Merlins 5 - 0 Thames Valley 3s
The colts lead the charge!
When the drizzle stopped, the conditions were perfect for an exciting Saturday game. The Merlins showed up in good numbers and were met by a youthful Thames Valley 3rd XI with a good number of colts, so the Merlins had to play smart or be prepared for a lot of running.
With players to spare, Colin ‘Citóg’ Byrne and David ‘DV’ Vincent stepped up to umpire the first half. From the start the Merlins showed good positional play and movement of the ball. They made several runs via the wingers into the D and before Thames Valley had warmed up, they conceded their first goal within the first 5 minutes. It was a classic goal that showed that training exercises do pay off! The ball was quickly played out from the back to the Merlins midfielder David ‘Heartburn’ Rennie who connected with fellow midfielder Finlay Bainbridge, to outwit two defenders and provide the assist to Mahdi ‘M ’Hosany, who scored the opening goal. Thames Valley pondered over what had just transpired.
Thames Valley pushed hard and made good breaks with their fast forward players, but with the Merlins back four consisting of Rob Newnham, Duncan Sturdy, Hans ‘Free’ Koppelman and Noel Spud’ Murphy, they were unsuccessful. The Merlins held an insurmountable line dealing with persistent and speedy counter attacks from the Thames Valley colts. With solid build-up from the back, Rob Newnham connected well with Finlay Bainbridge and Gary Edwards, Merlins kept pressure on their astute opponents bringing the ball into the box. Noel Spud’ Murphy, David ‘Heartburn’ Rennie and Mahdi ‘M’Hosany did the same on the right flank, feeding Finlay Bainbridge and Bruce Mc Arthur in the centre forward position. Despite the smart passes from Bruce, swift movements and reverse stick action from Finlay, many opportunities came and went, and so it was only 1-0 at the break.
For the 2nd half the injured Rhys ‘Motor Mouse’ Edwards and Noel ’Spud’ Murphy took over the umpiring and Colin ‘Citóg’ Byrne and David ‘DV’ Vincent were back in the centre of the Merlins defence. The Merlins luck was changing, Thames Valley were pushing higher up the field and winning a short corner or two, so Ronnie ‘the Cat’ Fuller had to make some remarkable saves to keep a clean sheet. The Merlin colts were unleashed in the 2nd half. Finlay Bainbridge started off with a fine dribble passing a few defenders before slotting it home. Hans ‘ Free’ Koppelman, the only non-colt to score, got a second short corner and pushed a well placed ball in the left corner of the goal. While open play was superior with Bruce Mc Arthur and Finlay Bainbridge in particular the ideal playmakers to put the forward line in ideal positions to score, the Merlins seemed to complicate matters when in the box. However, following a reverse stick injection from Colin ‘Citóg’ Byrne into the D, Mahdi ‘M’ Hosany was alert in the melee and scored his second with a reverse stick shot. To complete the score line of 5-0, Flynn Sturdy picked up the ball on the 23 and dribbled into the D to pass the ‘keeper on his left. Bob Brown, the Merlins legend and supporter got value for money in this highly entertaining game.
The sides returned to the clubhouse basking in the light of the victory and thanked the umpires Colin ‘Citóg’ Byrne; David ‘DV’ Vincent; Rhys ‘Motor Mouse’ Edwards and Noel ’Spud’ Murphy. The man of the match award for the still missing tankard went to Mahdi ‘M’ Hosany who just edged the vote over young Finlay Bainbridge.