It was the first game back after Xmas and New Year and with Merton finishing 2015 in fine form, we were hoping to kick off 2016 with a bang and keep the title push going. There was a slight concern about the states of everybody coming into the game but everybody arrived in good time and surprisingly looking fresh and not too heavy from too many mince pies. It probably helped Anstey that he has a nut roast nowadays.
The warm up was an exciting time as it was finally led by the returning Argentine hero that is Jack Matterson. Kyle was particularly excited taking notes on the experimental moves- such as knee ups and heel flicks.
As we stretched Anstey went through the line up starting with a 4-4-2. Tom Powell made the step up from the 3s to make his 1s debut in goal. We had a strong backline in the absence of Aron and Broughy with Matt and Kyle at full backs and Anstey and Bruiser at the back. Eddie had a chest infection having been ill all week because he can't handle drinking from the previous weekend and told Anstey he could only handle 45 minutes so started on left wing with Quinno on the right, Danny and Harry in the middle and Jox and Louis up top.
Matt Bruiser Anstey Kyle
Quinno Danny Harry Eddie
Unfortunately we made the nightmare start. Only a couple of minutes into the game and the tricky right winger outpaced Kyle and put the ball into the box giving the left winger a simple tap in at the back post. 5 minutes later and we were 2-0 down. Again coming down the right hand side, the tricky winger played the ball out to the overlapping full back who put a great ball in the box and the striker managed to lose Anstey. His effort cannoned back off the crossbar but unfortunately hit the back of Tom and went in the back of the net for a very unlucky own goal.
After this, Merton soon woke up realising that they needed to up the intensity. We had lost headers and tackles in the first 10minutes but soon got going again. Anstey and Quinno were telling everyone to calm down and start playing our game- it was a nice big pitch and we started looking dangerous with Jox making some good runs down the right hand side. Louis shot just wide after good work from Jox down the right. In fairness Colliers Wood also continued to pose a threat and nearly went 3-0 up after a great dummy by their tidy striker saw their midfielder run though but shoot wide.
Merton thought they had got themselves back in the game when Bruiser took a beauty of a free kick. He saw his curling 25 yard strike miraculously saved onto the post by the Colliers Wood keeper only for it to fall to Jox with a simple tap in from 2 yards out. Somehow Merton's top scorer this season fluffed his shot and saw it harmlessly role back into the keepers hands. A real let off for Colliers Wood. Jox's afternoon got worse shortly afterwards when he came off with a hamstring injury- Andy coming on in his place on left wing with Eddie going to the right.
Most of Merton's best play was coming down the right. Andy picked up the ball and sprayed it to the right hand side. Quinno won the header and flicked it on into the path of an onrushing Eddie but he could only fire his shot straight at the keeper. Shortly afterwards, Harry and Eddie combined with Eddie crossing the ball into Louis' path who beat the keeper to the ball. The keeper clipped both his heels for what looked like a sure penalty only for the referee to wave away appeals.
Half time and Anstey led a teamtalk encouraging us to do more of the same of the last 30minutes of the half. Except for a poor start we had played well and just needed to get a goal back. Kiran came on for Louis and went centre back with Bruiser going up top. And Eddie came off for Jack Matterson returning to his favourite right wing position.
The second half started slowly without any major opportunities so Anstey changed it around shortly afterwards bringing Louis back on for Harry and putting Bruiser in midfield. Matt and Kyle were starting to look dangerous on the overlaps and suddenly we found ourselves back in the game.
Anstey played the ball out to Matt on the right who put a delicious ball into the box where Andy made a late run to turn it home from close range. 2-1 and we were back in the game. Shortly after this Danny saw the opportunity to go into a 50-50 with their skinny left back who in fairness is still suffering nightmares after marking Jack Hands two seasons ago and is probably still only about 18 years old. It was safe to say he regretted this and struggled to walk for the rest of the game.
Merton kept trying to find the equaliser with about 15 minutes left. There has been a few good moves resulting in balls being played across goal from Kyle, Louis, Andy and Jack M only for nobody to be able to finish it off.
But we got the equaliser and what a goal it was from the returning hero from Buenos Aires. Andy played a beautiful corner to the edge of the box where Jack M smashed a first time volley into the net. Scholes-esque technique and Merton were back in the game 2-2.
Anstey got himself booked for a late tackle and Kiran gave a few free kicks away for putting his hands on the CW players backs every time- something he didn't agree with when chatting in the pub at the end of the game. From one of these free kicks CW had another chance but Tom made a good save.
Anstey then nearly got himself sent off when the ref gave a foul against him and he foolishly swore at him. The ref- a strange bald little man - stuck his finger in the air like he was calling 'Howzat' in cricket and shouted repeatedly 'you've had one player'. He had a weird squeaky voice and resembled Gollum whilst he howled this 4 or 5 times which was quite entertaining. Luckily Anstey was let off and kept his mouth shut afterwards.
All the pressure was coming from Merton but unfortunately we could not find a winner and everybody left the pitch feeling a bit disappointed realising this was 2 points dropped. I've also just realised I haven't highlighted any rhino-esque forages from Louis- I can't remember any but wanted to highlight the rhino had a strong game. The sole reason for this is due to how irritated Louis gets being called the RHINO! In fact he managed to knock over Anstey's pint in the Wandle. Silly Rhino.
After the game a strong number of the lads turned up at the Wandle and thoroughly enjoyed the superb entertaining FA Cup classic between Sheffield United and Manchester United in what was a thrilling 1-0 victory for the Red Devils. Anstey, Kiran and Moffatt delighted with the performance.
I'd like to explain more of what happened in the pub but genuinely can't remember it. Eddie ate chicken and chips, left without telling anybody around 10.30pm, lost his coat and then vomited all over himself and his room when he got home which he only realised when he woke up. Anstey also left his training top in the Wandle and found out it stays open until 3am when him, Kiran and Danny were finally asked to leave. Anstey left with Kiran in an Uber he ordered from his phone- however when the Uber arrived he had managed to lose him phone only to call it and discover it was randomly miles away at a house party. So having gone to collect it, 2 hours and £35 later they finally got home.
Not the best result this week but we didn't lose which looked likely 10minutes into the game. We showed character to come back into the game and are still on for a strong season in our first one ever in the Premier Division.
Man of the match was Bruiser who I think had one of his best games for Merton and easily won the vote. Highlught was his free kick that was brilliantly tipped onto the post by the keeper. Played three different positions and bossed the game in each. Honourable mention for Moffatt who came on , scored one and set one up. Also I thought Matt had a really good game from right back/right wing back and produced a worldy cross for Moffatt's goal. He impressed so much in fact that Kingston Albion - who had a few of their lads down to watch - were trying to sign him after the game. There tends to be one strange vote per week and Harry wins this week by voting for Jox. Jox incidentally only played 30 minutes during which he missed an open goal and pulled his hammy. In fairness he did take the kits.
Pleased with the overall effort from Saturday lads but mistakes at both ends cost us. Two bad goals conceded and not enough chances taken. We have a chance to finish strong but we're going to have to have an unbelievable run of results now to have a chance of winning the league. This means full committment for 90 minutes rather than 70 or 80. We should be annihilating teams like that. not being 2-0 down inside 10 minutes. I'm not gonna tell people not to go out on a Friday but it's a bit shit when people are turning up hungover/still smashed and struggling when we've got a big squad and good players missing out on the 14.. This isn't aimed at anyone in particular becuase I think most of us know what iit's like to rock up at football under the weather after a few scoops. This weekend we're playing top of the league and I'm pleased/afraid we have great availability so there will be some people disappointed. I'm sorry to those who don't make it but I can only say picking this squad and team is extremely difficult and thanks for continuing to make yourselves available. MTID x