Who’d be an [assistant to the] football manager eh?
After having the bare 11 all week, thanks to our first team pinching 2 cracking players for their intermediate league debut, we finally managed to rope in one of Larkin’s mates late on Friday, however both were out on the sauce on Friday night, so we weren’t expecting too much.
Moffatt had been a good boy and got an early night, and as a reward he was handed the captain’s armband, by Gaffer-for-the-day Taylor.
You have to watch what you wish for when it comes to football. The previous week we had played in blistering heat on a rock hard pitch. So as if by magic, this week it was pi55ing it down with rain.
But wait…….what’s this…..
A flat pitch with lush green grass on it, surely not??!!
The groundsman at Goals in Tolworth had obviously had a rocket up him during the summer, because he had prepared a spectacular pitch for Merton Social 2s’ first foray into the Surrey South Eastern Combination.
The players turned up as Denness and Taylor stood marveling at the carpet-like surface, which we were just about to take chunks out of.
Larkin managed to miss the train. We’d love to say its because he had to walk an absolute stunner to the station after a wild night of passion, but he took home somebody’s Gran, and had to make sure that she and her shopping cart made it to the bus stop safely – chivalry is not dead!
So we started the game against Motspur Park Reserves in a 4-5-1 formation.
Scott started in goal, with Tom Pye, John Abbey, Terry “Man Mountain” Denness and Andrew Larkin making up the back 4. Andy Findlater and Alex Hall played the DM role, with Moffatt playing slightly more advanced in front of them. Taylor and Elwell moved forward into the wing positions and Josh was given the job of tormenting the opposition defence. Michael was able to demonstrate his skills with a linesman flag before showing us skills with a football.
The game started and as you might expect for the first game of the season Merton were pretty sloppy.
Merton’s first attack came from the left back position. Larkin curled a beautiful pass down the wing, and Taylor was away. Taylor got his toe to the ball before their defender poleaxed him, sending the winger flying.
This was a sign of things to come, as we realized that Motspur Park are not dirty, just stupid and clumsy. Taylor limped away gingerly, holding back the tears like a little trooper.
A slick flat pitch was too much for us to handle at first, with passes missing their mark and long balls being misjudged all over the park.
Pye got skinned alive a couple of times by the diminutive left winger, the defensive line was all over the shop and we struggled to get any momentum going forward.
Fortunately the opposition offered little other than a hopeful long ball, which was generally off-target, and a 30 yard shot, which ended up going over the fence on about 6 occasions.
However by 20 minutes, Merton were firmly in charge.
Moffatt was now pulling the strings in midfield, spraying passes and making sure that Josh did not cut an isolated figure up top. Findlater and Hall were winning first and second balls, and we were now thumping crosses into the box, with Moffatt, Tovey and Taylor, all having chances which didn’t manage to bring the best out of their keeper.
Moffatt swung in a trade mark corner, and the opposition failed to properly clear the danger. One player thought he was Lionel Messi so decided to walk the ball out, only to be robbed in the box by Andy Findlater, who walloped the ball into the back of the net.
Deserved lead for Merton, and a deserved goal for one of our debutantes.
Merton continued to press forward.
Michael Logan came on while Andy Larkin took a breather, with Taylor reverting to LB.
Again the opposition mounted no real attack, with any cross into the box being easily dealt with by the defence. Denness and Abbey marshaled their chunky attacker with little trouble.
Pye was now dominating the left winger, who was arguably the opposition’s best player, Tovey was constantly on the move, making him hard to defend, and we made good use of the space on the wings in the form of Logan and Elwell.
Moffatt had already stung the fingers of the keeper with a direct freekick, however this time; he curled an out swinger to the back post.
With Tovey frantically back-pedaling, he craned his neck and looped a header towards the far post. The ball seemed to move in slow motion; however it beat the keeper’s flapping hands and nestled neatly into the net. Goal #1 of the season for Josh Tovey, and this put Merton firmly in the lead.
Within 2 minutes the half time whistle went.
Pye hobbled over to the touchline, not an injury, he’d just put their winger so deep in his pocket, nobody had seen the little man for nigh on 25 minutes.
The half time team talk was easy – more of the same.
It had not been vintage football by any means but we had played much better football than the opposition.
For some reason the opposition decided to take off their 3 best players and replace them with absolute garbage, including one agro guy who shouted at everybody; his own players, our players and the ref.
As expected the opposition saw more of the ball as they tried to get back into the game.
There was a basketball-style 15 minutes, where the ball went from one end to the other.
The Merton back line had been very comfortable, and more importantly disciplined; however the only time our concentration lapsed we were punished. With the line at 6s and 7s, their striker strode through the middle and latched onto a decent cross. Scott could not do anything about the goal, but the other 10 outfield players knew that this was avoidable.
The rallying call came from the captain and we were away again.
Only two minutes later, our two goal lead was restored, and rightly so.
Pye, Tovey and Elwell were now doing some sterling work down the right flank.
Tovey jinked into some space, and whipped a cross to the back post. Michael Logan was bolting in, took a touch and unleashed a thunderbolt into the roof of the net from 4 yards out.
The Merton players now took it upon themselves to be smart and substitute themselves when necessary.
Elwell and Moffatt linked up on a short corner, with first Moffatt then Elwell being upended in the box, only for the ref (who was having a decent game) to wave away our protests. Even their captain said that it should have been a penalty, but what can you do???
Moffatt yet again found himself in space.
He let fly on a sublime pass to Tovey, who timed his run superbly, took the ball in his stride and buried the ball in the onion bag.
Their linesman, sensing the game was getting away from his team, flagged Josh as offside, which he definitely wasn’t, and the goal was disallowed. Harsh on Moffatt and Tovey, and the opposition could not have complained if we had further extended our lead.
With 15 minutes to go, and in a comfortable position, we allowed ourselves a moment of complacency. We’ve all downloaded Whatsapp onto our smart phones so probably aware of what happens next.
Merton failed to clear some minimal danger, which allowed their attacker to hammer a shot towards goal.
In a selfless moment of instinct, Larkin belted the ball away with a right hook which would have floored Kell Brook.
The penalty was awarded immediately, and as Mr Agro made a total pr1ck of himself by demanding the ref brandish an immediate red, it looked as though the ref might show some leniency. He gave a Larkin a lecture, however then the red card appeared and we were down to 10 men.
Pye let the wee man out of his pocket, and he buried the penalty into the postage stamp.
It was disappointing to end the match with 10 men, however as Taylor re-jigged the formation, we saw out the remaining minutes with no real danger, and could arguably have put another one past their keeper, with Tovey, Logan and Findlater all having chances in the box.
It was a hard fought win, but its 3 points in the bag, and has set the tone for upcoming games. Our goals came through both dogged determination and some good football. You’ll notice that the defenders haven’t had too much of a mention and that’s because they all did their job superbly, and allowed the opposition precious little to work with. Pre-game Taylor asked all 12 men to make it difficult for absent players to find it hard to win back their places in the squad, and that is precisely what happened, good luck Morty.
Man of the Match
The majority spoke and this week’s man of the match is Josh Tovey.
It would be hard to argue with this, Josh ran tirelessly for 90 minutes, constantly made himself available and grabbed 1 goal and 1 assist. On another day he may have added to that tally. Super game mate.
A special shout out goes to our 3 debutantes.
Andy F and Michael both grabbed vital goals and put in superb performances, and Tom Pye gave a full-back masterclass, providing something at both end of the pitch, well done lads!