny will be deputising. He doesn't know this yet.