Merton Social lost their first league game in five as six ridiculously comical goals made an otherwise decent game of football descend into farce!
After a wonderful 5 games unbeaten in the league, Merton had that week they'd always dreamed of and equally dreaded. Too many good footballers wanting to play. At the start of the week, we had a defensive crisis, with both Terry and John Abbey away leaving Morty and Ian with a dilemma of who they could grab from the firsts to cover. However, after making some deals to get in some excellent talent, there was a flurry of availability. With some OUTs now INs and some IN's now DEFFO IN's. Merton had their first big selection headache of the season.
Trying to do the right thing is never easy, there's always going to be people hurt and disappointed, it's the nature of football. But Morton and Taylor chatted away and decided to do the most honest and noble thing and offer those missing a start the following week.
We knew it was going to be hard without our defensive stalwart Super Terry Denness (or STD for short). For young Terry, disillusioned by the sad events of Paris two weeks previous, had decided to join Jack Hands in the BDL – Belgian Defence League - to try and combat those Daesh numpties on the borders of Brussels.
Without El Tel marshalling the back, we knew we’d be in for a tough afternoon. Our resident statistician trawled the archives, match reports and dugoutfc.com – who have just released a new App for IOs and Android available in your local appstore now (*cough* shameless plug *cough*) - collated his findings and highlighted to the two’s gaffer just the kind of trouble we’d be in without some of our most influential servants. The results were truly horrifying:-
The noise these stats made of arguably our three top performers were deafening.
Without Terry at the back it was going to be nigh-on impossible to win and we’d definitely be shipping goals. After all, we’d never kept a clean sheet without him – and the stats proved it!
Without John Abbey, the odds were against us to even get a win as 100% of the time he plays, we win!
However, the Merton Boys could take a little bit of solace in the fact that without Mr Bean, we tended to do okay – winning 40% of the games that Mr. Bean didn’t play in.
So perhaps it wasn’t quite over for the Social before it had begun.
So Merton were missing a few, Daryl opted to take part in the annual Friends Christmas Jumper day in Watford, Chris graciously agreed to sit out after the promise of a good old fashioned start the next week and after a few weeks of travelling Joe didn’t mind missing the trip either. With 18 now whittled down to a Matchday 14, it did mean that Merton had some real selection headaches ahead of the game as we took one of the strongest squads we’d ever had.
After some deliberation, the gaffer decided to go with a similar team to the one that finished the game last week, plugging the gaps with some returning stars. Bally at the Back, there was a Returrrrrn of Ed Mac in defensive mid and after accidently being called Ian Taylor on the teamsheet, Jon Wilson returned with a lovely new car that smelled of rich mahogany and many leather-bound books. After his winning goal the week before Ben Farrett was rewarded with a start wide right and Fryer was played up top to try and combat the height and physicality of the opposing back line.
The game kicked off and Merton were instantly under pressure as the kick-off from the centre circle was floated into the left channel where Taylor had to be alert to win a throw in.
From the resulting throwin, their big unit of a striker cut inside and hit a tame cross to the back post which bounced three times before deceiving half the team and bobbling into the bottom corner of the net. A fairly comical goal…
…however, no-where near as comical as our equaliser almost 2 minutes later. A tremendous defence splitting ball from the back floated over to Ben on the left who cut inside and was brought down in the box. Ben managed to pick himself up and still miraculously had the ball for a one-on-one, yet as he stumbled and shot the keeper managed to parry. As the whole team turned to scream at the ref “PENALTYYYYY!” the referee just laughed. Just before Fryer berated the referee with a tirade of abuse, we realised that the Surbiton centre back had tried to clear, kicked the ball off the goalkeepers arse and it had gone into the back of the net. A proper amateur football own goal and one that righted the wrong of the previous daft goal we’d just conceded.
So after 2 goals in the opening 4 minutes of the game, Merton shook off the nerves and began to get a foothold, spreading the play wide to Ben and Jon who had their fullbacks on toast. Jon first created an amazing opportunity, jinking and jiving like a young Peter Beardsley past three defenders before he cut inside from the left and sprayed a beautiful ball across the 6 yard box that evaded every defender… sadly, it also evaded Fryer who just couldn’t get a toe on it. Almost seconds later it was Ben that had a great chance, Fryer’s sumptuous pass from the middle finding the Run of Ben, who lobbed the keeper from 30 yards. Sadly a strong gust of wind pushed the goalbound shot onto the post and Surbiton lived to fight another day.
If the first two goals of the game weren’t bad enough, Surbiton had a second in yet another moment of hilarity. Average Joe winger on the left had been quiet all game, tucked firmly away in the pocket of Matt Elwell’s shorts. However, he managed to get himself on the scoresheet in what he calls innocence but even his teammates were left shaking their heads at.
The bog-standard, beardy twat offered to kick the ball back to Scott after play was stopped for an injury to a Surbiton player and as Scott came close to the edge of the box to receive it, the most brainless man on the park decided to lob Scott and tucked the ball away into the bottom corner. Now, he protested his innocence, but his teammates didn’t agree one of them said “That’s just like him to do that, such a dick”. At best, he was trying to be a bellend and put the ball out for a goalkick and at worst, he was genuinely trying to get on the scoresheet. Either way, the referee had no choice to award a goal
Giving huge credit to the rest of his teammates, the other 10 players agreed that we should be allowed to walk the ball into the net to even up the injustice. So we did, Will fryer taking the goal kick and Morty walking it up the other end and into the back of the Surbiton net.
While the right thing had been done, it had massively disrupted Merton’s flow – who had been dominant so far in the game. With 3 subs on the bench, Jon Wilson did the gentlemanly thing of offering to be the first sub to have a breather and switched with Gary Webber (although sadly, he was the only one all afternoon that did this) – as an aside if we have 3 subs in future, we’ll just sack off the rolling subs and go with the standard 3 on 3 off as it’s unfair on those wanting to give up their space for a breather if people don’t respect it and return the favour!
The half time whistle went and considering we were playing the team at the summit of the table, Merton had made them look fairly ordinary. On what should have been a Merton lead, we tucked into Elwell’s oranges at half time knowing that it was ours to win.
Sadly, Merton didn’t start as strongly as we’d hoped and we were 2-3 down within moments of the restart. A delivery from the corner was swung into the back post where another flukey goal was scored, when under pressure from their unit of a striker, Scott managed to head the ball into his own net. So far we’d had 2 own goals, a dreadful cross and a gamesmanship/sportsman combo. Hardly a vintage advert for the KDFL!
Ian Taylor made way for Andy Larkin and Sam entered the field for Ben. As Merton looked to make some changes as heads were starting to drop and Merton were starting to wonder if this was going to be their day.
Josh and Will up top, who were creating a number of good chances. Josh had looked lively all game and was through one-on-one and just about to strike the ball into the net, when a superb tackle from their centre back dispossessed him.
It was an instant back to front move that doubled Surbiton’s advantage, when a long ball into the channel was hit from distance by their right winger. As the ball tricked through no-one called the run of their striker who hit it at goal from the penalty spot, Scott got down well to save, but the rebound fell back to the strikers feet and he knocked it into an empty net.
As if a hurricane had just hit, Surbiton decided to close up shop, bunker down and border up their windows as they defended for their lives. Jon Wilson was re-introduced and his injection of pace was much needed. Josh was moved into a striking role and the two combined straight away to rescue Merton a goal.
Jon picked the ball up deep and beat his man squaring to josh on the edge of the box who jinked past the centre half and got to the byline, his cross was perfect for Sam Wowk at the back post who came steaming in like a train before delicately chipping over the keeper and into the top corner, a gentle touch we haven’t seen from Sam since the time he reached the vinegar strokes during his annual game of soggy biscuit with the rugby lads. It was the first good goal the fans had seen all day and it went in with 25 minutes left on the clock. There was still time.
Merton were pressing high and it was Jon Wilson who next went close, as a great interchange between Ed Mac and Morty played it into Josh, as he went to lay it off to Wilson, who was gearing up to strike, his touch resulted in a tackle and the ball drifted away.
Jon was still keen to make up for lost time and very nearly got on the scoresheet. After a Messi-esque run saw Jon skin three players before cutting back onto his right foot. His strike beat the keeper only for an unbelievable block on the line from the Surbiton full back. The rebound landed to Sam who smashed it with all his might, only for again the same player to dive on the line and save the ball. It was turning into something of a grandslam finish.
That finish very nearly came when Gary Webber, who had been playing well all afternoon, had a great chance to rescue a point. A great cross from Jon Wilson saw the big man dive for a header – only for the ball to sail agonisingly over the bar.
With just a minute left on the clock Merton threw everyone forward and after a bit of trickery from Fryer on the right, their fullback had little choice but to boot the ball out and concede a throw in. Step forward Surbiton’s MoM (Mong of the Match - who had lobbed Scott earlier in an unsportsmanlike effort to grab himself a goal.) Despite it being obvious to everyone it was a Merton throw, he flagged correctly and then changed his mind pointing the other way. The referee bought it and Surbiton were able to clear. Sickening.
The final whistle went and it was a sad way to lose the match, but it had been a truly bizarre game were everyone had played excellently and we were just unlucky not to get anything out of it. If that lot are top of the league, then there’s absolutely no reason why we can’t be there or there abouts at the end of the season. They had nothing of note, just 10 grafters and 1 cheat.
Man of the Match
It’s a tough one, Elwell had the game of his life at fullback, was dominant in the air and great in possession. Josh and Ben had both worked hard and were unlucky not to grab a goal. Sam’s cameo had been superb and as usual Alex, Ed and Nick had strong games at the back. However, for playing out of his skin for the 60 minutes he was on the pitch, Jon Wilson gets the nod. He was unselfish, a real team player and was unlucky not to grab a goal and a hattrick of assists. A great example. Well played.