I’ve always been a fan of the literary greats, particularly when it comes to Poetry… the works of Geoffrey Chaucer, William Wordsworth, Percy Shelley, John Keats & Michael Weightman are but a few contributors within the many leather-bound books in my apartment (which also smells of rich mahogany). However, stood victoriously on the side-lines at the end of the game against St Martins, it was the work of a wordsmith from a different generation that sprang so effortlessly into mind. A man so radical and ungearing that he had the daring bravado to eloquently rhyme “Outside” with “Outside” not once, but twice within the very same sentence. That man was Obie Trice, penner of the 2003 hit poem “Got Some Teeth”. The reason he sprung to mind, you may ask, was not metaphorical. Sure, we’d been toothless last week, missed open goals and hadn’t buried our chances and now we were back to face the same opposition determined to have more bite in our attack, and yes, that would have been poetic and apt enough. Alas no, the reason that song came to mind was because the opposition, quite literally, had no teeth. Between the 12 players on the side-line, the 3 WAGs they’d brought to watch, their children and an entourage of illiterate “fans”, St. Martins FC didn’t have a full set of gnashers between them. The setting was a scene akin to a bastard lovechild born of The Hills Have Eyes and The Walking Dead and what the opposition lacked in molars, they certainly didn’t make up for with brains…
Deep in the heart of St. Helier’s (pictured above). The ground lay on hilltop between a Youth Boxing Club and a Nursery, with an electrical station in the middle for good measure. En route we passed a local Sainsbury’s in the middle of a council estate, where the amount of teeth between cashiers and customers alike was also minimal. Within, Elwell was gingerly asked “Are you local?” when purchasing a Banana which left him terrified he’d end up in some sort of cannibalistic meat stew. The changing rooms were equally terrifying. There were no windows, no lights and the roof had caved in within one of the areas. There was only one toilet-cum-shower, however, that didn’t stop Ian Taylor wanting to share it with as many men as possible.
Their manager Moxey (pictured left), arrived in good spirits. Keen to bang on to anyone who would listen about how amazing his team were last week despite only having 8-men.
Once we’d picked up our chewed ears from the floor and avoided contracting HIV from the changing rooms (both from the room itself and Sam trying to make everyone eat his wanky biscuits) we were in decent shape with only Ben to arrive…
After a great warm up that consisted of everyone trying to kick the ball into the wind, there was
still no sign of Ben… we were starting to get worried. Sam called the police to report him missing while Andy Larkin ran around the field putting up lost dog posters on the tree
Merton had always had a good record vs St Martins, the reserves emerging victorious in their past 8 meetings…
2015/16 (H) Won 2-1
2014/15 (H) Won 1-0
2014/15 (A) Won 16-0
2013/14 (A) Won 6-1
2013/14 (H) Won 2-0
2012/13 (A) Won 8-1
2012/13 (H) Won 8-1
2011/12 (A) Won 1-0
So the omens were good and with a strong team consisting of Mr Clean Sheet in goal, A back four of Elwell, Joe, Terry and Taylor, a midfield trio of Morton, Hall and Josh while Chris and Jon occupied the wings and Fryer was the lone target man up top – Merton were favourites to make it 9 on the spin. Keeping his 100% record for the season, the skipper won the toss and elected to go with the wind first half…
As the game kicked off, Merton pressed high up the pitch, putting their defenders under pressure Terry was marshalling the back and making sure that the fullbacks could get forward and in the middle Josh was getting high up the pitch to support Will and Chris. A wonderful through ball from Josh early on saw the Will onside and racing toward the ball. He wasn’t the only one as their keeper was also onrushing trying to get there first. As Fryer’s pace got him their first, he opted to try and dink it over the keeper using the old swinger – the left peg. Notoriously one-footed Fryer dinked the ball just wide of the near post as their keeper looked on in panic.
Just moments later it was Josh’s turn to try and lob the keeper, this time from the edge of the box. As the keeper came out to put him under pressure, Tovey dinked the ball high over the head of the keeper and toward the back of the net. Somehow, the St Martin’s CB was quicker than their keeper and sprinted back to clear off the line just as the ball was about to cross into the back of the net. Gutted.
Josh didn’t have to wait long to get his name on the scoresheet though and it was Fryer who became the provider. We’d already seen from the first two chances of the game that their keeper was quick off his line, so when a great channel ball was put in behind the left back, the custodian sprinted out of the blocks to be first to it. As he tried to shepherd the ball back into the box to collect, Fryer entered Beast Mode and used his strength to barge the keeper off the ball, spin and deliver a cross to the edge of the box. With Wilson making a superb run to the back post Josh Tovey picked up the ball on the edge of the box, considered the pass and instead opted to drill the shot low and hard into an empty net, as the defenders were scrambling to get back. Josh with the finish and Fryer showing that his guns are for more than just posing in children’s-sized T-shirts.
The Back 4 were immense in the first half, With Sam had been in inspired form – particularly when he made an unbelievable diving save to palm away a goal bound effort from a long way out. However, his best save came moments after Merton went 1-0 up. As their striker went through on goal 1-on-1, Sam brilliantly got a toe to it. The ball fell to their winger who was just about to strike it into the back of an empty net when out of nowhere Joe Cox came in, blocked the shot and cleared the ball behind for a corner. The oppo had their head in their hands as Joe had foiled a certain goal at a vital part in the game.
St Martins’ misery got worse when not too long after that chance we had our second and it was probably one of the greatest goals of the season so far. As St Martin’s tried a through ball over to their big centre mid, Morton read it and intercepted with his chest, bringing the ball down and laying it off to Taylor at left back. Ian lifted a beautiful lob pass over the head of the winger to Wilson, who took the ball down skipped past his man and fed Josh. Josh’s first touch was reminiscent of Michael Owen vs Argentina in WC98, bringing it down into his path with his heel before skipping past two challenges and squaring to Will Fryer who was 18 yards out. Will took a lovely first touch before finessing the ball into the far corner of the goal. A beautifully sweeping move from back to front that Andy Larkin described as “like watching Barcelona”
The St Martins’ heads were dropping and the goals kept on coming and it was Josh who nabbed his second of the game. As Elwell took a long throw, Morton got up to flick on the header and was elbowed in the back of the head, as many others were looking for the foul, Chris showed exactly why you should play to the whistle – reacting quickest to the ball and moving it down the line. After laying the ball to Fryer, the big man was fouled on the edge of the box. Favouring a “lefty”, Josh Tovey decided to swing the ball back post. On such a windy day, the ball was always going to travel and it certainly helped here as Josh’s chancer to the back post sailed straight into the top corner. A great hit and a deserved third for Merton.
Merton were piling on the pressure and a 4th was inevitable. Chris got through on goal and had a great shot saved by the keeper then it was Fryer again who came close with a well hit shot, but when Wilson’s goal bound effort was blocked by the arm of the St. Martins’ skipper, the ref had little choice but to blow for a penalty. With Josh on a Hat-trick and keen to get it, Morton and Taylor both had a word with Wilson who picked up the ball and spotted it. A bit harsh on the two goal hero? Perhaps. But Merton had a job to do and were sticking to the script. Professionalism to the end was the message. Jon Wilson opted not to Julian Dicks it and instead, gave the keeper the eyes and slotted it low off-centre to the right of the goal. Hitting his third goal in two games in the process.
With 10 minutes to go to half time, Andy Larkin made his entrance onto the field and boy was it an entrance. His first move was to run toward his own goal, drag it back to put his marker on his arse and then steam down the wing toward goal. Sadly, his pass was unable to find Josh. The midway whistle blew and despite being 4 goals to the good, Merton knew they’d have a tough ask in the second part of the game. Against a strong wind and a St Martins team desperate for pride, the away side knew they’d be in for a game and we’d have to take it to them from the off. Almost immediately, we very nearly scored from kick-off. A neat passage of play from the centre found Josh bounding down the right wing. As he skipped inside he saw the lights of glory and tried to drill a low shot toward goal, but the effort could only hit the side netting.
For most of the second half Merton defended resiliently, we struggled to get the ball over half way due to the howling winds and when we did, their tricky wingers were on hand to try and dribble past as many players as they could. Thankfully, the young lads didn’t realise they were playing real football and thought they were playing Fifa Street, aiming to get as many skill points and pannas as they possibly could. This was perfect for merton, who just allowed them to do whatever they wanted, safe in the knowledge they’d never trouble the goal.
The one time they did breach our solid defence however, their nippy forward was through on goal and about to pull the trigger, when out of nowehere - Joe Cox came steaming in, diving off the ground and making one of the finest last ditch tackles I’ve seen since Mike Wilcox against Dynamo Kingston in 2012. A beauty of a challenge that was almost certainly to preserve our clean sheet.
Larkin was having a good battle with his opposite number and was so unlucky to go into the book when a slightly late challenge resulted in a freekick and a yellow card, however, justice was served when their diving little shit was also booked for shouting “Arrrgh don’t dive in blud” as he skipped past a player and eventually lost the ball. What an idiot!
Alex Hall has barely been mentioned before now, but that’s because he did the greatest man marking job I’ve seen so far this season. He took himself out of the game time and time again, but in doing so he nullified their best player in centre mid causing him to be substituted midway into the second half.
It was very nearly 5 when we had one of the best chances in the game, picking up the ball on the edge of the area, the crowd shouted for Morton to shoot! However, the skipper opted for a slide pass into Wilson who fired in a beauty of a shot into the bottom corner. Somehow, the keeper extended like stretch Armstrong and got a hand to it. The rebound fell to Fryer but from 8 yards out on his left peg the big man could only fire wide.
The final whistle sounded and Merton were victorious! Getting their ninth straight win over the old enemy in emphatic style. The poor referee was berated as the teams left the pitch by their Moxey while Merton were left with the spoils. A great performance and a throwback to the old days when we had the confidence to play free-flowing football and absolutely batter teams!
Man of the Match
A really tough call to make. Sam was a godsend in nets, played out of his skin and kept up his 100% clean sheet record. Terry was as solid and commanding as ever at the back making sure we were brilliant at defending corners. Elwell and Taylor were superb in their forward play. Andrew did brilliantly despite having a tough task in marking their strongest player. It would have been a different game without Alex Hall man marking their best player out of the game for 85 minutes. Josh scored 2 great goals, Wilson was exceptional the whole game and Will Fryer and Chris caused problems every single moment they were on the pitch. Chris was so unlucky not to score and Will was unlucky not to score more. However, our man of the Match was Joe Cox. They say goals win games, but had he not made that last ditch clearance at 1-0 and they’d scored we may not have come away with three points at all. A tremendous performance from a centre-back clearly growing into a huge player for Merton. Well played.