‘Direct’: ‘Extending or moving from one place to another by the shortest way without changing direction or stopping’.
Unfortunately this wasn’t the case for APs finest ‘going direct’ to South London on Saturday. There is certainly no mention of a tailback near Roehampton.
With Lee Carlin injured, the train brigade were able to depart Waterloo on time. They had negotiated a tricky change at Wimbledon to arrive 2pm on the dot down in Merton. However, disaster struck with at least half of the first team squad stranded on roads South of the river. The oppo had already completed their sidesteps and ‘high knees’ with the gaffer still 5 minutes away, striking an early psychological blow. ‘What a sh*t warmup that is’ commented Egan, without a hint of irony, watching on in jeans and a shirt from Saturday Night Fever. That said, he had done his homework as chief scout…
Egan : ‘‘They won’t be on it first 20…’
Me : ‘Why?’
Egan : ‘They were all at a wedding last week, I saw it online’
Committed. Yes. Slightly unnerving. Possibly.
The cavalry eventually arrived and we lined up 4-2-3-1. Following a tour of Vegas exploring commercial avenues for the club stateside, Patterson returned to skipper the side. Osei-Bonsu moved out to right back. Newcomers Mark McVeigh and Sam Webb came in at centre midfield and up top respectively. The aim was to improve the ball retention from last week to chalk up the first 3 points.
We actually started very well, the pitch was flat, wide and we looked the more threatening of the two sides. We weren’t quite a full tilt but there were some encouraging signs. Ellion was giving their left full-back quite a few problems and McVeigh was starting to impose himself on their playmaking midfielder. Skips smashed a 35 yarder into orbit, moments after imploring O’Leary to ‘trust him’ with a square ball. Not great.
The breakthrough came about 25 minutes in, some nice football resulted in a beautifully weighted Kenga through ball being lifted over the keeper by Kelly. A tidy finish. The lead was doubled ten minutes later. A throw in was worked from the right hand side, Webb showed good strength with his back to goal, which allowed McVeigh to classily stroke home from the edge of the box.
Frustratingly, we invited Merton onto us towards the end of the half. I would probably put it down to a lack of sharpness on our part. A fine save from Pennycook gave us a temporary reprieve however, it all went a bit wacky races in our own box, resulting in a handball and a subsequently converted penalty. 2-1 up at half time and it was a case of getting back to the quality of play that had given us the lead. We were given a gift to re-establish the 2 goal advantage, McVeigh was needlessly clattered inside the area allowing Kelly an opportunity from the spot. The prolific number 10 made no mistake.
Seemingly not wanting to make it easy work for ourselves, another soft goal was given away no more than 10 minutes later. To be fair, Merton had a cannon of a long throw at their disposal. On this occasion, a poorly defended second ball allowed a scuffed effort to creep home.
We had to dig in and we showed good character to do so. Our backline were urged to ‘get your faces smashed in if needs be’ to defend the barrage. An utterly mental statement by the unnamed (if committed) perpetrator.
Merton came close with a free kick against the bar but we worked hard to protect an important win. A good break by Ronnie down the left late allowed him to pick out the onrushing Gunyan, who capped a tireless shift with a goal.
So, a good performance away from home and probably a fair result. 4 points from the opening couple of games is a decent start but there is certainly room for improvement. Being fitter is an absolute must, it could have been an easier win had we had the ability to press higher for longer. This starts with training Tuesday, maybe getting yourself off for a little jog in the week and concludes with avoiding the lash Friday nights. Just. Say. No.
It’s also important to ensure we stay positive throughout games this season. This isn’t Div 3, we will go through tricky moments in games. We just have to encourage. BB Eagles will be a big test next week but we have great competition for places. It’s great to see some further quality come into the club again this season. Let’s just make sure availability is as good as possible for a bit of consistency.
Finally, don’t be on time, be early! Eh Gaffer….!!!
MOM : Mark McVeigh. Called ‘Matt’ by Tom Thrale for large parts of the game. Took it in his stride. Won the midfield battle and capped a classy debut with a goal.
AP : Pennycook, Osei-Bonsu, Patterson, Egan, Thrale, McVeigh, Gunyan, Kenga (Dakurah), Kelly, K. O’Leary, Webb (Adjekwi)