Date: Saturday 26th November, 2011
Starting Line-Up: Busy, Lye, Ingle, Nathan, Antonio, Turner (C), Lukas, Jeph, Hennerz, Field, May.
“I think a curse should rest on me — because I love this war. I know it’s smashing and shattering the lives of thousands every moment — and yet — I can’t help it — I enjoy every second of it.” – WINSTON CHURCHILL, 1916.
And so it was that on a blustery afternoon as far down the map as the Northern Line takes you both sides packed the central midfield, and knuckled down to it. Yes Merton and CUBO lined up like for like, both with three central midfielders a piece, two wide men and a big fella up-front. For Merton this was clearly the best way of arranging the talent they had at their disposal, for CUBO it was the only clear way of getting Captain Matt Turner into a midfield that already contained Lukas and Jeph.
Both sides started brightly, Merton visibly switched on and focussed from their extensive high energy pre-match warm up attacked the ball with vigour in the early stages but found the CUBO boys (similarly full of well conserved energy due to their total lack of pre-match warm up) to be just as solid and competitive.
And in the early stages this was how the game continued. The ball often bouncing up on the firm surface and taking off in the strong cross field wind was very difficult to control, both teams in periods gaining some possession and trying to create but being batted back by numbers and good work rate from the opposition.
When CUBO got their foot on the ball they did begin to look more and more dangerous, both Lukas and Jeph getting the ball down and bringing in Field and Neville on the flanks, who in turn were feeding passes into the increasingly dangerous looking Paul May up top.
This pressure eventually told when the second or third corner from CUBO in a matter of minutes was cleared to the edge of the box, and as the ball sat up Lukas showed impeccable technique, guiding a left foot volley into the bottom right hand corner of the net – 1-0 CUBO.
Merton fought hard to regain parity and fed more and more balls forward, but perhaps for the first time this season, the CUBO backline remained very solid dealing with every attack be it on the deck or in the air. The back four of Lye, Ingle, Nathan and Antonio kept a good shape, and with Turner in particular racing into every challenge with gusto just in front of them, this was perhaps the most solid the CUBO boys have looked all season.
“All warfare is based on deception” – Sun Tzu (Chinese philosopher)
And with 35 minutes on the clock a throw in from the right landed at the feet of Merton’s talented, Jimmy Bullard haired centre forward inside the box. As he tried to turn a tightly glued Nathan he hurled himself to the ground, and a penalty was given. I’ve seen them given, but then i’ve seen Matt Turner sleepwalk over to a living room chair and urinate on it until it’s drenched, then calmly climb onto it again and go to sleep – it doesn’t make it right. It was slotted home and the game was all square.
That looked like how the first half would end until Paul May, who had caused chaos in the Merton backline the whole game latched on to a pass, muscled off a defender and from a seemingly impossible angle, drilled a shot through the Merton keeper into the net. A great solo effort and sent the CUBO boys in 2-1 up at half time.
The second half took on much the same pattern, with Merton squeezing up the pitch looking for the equaliser and CUBO fighting hard in the middle. James Ingle was confidently marshaling the new look back line and was imperious in the air as the ball was knocked up with ever increasing regularity towards the Merton front man. CUBO weren’t just sitting back though and were hitting Merton hard and fast on the counter attack. Jeph in particular was regularly latching onto balls in the centre of the park and striding up the pitch, and May should have had a free kick awarded as he was set free towards goal in the right hand channel and was seemingly hauled to the ground, a lucky escape for the Merton centre back who could have seen red.
As a dud corner was played back out to him by Ingle, Neville rounded the Merton covering man and cut a ball back to Matt Turner who fired over, and another cross from the right hand side saw Jeph force a smart save from the Merton keeper. Then a sweeping move from CUBO saw a smart interchange of four or five passes at full pace leading to a centre from Turner towards May, he took a touch and tried to slide the ball past the keeper who made another great save. It was unlucky, it would undoubtedly have been team goal of the season.
As Neville got cramp in both calves (he didn’t get his 33% extra from his Powerade before the game) CUBO’s team work ethic didn’t drop and the final minutes of the game were seen off in confident style.
A great result from the boys in baby blue, showing a certain know-how and will to win that wasn’t evident last season. This team should go into the New Year full of confidence and still in with a genuine shot at the title.
Final Score: Merton Orient 1-2 AFC Cubo 3rd XI
Goals: Lukas, May
Man of the Match: Stand out performers on the day included Paul May who played the role of lone front man very well, Matt Turner who put in an assured and high energy performance in the middle, and James Ingle who looked confident and impermeable at the back.
Match Report: Henry Neville