The question really was how do we respond to an embarrassing 6-0 thumping by NPL?
With regular players in short supply this week, we put in a call to the teams above and brought in full-time doctor and part-time defence wrecker Jox Okafor. Add defensive stalwart Jon Purdie and playmaker Harry “Parallel” Parkin into the mix and the squad was looking pretty tidy by Friday evening.
But this is Merton Social and it just wouldn’t be a normal Saturday morning without some kind of ludicrous scratching around for players. However this week it wasn’t us that were the culprits, but our reserve team. The little scamps had only gone out and had a skin-full the night before and had 2 late dropouts.
Luke Coleman kindly volunteered to head over to Goals in Tolworth, #notallheroeswearcapes, but eventually news filtered through that the Reserves had got a full 11, so Luke was back with us.
So this weekend’s opposition was Shaftesbury Town A.
Mixed results meant that they sat just two positions above us in the league table.
After being overrun in the midfield the previous week, we started with a conservative 451 formation. AVS returned to protect the onion bag, and the four in front were Pyesy, Hall, Purdie and Elwell slotted in at left back. Ben and Jacob flanked Webber, Fist and Harry, with Luke starting up top.
En route Jox had realised that he had forgotten his shorts, so had to make a detour to the nearest Sports Direct. It turned out Pyesy had 3 spare pairs in his kit bag, but kept quiet.
The match started and it was clear that both teams had come to win the game.
Tackles flew in right from the start and the home team looked to press forward and catch Merton off-guard. In the early exchanges Shaftesbury tried to get the ball over the top, however after Merton grew wise to this we started to gain possession back and look to mount our own attacks.
After 15 minutes, a ball was launched by the oppo into the right channel. Purdie sprinted over to cover the gap, but the gobby little sh1t wearing the #10 decided to smash Purdie in the face and although he thumbed one of Purdie’s contact lenses out of his eye, the referee managed to hand a freekick to Shaftesbury.
We’re no sure about this one.
The ball was tamely curled into the box towards goal, and as about 12 players rose to meet the ball, every one of them missed the ball leaving AVS with no time to react and the ball hit the net.
Lets be honest, it was a cross. The look of surprise on the freekick taker’s face would suggest he was not going for goal.
With 25 minutes gone, and with Jox fully warmed up AND fully clothed, he replaced Luke up top.
Merton were coping well with the attacking play of the opposition, Fist was clattering the fat ginger lad in the middle (who was actually pretty decent), and Parkin was finding both Jacob and Ben in space. Pyesy was also able to get down the right wing to create the extra man out wide.
At the other end, AVS was being kept a little too busy, having pushed a couple of speculative shots against the woodwork.
Jox’s pace was starting to create space for other players, and it was Ben who galloped down the right wing, and whipped his cross into the box. Jox got to the ball first and his “header” narrowly missed the bottom corner (he blatantly handled the ball and was probably lucky not to be booked).
During the first half club Chairman and father of two Webber was proving to be the opposition’s best player as he refused to clear the ball and spooned multiple volleys into the Merton box.
The halftime team talk was genuinely simple.
Get some f**king composure!
We had some superb players on show this weekend, however as we belted balls out of defence to nobody, and rushed every pass in the final third we weren’t showing what we were capable of.
With only 1 goal in it, we were by no means out of this game.
Second half kicked off with Merton well on top.
As Tony Pulis-impressionist Taylor managed from the sideline, trying to work out whether the opposition had used 3 subs or 4, he watched Fist, Parkin, Ben and Jacob start to dominate the game.
Merton managed to ignore the nonsensical shite being spewed from the opposition bench.
They literally wanted a penalty for every single foul committed by Merton. The closest they came to a real penalty was the moment that they attacker ran into Alex Hall and flopped on the floor in dramatic fashion. Taylor gave him a 5.7 for artistic content of the dive.
By this point Merton’s attacks were becoming more meaningful, and Jox was at the heart of them.
The ball was played down the right in an exchange involving Ben and Harry, who in turn played in Jox 20 yards from goal. The Merton striker took the ball in his stride and calmly slotted the ball past the keeper.
For the remaining 25 minutes of the game, it was end to end stuff, with both teams creating a number of chances to score the deciding goal. Webber turned back the years as he “sprinted” forward and hit his attempt against the post, both teams flashed the ball across the face of goal and linesman-for-the-day Taylor made sure he was on hand to flag anything remotely close to an offside.
The referee blew the final whistle and made a quick getaway before he could be mobbed by the opposition’s management. Honours even was probably the right result considering the chances that both teams had created.
Merton got their first official points of the season on the board and deservedly so.
Man of the Match
For the first time this season, this is a difficult decision.
Ben was getting forward brilliantly, Jox used his blistering pace to great effect and the entire team put in a real shift to get something from this game.
But for being really involved in fine style at both ends of the pitch, man of the match is Tom Pye.
The attitude shown at the weekend was incredible.
When we went behind we didn’t let our heads go down, and when we got back on level terms we looked like we could go on and win the game.