The game was in the arsehole of nowhere as per usual, but with gaffer/timekeeper Anst on a romantic weekend away, the squad took full opportunity to disregard the meeting time and made it to the ground about half hour before kick-off. Talk in the dressing room as everyone leisurely changed into their kit focused on the attributes of Wahbi Khazri, the aftermath of last weekend’s social and just how f*cking cold it was outside. Conversation soon shifted to concern as to the well-being and whereabouts of Holly given Anst was glued to his phone demanding updates well before kick-off.
With some integral squad members missing for various reasons (we’ll get to that), a fair amount of re-shuffling was required by stand in co-gaffers Danny and safari expert Eddie Ssssssssuich. Massey took the gloves and Loveday came in at CB. Jox took a place on the bench after a couple of weeks off, and we lined up as follows (at least this is how I understood it).
Matt Chinno Loveday Eddie
It was a nice big pitch and although a little muddy, conditions were far more preferable than in weeks previous. We started sloppy and probably never fully reversed that but it wasn’t for the lack of trying to knock it around and not resorting to the long ball. Barnslake had a little Eddie of their own, playing as a second striker/false 9/trequartista. Deceptively good for Ginny Weasley’s doppelganger, his manipulation of the quaffle in the early minutes was causing some problems, with an intricate through ball ending in a rash challenge and deserved yellow for Merton’s defensive destroyer Chinny Jones.
Chances were few and far between. Quinno had a shot from distance which was tipped round the post, we had a fair few corners which we threatened from but couldn’t convert, and Harry almost bundled one in at the back post from an inswinging cross by Moulesy after a quick free kick. At the other end, Massey was comfortable, but for a mishap with a roll-out to Matt which ended in a 1on1 for their striker; Massey recovering superbly to smother the ball at his feet. Jox replaced Louis on the half hour mark as Merton went through the gears. The midfield 3 were on top, Dom commanding in the air, Danny as tenacious in the tackle as ever despite a knock and Harry getting in some really good positions between the lines and beyond the striker, linking nicely with 1 and 2 touch passing.
The half time whistle came with Merton in the ascendancy but with no goals it was time for Massey to get out on pitch and do his thing. Quinno to go in net with Merton moving to a blistering pace attack a la West Indies in the late ‘70s with Jox, Moulesy and Massey across the front.
Quinno, having not had a warm up with the gloves kindly asked if we could keep it tight for 5 so that he could get settled between the sticks. Within 30 seconds of the re-start their striker found space on the edge of the box to get a shot away but Le Chat was able to get down (in about 7 stages) to his right) and get a hand to it.
Loveday was really enjoying himself in the heart of the defence, getting stuck in and looking comfortable on the ball. Evergreen at 39, it looks as though all those yoga sessions with Giggsy are paying off. He does appear however to have been installed with the L1+X function on Fifa, whereby any pass played is followed by a driving 15-20 yard run towards the opposition goal, giving heart palpitations to our stand in keeper and all round Game Management aficionado.
Merton were on top again, Massey’s pace causing havoc down the left channel but a couple of opportunities went by without the net bulging with some smart stops from their keeper.
KNEE LOOKS ALRIGHT HERE PAUL!
Merton were unfortunate to go behind, a breakaway from Barnslake led by Ginny Weasley leaving several Death Eaters in his/her wake. He/she got to the byline and drove the ball across the box. Chincent Kompany, at the near post thinking he had to cut the cross out, got a big toe on it and the ball flew into the top corner. Mumblings from Quinno that he had it covered were perhaps unfounded given he appeared to be playing dead in his own six yard box as the attempted clearance found the net.
Merton were back level within 60 seconds – using the pace in behind their back 4 (which we probably didn’t do enough of) as Massey played in Jox who slotted calmly past the keeper and into the corner of the net.
The game was generally played in good spirits but around the 70 minute mark, Barnslake’s angry little gremlin of a right winger decided to have a good go (x3) on Eddie. His challenges were malicious but luckily Eddie came through unscathed and it was their player who had to come off after injuring himself in the course of trying to maim Safari Suich. That meant it was time for Barnslake’s very own Fat Controller to give himself his customary cameo. Carrying “a bit” of weight, Massey could be seen smacking his lips as he settled in position over on their right hand side.
IN-LAWS OVER MERTON :-(
Our deserved winner came from a corner, Matty P delivering deep from the right for Richard “I’ve not scored since year 11” Brough to rise highest and head superbly back across the keeper and into the top corner! A finish Chinidi George would have been proud of. Rumours the Brough family had returned to watch again after last week’s epic were unfortunately wide of the mark but the goal sparked wild celebrations, with the goalscorer completely unsure of what to do with himself.
Merton looked to see the game out. Jox’s hamstring had twinged again and he had to come off much to his frustration, but his goal was the catalyst for getting us back into the game and he now has three weeks to recover via Iceland before he will play again. Get well soon Jon.
Barnslake had half an opportunity with a couple of minutes left – a free kick right of centre about 40 yards out. The ball was on the money and Barnslake’s left winger was up to meet it at the back post on the 6 yard line, heading down just like Alan Shearer has told him to do on Match of the Day every weekend for the past 12 years. A goal surely? But then…
2-1 victory sealed, the boys delighted in what was a hard fought and at times below par performance, General Hague rightly opining that we will have to be better next week. But good to get back to winning ways and yet another game where we have shown great resilience to come from behind. MOM was Jesse Chingard after his goal and all round stellar performance, with 5 votes. Quinno/Seaman with 4, and 1 a piece for Loveday, Parallel and DH16. The boys were off home for an early one with all eyes on next week’s semi-final, barring Eddie who was off whale spotting across London. COYM.