After being dumped out of the Surrey County Junior Cup at the first hurdle last season, Merton Social 1s were understandably confident heading into the Surrey County Senior Cup First Round clash against Farleigh Rovers Reserves.
The opposition were an unknown quantity. Their first team compete at Elite League level and our oppo compete in the corresponding Reserves league. Spirits were buoyed though as Team Cheerleader and all round great guy Eddie Suich came down to watch his first game of the season.
Eddie was not the only diminutive winger Merton were welcoming back for their first game of the season. Jack Massey arrived at the ground two hours before kick off and from what I can gather spent the best part of it admiring his new boots. A rather trendy pair of “MAS” customised £245 + P&P Adidas blackouts, fitted with Adidas’ patented new ankle-support technology. The veracity of which was to be put to the test later on.
Matt, having purchased the same boots but without his initials stitched in, looked rather crestfallen that he no longer had the best boots in the dressing room.
While Jack laced up his new purchase he quizzed Aron over the type of wood he’d had delivered for his new floor. Rumours that Massey was later seen in B&Q ordering the same wood but slightly more expensive are yet to be confirmed.
At the other end of the Jacktrum, our other one arrived 15 minutes before kick off, which in fairness is quite early for him.
What looked a really strong squad meant that Anstey had real troubke picking a starting XI but eventually he settled on the following. We lined up as follows:
Aron Anst Bruiser Al
Matt Quinno Jack
After a really good warm-up where Merton’s passing looked sharp and quick, rather annoyingly Merton began the game with some blunt and slow passing.
It was clear early on we had a game on our hands. Farleigh’s defenders were quick and strong and snuffing out our early attacks, the No9 who was built like a house was causing problems with his hold up play and their Number 4 was dominating the centre of the pitch. Merton were hoping that they were just experiencing a sluggish start and that the tide would soon turn. However after about 20 minutes the No 10, who Aron had so far kept admirably in check started to showcase his array of flair, cut in from the left and put the visitors ahead, via Anstey’s arse giving Ethon no chance.
And before long it was 2-0, the same No 10 finding space between defence and midfield and shooting at goal. This was something we weren’t too upset with as he had been unsuccessful with a number of pot shots from distance but we maybe pushed our luck. Ethon will be disappointed as he pushed the ball against the post and in.
After being so miserly at the back or the first few games of the season, rather incredibly Merton were 3-0 down inside 30 minutes. Number 4 who I believe was called Stylezy marauded forward from midfield committing the defence to close the angle. He slipped the ball through to the big Number 9 who finished with aplomb.
There were cries from the touchline and up front that Merton were defending too deep but it felt at the back that we didn’t have much choice dropping off as we were giving away possession so cheaply and the visitors were surging forward in numbers. Ethon was making saves to stop the scoreline becoming even bigger.
We had to dig deep and re-grouped somewhat. We took the pragmatic view that the Number 10 had to be stopped in his tracks and it was better to give away fouls than to let him have the freedom of Fishponds. This stemmed the flow and we started to get back into the game. Quinno looked the most likely to unlock the defence and was linking up well especially with Jack Hands. A long throw from Quinno was met by Anstey who drew a save from the keeper, Moulsey had a couple of efforts go narrowly wide before Quinno stung the palms of the keeper himself who tipped it over.
From the resulting corner Merton had a lifeline. Mousley broke down the left channel and dinked the ball to the far post where Jack made no mistake. 3-1. Merton threatened again from a corner two minutes later but Anstey was unable to control his effort from 6 yards out and ballooned over.
Merton felt if they could go in at half time 3-1 then it could be game on.
However disaster struck as Anstey made a mistake trying to step in front of his man and nick the ball. Always a high percentage tactic it didn’t come off and the No10 had an easy run in on goal to grab is hatrick.
Half time 4-1 down and we had to ring the changes as we had talented players on the bench who deserved the chance to turn the game around. Harry, Duncan and Massey replaced Quinno, Alex and Matt and Merton set about trying to find a way back into the match.
The subs all made a really good impression with Duncan very assured and dynamic at left back, Harry shoring up the middle and Massey bringing some extra pace to the wing.
I can’t quite remember the exact order of the goals from then on but Merton started the 2nd half really well. Anstey dispossessed the number 10 and released Massey down the right. I’m pretty sure it was his first touch as he raced away down the right and squared for Jack Hands who came off his other wing and finished well again.
I’m pretty sure that the opposition got anther goal before Jack set Moulsey away down the left. He raced away from the defence before unbridled an absolute thunderbolt with his left foot to the opposite top corner to make it 5-3.
Again, as soon as Merton got themselves back within touching distance, Farleigh hit back with another goal to keep us at arms length. The winger came in from the right and smashed a shot over the bar, but in doing so was met with Danny’s meat cleaver of a right foot. The ref could have not given it but a penalty was probably fair. The Number 10 who we had now learnt was called “Judgey” slotted away his 5th of the game and Farleigh’s 6th.
Disaster then struck as Jack, having switched wings with Massey was scythed down at some cost to Merton. At 6-3 there was no point risking him and in truth it probably wasn’t an option anyway. One ray of sunshine was Jack enjoying a ride back to the changing rooms on the back of George’s lawnmower.
This meant that Merton had to play the remaining 20 minutes with only 10 men and it was testament to us that we only conceded the one more. Final score 7-3.
Obviously not a good day for the defence and I’m not sure I remember us being overrun like that in midfield for a long time. But despite that there were some positives. We really struggled in possession at first but definitely improved. I think Danny particularly grew into the game on the ball and sprayed some excellent passes as the game went on. KQ, Moulsey and Jack were linking up well and that continued in the second half and our front 3 looked really dangerous.
I think this was probably Moulsey’s best game for Merton with very limited service as he picked up a goal and an assist and rightfully secured MOM. Duncan was a close 2nd and really impressed when he came on. Jack got 2 goals and an assist and came in 3rd which shows you how well the other two played.
Tactics wise I think we set up fine but didn’t adapt to the game. The opposition were playing 4-4-2 which you don’t see much but our full backs were still picking up the wide men, leaving Paul and I man for man with their 2 strikers in acres of space. We should have shut up shop and brought the full backs in tighter. Their two strikers were very good players but I don’t think we did ourselves any favours.
The bad news is that both Jacks look like they may be injured for a while with ankle problems but we have plenty of players who are able to fill their shoes.
Best to forget that game as much as we can and focus on Saturday’s massive match against AMY. We’ve had some cracking games against them in the past and this will be no different. MTID.