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Merlins - Match center

Maidenhead Merlins
Sat 28 Oct 14:30 - League Full time

Farnham Common Wrinklies 2 - 2 Merlins

An exciting match on grass! What's that?

A warm (ish) October afternoon greeted the Merlins as they turned up at Farnham Common’s grass pitch. We had an extra player and
agreed to loan Noel Spud Murphy for the match on a free transfer!

Alex Butt turned up just in the nick of time – looking a bit worse for wear having chased the little white ball earlier for 4 hours! Some of us hadn’t played on grass for many years – yours truly for over 10 years, and it showed! For the first half we tried to play “astro” hockey on the long green stuff and, if truth be told, were outplayed by a Wrinklies side who played with the sort of skills some of us hadn’t seen for a long time. The grass looked like it hadn’t been cut since the end of the cricket season!

Merlins started well, moving the ball well from the back through midfield and using the wings – George Braveheart Wallace and
Mahdi Hosany – with good passes. Duncan Sturdy and Viren combined well up front with Colin Byrne and David DV Vincent
sweeping well from the back.

Soon, however, the Wrinklies scored from a narrow angle and before you could say “find me a mower” had added a second goal,
in slightly controversial circumstances via a slightly dubious high penalty corner hit. Merlins were shaken, but not stirred!

After a strong half time pep talk from DV, with a strong and vocal supporting role from Colin Byrne and Duncan Sturdy, the Merlins
started a lot more brightly in the second half. Running down the hill seem to make a difference with Duncan and Colin making
sweeping runs down the middle and feeding Flynn Sturdy, who was making lots of strong runs into their 22 yard area and linking
well with Viren, George Braveheart Wallace and Mahdi Hosany.

We soon found out that the young breed of hockey players cannot hit a hockey ball in tall grass (sorry Mahdi) but were adapting well
to these alien conditions.

Soon, the first Merlin goal was scored via a strong hit from Colin into the goal area with a subtle touch by Viren, which ended up
with the ball in the goal. The fight back had started! Duncan and Alex combined well – with a terrific display of defensive hockey
and distribution upfield by David and Colin. Wave after wave of Merlin attacks were thwarted by a dogged Wrinklies defence with a
good display of grass hockey skills. Finally, the ramparts were broken and via a quick move down the right, the ball found its way
to George who passed to Flynn who tricked his way past a couple of defenders and half pushed half hit a ball towards goal. Mahdi
was at hand near the goal to flail his stick playing an air shot, which probably put off the goalie, and the ball ended up in goal.
Hurrah – the score was 2-2. The Merlins magic was working.

Although the Wrinklies counter attacked, the Merlins defence held strong with Ron the Cat Fuller producing a good save at the end.
Merlins displayed great spirit and fight back in the second half and probably deserved to win the match but the Wrinklies goalie played
well, too. I can recall at least two occasions when I could swear yours truly had two shots heading to the left corner saved – or was
that just my imagination going back 20 years!

Man of the match was deservedly Colin Byrne; I also think Duncan, David and Viren share special mention for good performances. And, young Flynn was brilliant in adapting his astro style for grass. George and Mahdi played well as wingers providing lots of good crosses. And Ron was solid in goal. Ah yes, before I forget, Noel showed fleeting displays of his excellent grass skills cutting forays into the Merlins defence.

Thanks to the umpires for their low key involvement whilst to round off the afternoon we were treated to a tasty chicken and rice meal
with the added bonus of watching England under 17s thrashing Spain in the World Cup final 5-2.

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