Fresh off the back of an away victory Merton were keen to add to their points tally with a home fixture against Frenches Athletic. The eagerness even led to Anstey trying to move kick off forward by half an hour. This wasn't the end of the world as a bunch of the lads watched the first 30 minutes of United v Leicester in the Kings Head. Their number didn't include debutant and non-Whatsapp group inductee Whittingham who didn't get the memo and instead spent the extra prep time down at Fishponds on his own. Sorry Paul! (from Anstey).
Anstey's enthusiasm did not however extend to Harry, who declared himself unwell an hour before kick-off (more to come on this later).
We arrived at the pitches with the United commentary ringing round the dressing room (4-1), to which the referee seemed very pleased by, so much so that he decided to stay in the changing rooms on his own until kick off.
The game got underway with a cautious start by both teams, no real chances created in the first half an hour. Frenches were completely overloading the centre of the pitch with their striker and attacking midfielder dropping very deep and and both wingers tucking in. A slight tactical adjustment for Merton saw Ed Mac abandon his natural instincts to charge round and cover every blade of grass to sit and give us some extra protection in middle of the park. The subtle change worked well and the defence stood resolutely despite some sustained pressure.
The deadlock was broken after around 30 minutes from a set piece. Matt’s early practice pinging balls from corner flag to corner flag on his own paid dividends with a lovely in swinging ball that Whittingham met with measure heading the ball down into the bottom corner, 1-0.
Harry arrived shortly after looking rather sheepish, which meant the defence could now play a
slightly higher line due to us now having a linesman (or so we thought). The duty seemed to tire
Harry out quite quickly, the first to notice being the referee, who pointed out the fact Harry had
dropped his flag and decided to see if he could beat his U16’s kick up record.
Half time, 1-0
The second half started with some nice passing moves by both teams, if not for Ed Mac shielding better than Captain America the opposition might have had more success. Merton started to carve out some clear cut chances with both Jox and Matt narrowly missing one on ones.
Matt coming off with about 20 mins left for Harry with Quinno moving out wide with a view to tightening up the middle of the park. As the half played out Frenches Athletic became more desperate, with the right winger coming up against Al and performing a dive that was good enough to take the bronze in Rio.
Merton didn’t make things easy for themselves either as the game drew to a close with the back four deciding not to talk to each other for 15 mins. This silence was only broken by Aron’s bizarre shout of “Show a bit of interest Merton” directed at anyone in a more advanced position
Towards the end of the game we were kept in it by a flurry of great saves from Ethon,
for one of which Jox was particularly grateful after a trick on the half way line gave away possession and set up a counter attack.
Anstey and Aron were relieved to receive some respite to try and push the team further up the pitch but to Anstey's horror Ethon quickly tried to set Hector BellerQuinn away down the flank as if we were 1-0 down with 3 minutes left and not 1-0 up. This then led to something reminiscent of a playground squabble with two five year olds telling each other to shut up, only
ending due to the daggers Anstey was getting from Ethan’s dad from behind the goal.
That wasn't the end of the handbags either. Harry was annoyed at the team's decision to punt the ball long to try and relieve some pressure, imploring everyone to "stop shitting themselves." Somewhat ironic after his upset tummy earlier in the day.
The game drew to a close with Merton hanging on for the win, 1-0. 3 points in the bag.
As we recovered from a hard fought 90 minutes on the touch line the referee made his way over to offer some advice in the form of “get more subs because that winger Moulsey was tiiiiired.” In fairness it could have been said for a lot of the team.
We made our way to the Kings Head for a victory pint, however it seemed that Harry had other
ideas, sitting in the corner of the pub on his own. He was overheard having a quiet word with
himself about how he was going to make it through the rest of the evening with his hangover and
how he still couldn’t believe that Anstey had made him pay £5 for playing 15 minutes. It later
transpired that a quick game of table tennis at Bounce had got rather out of hand on the Friday
A great result ground out by the lads, COYM.
Man of the Match comfortably went to Ed Mcintosh, who after a frenetic start settled into his Gareth Barry brief with composure and controlled aggression, disrupting would-be attacks with regularity. Honourable mentions to Matt who supplied a sumptuous corner for the goal and looked a constant threat, Ethon who made some fantastic saves especially right at the end of the game and Whittingham who scored the winner and helped deliver a clean sheet on debut. Rest of the defence stood firm and Quinno continued his strong start to the season with another good display in the hole.
Plenty of positives to take but despite 6 points from a possible 9 we still haven't really got our season going yet. Couple of cup games where obviously we want to win but it also offers an opportunity to iron out a couple of things before we return to the league to attack our next few fixtures as the table starts to take shape. Something that applies to everyone all the time is our attitude on the pitch. We potentially have 5 or 6 people vying to play down the middle. In our favoured 4-2-3-1 formation this is obviously impossible. I'm always happy to discuss before or after games other options but if you find yourself playing in a position that isn't the one you want or isn't the one you think you should have then just commit 100% that week. If you need examples look at Aron when he plays right back, or Eddie at left back last season or Bruiser who ends up playing a different position every week. Zero fuss, they just get on with it. Eventually your chance will come to play in your preferred position it's just that in a particular moment or in a particular game, the team may need you elsewhere. Hope that didn't come across too ranty I just think it can really affect team morale when shoulders drop.
Harry, not gonna have another pop at you as Aron has dug you out very nicely in the match report. Please lads, if you're drinking on a Friday just keep a lid on it. We only had 12 this week so we were one early injury away from playing with 10. If we want to challenge for titles we can't risk dropping points against teams we should beat.