In recent weeks, the majority of the day’s drama has already taken place before a ball has been kicked (see #puddlegate away at Ewell and Minchin & Co Laundrette Services Ltd). This week, the trend continued. Amid menial chat in the group about who was getting what train from where, Merton’s most eligible bachelor announced his ownership of a new squeeze by adorning her in his famous number eight shirt. If only our faceless female knew how sacred that jersey is, she would also know that’s the most romantic gesture HP8 is likely to bestow upon her. This was of course greatly appreciated by the lads, none more so than one Kyle Hart (one of the top three left backs in the club), who saw fit to pronounce Parkin MOM before he had even got out of bed.
Meanwhile, across town, another member of the left-back legion, Al, along with commander-in-chief, Anst, was having a somewhat less enjoyable time of things. Cruising toward London Bridge with time to spare, somehow between themselves they had conspired to leave both kit and balls (and brains) at their homes and were forced to scamper back and collect those unmissably large bags. The rest of the squad, having made it down to Oxted in good time, greeted upon arrival by a delightful Christmas market and a less-than delightful playing surface, headed off to get changed into the kit they didn’t have. However, being the consummate professionals they are, rather than wasting time, the Merton boys pilfered a ball from the oppo and proceeded to blaze it wide and over for half an hour before Gooding and Anstey, tails firmly between their legs, arrived to ruin the fun and enforce a genuine warm-up.
With a string of notable absentees this week (in Broughy’s defence, he has played two consecutive games, so he was due a week off) it is testament to The Soash’s squad depth that we were able to line up as follows:
Poysden Anstey Ball Cleary
Okafor Moules Massey
Subs: Gooding, Parkin, Mayne
Given our abject preparation, the smart money was on a slow start from Merton, but this did not materialise. Chances were few and far between in the opening exchanges, mostly because the pitch was a certified stinker, but Merton looked both assured at the back and threatening in attack. Called in to replace the Revision King, Nick ‘Wrecking’ Ball was putting in more big hits than Westlife in the early noughties and looking every bit at home next to the calming presence of the gaffer. With the game trudging along at a relatively slow pace, Moules collected the ball in the middle of the park. Striding towards goal, ignoring the better options either side of him, the bestockinged forward let off a pot-shot from range. Depending on who you ask, it was a case of either Roberto Carlos vs France or Massimo Taibi vs Southampton, but for the purposes of this report, we’ll settle with an ABSOLUTE SCREAMER. One way or another, the bladder was in the onion bag, and Merton had the lead.
Now, despite having been told he was on the bench, with the morning he’d had, there was no keeping resident stud Parkin out of the limelight. As Merton set up to defend a corner, he bellowed from the sideline that Duncan and Jox should switch, thus putting Jox on post duties. Duly, over comes the cross, Oxted’s big man rose highest, and it’s a go- cleared off the line by Jox! A tactical masterstroke some might say. However, these warning signs were not heeded and, a few minutes later, an almost identical scenario transpired, the one difference being the man on the post. The less said about our goalscorer’s defensive abilities, the better. 1-1 at HT.
Unchanged at the break, the second 45 soon adopted a familiar pattern. The O’s dominated the ball, playing largely in front of the Merton defensive unit, while the red men retained a threat on the break. It wasn’t long before the gaffer rang the changes: Harry, Al and Louis replaced Jox, Duncan and Dom respectively. It also wasn’t long before Harry received his customary ‘don’t talk to me like that, 8’ ticking off from the man in black. Oxted continued to apply pressure but Merton stood firm, with Captain Winters covering every blade and the back four putting in header after tackle after interception to keep the scores level. The O’s gaffer was overheard crediting our point to Ethon and who could argue with him, as the young keeper, fresh from chirpsing Mrs Jox in the warm-up, made a string of crucial saves to further frustrate the home team’s front line. At the other end, with the match petering out, Bruiser pounced on a sleepy defender and bore down on goal, clipped it over the onrushing keeper and, unfortunately, wide of the post – a McLeaner connection there, and Merton may have snatched all three.
It wasn’t to be and the game ended all square. I heard a handful of people declare that a draw was a fair result, so I’m happy to go with that. Given the circumstances (for those slow on the uptake, the pitch was fucking shit) a high work rate was always going to be paramount, and everyone put a commendable shift in. We go again next week.
Other notable goings-on included Alex recycling possession for a quick throw-in while he was on the bench. Nothing wrong with that, except when it's for the opposition and we're struggling to get back in position. And then after receiving an earful doing it again shortly afterwards. There was also talk of Jox successfully handballing on his own goal-line.
Congrats Ethon on a very good MOM performance but I also thought Bally was superb. Wasn't to be in terms of the result but we should take heart from the day. On a shocking pitch we looked solid at the back and dangerous going forward just couldn't get the crucial second goal. Work rate especially from those in midfield was incredible in order to allow our forward players to stay nice and high.
Play like that and most weeks we will get the points. MTID.