Similar to last season’s slow start out of the blocks and a sluggish opening day defeat, Merton were keen to bounce back with a reaction and show we're more than able to compete after a step up to Intermediate level. We travelled to the arse end of Oxted and after Ethon had spooned a quick pot of spag bol with his hands – a la the Wasabi the tart massacred on the train – we sat through the taxi driver’s tale of a recent family holiday to Ibiza which included a family night out to Pacha. We made it to the ground which was a hilly village green complete with adjacent duck pond.
Hospitality from the home side was deemed questionable after noticing there was no bog roll in the traps, so a few ghosties for the lads later we were out for a thorough warm up. With no sign of Jack Hands 15 before KO for the second week running, The Rhino was left sweating after telling me he was already knackered from a bit of 5-a-side the day before and being pinched by his new intern, leaving visible physical and mental scars.
With Jack arriving in the nick of time, we lined up as below:
Ed Aron Anstey Duncan
Poys Quinno Jack
We started well and on the front foot. In truth, it was all Merton; we were keeping possession and moving the ball well. We were looking forward when possible, but happy to look after it, switching it from side to side and probing until inevitable gaps opened up for Quinno and Bruiser, who were dovetailing nicely, and the odd burst forward from me and Lieutenant Vinters.
Something I thought worked well for us was that when we had possession, both Jack and Matt stayed high and wide on each wing (tactical I’m sure rather than lack of tracking back) – and with us popping the ball around nicely, it really dragged their defence around, with the front two getting increasingly into dangerous areas.
We weren’t carving out too many clear-cut chances; both Bruiser and Quinno were getting closer with a few efforts from around the edge of the area, but we were getting closer and pressure was mounting, with it only a matter of time until the first goal. Jack was making inroads from the left, and Matt was getting forward well, supported by some marauding runs from Ed Mac at right back. It was one of these forays up the wing for Matt that led to one of the most bizarre incidents to ever take place during a game of football. Shoulder to shoulder with their left back on the touchline, be was barged off it and sent flying off the pitch (identical to preseason – get in the gym), landing in a heap at the feet off the opposition lino. Now the lino was a big fella, a lummox of a man, strongly resembling a Snorlax and therefore hardly the most mobile. So instead of moving out the way, he apparently took offence to Matt rolling into his knee, proceeding to toe punt him while still on the deck. For those that weren’t at the game, you did read that right, and Matt got kicked while on the floor by their obese bald linesman.
Matt headbutting the lino’s shins was probably the catalyst for him raising his flag at every single Merton attack to the point it was genuinely embarrassing, but we were still on top. They did threaten once or twice, when playing over the top with a couple of nippy and willing runners, but Aron and Anstey marshalled well and ultimately always managed to snuff out any danger. There was also a massive pile of dog shit in the left back vicinity, no doubt subconsciously why me, Dunc and Anstey were giving their forward a bit of room in that inside channel.
The goal eventually came with Bruiser sending a through-ball to Quinno, who ghosted through and dinked over the keeper on the volley. 1-0 at the half and comfortable, just needing a couple more to kill it off.
Second half was more of the same – getting into good areas but just lacking that killer instinct when it mattered for the final pass/chance. The game started getting a bit tetchy, with a few niggly tackles, and plenty of handbags, flying about as a result (as well as a few headlocks an throat-grabs). We were probably lucky to get away with not conceding a pen - Aron and their forward tangled legs in the area, so naturally the ref gave a drop ball outside the box. Quinno managed the situation like only he knows how and returned the ball to their goalkeeper.
Can’t remember much more. Me and Ed Mac came off for Pysesy and Rhino. While still comfortable, we were never safe at 1-0, until Matt settled the nerves, putting us out of sight with 10 to go. Still managing to make runs into the opposition box, he was slipped a through ball from Jack which he calmly side-footed (O + R2 finesse) through Chocolate Wrist’s lettuce hands.
Also thoroughly enjoyed a moment to remind us we’re all human, when the man with the softest touch in Merton even made a hash of it for once. Bruiser made a near post dart/came short for a corner – however it was fizzed in with slightly more zip than anticipated. The ball cannoned in and volleyed back out off his shin while he tripped over it. Very enjoyable from the sidelines.
Job done, and back to the local Spoons for a few Burger & Beers and a bit of wi-fi (absolutely nothing on Tinder in the local area). Ethon took a leaf out of Anstey’s book and ordered the veg curry. The fish and chips was delightful if anyone’s interested and I don’t know if people only get paper plates and plastic cutlery in Birmingham, but Jack was mesmerized by the apparently exquisite art deco crockery.
Apparently we’re back in Oxted once more this season. We won’t play a team that bad again this year but can only beat who’s in front of you as they say, and we’ll take the 3 points all day long. Next.
Manager's Note: Man of the Match was Paul Mclean who edged out Kieran Quinn by one vote 5-4. One can only assume the appreciative murmur his crisp new shirt received in the changing room settled it for any swing voters. With their 9 votes secured between them, Merton's newest strike force shared a romantic trip home together on a VIP train while the rest of us chugged along in the slow train behind. Matt celebrated his goal by taking to Twitter, not as you might expect to talk his followers through his clever run and finish in 140 characters, but to berate anyone who had dared say a bad word about West Ham that day. Manager Anstey is said to be managing Poysden's workload over the next few weeks to avoid burnout.
Good job fellas, let's get another unbeaten run going. One more league game before a two week foray into the cups.