Date: Saturday 10th September
Starting Line Up: Will Bianchi, John Glenn, Andrew Rosoman, Dan Cucos, Mark Dallamore, Jeremy Lye, Chris Harding, Trevor Moody, Matt Turner, Jordan Griffith, Stephen Doherty
Subs: Edd Smith, Antonio Palacio
With a strong line-up boosted by Moody, and coming off the back of a win against the 2nds and a good performance in a friendly the previous week, the 3rd XI went into this game confidently. Turner won the toss and elected to kick off. Cubo started brightly and applied pressure for 10 minutes, creating several reasonable chances that with a little more composure might have led to more positive results, Doherty especially unlucky after evading his marker at the near post.
Merton began getting into the game, as their centre-forward (normally at centre back) David Luiz/Sideshow Bob/Ray Parlour delete-as-applicable exerted more and more influence. Linking up well with their midfielders, Merton scored just after the quarter hour mark. Slightly rattled after their good start, Cubo conceded again five minutes later, leaving the team a lot to do to get back into the game. Gradually however, the impressive central midfield pair of Turner and Moody grew in stature. The wingers Harding and Lye, supported by strong running at the top by Doherty and Griffith created enough space for Turner to score after an strong solo run into the box. 1-2 at half time.
After a stirring (read aggressive) team-talk from skipper Turner, Cubo went out into the second half determined to win more challenges and compete more physically. After some good interplay between Glenn and Lye on the right, the ball was fed to Griffith who was felled by a pincer tackle from two Merton players in the box. Harding dispatched the penalty with aplomb low to the keeper’s right.
Although it looked like only one team would win, Merton managed to score after a quick throw in, Bianchi especially unlucky after making a fine initial save. However, with Dallamore completely dominating the previously influential striker, Cucos mopping up everything beside him, Merton had no way back and Griffith capped a fine performance with a virtuoso solo goal, finishing from an acute angle.
Substitutions were made, Smith coming on for Glenn on the left, Rosoman switching to right back, and Doherty swapping for Palacio, who came on at left wing with Harding joining Griffith at the front. With Lye now penning in the previously impressive Frodo-Baggins-look-a-like left back, shots and chances were being created freely by Cubo. However it wasn’t until five minutes before the end that Moody controlled a clearance 20 yards out and hammered a right-footed shot that looped over the keeper and into the top right hand corner.
The game finished 4-3, with any win on the opening day of the season appreciated. There was a lot to take comfort from. A new-look back line communicated well after the early goals, setting good lines. Griffith and Doherty linked well and Lye always looked to beat his man and competed well in the air and on the ground. Coming back twice from being goals down can only bode well for the spirit of the side, and with Jones due back for this week, the 3rd XI will be looking forward to a good season. Props to Merton for being gentleman, and fair and honest opponents.
Man of the Match: Impossible to choose between Dallamore and Turner
Goals: Turner, Harding (pen), Griffith, Moody
Match Report: John Glenn