The Wangas Worcester Park Vets pictured before departing for the game
Having carried out all of their meticulous pre-match preparation routine - firing a few shots onto the pitch behind one goal, before going down the other end to kick a few balls at some cars - Merton were ready for kick-off. There was, however, no sign of the opposition. Unfortunately, today’s opponents, the Wandgas Worcester Park Vets, were late.
Whether the experienced side’s tardiness was down to a grandson’s birthday party overrunning, something to do with Werther’s Originals, or the broken down car they had actually attributed it to, we don’t know. We do know this though: it affected the home team’s concentration.
Thankfully, the referee stepped in. One of the few men in south London too old to turn out for the Vets gave a rousing pre-match team talk to get the home team up for the game again.
When the match did eventually begin, Wandgas were as slow to get going as their team bus. Merton had all the early possession and were starting to knock at the away team’s (antique) door - TK saw a shot go narrowly wide, before Tom Leach pounced on a defensive error only to see his shot saved by the foot of the goalkeeper.
It wasn’t long before the ball was in the back of the away net. A knock down from a free kick found its way to TK, whose deflected shot from the outside of the box evaded the ‘keeper’s reach.
Merton seemed comfortable and in control but the Vets remained a constant and angry presence. What they lacked in hair, they made up for in aggression and gamesmanship.
After a hopeful free-kick was punted downfield, Griff, Wandgas’ aggressive centre forward, pushed Theo in the back, flicked the ball on and the score was 1-1. The referee, forgetting his pre-match message of fair play, refused to blow for a foul. A frustrating 10 minutes followed the goal before Oly Cape rose at the back post - like a young Griff - to nod in a corner and restore the lead right on half time.
With his biggest tactical masterstroke since getting the ref to give the team talk before the game, TK switched to a 4-4-2 for the second period. Swan and Tom up front continued to cause the opposition problems and it wasn’t long before the two combined to make it 3-1. Wandgas began to tire and gaps opened up, allowing Daniel to add one more to the score.
As the game drew to a close, there was still time for a pitch invasion from a young Wandgas fan protesting a refereeing decision. The away team’s children (or grandchildren?) seemingly as angry as their elders.
Merton will surely face more skilful (and younger) opposition, but this was a good win, particularly as the Soche never really hit full stride. On to Saturday’s game against the Wanderers Reserves.