With global thoughts and concerns focussed on the parks half marathon on Sunday it would have been natural to think that the Merton Social B’s clash with Old Boys Clapham Reserves, at the hallowed Real Shame Home Turf, would pass unnoticed. However controversy and intrigue haunted and continued to possess this fixture until one man’s shin assisted the same man’s foot to put an end to the madness.
Behind the scenes the tiresome backroom staff were put under the cosh midweek with threats of fixture swapping due to an extraordinary fixture coincidence and the knock on effect it could have for the Old boys of Clapham’s team selection. Nothing, however could have prepared the Soche for the pitch they would have to play on.
The earth seemed to have been dredged beyond belief and the sprinkling of drizzle added an extra spice to the bewilderment that faced the boys as they watched ball after ball deflect off their shins in the warm up. Unbeknownst to them, this shin practice would prove to assist the most unlikely of moments (since O last week) that would send the Soche into ecstasy (again). As D always says “If you play shit in the warm up, you will play sick in the match.”
Merton did not start well though, it seemed the fear of the ‘ringers’ and the sheer terror of trying to control the ball had got to them. They tried to play the wonderful football that people have come to expect from the Soche but it proved too difficult and quickly mistakes led to frustration, summed up by a totally uncharacteristic professional foul following an appalling touch by Cape. Having received a final warning onlookers could not believe their eyes when he fouled again. It was just so unlike him and to be honest, unlike Merton and to be honest, unlike a football match at all. He was booked and Merton were unfurling slices and shins to all parts.
Toward the end of the first half some balls began to stick, with TK, Billy, Felix and Rob managing to get the odd run on their backline, and as the second half started the Soche were actually on top. A couple of chances were created and as TK had taught him so well just weeks before the young Leach missed a one yarder, Merton had barely removed their heads from their hands when after a great pass by Chino, Billy was put in on goal. He continued roaming around the box for a bit looking like he was going to shoot but decided against it multiple times until he no longer had the ball. Chance gone.
The Old boys needed to react and began to bring on more and more players who clearly belonged in the 1st team, putting the Soche under increasing pressure. The Italian Striker, Tomaso, who had been a theatrical nuisance all match hit the bar on 2 separate occasions and forced some saves out of the once again solid P. Birch in goal. It seemed like the game was over as a firecracker was set off by rude boys behind the goal. Little did they know, their celebrations would prove premature.
Step forward big thr-O-w, the talismanic full back wound up a longen that caused the kind of chaos normally associated with his release on to the D floor of Canavans but this time in the box. Today Billy emerged the lucky from the scrum and proceeded to masterfully caress the ball down his shin and lick it off his toe into the net. Just one Minute remained, but of course the boys could not let that be the end, allowing the oppo’s el grande centre back to head a ball toward the net. It looked in, until JB rose and nodded the ball away from danger. The Soche were jubilant to say the least and marched off to The Surprise, top of the league and proud with the heart they showed to win against all the odds.