If you have read last week’s match report, you will know that Merton 2s recent slumphas been solely attributable to Jon Wilson, who had the audacity to book a holiday with the Mrs whilst we sat 2nd in the league – absolute disgrace.
So as we started the day in 5th place (cheers Jon), we knew that it was all to play for at the top of division 2. This was something that the gaffer was trying to drum into us during the team talk. This week’s opponents were Kew Park Rangers Reserves, who have struggled for points all season, therefore if we played smart, we could certainly come away with some points and a smile.
With Scott nursing a sore shoulder (caused by too much you-know-what!), Sam once again donned his stinky snot-green top, complete with new keeper gloves (30 fcuking pounds, what an idiot). Elwell returned to RB, with Taylor at LB. Dunning and Denness completed the back 5. As we were going to unleash a 442 on the oppo, Morton started at CM with Hall; Moores and Wilson took up spots on the flanks and Fryer skipped onto the pitch holding hands with his BFF Weightman.
Morton fancied a change of scenery so set up the nets on the pitch near the road, which is always a recipe for disaster, when Will Fryer plays up top. Car windscreens are not safe!
A quick removal of dog poo and with the ref digging a trench to drain some water, the lunges and high knees began.
Morton’s instructions were simple. Play the ball short and have composure when it comes to you. As Taylor reminded people, this season is a long way from over. With the easiest run in of any team in the top 5, we can move up the league with a couple of decent results.
In the first 10 minutes of the game, Merton were well on top. Wilson and Taylor had a lot of room on the left to exploit, as the oppo right back had just arrived back to the Shire from a quick stroll to mount doom with Gollum.
Fryer was winning everything in the air against the shortest team in the league, and the combo of Morton and Alex set about tearing up their 3 man midfield.
Had we kept this kind of football going, we would have undoubtedly scored a hatful.
However when the 2s cannot score an early goal against inferior opposition, panic sets in and we allow our opposition into the game (please see match report from home game against St Martins). Neat pass-and-move play was replaced with ludicrous balls into channels, which would have made the Crazy Gang scoff.
Anyone who has played football with Michael Weightman over the past 5 seasons will know that he is an intelligent #9, who, much like Filippo Inzaghi, isn’t too fussed about being involved in the majority of build-up play as long as he is in the right position in the box to bury the ball in the net.
So, time and time again Weightman was sent sprinting for a ball which was pumped about 40 yards away from the wee man. Not only was it asking a lot of a guy who has struggled with injury this season, it drags him away from where he is most dangerous.
It was also the exact opposite of what the gaffer had asked for (short passes remember).
There were a few half chances for Merton in the first half. A curled freekick from Morton had Fryer sprawling at the back post, but other than that Merton looked devoid of ideas and the keeper’s gloves stayed clean.
Things were not helped by numerous shouts of “SHOOT” as Merton players were surrounded by opposition defenders, showing that we just weren’t being smart.
On a more positive note, the defence had precious little to do. With Denness and Dunning keeping the 3 man attack of KPR at bay, Taylor and Elwell were able to mop up the loose ball and bring the ball forward. On a few occasions the FBs were linking up well with their wingers, but this was not a fluid performance.
So the whistle blew on a shocking first 45 minutes of football.
Having been largely a spectator for the first half, Sam took his finger out of his bum to run over and join us for a half time talk from the Gaffer. To say the Gaffer was gutted with the standard of football would be an understatement. We needed to sort ourselves out, and realise when the first 20 long balls don’t work, the next 20 probably won’t find their target either. To add insult to injury (literally), Weightman had to come off with a busted knee, not helped by the fact that we had made him run a marathon for balls which were being blasted out of play.
Larkin came on at LB and Taylor switched to the wing.
Almost immediately as the second half started the game opened up and Merton started to exploit some space. The ball was passed from foot to foot precisely, and using this simpler brand of football, Merton started to hold possession in the opposition half, and created some chances. Wilson was at the forefront, and was linking up well with Fryer on the left. Elwell and Taylor were beginning to combine to good effect down the right. Some excellent link-up play involving Morton, Wilson, Moores and Fryer got the ball to the edge of the opposition box.
A sumptuous pass from Fryer found Taylor inside the box in the right hand channel. He shaped to shoot, then squared the pass to Fryer free in the box. Rather than smashing his laces through the ball, he tried to place the ball, didn’t connect properly and saw the ball trickle harmlessly wide. His blushes were spared though as a marauding Andy Larkin set a new PB for a sprint into the box and latched onto the bobbly shot. With glory in his eyes, and his Fjortoft airplane celebration already planned, he connected well with the ball, but blazed a fierce shot over the bar. Irrespective of the outcome, the chance came through doing what the Gaffer had asked.
Further chances came as Taylor, Wilson and Moores were able to get down the wings, with Fryer and Morton making sure there was always a target in the box to aim for.
Wilson smashed a left foot shot just wide of the mark, and a volley at the end of a promising move was well saved.
The odd long ball was thumped out of the opposition defence, and KPR tried to turn defence into attack, but Dunning was first to every ball, and the other defenders were on hand to clear out and clean up when necessary.
One long ball did cause a scare. As Sam was busy picking a used condom out of a dirty puddle in the goalmouth, Terry felt a shove in the back. Looking for the ref to come to his aid, the ref shook his head, and their complete tw@t of a striker was clean through.
Sam got down superbly and gave the tw@t no chance of scoring.
Another one of their players thought he’d try his luck and even though he had been utter dogshite for most of the game, he struck a belter, which Sam acrobatically palmed over the bar to safety.
After this Merton were back on it. Wilson was now up top, with Fryer in support.
Larkin unleashed one of his trademark howitzer long throws, which (obviously) Fryer won. Wilson swivelled past two defenders and slid the ball into the path of Taylor inside the box, wide on the left. Taylor dinked a cross into the mixer, which grazed the defender’s hip and landed invitingly to Morton. Earlier in the week, the Gaffer had made rich claims that he we would score on Saturday. But true to his word, Morton opened his body and placed the ball into the corner.
No doubt this was justified on the basis of play.
Overall we had not played well, but we had dominated in all areas of the park in the second half.
Whereas with Premier League sides, a goal is like a can of Red Bull, and gets the team going, Merton looked drained, almost as though the job was done and we could all go home.
There was no other option for KPR, so they just hammering the ball forward at every opportunity. Merton started to look very leggy, and we were scuffing and fluffing easy clearances straight to the opposition, losing our composure and handing the initiative to our opponent.
A Kew corner was cleared for a throw in.
As Merton ambled around chatting about how their DugoutFC (www.dugoutfc.com) team was getting on, the ball was launched into the box.
Kew won the first header, then the previously-mentioned tw@t hit the ball with his hand and cracked a shot off the post.
Alex was the only player to react but as he made the tackle, the oppo player hit his shot at Alex’s hip, and it cannoned away from Sam into the corner.
The opposition celebrated like the Champions League title was about to go to Kew.
With only 6 minutes left, we still had a few chances.
These, however, were generally thwarted by poor decision making at the vital moment and the game ended in a stalemate.
There is no doubt that we dropped 2 points today.
We’ve stopped a poor run of results, but we all know that the opposition is not the best and were there for the taking, had we been smart.
Man of the Match
First half was cr@p, but Alex absolutely dominated their CMs, cutting out numerous passes, and bringing the Merton FBs into the game. As usual Fryer’s workrate was first class, and he gets the team on the front foot by winning every header. Taylor got one assist, and should have had at least one more (thanks Will), and in his second start of the season Dunning had a stormer. For contributions at both ends of the pitch, this week’s MoM is Simon Morton. Tireless work for 90 minutes, a classy goal and some bone-breaking tackles.