Merstham 8   Chiddingfold 0 (County Cup Preliminary Round)


19th September 2004

‘They don’t give up these boys, do they?’

Merstham Coach

One of those matches where you wonder if football shouldn’t be played in size groups, like boxing, instead of age groups. Merstham were an excellent team with a likeable coach who said some very nice things about the boys after the match, but the bottom line is that they had four or five boys who were the size of 17-year-olds and with the traditional Chiddingfold habit of breeding them on the small side, we were always going to struggle.

Nevertheless, for long periods of the match the chaps made up for the lack of size with talent and grit and were the equal of Merstham. We got off to a good start when Hassie came close in the box and the play was finely balanced for the first 15 minutes.

Unfortunately, at that point goalkeeper James, who hadn’t looked himself, had to come off feeling sick. Theo, who had looked unpassable at centre back with Jonathan Bk, went in goal, where he looked at home straight away. But the shape of the team was disrupted and, in the middle 15 minutes of the half, things began to go pear-shaped.

Merstham went one up when the boys gave them too much room on the edge of the area. Then, after strong work by Theo kept us in the game, a sloppy pass at the back gifted a Merstham striker an easy shot, 2-0. Soon after, a totally unmarked striker made it 3-0 but the boys weren’t just lying down and deserved to pull a goal back when Will was pushed over in the Merstham area for a clear penalty, which the referee missed.

Joint Man of the Match and captain Jon Bk was in inspirational form, urging the chaps on, never giving up and pulling off some spectacular tackles – but he could do nothing about goal number four which was another soft goal for Merstham.

At this stage of the match the defence were being pushed back on their heels and it was no surprise to see goal number five go in – but for the last ten minutes of the half, the chaps gritted their teeth, kept their composure and doggedly hauled themselves into the match.  

This may have been something to do with Mohammed, Hassie’s dad, who sat motionless and impassive by the Chidd goal, like a Red Indian chief communing with his ancestors. Whatever mysterious alchemy he was conjuring up, it worked, because the boys  began to push Merstham back into their own half, forcing the keeper into two saves, one an excellent tip over the bar from a super Hassie shot.

At half time the coaches urged the boys to keep going as they had in that last period – getting first to the ball, keeping possession when they got it and making better use of the wings.

Things were better in the second half overall. The defence did concede three more goals but one was a lucky rebound, one a rare Theo fumble and the other a lack of communication at the back. Joint Man of the Match Kirk was absolutely outstanding, tackling fiercely and hardly putting a foot wrong. Merstham were held in check much better and Rupert was able to be pushed up front to threaten the Merstham goal with one especially dangerous attack up the right wing. 

As the Merstham coach said afterwards, 8-0 wasn’t a true reflection of the game, and the boys can take enormous pride in the way they fought grimly and didn’t give an inch. As the Merstham coach said – ‘They don’t give up those boys, do they?’