Into the very bowels of South London for this game. Things did not look great when at 1.30 we had 5 players – I know it is a long haul to these game lads but please make every effort to the meet times – The Skips and Mike OD actually had time to have a little snooze in the changing room before everyone else turned up! We then had the indignity of being forced to move changing rooms to share with Old Wilsonians 100th XI – just a note on being a good host – at AP we put AP teams together when they need to share – an idea maybe – sharing a small space with around 24 other sweaty men in various states of nakedness is made slightly more bearable when they are from your own club!
Despite a few unavailable from the great win last week, we were able to name a strong 14. Thrale went up to the 1’s (a player of his quality deserves his chance, as gutting as it is to lose him – The first team have to acknowledge that the Ressies Gaffer and Skips are far too honest for their own good! Still – if you are in the 2’s and put together some good form, be assured we will push your case forward for the 1’s!!) and Ben C and Harry W were unavailable after their match winning cameos last week, so in came Louie Nich, Skips and Dave ‘Recovery’ Woots.
We started slowly and felt our way into the game – there was early Merton pressure and we were caught cold, Mike OD making a quality save. We managed to get a foothold into the game and scored with our first real chance of note – Jeats calmly played a ball out of defence for Les to bamboozle 2 oppo players and then play a beautiful cross field ball to Dan Wilding, who took one touch and hit an absolute bozzler from 30 yards, giving the keeper no chance – 1-0 AP. Minutes later we could have gone further in front, when Skips dispossessed the oppo centreback – unfortunately, his shot was akin to that of a 6 year old girl in terms of power and accuracy. Merton were causing us problems however – Simmo, Jeats and Skips all made last ditch blocks or tackles to preserve our cleansheet.
At half time, we spoke about upping our effort slightly – we knew that things would be slightly easier as we had the slope in our favour, and the sun and wind at our backs. However, the second half was a slog. We had chances – Rich Hancock thought he had far less time than he thought he did (shout, lads?) and snatched at a chance, and a few times we were able to turn one of our own corners into an attack for Merton because of poor control or communication. Skips, Rich and Dan W all made way for T, Woots and Louie, but it was pretty much back to wall for the last 20 minutes. We defended like lions, but came unstuck in the last seconds when Merton bundled in a cross at the death.
So 1-1. The way we defended, and the manner of the equalizer made it feel like a loss, but to be fair a draw was the right result, as Merton were equal to us. We are unbeaten in 7, this being our only draw. With the next 2 games in the cups, this puts us slap bang in the middle of the table – no mean feat considering we were relegation fodder 6 weeks ago. This give us a solid platform to build on for the new year – taking one game at a time, we can push on to finish as high as possible – we have proved we can take points off the top teams, and with a lot of them to still play each other, there is a lot to play for.
As for next week – a big game at the Frying Pan with the Reserves taking top billing in the MEI Cup – for those that haven’t seen the Reserves recently get down to have a look at how we are playing!