At 8am the alarm sounded. The familiar tune of “What is Love” by Haddaway plays. He hears it but lets it play, having one last dream of glory. At 8:15am Tom Pye finally rolls out of bed. His hair a mess and no time for a shave, Tom stumbles to the bathroom across a floor covered in masturbatory-tissues which make the once-brown flooring look like a seabed of mouldy beige. Showered and shite’d, the size 9s dusted and the shinpads packed, he edged toward the front door. As he turned the key, he spotted himself in the porch-mirror. Taking a minute to admire himself, Tom smiled, winked and then blew himself a kiss, “today will be day” he said triumphantly. “Today I dare to dream, today I will be the hero and today – of all glorious and god given days – I WILL, I repeat WILL score the winning Goal for Merton Social…”
*Spoiler alert – he didn’t. He missed an absolute fucking sitter right at the death to cost us the win*
With minutes left on the clock, it was incredible that Merton hadn’t already won the game but the style of football and the togetherness shown was something sorely missing in weeks previous. We started off well by having nearly the full squad of players there at bang on 2pm (even Scott, Morty and Logan who’d had to walk a mere 45 minutes from the train station to get there). Resident taxi driver Sam Wowk was slightly late, he blamed the traffic but we all knew the truth – the second he typed the postcode into his satnav and realised he was heading to a rugby club, he had darted back into the house and hastily packed a bag brim-full of hardboiled eggs, a dildo, some Vaseline, a pack of hobnobs and a queerly striped blazer.
Needless to say, his Uber rating was shit.
Not as shit as the rating Tom Pye gave his driver though, who went to the completely wrong rugby club! (seriously, why do so many people play rugby???). Tom Pye’s misfortune was music to Ian Taylor’s ears – who’d already tried the dirtiest trick in the book by “accidentally” signing his name on the sheet in a starting berth when he was due to be on the bench. Ian escaped a dressing down and just squeezed back into the starting 11. There was a welcome return for a few other names on the teamsheet too -as Michael Logan and Sam Wowk earned a start on either wing for their great attitude in recent weeks and Ed Mac returned for his first start for the two’s this year in a more-unorthodox position at CB.
Now, moving leagues has been the best decision we’ve ever made as a club. For one, the standard of refereeing has been much improved. They’ve all consistently never been lower than 8/10. The Days of Bob Gash are long gone… or so we thought…
As the lads were strapping up their dicks and applying the deep heat, in walked a child presumed missing looking for the parents who’d abandoned him. At least that’s what we thought until he sheepish said, “hiya, I’m your referee”. Everyone’s face just dropped. Not again…. for those of you that were around last season, you may remember this child taking charge of our double header against Parkside Reserves in which he served up such moments as - allowing the opposition to field 5 different substitutes, giving a freekick for the “original foul” after Louis was cleaned out in the box and – my personal favourite – saying “good finish” to Ian after he scored an own goal.
We all got out onto the field and the lads started warming up, Morty and Will were working with Scott, the rest of the lads were in a little rondo in the middle and the referee was on the sideline practicing his linesman flagging. Yep. The one thing he actually wouldn’t be doing at any stage in the game.
As the game kicked off, Merton started sluggishly – a trait we’ve become accustomed too with the social over the last couple of weeks and similar to Worcester park, we went 0-2 down within 10 minutes…
Only a couple of minutes on the clock when we conceded the first. There was a brief inquest as to how the fuck that happened… and to be honest, I’m not sure anyone would be able to tell you. A hopeful ball into the channel was seized upon and their sprightly left winger was able to cross the ball to their unmarked player at the back post who punched the ball in the net with his hand. Of course the ref didn’t spot this, but we were very sloppy letting the man go at the back post.
The second was a similar story, this time a blatant foul in the middle of the pitch wasn’t picked up and again, their dangerous winger was able to get the ball and play in a lad at the back post who blasted it home from 8 yards. Again, we’d been slow to organise and pick up our runners but a shoddy decision hadn’t helped matters.
Amazingly, we conceded a third shortly after this and AGAIN, we were hard done by. This time Ed Mac was shielding the ball out of play when he was pushed over from behind. The lad then skipped in and played the ball to the back post where an unmarked runner was on hand to score.
15 minutes in and 3 goals down. It seemed like a very long afternoon was in store for the red and black of Merton Social. While the referee has to take a lot of the blame for this, as a team we had to take responsibility. Whether it be not holding up the ball in the final third, not tracking runners out wide or simply not communicating effectively across the midfield and defence, Merton were harshly three nil down - but three nil down all the same.
The changing point came shortly after the third goal when the skipper gave a rallying cry. As much as wonderfully eloquent and Henry V-esque it was, it was the way Gary Webber looked away from Morty to ignore him that made all the difference. For Gary spotted his parents on the sidelines, who haven’t been to watch him since he was a 12-year-old. Gary pulled a Pepparami out of his sock and gobbed it down, for when Gary eats a Pepparami… he becomes… Pepparami-man! The midfielder was like a man possessed, running in behind fullbacks making crunching tackles and making storming late runs to the edge of the box, coming close to scoring on a number of occasions.
The whole of the team were lifted and we were passing the ball around calmly across the back four - Alex Hall and Ed Mac had settled in together and Ian and Elwell were consistently offering great options. Out wide, Sam and Logan were driving at their fullbacks and causing all sorts of problems and Josh up top was working tirelessly to run the channels. The central midfield three were showing huge drive and desire, marking their opposite numbers out of the game on the defence and starting some brilliant moves in attack. We were all working toward getting back into the game when many heads could have easily dropped.
We were given a lifeline, with around 15 minutes left of the first half. Fryer was fouled down by the sideline as he competed for a header and the referee blew for a freekick. Taylor whipped in a beauty of a ball to the back post where Gary Webber arrived late and thundered the ball into the back of the net with a diving header. His parents, watching on the sidelines were overjoyed and Webber’s dad winked to the oppo manager and said “that’s my boy” – something he’s never really wanted to admit in the 35 previous years Webber’s been on the Earth.
Merton were a danger from set pieces all day and the opposition were struggling to handle Fryer’s presence in the air. This time it was Logan who was tripped as he was racing through on goal. The referee failed to brandish a card, despite the foul coming from the last man and Merton had a great free-kick in a shooting position 25 yards from goal.
Josh came over fancying a crack, but Morty told him to stick to the game-plan and promised in return, he’d put the ball square on JT’s head.
True to his word, Morty curled the ball around the wall and right on Josh Tovey’s bonce as he nodded past the goalkeeper from 6 yards for his 5th goal of the season. That was 5-in-6 for Merton’s inform striker – you don’t get much change from this lad…
The opposition were trying to deceive the Referee at every opportunity, their skipper in particular was the worst for it. At one point he threw himself on the floor when he wasn’t even touched and the referee just bought it. Morty had a word to say “come on mate, you’re the skipper – lead by example” just to be told “you’re just gutted that I’m smarter than you”…. Okay, we’ll just see how this one plays out son…
There was one last piece of drama before half-time, as one of the rugby boys on the next pitch slipped a finger up the arse of another in the scrum, as Sam raced over to join in the bum fun, tempers flared and a 20-man fight broke out onto our pitch. “The Gentleman’s Game” was anything but as the thuggish toffs traded handbag punches that would make Weightman look like Anthony Joshua. Scum. Have no fear, we were in no danger as our referee stormed over and told them to “get off my pitch”. Just as well the rugby lads listened otherwise it might have been carnage…
The halftime whistle sounded and Merton went in a goal down, knowing that the second half would be all ours.
Immediately it was as Merton pressed and pressed and the opposition had no idea how to contain us, first Morty set away Josh with a through ball which forced a great save from the keeper, then Fryer played in a great knock for the striker as Josh hit it first time but sadly it went over the bar. Chances were coming and Merton wouldn’t have to wait long to be on level terms…
The equaliser came when a throw-in was chested down by Fryer and the defender bundled into the back of our target man. As Fryer fell to his knees quicker than a Thai whore, the referee needed little hesitation to point to the spot. The oppo shouted “MISS, MISS, MISS, MISS AAAAAH YOURE GOING TO MISS” as Josh Tovey ran up, but our main man was un-phased and rolled the ball left of centre into an empty net as the keeper had dived the wrong way. The goal took JT's tally to a goal a game and pulled further away from the pack in the race for the golden boot.
Merton pressed harder and harder and nearly got the winner on a few occasions. First Josh tried to lob the keeper from 45 yards and then the keeper was forced into a save from Morty’s freekick. It was all Merton. Even Samuel Wowk-Messi had a great opportunity to score, amazingly dribbling past 6 defenders into the box before shinning it out for a goal kick (where’s Webber’s shin training when you need it?)
There was 10 minutes left when the best save I’ve seen in amateur football took place. A mix-up on the left wing gave the ball to their only decent player, spotting Scott off his line, he hit a ferocious shot over the top of our custodian. Backtracking, somehow Scott managed to dive like the proverbial cat, clawing the ball out of the air and tipping it onto the post. As the rest of the defence stood still in disbelief, Alex Hall was alert and came sprinting in to clear the ball and remove the danger.
From the resulting throw in, their skipper decided to throw himself on the floor again to try and con the ref. Morty wandered past and told him a few home truths before wandering over to the referee, the skipper shouted “oi, fuck off you cunt”. At which point the referee decided to show him a straight red. As the lad complained and started to walk of the pitch, Morty had the last laugh saying – “remind me who’s smarter again?”
Down to 10-men and with 10 minutes left on the clock we sensed a winner was in the offing, Ed Mac charged forward and was cynically tripped by their new skipper – who to be fair, was arguably one of their best players. He took the yellow for the team and we had a dangerous Freekick. Ed sent in the ball and a corner was won.
This was it, the moment he’d waited for. Tom Pye appeared over the hills like Samwise Gamgee at the top of Mount Doom and shouted “I’m here gaffer, bring me on!”. Off came the impressive Logan and Tom skipped on to the pitch. His dreams coming true. As Josh whipped in the ball, Tom’s eyes sparkled. He saw the ball coming down in slow motion. Unmarked and a yard from goal, Tom spotted glory…. Stars formed where his pupils once were and he knew this was the moment he’d always dreamed of. The ball connected, Tom began to wheel away in celebration…. But from one yard. He’d headed wide. Devastation. He cried...
The referee had lost control of the game and had booked another player for complaining about the corner, with 7 minutes left on the clock he’d had enough and blew the whistle early. The opposition all surrounded him, screaming about not putting the red card through and saying it ruined the game and in a moment akin to Bob Gash v Ewell Saxons in 2014, The referee sent off the manager, another player and proceeded to yellow card the ENTIRE team. Leaving Trinity Reserves with fines of nearly £200. It was mental.
More importantly though, Merton had salvaged a point after all had seemed lost. It all came from hard work, endeavour and a spirit of never giving up. Something we’ve rarely seen in recent weeks but something brilliant to build on as we begin our surge from third up to the top of the league.
Man of the Match.
This week it was really fierce competition for the accolade and it really could have been anyone. The defence were superb after the unfortunate start, the midfield worked tirelessly and josh grabbed another two goals – taking his tally to 6 goals in 6 games! Impressive stuff. But I think most agreed when Will Fryer got the nod. He was indefendable in the air and his fiery spirit across the midfield left a few of the opposition nursing injuries. Well played mate…