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Merlins - Match centre

Kenley Vets
Maidenhead Merlins
Sat 13 Jan 11:30 - League Full time

Merlins 2 - 0 Kenley Veterans

Another win for the Merlins

The vagaries of the M25 meant that a 09.30am meet for an 11.30am push back at Kenley just south of Croydon, was overly early. Most of the team arrived with some 50 minutes to spare – although the trek from the sports centre reception to the pitch took almost as long as the journey!

Onfield skipper David “DV” Vincent had been anticipating a bare eleven but was pleasantly surprised to find thirteen (unlucky for some) players present and Kenley supplying both umpires. This meant the dreaded task of working out substitutions. Without the presence
of manager Bob “Jigsaw” Brown to control the substitutions from the sideline this is always a difficult process but fortunately all concerned accepted the split of duties with good grace.

The first ten minutes were evenly matched with both sides probing forward and looking for any weakness. Kenley, more used to playing on the strange substance called grass, used both wings to reasonable effect. However Noel “Spud” Murphy and Marc “Mystic” Jones at left and right back respectively showed they were more than capable of dealing with the attacks. When Kenley tried to turn to the centre channel they found Colin Byrne controlling the area and dispossessing the centre forward with ease.

After the first ten or fifteen minutes Kenley found themselves coming increasingly under pressure due to the Merlins midfield cutting out the supply to Kenley forwards and instigating attacks of their own. Much of this control came from Duncan Sturdy who seemed to act as a magnet for the ball. Alongside him the younger Sturdy – Flynn, showed some skilful work in restricted space. Despite all the pressure the Merlins failed at the last stage to convert pressure into goals until the award of a short corner. A strike from Duncan Sturdy crept just inside the post to the relief of the Merlins.

The halftime team talk progressed along standard lines with an emphasis on recreating the previous weeks scenario of men and ball moving into space – a concept still a struggle for some who prefer to play through the opposition players. To the skippers amazement this
seemed to be taken on board with David “Heartburn” Rennie, Rob Newnham and Gavin Slater down the left and Bruce McArthur, George Wallace and Mahdi Hosany down the right all creating chance after chance. Unfortunately the finishing was still lacking the polished touch but once again Duncan Sturdy found the net with a clean strike from the top of the circle.

At two goals up the Merlins relaxed a bit which resulted in complacency introducing a few errors. Kenley had resorted to a long ball approach by this stage and one effort evaded the Merlins midfield and defence. This left Ronnie “The Cat” Fuller exposed to an onrushing centre forward – the entire Merlins team held their breath (at least if they weren’t trying to get back and cover) and were overjoyed to see “The Cat” using all his experience to smother the ball. A rather disgusted Kenley centre forward shortly subbed himself. A final push by the Merlins saw a Duncan Sturdy strike make contact with the defenders foot on the line. Declining the opportunity for a hat trick (jug avoidance ?) on the grounds of the greater team good, Colin Byrne stepped forward to take the Penalty stroke and calmly found the bottom corner of the goal to put Merlins in a comfortable lead.

At the conclusion of the game, excellently controlled by the Kenley umpires, the two sides retired (via various parts of south London) to the Kenley clubhouse where hot showers and a filling tea were available. Mom voting confirmed Duncan Sturdy as this weeks star player.

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