As the few match reports that we have written tend to start with some kind of negative about people dropping out, or a mad scramble for players, we’ll will try and start this one on a high.
So, the weather on Saturday was ….. shite.
The morale in the squad was …… rock bottom.
We took a squad of …… the bare 11.
Wow, we really do make these reports difficult don’t we??!!
The genuine positive was that we had kept a large majority of the squad from the previous week, meaning that we could finally start to build a bit of consistency.
Ben had sadly succumbed to a bout of flu (although we have not ruled out the possibility of knob rot, none of us are doctors after all).
Wilson and Taylor had fallen off their sick beds to make the less-than-convenient trip to a fairly stabby part of Stockwell to face Old Boys Clapham, ironically a bunch of young guys and a new opposition for us.
When things don’t look great, you go back to old faithful, and for us that’s a 442, with AVS back in goal, Pyesy returning to RB, Taylor sniffing away at LB and Hall & Abbey (from now on ‘Halley’) at CB. Fist moved to his preferred position of RW, with Wilson on the opposite side. Saif and Jacob continued their midfield partnership, with Luke and Mark looking to put the opposition defence under some pressure.
The game started and to our surprise the oppo wasn’t anywhere near as good as we had expected.
Yep that's right, just as we were thinking that the Old Boys weren’t that good, we decided not to make a tackle on 6 separate occasions and allow their striker to shin his volley into the bottom corner.
Our commitment to the cause after the goal went in was commendable; however the standard of football we were playing was shocking.
Saif was struggling to connect feet and brain (his words, not mine), the entire defence was taking silly risks, and when we did take an attacking freekick, it was generally way off the mark giving us no chance of pinching a goal.
For the next 15 minutes, we survived by allowing AVS to save the day.
He made superb save after superb save, as we were bombarded with long balls and corners, whilst struggling to mount any real attack.
Once we had frustrated the opposition though, the momentum started to shift.
The opposition were trying too hard to kill the game off, and kept rifling the ball off the pitch which allowed us to move up the pitch and take the pressure off AVS, whose hands were stinging by now.
Our first real attack came from a Taylor long throw into the box to Evans, who chested the ball down into the path of Luke. One touch and the big man let fly, however with the ball slightly under his feet, he couldn’t get the ball past their keeper. One for the stats though.
By now Hally were equal to every long ball, and were easily outmuscling the OBC attackers, allowing us to spend a little bit of time in their half (what a treat!).
A hopeful ball was blasted over the top for Mark to chase, and looked to be going out of play. But there’s no such thing as a lost cause with this guy and he raced to get the ball, nicking it off the foot of the defender and gaining a throw in, high on the right flank.
Luke sent a missile over towards Jacob, who managed to poke the ball to Wilson about 8 yards out, and the winger gracefully curled the ball into the top right postage stamp.
We finally seem to have learned to score when we are on top, and take advantage of the momentum.
Highlight of the half though was a tackle by John Abbey.
Their little #7 had acted like a bit of a c**t and kicked AVS as the keeper made a good save, drawing a rollocking from the ref.
As the tiny pr1ck latched on to a through ball, Abbey steamrolled the little man, leaving him in the foetal position on the floor, and we think we could hear sobbing.
Karma saw him limp off the pitch and not return – that’s what you get when kick our keeper!
The half time whistle sounded soon after, and Merton could be happy with a decent 5 minute period, whilst knowing the rest of the game had been pretty poor in terms of standard.
Half time team talks with only 11 men are pretty simple, as there’s very little you can do to change anything, so it was a case of – suck it up, and fight for the points.
The second half started and the game opened up immediately.
A basketball-like end to end game ensued, with both teams pressing forward at times.
However at the hour mark, we had frustrated OBC, and they seemed to be running out of ideas.
The problem with bringing 11 men is just that; we only had 11. Old Boys Clapham had brought a squad of 30, and rotated at will.
Saif and Jacob had run a marathon each in the middle of the park, Wilson was doing most of Taylor’s running, and even AVS was blowing with the amount of times he had been called into action.
Tiredness cost us here.
A ball straight down the middle of the pitch, evaded the centre mids and the centre backs, right into the path of the winger who had pulled away from their left flank unmarked. He slotted the ball past AVS.
Football can be a cruel game, and in truth for all of OBC’s possession, their finishing had been absolutely woeful. Their main chances had come from poor crosses nearly looping over the head of AVS.
But the graft from all 11 at this point was superb.
Luke drew applause from the opposition spectators with a silky Zidane turn on the halfway line (although he then gave the ball away, which was a bit of an anti-climax).
Our next meaningful attack came as Fisty smashed the LB in the tackle and raced away down the right wing, leaving the LB in a heap.
He hurdled another tackle, and saw Wilson, Evans and Coleman bolting into the box.
Sadly he scuffed his cross, and the ball rolled behind the onrushing yellow shirts, but it was promising how fast we had attacked.
An inaccurate longball was booted down the opposition right wing.
Taylor got to the ball first and hammered the ball off the pitch, onto the legs of their attacker, who was standing off the pitch.
The ball rebounded back on, the ref didn’t blow for the throw in (even with Taylor throwing a hissy fit on the sideline), and the ball was crossed for a tap in.
Yet again a lack of numbers, and thus a lack of a lino costing us the opportunity to throw caution to the wind in the last 5 minutes and get something from the game. We can’t blame the ref, he did his job, but a minimum of 12 men for the remaining games is a must.
With only 5 minutes left and a few of the team dropping with cramp, we did our best to keep the score respectable.
The ref also helped by disallowing a goal in the very last minute for offside. He was miles off to be fair, and the score remained 3-1 until the final whistle.
A tough game and on the balance of play OBC created more chances and therefore deserved the win, however a point was definitely on offer against one of the best teams in the league and we need to use this as a platform for better performances going forward.
Man of the Match
It could have been the drink talking, but the vote in the pub after the game was unanimous in favour of AVS.
He single-handedly stopped the final result from being a cricket score, and could do nothing about the goals that the opposition scored; a cracking performance mate.