And so it was, upon the thirteenth day of the month of Janus twenty eighteen, that the band of brothers Soash rode out to the rolling Surrey hills for a 1st round tie in the Geoff Ellis Junior Shield.
Greeted by a quagmire (giddity) Merton performed their ritualistic stretching and groaning on the neighbouring kids’ pitch.
Soon after, the game was underway and Merton began it, as they have all others it seems this season, rather sluggishly. And, as sure as night follows day, Soash soon conceded the first goal of the game.
Nutfield collected the ball in midfield and played the ball down the left channel. Their lively blonde winger picked it up and slid a ball into the box for their centre forward to turn and place a low shot through legs to Phil’s right. A soft goal to concede. Not soft because it came from a single mistake but soft as we had no shape across the park and players had made soft challenges in the lead up to it.
These days though Soash make light of early goals conceded.
What then ensued, after a bout of moaning, was a concerted effort to play football. JD and Rob began to see a lot more of the play and their composure on the ball brought into play our wide men. And when Merton use their wide men effectively, to create overloads, numeric mismatches on the flanks in the final third, trequartista TK is in his element: picking up balls around the 18 yard box, squaring up defenders, creating shooting opportunities and dinking dangerous balls into the mixer. Felix and TK were both denied by a Nutfield keeper who, even by admission of his own, was having a blinder. One other noteworthy opportunity fell to Fred, who saw his header spectacularly saved by the de Gea pretender.
Other chances came and went, but let’s put it out of our minds the many chances spurned by Tom and instead turn to the lamentations of Jeremiah. Joy is gone from our hearts when we limp past teams that last season we would have put to the sword. Our dancing has turned to mourning.
And so off we trudged at halftime, 1 nil down, to hear all too familiar words off TK…at least we had oranges we mused…succulent juicy segments of loveliness.
Returning to the field of play refuelled and with a TK flea in our collective ear, Soash started the 2nd half much the brighter. And, at such times when Merton play it simple, they create opportunities. Rob and JD continued to pull the strings in the centre of the park. Whilst down the flanks Felix, Fred and Daniel were making nuisances of themselves. There followed a succession of corners and free kicks around Nutfield’s box. Praise be, all the time Soash spend pre-match to practice dead ball situations; for every delivery avoided the first defender and a scoring opportunity was created with each.
However, it was not until midway through the 2nd half that Merton were able to capitalise upon their dominance. From a corner, the ball found its way to TK on the edge of the box near the byline. He hooked the ball into the 6 yard box which Carl flicked on so that yours truly could stab home. 1-1 and all that Merton deserved.
Merton were a little guilty then of relaxing after their goal and Nutfield took advantage by applying some pressure themselves. On one occasion JB had to scramble back and hooked a ball away from an onrushing attacker. Whilst Phil was called upon to marshal his box, bravely snaffling up a number of long balls played over the top.
10 mins from the end, with all filled with the thought of penalties, a worldie from outside the box from a stick thin kid. Not what Merton deserved on the balance of play but chances missed don’t win games.
Rather than mentally concede the tie Merton went on again, chucking men forward in the final throes of the game. Nutfield were panicking in defence, conceding silly free kicks around the box. It was from the final one of these delivered by Felix, Merton were to be rewarded. A ball fizzed in flat, flicked on by Daniel, arrived at the feet of yours at the back post. A heavenly first touch, followed by a quick shift of the feet, allowed for a 2nd to be a low shot to the keeper’s left.
What then followed in most eyes (but not in Daniel’s, as he freely admitted to in the boozer afterwards) were scenes.
The ref duly called time and penalty line ups were then contemplated and agreed.
Soash were first up and up stepped JD with the first conversion, a Barnes Wallis of an effort. TK, Rob and then Felix followed with confident strikes. Meanwhile Nutfield had missed their 2nd attempt, to a fine save from Phil.
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers Soash then toddled off to a nearby drinking hole to toast victory and swap tales. A jolly afternoon was had by all.
Go in peace Soash bros.
Amen (& UTS)