Great start to 2018 for the Merlins!
Merlins 7 - 1 Sunbury Red Lions
With the festive season truly over it was time to stretch those limbs again and run off the extra roast potatoes and other over indulgence. On a bitterly cold afternoon, with an arctic wind blowing across the pitch, the Merlins faced potentially challenging opposition in the usually solid Sunbury. With a squad of 13 the Merlins tried to stay warm, huddled together for the initial team talk. A 4-4- 2 formation was settled upon with an experienced and solid backline and midfield with a youthful forward line including the sprightly Bruce McArthur.
The game started with both sides showing their rustiness with wayward passing and lots of mistakes but the game started to settle down with the Merlins beginning to create opportunities. The pressure finally told when the ball broke into the box for David “Heartburn” Rennie to blast past the ‘keeper and open the scoring. Soon after the score was doubled with Rob Newnham
adding to the scoreline. But Merlins couldn’t afford to be complacent with Sunbury creating chances themselves and pulling one back before half time.
The half time team talk focused on letting the ball do the work and using our width to stretch the opposition. The usual advice, except this time it was taken on board, and to what effect.... The Merlins were on fire buoyed on by the crowd cheering from the sidelines, with Hans Koppelmann and Laurie Shotton
breaking up play and spraying the ball around the pitch, ably supported with the wide midfielders and forwards. Rhys Edwards
in particular was a constant thorn in Sunbury’s side finding space behind their backline and finishing with a sublime hat trick. One goal in particular flew into the roof of the net from a tight angle. Sandwiched between his first and second were additional
goals from Rob Newnham
, a tenacious battle for the ball resulting in his 2 nd goal, and Finlay Bainbridge constantly nipping against the defenders and latching onto a through ball to finish smartly past the ‘keeper. There could have been even more scored, with Bruce McArthur coming so close on numerous occasions nearly adding to his season’s tally, as well as an array of short corners which didn’t quite come off.
However, Merlins didn’t have it all their own way with the Merlins defence having to make last ditch interceptions and challenges to keep Sunbury at bay. Ronnie “The Cat” Fuller was called into action on a few occasions. But he was prepared to put his neck on the line quite literally as a ball ricocheted into his throat! Down but not out the Cat took his time to recover, but back into the action he came to play his part in preventing further goals from being conceded.
When the whistle was finally blown the Merlins were disappointed to finish. The opposition was thanked for a game played in the right spirit. Thanks to the umpires too, who must have been pleased to have lots of action to keep them warm. A quick warm down was needed in the freezing cold and then it was back to clubhouse for a hot shower and a well earned tea and beer. On such a cold day a warming plate of chilli con carne was just what is needed!
Man of the match was no contest with Rhys Edwards
honouring the hat trick with a jug of beer for the team.