Ashford 4s 3 - 3 MHC Merlins
All square for the Merlins
An unaccustomed morning game awaited the Merlins as they made the short journey along the A30 to Ashford. On-pitch skipper, David Vincent was uncertain who he had in his squad right until the whistle, due to a communications failure, and was relieved to find that he had thirteen players available at the appointed time. The beloved Lead-Merlin ‘Spud’ Murphy volunteered to umpire, and asked for a volunteer to take over in the second half.
Ashford, however, only had nine players, and with no player-trading negotiations in place they proceeded to open the scoring within ten minutes with a well taken short-corner, leaving the fully-manned Merlins wondering where this game was going. A few minutes later, and with no other player near, new Merlins’ recruit (and potential superstar) Colin Jeffreys suffered a hamstring injury, and limped off, taking no further part in the game. Twelfth man substitute Colin ‘Ciotóg’ Byrne (Skipper Spud says to look it up if you don’t understand) slotted into the centre back position in his place.
Merlins team organiser, Marc Jones, eventually turned up midway through the half, and languished on the bench until after the break.
Ashford looked the stronger side throughout the first half, and Merlins’ defence, Doug Courtney, Vincent, Byrne and Roger ‘Biggles’ Bowes were kept busy with constant pressure from the agile Ashford forwards, with Hans ‘Free’ Koppelman, David ‘Heartburn’ Rennie and Rob Newnham in midfield having to come back to lend a welcome hand. But Ashford were not to have it all their own way, with the midfield trio pushing forward, they created several chances for the goal-hungry forwards, but so often the Ashford defence proved their worth, or the shots were wide of target. At last, midway through the half, Hans ‘Free’ slammed home an equaliser for Merlins, following a slick
passing movement from the left flank.
However, Ashford won another short-corner, and Courtney only managed to deflect the shot onto keeper Ronnie ‘The Cat’ Fuller’s pads, and the rebound was firmly converted by the vigilant Ashford left-winger. Merlins were not quick to respond, and Ashford worked their way back into the Merlins’ circle on several occasions, while the resolute defenders thwarted all attempts, until a defensive error (what did the skipper say about passing to a white shirt?) allowed Ashford to crash a third goal into the bottom corner, giving ‘The Cat’ no chance.
In the second half, Jones rolled on as sub in the forward line, Spud volunteered to continue umpiring, and Merlins found a new determination not to leave the field with a third loss of the season. Going up a gear, Merlins wingers George Wallace and Mahdi Hosany gave Ashford plenty of challenges with their mazy runs and nifty stickwork, while centre-forward Bruce McArthur, taking on the traditional role of sadly now retired Jigsaw Brown, always looked dangerous in front of the Ashford goal.
3-1 down and with twenty minutes to go seemed like a good time to get their act together, and so they did! Merlins finally began to pass to their own side, with Biggles, Heartburn, George and Mahdi combining well on the right, and Hans ‘Free’ linking everyone to everyone else, Mahdi picked up a perfect pass from Hans, slipped by the keeper, and reduced the arrears to 3-2. The tide had turned, and Ashford’s attacks became less coordinated, allowing the visitors more time on the ball, and the opportunity to piece together some incisive forays into the Ashford twenty-five. With ten minutes to go ‘Ciotóg’ Byrne collected the ball, and with a bouncing shot evaded all players and the keeper, to bring the scores level. Time then ran out and Merlins felt a little lucky only to have avoided another defeat.
Thanks go to Spud and the Ashford umpire for controlling a very enjoyable game.
Mahdi Hosany was voted Man of the Match, but being under age was unable to buy the customary jug (Please be a bit more selective with your votes in future Merlins!)
Last news of Colin Jeffreys was that he was at Stoke Mandeville Hospital with a ruptured achilles. We wish him a swift recovery.