Let me start by saying I’m absolutely devastated we didn’t win on Saturday. Heartbroken. I had the match report already penned to send out on Friday when I found out we had a new striker and – as you can imagine – the write up was an elegant soliloquy that was chock-full of Bird Puns. You name it, I had it. The irony that Birdy was brought along by a pair of ‘Larkin’ was certainly not lost in the report and I had a great little mention to Josh “Swanning” about on the right hand side. My prediction of John Abbey breaking his scoring “Duck” and us “Robin” a result against the odds are now rendered pointless and, alas, I’ve had to put the Peter Griffin YouTube clip back on the shelf to save for another day.
After an un-notable result against Kew Park Rangers, I find myself at odds on how to word this report. I mean, we were a million miles apart from the shoddy performance at Corinthians and had it not been for some extremely suspect refereeing, we would have almost certainly scored first and could have gone on to extend the lead. So there’s room for positivity. However, at the same time poor decision making cost us and picking the wrong option in the final third cost us dearly.
Kew sported 11 changes to the 14 man squad that cheated us out of victory in the home leg, and the changes were more than noticeable as a much more youthful and energetic team took to the pitch. The two goal scorers were debutants and the lad who made their midfield tick had never played a game for the club before either. There were a few lads definitely dropping down from the first team, despite their claims that they were only ever playing twos and they featured at least one ringer, who famously got caught asking one of his teammates names before asking “so how have you been getting on this season”. The referee wasn’t much help either, the man who famously waved play-on after Guido was two footed off the ball, was clearly seething at having his ineptitude grassed up to the league. From the moment go he complained at us about everything - even down to the colour of our socks (apparently both teams can’t wear black!) and the fact we needed to get on to the council to have the parking meter needed fixing (even though we were the away side). So the odds were firmly stacked against us from the start…
Merton survived a scare early doors when some slack defending allowed their striker to nip through one-on-one, but amazingly he blazed it over the bar from the edge of the 6 yard box. The near miss energised Merton and we pushed forward in numbers – deservedly taking the lead when a set piece from Moffatt was put sweetly on the head of Josh. The wide man nodded the ball back across goal where Webber was standing unmarked and managed to head it in from 6 yards. The linesman kept the flag down, knowing it was onside, but the referee (stood on the edge of the 18 yard box) called it offside. Bizarre given there was no way he could have seen it and absolutely no way it should have been ruled out. But he did it anyway.
Merton’s biggest issue this season has been the final ball. Too many times we’ve wasted chances – something which has been highlighted by the fact we’ve only scored twice in our last six games (and both of those came from midfield!) and this game was no exception. Poor Birdy ran his heart out up front and Moffatt did everything he could to support him, but sometimes the pass wasn’t forthcoming to either of them and we opted to try and dribble and got caught on the ball – something expressly mentioned as a no-no in the pre-match talk. We ended the half 0-0 and knew that the second half had to be better.
Chris came on for Josh at half-time and birdy moved out wide to the right. Chris was showing a lot of passion to chase down loose balls and him putting the defence under pressure was causing them to make mistakes. Firstly, their spindly-legged left-back had to put the ball out for a throw in which Andy Larkin leathered into the area and the Kew keeper was forced into a great save from the head of Webber. The second piece of pressure from Chris saw the ball go out for a corner which again, was delivered perfectly this time by Moffatt and the keeper again had to save, this time from the head of Joe.
Birdy took a breather and Josh came back onto the field with Merton looking likely to finally break the deadlock, however, with 10 minutes left on the clock we were caught trying to skin a man on the wing and the ball broke forward – scoring a soft goal as Kew’s otherwise useless left winger knocked the ball from distance over sweeper-keeper Scott and into an empty net.
Being 1-0 down so late on saw us push forward and we very nearly go an equaliser when Wilson’s teasing run to the by-line saw the midfielder dink the ball into the mixer. Chris had a great opportunity from 10 yards but could only poke it wide. Minutes later Wilson again was the provider but this time his cross was cleared but only as far as Josh on the right who switched onto his left to shoot and was tackled on the edge. Again the ball broke and the whole of the Merton defense sprinted back in a foot race as to who could get back in time to stop their right winger, sadly, he was able to cross and their onrushing striker had a tap in from 6 yards.
The game ended and Merton extended their winless run to 2 months. After being just 2 points off top in December it’s such a shame that we’ve come crashing back to Earth emphatically. With 2 games left until the end of the year, it’s vital that we restore some pride and end the season on a high.
Man of the Match
Quite a difficult one this week, but the nod goes to Andy Larkin. He’d had a brilliant game at left back and his Rocket Arm was causing all sorts of problems for the opposition defence as he constantly bombarded the box Delap style. He also has a wonderful career ahead of him in arts and crafts and no-doubt Mr. Ashley will be knocking on his door soon to get him making shin pads to sell in Sports Direct for a quid.
The positives? We played better than last week, we showed that we can put in real effort when it’s required and we were very unfortunate that a poor referee robbed us of taking the lead early.
The negatives? Not many of us played with team spirit, we must be more competitive for the first and second ball and – more importantly - we MUST stop messing around on the ball when there’s simple passes.
All in all, we worked hard but we have to work a bit more smart.
On to next week where - to quote Yazoo - “The Only Way is Up!”
…It was Yaz? Oooh, yeah but... where’s your cut off? Well I wouldn’t have said it on Blockbusters, so…