Merlins 5 - 3 Wimbledonians
Merlins celebrate their 25th anniversary with a win on the new Altwood Pitch
Merlins faced Wimbledonians on Saturday for the inauguration match on MHC’s brand spanking new surface at Altwood. The pitch now has the hue of small blue humanoids and so Smurfette Lindsey dubbed it the “Smurf Turf”. As usual for a home game, Merlins had more players available than an average sized classroom. In a snap decision they invited some esteemed club officials to their ranks for the special day - Chairman Dave Taylor, Treasurer Jonathan Crowther and Club Captain Chad Fitzgibbon. Their joy was increased further when venerated club President Mike Barnes agreed to umpire. Wimbledonians were short in their squad but a random Reading player, rejected emphatically by Merlins, went to help out and Captain Noel ‘Spud’ Murphy volunteered to play with them, to the relief of his own players.
Both teams started strongly on the excellent and fast new surface. Merlins attacked well throughout the half with ball supplied from the midfield of ‘JC’ Crowther, Mo Daggar and Dave ‘Heartburn’ Rennie. However Wimbledonians were dangerous on the break and the back trio of Dave ‘DV’ Vincent, Doug Courtney and Alistair Drape were kept on their toes in defense. It was twenty minutes before Merlins pressure finally told when Rob Newnham skillfully slotted in their first goal. Soon afterwards a second was scored when a defensive mistake left the vigilant Marc ‘Mystic’ Jones with a straightforward conversion.
Wimbledonians continued to press but Merlins held firm for a 2-0 lead at the break. The Wimbledon team appeared to benefit greatly from an inspiring half time pep talk from Captain Spud, recently returned from a hill walking expedition, and they started the second half with confidence, soon scoring through a well-taken opportunity by Phil Kemball. Merlins responded swiftly when ‘Mystic’ Jones scored an excellent second. A break by Wimbledonians put Nick Causer in the clear and he brought them back to a single goal difference with a great strike.
The tit-for- tat continued as Sam ‘Antacid’ Rennie sent a high ball towards the net and, despite the hurling skills of the opposition defenders, it looped into the net. Dave Taylor defended well at the other end, fending off all attacks until a superb strike by Paul Fyander found the net as keeper Ronnie ‘The Cat’ Fuller was sent in the wrong direction towards Australia, making it 3 for Wimbledon. The home team benefited from ‘younger legs’ for the final part of the game and while Chad Fitzgibbon narrowly missed on a couple of occasions it was Rhys Edwards who eventually found the net for their fifth.
The game drew to a dramatic close when Roger ‘Biggles’ Bowes, who had being playing exceptionally well and had disrupted numerous attacks, made a diving tackle from behind on an opposition player as he headed up the left wing. Unfortunately for Biggles, the planting of his stick between the player’s legs pulled him (Biggles) over and he tumbled heavily to the ground like a MOAB (Mother of all Biggles). Seeing the umpire reaching for his red card, the crafty Biggles immediately played possum and put himself in the recovery position, as he sought the sympathy vote. The match was duly whistled to an end and immediately Biggles sprung up again like Zebedee playing for Chelsea. However as the players left the car park, umpire Mike Barnes went to his pocket to retrieve his car keys and Biggles automatically hit the floor thinking the red cardmight appear. An ambulance was called at this stage and Biggles was carted off to hospital. He was accompanied by random Reading player Martin Beardmore (for it was he) who was trying to re-ingratiate himself with MHC. The hospital staff however spotted that Biggles was in stern health and promptly told him to ‘man up’, desist his bed blocking and go home.
Meanwhile the players made their way to Bray for excellent teas, compliments of Mrs Murphy’s Pantry. They graciously thanked the umpires Randy Rottier and Mike Barnes for their wise decisions and patience in the face of sustained abuse from some home players who will not be named here. Bionic Bob Brown ran the Man of the Match voting and surprisingly the accolade was awarded to his best
friend Doug Courtney in recognition of his picking balls from attackers as frequently as Santa Claus picks bits of plum pudding from his beard. And so Merlins raised a glass to a successful season as they look forward to a new era on the Altwood Smurf Turf.
For photos of the match please click here