Merton Social A 0-0 Warlingham Reserves
Battle-wound #1: Theo's crusty foot
Saturday saw the first game of the season and a well-earned point against Warlingham Reserves (what they called again TK?).
The day started with news that our 'keeper had experienced an unexpected back spasm during the night. We've all been there – crawl in at 6am after seshing on a Friday and scramble to land on a plausible excuse (jokes aside, hopefully a speedy recovery is imminent). However, thankfully, Big Si stepped in to fill the void with his suspect tattoos, hairless body and size 14 feet.
We arrived at the Aspire changing rooms after a long summer, and were surprised to see the facilities had morphed into a luxurious spa, with changing before the game akin to a free-trial yoga session in a sauna.
Kits on, and already sweating buckets, we headed to King George's fully expecting to find three inflatable bouncy castles and a West-Indian BBQ. However, the pitch was empty. Disappointment soon turned to despair as Warlingham put out cones. Unfazed we executed our familiar war-dance of 8 lengths of the pitch with synchronised heels-up. They were shitting it.
From the off, we saw little of the ball. The pitch was uneven and Warlingham were content to play direct football. Their main tactic was to ping the ball into their centre-mid who, using a gravitational field that only comes with being a certain type of round, would flick the ball onto their athletic striker to chase down. We battled well, with Rob, JD and Oly competing against their physical and technical midfield. They managed to engineer a few chances in the first half and really restricted our opportunities. They weren't afraid of resorting to dirty tactics either, with JD's chocolate ankles receiving two hammer-blows in quick succession. The search for the sniper in the trees continues but the ref was happy to brandish the offender with a yellow.
#2: JD's crusty feet - apparently one on right is bigger
We went in to the second half buoyed by our ability to match them across the park. Tindall and JB did a great job at keeping their wingers quiet. Big Si also kept his concentration for a flurry of corners, which is impressive considering the amount of breeze he chatted for the full 90. They had a few clear cut chances, with the referee suspiciously keeping me on the pitch after I wiped their striker as last man. We managed to get back into the game with decent spells in possession; Billy causing problems down the right which led to a corner that Andy nearly converted.
It was a battling performance epitomised by JB's 70th minute play. After conceding a throw in our half he jogged back to his position without picking up his man. JD screamed at him to get tight, but it was too late. His player received the ball and flicked it past the recovering JB, before moving for the return. JB, determined to redeem himself, body-checked his man to the ground like Stone Cold Steven Austin in his prime – proudly conceding the foul and flashing a smile to JD.
Overall, we should be happy with the point. Although we struggled to create chances, our work rate and defensive display was admirable against a team that will surely do well this season.