Another Saturday, another mid-morning scramble to find players.
Friday 10.30pm = 13 players
Saturday 11.30am = 11 players
We had been previously buoyed by the news that this year’s foray into the County Cup would not mean a 100 mile convoy journey to Mordor, but a little jaunt down the A3 to play Old Thorntonians 4th team.
Online intelligence suggested that this was not the most gifted of football teams, however as we currently sit bottom of our division we are in no position to judge.
With the bare 11, the team picked itself:-
We introduced new boy Mark as the lone striker, and went with 3 in the middle to ensure we did not get overrun….
It didn’t work.
From the outset Old Thorns launched long balls into the channels, which was causing serious problems on a slick pitch.
Within 15 minutes of the start we were 2-0 down.
We had not dealt with the long ball properly and this lead to easy goals going in (which has become a theme for us this season).
Going forward, we looked pretty decent, and started to cause the opposition to make mistakes.
At this point Saiful seized upon a lacklustre pass and after jinking past the last defender, he was clean through down the left hand channel.
What happened next will haunt the diminutive midfielder for as long as my voice will hold out.
Instead of opening up his body and placing the ball into the far corner of the goal, he managed to scuff, shank and miscue his shot all at once, and the resulting shot didn’t come close to troubling the keeper.
Both teams then traded attacks, however as we managed to waste chances with poor passing in the final third, the opposition scored almost every time they crossed the halfway line.
With Old Thorns flying into tackles off the ground studs showing, the ref saw fit to have a word in Taylor’s ear about the behaviour of Merton players. Still struggling to understand why!
Luck also wasn’t on our side. A few chances went begging as Jacob’s shot was just cleared round the post by the keeper and through balls to Elwell, Fist and Taylor narrowly missed their mark.
Goal after goal was scored by Old Thorns and the first half finished with Merton 5-0 down.
It had been an amateurish performance by Merton, getting the basics completely wrong at both ends of the pitch.
Fisty fancied a run on the wing, and as nobody could ever describe Taylor as a DM, Elwell was moved to play the ‘Pirlo’ role.
Taylor was nursing an injury and Mark was chomping at the bit for some space to exploit, so Mark was moved to the wing and (wait for it) Taylor was moved to play as a false nine….
Have you finished laughing??!!.....
Well, snigger no more.
Old Thorns clearly thought the game was won and did not even try to play football in the second half.
Merton, however had some pride to rescue, and we started to use the space around us to great effect.
Elwell was spraying passes, leaving the opposition with no hope of getting near us.
Fist and Mark were afforded time and space on the flanks and they didn’t disappoint, as they found the cracks in the opposition defence.
Both Jacob and Saiful drove the play forward, using Taylor to hold up play when needed, and both full backs were able to venture forward and make themselves useful in the opposition half.
However it still looked as though Lady Luck was flashing her knickers at us on the way out. Fist and Pyesy didn’t get the rub of the green on chances which would have surely resulted in goals.
Our first real chance of the half came in the unlikely form of Taylor, heading Elwell’s corner goalwards at the front post. The little fella on the front post showed exactly why you put a guy on the post as he managed to clear the goal-bound attempt.
The same little fella was then able to clear Jacob’s header, again from an Elwell corner, Chegwidden rose salmon-like to flick the ball just inside the far post, but again we were foiled by the guy on the post.
Corners were awarded to Merton aplenty, however the opposition had the aerial advantage and few more resulted in a positive chance.
Meanwhile, the opposition attacks, and by attacks we mean punted long balls, were being comprehensively snuffed out by Hall and Abbey; Larkin and Pye could then clear up the loose ball and mount another attack.
Merton then had a glorious chance, as Jacob threaded a ball through the defence into the path of the onrushing Taylor. As Taylor turned he found the immobile Scottish centre back to his rear and was clean through on goal. With shirt being pulled, heels being clipped and the pressure of potentially being Merton’s top goalscorer mounting, he shinned an effort towards goal. It was an easy height for the keeper to palm the ball away for a corner. It should have been a penalty, but if you don’t go down, the ref won’t award it.
By this point Merton’s one-touch passing was Barcelona-esque.
I think almost every Merton player was involved in the build up to the goal, however as I cannot be bothered to go through every pass, we’ll just stick to the goal.
Saiful received the ball from Jacob, who played it to Taylor. Seeing Fist belting through the middle into the box he played a delicate ball over the defender’s head into the path of Fist. We sometimes forget what a finisher Fisty is, as he took an awesome first touch, then gently chipped the ball over the keeper into the net.
Fully deserved after bossing the entire second half.
More chances came as Mark bolted past three players then let fly from distance, and a couple of goal-line scrambles just didn’t go our way.
The ref blew the whistle on an entertaining match, proving that this really is a game of two halves.
After disgracing ourselves in the first half, we played the football that we know we are capable of in the second half, but wait ‘til you hear this…
Old Thorns bought Papa John’s pizzas for their opposition. Seriously!
Large pizzas from Papa John’s.
As we munched the pizza and asked AVS why we can’t have a club like this, the comments from each player made it an easy decision for man of the match.
Man of the Match
Let’s just forget the first half as we were all rubbish.
In the second half Elwell pulled the strings, Saiful was everywhere and Fisty finished off a superb team goal.
But the best player on the pitch in the second 45 was Jacob Chegwidden.
Every pass went forwards, he played round the opposition with ease and was very unlucky not to open his Merton scoring account.