A Tayl of Two Halves
A Bung. A Scandal. An exposé of bureaucratic corruption in our civilised and otherwise unadulterated footballing world. Call it what you will, but the board of directors at Merton Social were shocked, surprised and embarrassed by the actions of last week’s second team Interim manager Ian Taylor when he was outed by the press as being one of the 8 English managers involved in The Telegraph’s sting operation.
After just one game in charge of the twos, it came to light that Mr. Taylor (35) had met with members of an elite business consortium from Middlesbrough, who wanted to try and bend the strict Surrey FA rules to get Andrew Larkin a game of football during his suspension. While Merton Social always abide by the rules, rogue trader Taylor went off at the deep-end, agreeing to their request in the only way that Ian Taylor knows how – by asking them for a supply of rock-hard Mitre footballs and a full tank of Super Unleaded in return.
Upon seeing the news, the press asked some familiar Merton faces their thoughts on the scandal:
“There's no question he brought the Surrey FA and football into disrepute and that's not acceptable. I have very little sympathy.” Gary Webber, Chairman, Merton Social FC
“Fucking fanny, if he’s gonna take a bung why not ask for fucking money. Fucking fanny. I’d have asked for loads of dollar bills y’all and a stack of PS4s, i've got a mate who can shift them at the Batleys boot sale nee bother.” Gavin Larkin, Right-back, Merton Social FC
“There’s no such thing as a free lunch!” Pete D’Souza, Former Kitman, Merton Social FC
After the story broke Merton Social held a meeting and unanimously voted for Ian Taylor to be removed from his managerial post and to be replaced by Gareth Southgate effective immediately. Southgate’s first task as re-instated manager was to re-call Will Fryer to the squad – who had been out for some months with a severe case of knob-rot and there were surprise call-ups for Alex Gooding and Louis Mayne, who became available after the first team game had been cancelled. With the rest of the team looking fairly similar to the week previous, we knew that we’d have a fighting chance against a team boasting an impressive Allardyce-esque record this season of P1 W1.
Merton Started with a flat 4-4-2. Mayne and Tovey brought their one time successful OMD partnership together up top, while the impressive form of Findlatek (as he’s now known) and Moffatt meant that Morty would push out wide to fill the void created by Elwell who sadly missed the game to attend the Cambridge Beer Festival. With Scott out injured, Paul Cooper returned for his first Merton game in 3 years and it looked like he’d never been away! Everyone was raring to go, bar Sam Wowk who was actually due to be in the starting line-up but sadly could only arrive in the second half, thanks to doing a ‘Tough Bummer’ in Windsor that morning. For those that don’t know what it is, it’s a 5k assault course that’s a bit like a Tough Mudder, except the obstacles at each stage are Rugby themed; e.g. Wank on a Biscuit, fingers up the arse, the reach around and of course the 3 legged race - where participants tie their dicks together and have to scissor their way to the finish line.
We started the game brightly so it was absolutely no surprise that we were to take the lead after just 5 minutes – and boy did we take it in spectacular fashion. Merton were chasing every loose ball and when that hard work resulted in a throw-in, Tovey played in Louis Mayne who took a touch, steamed passed his marker and unleased a 25-yard volley over the keeper and into the back of the net. Like a younger, less follicley-challenged Alan Shearer, Louis wheeled away with one-arm raised as the ball smashed into the onion bag so hard that it ripped the tent pegs out of the ground. The opposition had absolutely no clue what had hit them and it was only the start of the onslaught…
The OPFC keeper had only just got the tent pegs back in the ground when Merton had doubled their lead. Again, some sterling work from Findlater in the middle had broken up the play and gifted the ball to Taylor. Ian laid on Wilson who spotted the run out wide from Josh, Wilson’s impeccable, eye-of-the needle pass found our top scorer bearing down on goal and, in classic Josh Tovey fashion, was able to slot the ball into the far corner of the net leaving their keeper with no chance. JT now has 3 goals in 3 games and is becoming a massive player for the social this season!
It was very nearly 3, when Louis wrestled his way past three defenders, shrugging off shirt pulls, ankle kicks and elbows in the process and was hammered to the ground just as he played in josh. The referee gave advantage, rather than a penalty – which was rather odd – and Tovey hit his shot toward goal, the keeper got a hand to it but he couldn’t stop the ball crossing the line before rushing back to kick it out of the net. As Merton Appealed for a goal, unsurprisingly, the opposition linesman said the ball hadn’t crossed the line. Neither fair, nor expected, but OPFC were clearly under the cosh.
Merton did get their reward for a great bit of pressure shortly after though as Jon Wilson grabbed his first goal since returning from injury. A short corner saw Wilson and Findlater play the 1-2, before Jon Wilson rasped a hard shot low at the near post which went under the keeper and into the back of the net.
30 minutes gone and 3 goals to the good, while we were clearly on top, it wasn’t exactly a fair reflection of the first 30 minutes. Paul in goal had made a couple of crucial saves and the non-stop graft from Merton’s defence had been exceptional. Ian Taylor was having his winger on toast, while Alex Hall and John Abbey were dealing with a mortar shelling of the defence exceptionally well, cutting out every forward pass. Ian Taylor was at the heart of every move too, as the right-back made tackle after tackle which started the attacks.
Despite the hard work, cracks were beginning to show as many assumed the job was already done and after Morton and Moffatt subbed themselves off to get a breather, OPFC took advantage of the lack of voices and leadership on the pitch. A throw-in from the right hand side saw Merton fail to pick up a runner who got through one-on-one and finished well over Paul into the back of the net. It was a harsh underserved goal, but a wake-up call going into the second half that the job was only half done and Merton needed to be professional in the second half.
Half time came and the management encouraged some chatter about the game, John Abbey gave some great advice on how he wanted the team to perform defensively and Alex Hall was concerned about the lack of movement up top as the ball was seemingly being returned whenever it went beyond half way. The message was a throwback to “flicks in march” as the team were instructed not to try anything fancy and to hold the ball up well.
Will Fryer and Michael Logan were on the pitch and both were working characteristically hard to do their bit for the team. The later was consistently showing down the right wing for Ian, as the pair forged a nice partnership, while Fryer up top was winning everything in the air and pushing their centre-backs hard. One of them genuinely thought that Fryer was a ringer saying, and I swear this is true, “He must be a ringer or a first teamer, he’s far too good for this level” … I couldn’t believe it either but took great joy in pointing out he once went a whole year up top without a goal! Still, Logan and Fryer’s effort typified the response from Merton as everyone put their bodies on the line to hold the lead.
It was nearly 4-1 when again Merton had a legal goal disallowed as Alex Gooding’s ferocious header crossed the line before being cleared – sadly again, no goal was to be given.
As the game went on we rotated the subs to keep everyone fit but it was one of Merton’s 90 minute constants that was having the game of his life. OPFC had a corner and a free man towered above all to plant a header into the top corner. Everyone watched it go in except Ian Taylor who cracked open a can of spinach, sucked it down his pipe and somehow managed to grow two foot taller and clear the header off the line. Sometimes the defence don’t get credit for the sterling job that they do but this header was as good as a goal, so late in the game we couldn’t afford to give them any more attacking motivation and Ian’s clearance was every bit the match winner as any of the goals had been.
Sam arrived with 15 minutes to go and was promptly brought on, his pace and stamina meant that we could place him in pretty much every position to cover the tired legs as we went into the final stages – a bloody blessing!
The game ended and Merton were Oscar Victorious. 3 goals did the GD some good and we were back up to second in the league making the pre-season target of promotion look very obtainable.
Man of the Match
This week’s MoM was a close vote with Alex Hall and Ian Taylor exceptional in defence and each earning a few votes a piece, however, out in front with over half the votes was Louis Mayne. The on-loan first team striker was exception, his hold-up play was something we’ve sorely missed over the last few weeks and his goal of the season contender really set the tone for the match. Well played mate!