Merlins 0 - 1 Teddington Tigers
Close match for the Merlins
There we were at Bray Clubhouse, just the four of us, but expectations were high that others would travel direct and lift our numbers to a meagre 10, to face a team of sublime skills and almost mythical reputation. Teddington were giants of the astroturf, fielding a side of superhumans, a team which had annihilated most of those they had come up against.
With 5 minutes to the start and the Merlins now numbering 7, things did not look good. Better news was that they lent us 3 of their 15 man squad and our loan players were acquitting themselves with distinction until another 3 Merlins appeared, having slipped the
surly bonds of the Teddington traffic jams. Naturally, Dave “Heartburn” Rennie was last to arrive. So, we had as full a complement as we were going to get about 10 to 15 minutes in.
What of the game, you ask? Well, I’ll tell you.
Missing DV, HK, DC, GW and many others, the Merlins team to play the best team in the league was a makeshift affair with Marc ‘Mystic’ Jones, Roger ‘Biggles’ Bowes, Colin ‘Citóg’ Byrne and Noel ‘Spud’ Murphy at the back, marshalled by the Grumpy Cat who is Ron Fuller,
in goal. The first 5 minutes was pretty easy stuff but the pressure kept building – it was like one of those battles from Lord of the Rings – tidal waves of ugly Orcs crashing against the photogenic but determined ranks of the Elves, Dwarfs, Hobbits and Humans. The ball was
flashing about outside our D but the thin line held, probably because we were in white and they were in pink. The half was notable because I saw, for the first time ever, Colin Byrne make two successive mistakes hitting the ball. I was so shocked I nearly gave him some
advice. Luckily, the feeling passed.
But something strange and wonderful was happening. The Merlins started to play hockey, passing the ball to their own players with care-free abandon. This may catch on but, probably not. Our midfield of Kuljit Bhachu and Dave “Heartburn” Rennie continued to make telling forays into opposition territory, Kuljit in a cultured, energy-conserving fashion with accurate passes to the Edwards twins and Jimmy Asghar (wasn’t he in Harry Potter?) whilst DR charged at and around the Tigers. For today, Merlins stood tall, ran, tackled and supported one another and pierced the Teddington D as often as they got into ours. Tigers had two short corners which were defended with ease and, the next thing you know, it was half time. Turning around at 0-0 it was, on balance, the Tiger’s half, but only just.
The half time interval went normally with a lot of people giving unsolicited advice and being ignored. As an aside, I, as the longest serving Merlin’s team member still playing, miss the half time refreshments of brandy or mystery drink from Alan Jones’s battered portable
cabinet; you’re all too clean living nowadays.
The second half continued in the same vein with the Tigers pressing from the start and, after about 15 minutes, they scored from a short corner after a defender back sticked in the D; to be exact, it was the back of my stick but, hey, what’s a boy to do when the oppo is winding up to crash the ball in the net? As often happens, this goal heralded the most fierce response from Merlins with Roger Biggles Bowes going further up (to little avail), Dave Heartburn Rennie continuing to make them jump and Rhys Edwards and man of the match, Mahdi combining many times to create havoc in the Tiger’s defence. But we failed to take a few chances and didn’t capitalise on the long corners and one short corner; the momentum oozed quickly away like the smile on the face of Oxfam’s CEO. Teddington came back and thought they had scored in the last five minutes only to be firmly advised by the umpire that the rules do not allow you to knock the other man’s stick out of the way to make it easier for you to put the ball in the net.
At the end of the game, the Merlin’s felt that we could have got a draw out of the game against this much-vaunted Teddington side; they are human and not that superior. I don’t know if we play them at Braywick but, they’d better watch out if Merlins can field a full team. The other good news is that the game was played in an excellent spirit and the umpiring was some of the best I’ve encountered in this friendly league. To round off an excellent visit, the London Pride was first-rate, the jacket potatoes done to perfection and the barmaid had a very interesting tattoo.