It’s very easy to forget the meaning of Christmas. Kids nowadays think it’s all about presents, getting a PS4 or iPad and a quality cooked dinner. I’m even seeing greeting cards that say “Merry Xmas” now – literally taking the “Christ” out of Christmas and replacing it with a Cross… the one thing that killed him. Pretty harsh some might say... However, Jesus has always been a top boy. Stopped loads of people from stoning in a prozzy in olden times, turned water into wine when the local Jerusalem off-licence was shut and 5,000 people didn’t have any more booze to get leathered on and, the best move of all, managed to bring himself back to life after a drive-by crucification saw him dead by some douche many Tottenham fans call Sol Campbell. Even Tupac and Biggie still haven’t done that yet! So with his 2015th Birthday approaching, Jesus was always going to have something special on the cards to celebrate his big day – we just weren’t sure what it was going to be until the very last minute of stoppage time…
Before the match, we were buoyed by the return of Argentinian duo Guido and Mattersoncherano, who were making their first seconds appearance of the season. Sadly, poor Jack didn’t have any kit. In the spirit of Christmas, Bono teamed up with Full Metal Rod to launch Band Aid 2015 and as all the Merton fans sang “Do They Know it’s Christmas”, the players dug deep to donate a pair of socks, a shirt, some boots and 6 pairs of shin pads to a really good cause. Even the oppo got involved, giving him a pair of shorts with a heartfelt message of “Please don’t play with your knob out” written on the inside of a shoe box.
Getting even further into the Christmas spirit, Fryer turned up as ‘Farter Christmas’. Sadly, he’d not only forgot the presents in his sack but he’d also forgot to take his kit out of it from last week – which stank nearly as much as his arse!
Merton knew that we couldn’t afford to give away any gifts today and a solid win would carry us to third in the table with 22points (beating the tally for the whole of last season).
The game kicked off and we were barely 10 minutes in when the most controversial moment of the game arrived… Now, I was lucky enough to be given an education but sadly, some people in life weren’t. Those kind of people read The Sun, go to EDL rallies and think Hitler was a decent bloke. They believe that Olly Murs is better than the Beatles and that football was invented in 1992. People so stupid that they hear knacker pundits like Robbie Savage say “There are kids out there who'd chop their legs off to play football for Brighton” and genuinely believe it’s true. In the KDFL, we come across these people every week, but I was genuinely saddened at what we saw on Saturday afternoon at NPL where not one player of the opposition team could comprehend that breaking a players foot is unacceptable.
“It was 50/50”, “It’s a man’s game”, “It was hardly dangerous play”, “has he stopped crying yet” and “It’s not his fault – the Keeper took a bad touch” were just 5 instances of verbal diarrhoea that poured from the mouths of the opposition after their Centre Forward leaped off the ground, studs high on Guido as he went to clear the ball. Doing us a favour and stepping in for Scott and Sam, The Merton Stopper now has a broken foot just days before Christmas. As Everyone looked around waiting for the Red Card to be shown. Amazingly nothing was given, just a free-kick. The referee allowing himself to be talked out of making the right decision.
Now, I don’t want to see anyone sent off, but it’s hardly fair that we lose one of our best players from the game while their's walks away scott-free. No fines for NPL, but a medical bill for Merton and nothing to show but crutches for Christmas. It was the footballing equivalent of stabbing someone to death over Christmas dinner and then pleading in court - "Your honour, he was going to carve the Turkey and I wanted some first so I stabbed him in the neck. But it was 50/50 and it’s a Man’s meal”. It's just sickening that the referee did nothing about it.
Our thoughts and well wishes are with Guido and we’re terribly sorry that you got injured because a fatter, balder version of the Tin Man from Wizard of Oz was born without a Brain. You're a top bloke and you deserve better… all of Merton are wishing you a speedy recovery.
Merton were visibly upset by what we’d witnessed and understandably reacted. Morton more than most as he uncharacteristically got involved with every bit of verbals going. It had clearly affected everyone and we were starting to get ratty with each other for missing chances, not making runs and not laying the ball off as simply as we should. We’d lost shape in the midfield and were struggling to get the ball over the halfway line as everyone had to try their best not to go in hard for a revenge tackle. So going in 0-0 at half time was probably the best thing that could have happened to us as a unit and it gave us the chance to re-group.
There were limited chances in the first half but what had come our way had been dealt with really well. Joe and Terry were again excellent at the back in defending resolutely and Elwell and Taylor on either flank had the beating of their man. Elwell was enjoying getting forward and overlapping Chris who was working hard in a makeshift right wing role. Gavin Larkin was forced to come on in an unorthodox goalkeeping position and did extremely well, making sure the odd time that NPL did have a sight at goal he was at hand to save, but what Larkin did really well was marshal the back and talk to his defenders - giving clear instructions on what he wanted and when he wanted it, without swearing (much) or calling anyone a "Fanny".
As the teams came in at half time, the skipper shuffled things around, pushing Matterson out wide to give him more creative licence and pulling Will back into the Second Striker role behind Chris. The change seemed to bring everyone to life and the chance to stop, breathe and get our heads screwed on managed to calm players across the pitch and concentrate on getting the job done – which the gaffer highlighted was the right way to get revenge on their #9.
From the off, Matterson was in inspired form. He’d clearly been spending a lot of time in Buenos Aires watching the Argentinians play for fouls, as almost every time he got the ball he beat 2 players and then stole some yards by winning fouls high up the pitch. Jack very nearly grabbed the opener when he latched onto the ball 30 yards out and smashed a wonderfully hit left foot shot high into the corner of the net. If only the home keeper hadn't pulled off the wonder save of his life to keep it out!
Webber was relishing his deeper DM role and was starting to earn himself a reputation – for having more slides than Wet ‘n’ Wild. One of which he timed beautifully to dispossess an onrushing midfielder as our lanky Sergio Busquets managed to keep possession and start a meaningful attack.
Taylor and Elwell were working really hard on either flank trying to support the attack and the latter was the contributor for Merton breaking the deadlock.
As Merton looked to make their prolonged pressure count, Elwell picked up the ball deep, skipped forward and spotted the run from Morton in midfield. He picked out the skipper with a pin-point delivery toward the penalty spot and as Morton leaped to challenge the keeper in the air and the gaffer’s presence caused the NPL custodian to fumble the ball and drop it 10 yards out. Fortunately, Morton reacted quickest and was on hand to chest it down and slide in to volley home from just six yards out. A scrappy goal, but a good reward for Merton’s effort in the first 20 minutes of the second half.
It was very nearly two a few moments later after Morty’s long ball into the channel found Fryer out in the wide right position. The big man did brilliantly to ride a challenge, cut inside his fullback and dribble toward the penalty area. With the last defender beaten and the keeper onrushing, Fryer had a great chance to square to Jack Matterson who could have put the ball into an empty net and made it 2-0. However, Scrooge McDuck decided that he didn’t want to give any Christmas presents this year and that he wanted all the glory - smashing his shot wide into the side netting. Later that night (at the club house), Scrooge McDuck was visited by three ghosts…
First, The Ghost of Christmas Past
Morton – reminding him of the last time he did that and got bollocked for it)
Second, The Ghost of Christmas Present
(Wilson – telling him how annoyed he is and telling him never to do that again)
And Finally, The Ghost of Christmas Future
(Larkin – Telling him that Boro are definitely going to win the league this season and that Derby are shit!)
We think he’s learned his lesson, however, if I was Mrs McDuck the only thing I’d be expecting in my stocking this Christmas would be that daft bastard's hand!
Despite this setback, Merton were still pushing for a second and it very nearly came after a great passage of play between Fryer and Moores. Morton went into a challenge with their centre-mid and took 10% Ball and 90% man, however the referee deemed it a good challenge and Morton was able to get up and play the ball into Fryer. Will played a great pass over the top to Moores who went for a spectacular first time volley – but sadly it sailed into the trees. Chris very nearly got the reward he deserved for his impeccable industry a few minutes later when a through ball from Wilson set him up 1-on-1. As he burst into the box, Chris beat the keeper with a low well placed shot but it agonisingly bounced off the inside of the post and went out for a goal kick on the other side. Desperately unlucky.
Merton had been on top for most of the second half and NPL had rarely had a sniff, but sadly one long ball caught out the whole team. As the Keeper cleared the ball under pressure from Chris, Fryer thought he had it but it swirled in the air and evaded him. The missed header and a dodgy bounce meant Terry was left racing on the shoulder of their striker, who was let go by Elwell, and he was able to slotted home past Larkin. It was massively unlucky and it was their first shot on Target in the second half that wasn’t straight at the keeper, but everyone felt a sense of disappointment after we’d played so well and had just lost a well-deserved clean sheet.
However, the drama was far from over…. Jesus had been watching and was not happy with what he’d seen. Big JC (Jesus Christ – not to be confused with John Carver) was not about to let his birthday be spoiled and clearly had other plans. Satan could not take anything from today - not even a point. In the past, God’s Top Boy has managed to walk on water, turn it into wine and get smashed on it without a hangover. Truly magical stuff. Once again, he used his special Jesus Magic to force a ball over the line for Merton.
And yet again it was Elwell starting a goal scoring move - his challenge on the full back in the right hand channel causing the ball to drop loose. Morton was quickly in to pick up the loose ball and as he was about to deliver a cross to the back post, Wilson screamed “PENALTY SPOT” and Morton shifted to square the ball inside. From there, it was the Jon Wilson show – as the winger turned on the spot, took the ball wide, chopped inside his man and took the ball to the by-line. With literally seconds left on the clock, Wilson delivered a well hit ball across the box. Having sprinted to get there from his position in DM, Gary Webber arrived just in the nick of time to get onto the end of it. Smashing the ball home from a yard out and sending the visiting side into raptures. (well, what really happened is the ball hit Webber’s thigh and was bobbling toward goal when the NPL centre-back slid in and volleyed it over the line, but hey – it’s Christmas. Spirit of giving and all that.)
The away team celebrated as the final whistle blew. A deserved win and what a way to end the year on am absolute high. NPL walked off looking completely dejected like The Wet Bandits in home alone, their Christmases ruined and getting what they deserved in the process. As Merton players looked to the sky, Jesus winked back as he, Muhammed, Jah and Abraham all high fived each other wearing their Merton Social Training Tops and shouting “Gerr’in Lads!!!”
Man of the Match
It’s one of the toughest awards we’ve had to give. Matterson was quality, Wilson was instrumental in the winner and Webber was class the whole game and fully deserved to be the man that scored the winner. The back four were immense, in particular Elwell who was the creator for both goals and put in a great defensive performance. However this week’s star man is Gavin Larkin. There’s nothing worse than losing your Keeper 10 minutes into a game and no outfielder ever wants to go in nets! But substitute Gav stepped up to the plate, put in a great performance, was commanding for all set pieces and got involved without any hesitation. A great performance - well played mate.