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Merlins - Match centre

Maidenhead Merlins
British Airways 3XI
Sat 21 Oct 14:45 - League Full time

Merlins 4 - 0 British Airways

Merlins fly to a win against BA

By now pictures and reports of the Merlins’ match against British Airways will have flown around the globe through social media, newstreams and digital TV. Those interested in the precise facts of the match (e.g. exactly how many times did they miss the open goal?) will have analysed the footage and pored over the expert analysis of those watching the match (Bob). Being advanced in years, short term memory can get a little hazy. Readers should approach this match report more as an exhibition of impressionist paintings than a collection of photographs.

As ever, your reporter arrived at Altwood in sufficient time for a brief warm up before the match. This week, however, he was there in good time to catch the end of the previous match. He found a remarkably consistent response from each of his team mates; a raised eyebrow, inspection of an imaginary wristwatch and a sarcastic comment about “not being able to sleep”. If only there were such dependable responses on the hockey pitch.

British Airways felt confident enough to face the Merlins with only 9 players and no goalie. Many Merlins date from the age of gallantry (some even before) and immediately offered some of our youths to the red shirted opponents, Gary Edwards leading the charge. BA were without wings which is not good for an airline, so Dave Vincent and Mahdi Hosany also took up sticks against their Merlin teammates. It may just be your reporter’s perception but Merlins seem to play better for the opposition.

I’m sure the Gary Edwards strike rate in front of goal is at least double when wearing opponents’ shirts. It was no different on Saturday. At one point DV in a red shirt strolled through the Merlin’s midfield to the edge of the D and looked ready to take aim at hapless Ronnie. Mahdi worked tirelessly up and down the BA right wing, only to find his fellow players had called a wildcat strike and were still in their own half. What lies behind this transformation? Deep in the subconscious is there a point to be proved?

In turn, Merlins are perhaps more ruthless with their own than with the usual opposition. Not five minutes into the first half a brave young Merlin, turned BA fill-in, Nathan Jefferys, was scythed down by his own comrades for audacious weaving his way through their sticks.
Merlins’ gallantry prevented an early onslaught of goals, even though much of the time was spent in the BA half. To compensate for playing with a kicking back the BA goal was shrunk to a quarter of its normal size making it much harder to get the shot on target. Eventually a
miss-hit shot from the top of the D took the opposition by surprise by going straight for the goal and bobbling over the kicking back’s foot.

A change in midfield brought Alex Butt on to link with Hans Koppleman. Some deft interplay led to a strike by Alex from midfield to the well-placed Rob Newnham who swept the ball into the goal. For a moment, I thought I was still watching the 1st XI.

At half time Merlins like to sing familiar tunes to raise their spirits. Everyone enjoyed a rendition of ‘Pass to a White Shirt’. There was great gusto over ‘Don’t Get Too Close to the Player Before Passing’ and ‘Use the Wings’ (particularly apt) and we finished with the old favorite, ‘Shoot at the Goal’.

By complex scientific means a team of experts from Bisham Abbey have calculated that the half time talk made 0.5% difference to the team’s performance. We scored 2 goals in the first half and 2 goals in the second half. However, there were some nearer, near misses, perhaps, than in the first half.
As an example, at one point supposed midfielder Hans turned up in the right corner at a set piece. An unusually accurate pass to Hans from stand-in midfielder Colin Byrne the full back, was controlled and sent smartly across the surprise BA defence. A pair of Edwards pounced
from their vulture-like positions in front of goal. Dazzling in its simplicity and speed of execution of this move, the crowd gave a small gasp. The scoreline, however, was unimpressed.

However, the Energetic Edwards were each to be rewarded with a goal in the second half, in spite of the arrival of a goalkeeper in the BA goal. It goes without saying that the redoubtable Merlins backline kept a clean sheet. Ronnie “The Cat” Fuller was occasionally called to stir but mostly the robust backline of Andre, Colin and Dougie Courtney afforded him a pleasant and relaxing afternoon in the sun.

Richard Tapner-Evans added an air of unaccustomed sophistication to the Merlin’s play, with elegant passing and creative running. In the drunken melee of the clubhouse Hans was awarded Man of the Match but your reporter would like to pick out the smallest Merlin on the
pitch, Nathan Jefferys, as a precocious talent and one to watch. As the game progressed he created space and time like Captain Kirk and surely deserved a mark on the scoresheet. Next time. And of course our thanks go to Karsten and Ash for their sympathetic use of the
whistle.

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