Scorers: Stotya, Olorunshola, Cass
We woke up on Saturday morning to a super wet and miserable greeting. Various games around the SAL are called off… but not the AP 1s fixture. It had to be Merton away. On arrival however, we found the pitch in great condition with the precipitation forming a naturally slick surface, to match those in the big leagues.
After 10 mins in the game, AP began to click into the groove like a plug in a socket, although not quite as electrifying. The lads seem wired as they plug away with calm confident build up play round the back, dominating possession like they hadn’t done since the 10-0 preseason romp. Let’s take a quiet moments reflection on that 10-0 win as it is good to remember the good times.
Right, back to the rubbish Merton game.
The possession game didn’t cause the breakthrough as we took the lead from a counter attacking situation when Slava won the ball high up the field. He kicks the ball past the remaining defender as he effortlessly leaves him for dead (not literally). On his not-so-favoured left foot, he simply passes the ball across goal into the bottom right corner and made it look so so easy. It wasn’t, and credit to the lad for his opening goal of the season.
I don’t think anyone wants me to go into this in too much detail but Merton equalised within 10 minutes with a long ball into the channel, perfectly timed and slotted past the out rushing Pat. They then took the lead just after with some neat passing play down the left before they found the man just inside the box who managed to get a low shot away into the corner. 2-1, how did this happen?
For all AP’s dominance in their own half they struggled to get up the pitch into threatening areas. A tactical switch brought on Harrison in centre forward hoping to hold the ball up and bring others into play, although we don’t usually associate him with passing the ball. More came towards the end of the half but 2-1 was how it stayed until the interval.
After a positive start with intent from Duncan’s Orange Optimists, disaster struck again. AP lose a wasteful ball high up the pitch which leads to a counter attack. They got bodies back in numbers to defend and block a shot in the box. The ball rebounded for another shot but it was blocked again. Third, nicht so lucky. A terrific strike picked out the top corner with no chance for the keeper. 3-1. Moments later Merton made it 4 as their striker takes on Chris Torrance causing an untimely slip which sent the striker through uncontested and finishes well. How on earth has this game got so far away from us?
Still playing the better football, AP finally have some joy as Tommy Carter bursts into the left channel and cuts low across towards debutant Ade Olorunshola. The defender infront gets a slight touch, Ade tries to reposition his feet and somehow it hits him and rolls down his shin into the bottom corner. Not a clean strike but it’s not like Ronaldo is proud of every one of his 700 goals. 4-2, come-back on?
Nope. Following a corner to Merton the ball is half cleared. They cross back in and skips off the surface unexpectedly to Chris who struggles to readjust. It hits him in the chest and the ball is cleared for good. But what’s this? The refs given a penalty. Monkey face in hands emoji! It looked a bit strange but it did not hit his arm. Merton tuck the pen away to restore their three goal cushion.
AP continue to push on and for their efforts they get another breakthrough. Crossed from the right hand side, the ball finds Harrison in the box. He gets his head up and sees a gap between the bodies as he slots in the bottom right corner. I don’t care if he doesn’t pass if he’s doing that. 5-3. 10mins left plus stoppage the ref says…
AP are far more dominant in this period with even opposition counter attacks being snuffed out. We have a great attempt from full back Lanigan from a free kick on the edge of the box which is saved neatly at the near post by the keeper.
Harrison has a goal ruled out for offside when he nods it over the keeper like Van Persie v Spain as the ball is whipped back into the box following a corner. A few of our lads are adamant the full back was playing him on but he looked a long way off and you can see how the ref ruled it out.
Jed had a good opportunity as Harrison man handles their defender to the ground. Jed thinks about kicking the ball at the defender on the ground, obviously expecting the referee to blow for the foul against Harrison. No whistle though and he charges toward goal. Two other players in the box but he couldn’t see the angles for them as he goes alone and gets his shot parried. He is first to the rebound but his lunge cant direct it in to the goal.
Tom Carter and Harrison both also had good opportunities from crosses to the back post and Carter almost scored a worldy volley as the ball is rebounded from a corner but it sails over. The game ends 5-3.
On reflection, there are a lot of positives to take out from the game and I do feel it is a step in the right direction, despite the result. Truth is scoring 3 goals would have been enough to comfortably win any of the previous games of the season (never conceded more than 1 in a game). But if you concede 5 goals you have to expect to lose as this is by far the most chances we’ve conceded in a game so far. The truth is we’ve worked on a defensive approach which has been successful over recent years, but we need to add the passing style of play which was on show on Saturday against Merton. We can’t let this mean our defensive game goes to pot though. As long as we learn, then every lesson is a good one.
Man of the match was Tommy C (not to be confused with Tommy K which is a red sauce you put on your chips). Carter has come from strength to strength since his spell in the 1s. He best portrayed our passing game and was key in creating chances including another assist for the playmaker.