top of page

 MATCH REPORTS 2023/24 
- Match Reports by Chris Pullen -

Merstham 1-1 East Grinstead Town | Isthmian South East | Saturday 20th April

A goal three minutes from time salvaged a point for a below-par Merstham in a feisty encounter at the Hybrid Fitness Stadium. A match that meant relatively nothing to the Moatsiders, on paper at least, produced nine yellow cards and two red cards. The match was, however, important to the visitors who were and still are in real danger of relegation, which accounted for a lot of the tetchy behaviour, especially in the closing stages. By the end, both sets of players were frustrated - Merstham's players were clearly frustrated because most of them had a poor afternoon. The Town players were desperate to hang onto their slender lead and tempers became increasingly frayed. It all culminated in some unsavoury scenes after the final whistle, as Omar Folkes and Lorenzo Lewis having an altercation with both sets of players getting involved.

 

As for the game itself, Merstham will look back on two gilt-edged chances in the opening twenty minutes that if they'd taken them, might have meant a very different game. The first chance after 10 minutes fell to Korrey Henry, when he got on the end of Billy Oram's beautifully flighted free kick, but put his header wide from six yards. On 19', Henry turned his defender on the edge of the box and his fierce shot was pushed away by ex-Merstham keeper Matte Pearson. In the 26th minute, a flowing move started by Charlie Greenwood in midfield, led to the Merstham skipper being played through by Ollie Khinda. Greenwood's low shot to Pearson's right was palmed away by the Town keeper but fell straight to Khinda, who looked certain to score from six yards. But Green was covering behind his keeper and was able to clear it off the line. It wasn't all one-way traffic by any means and Onabanjo was a constant threat on the right wing. Three minutes before the interval, Onabanjo jinked inside Harry Pointing and the Merstham defender stuck out a foot, tripping the winger. It was a stonewall penalty and Wilson stepped up to beat Johnson from the spot. 

 

Right at the start of the second half, Onabanjo had a great chance to extend the East Grinstead lead, but his shot from eight yards smacked against the Merstham bar with Johnson well-beaten. It was a let off for the Moatsiders. While they had started the game well, Merstham's play became increasingly ragged as the game progressed and there were far too many unforced errors from players all over the pitch. But they came close to an equaliser in the 69th minute when Vendrells cut inside and found Lee Lewis arriving at pace and laid the ball into his path. The midfielder's shot from 25 yards beat Pearson, but hit the outside of the post. Two minutes later, Weir headed home a free kick, but the Merstham faithful were relieved to see the flag go up for offside. In the 75' minute, a nice interchange between Molloy and Vendrells sent the forward through to the bye-line. He pulled the ball back where it looked as though Henry must score from close range, but a superb block by Filipe denied Henry not once, but twice and then as the ball ran loose to Lorenzo Lewis another Town defender came flying in to block his shot. Quite how the ball stayed out was a mystery to everyone. In the 87th minute East Grinstead were reduced to 10 men as Wilson got his second yellow of the game for a foul on Henry. From the resulting free kick, Mbele picked up the headed clearance and found Greenwood on the right wing. Greenwood beat his man and cut into the box. From an acute angle, Greenwood's low shot (or was it a cross?) deflected into the net off the leg of Pearson to make it all square. In added time, Mbele picked up his second yellow in 15 minutes and followed Wilson for an early bath. Merstham pressed for a winner, but couldn't quite find that moment of quality to take all three points. 

 

Merstham: Johnson, Khinda, Molloy, Pointing (Vendrells 55'), Ogundega, Drage, Lee Lewis (Mbele 74'), Oram, Greenwood, Henry, Lorenzo Lewis 

Subs not used: Senior, Gunner

Man of the Match: Charlie Greenwood

-

 

Horndean 1-3 Merstham | Isthmian South East | Saturday 13th April

 

A much-improved second half performance and a couple of contenders for goal of the season ensured Merstham took all three points after bring a goal down at the break. With skipper Dean Gunner only fit enough for the bench, Jamie Decruz was pleased to welcome back Harry Pointing from injury, the only change from the team that thumped Sevenoaks last time out.

 

Merstham began well and in the third minute, Lorenzo Lewis threatened when he cut inside, but scuffed his shot, allowing the Horndean keeper to make a comfortable save. Most of the threat Horndean carried was down the right side with Zack Willett looking dangerous every time he got the ball. He forced Endo Johnson into action in the eleventh minute when his powerful shot was tipped past the post by the Merstham keeper. Horndean went in front two minutes later. A ball inside Jude Molloy found Taw on the right flank and his near post cross was turned in by Jackson. Merstham's promising start faded and the gaps between the lines, especially their defence and midfield was at times cavernous and Horndean's players found time and space to pick passes as well as turn and run at the defence. Horndean were able to play the ball out from the back all too easily and enjoyed a lot of possession, although they only threatened occasionally. At the other end, some promising Merstham moves broke down with a lot of overhit passes. Horndean's keeper was only really called into action ten minutes before the break, when a downward header from Lorenzo Lewis was gathered low at his near post. 

At the break, manager Jamie Decruz asked his players to press much higher up the pitch and put the Horndean side under more pressure. But in the opening minutes, Merstham were indebted to their keeper for keeping them in the game, when he made two terrific saves in the 51st minute from first Scutt and then Willett before Willett fired the rebound wide. It was a real let off for the Moatsiders and a minute later, Willett should have scored after he went past Molloy but fired wide from 12 yards. Having ridden their luck, Merstham's high press began to cause the home team problems. Korrey Henry skipped inside his man on 56', but shot straight at the keeper.  Both Lorenzo Lewis and Jude Molloy got into great positions but their crosses failed to pick out an amber shirt. Johnson again denied Willett with a good low save on 64' as Horndean continued to threaten on the break. The game turned in the 70th minute. Charlie Greenwood, who was made captain for the day, chased a lost cause on the right touchline. He not only kept the ball in, but beat the full back and then dinked a clever ball to the far post where Korrey Henry was lurking and the striker nodded it home from close range. If that goal was largely due to Greenwood's tenacity, Merstham's second goal eight minutes later was all down to some brilliance from Henry. Again, it was Greenwood who laid the ball into the striker's feet, but still the best part of 40 yards out, everyone expected the striker to lay the ball off. Instead he turned and almost in one motion chipped it over the keeper and into the net off the far post for a quite sublime goal. Horndean pushed in search of an equaliser and Scutt should have done better from a Willett cross with five minutes left. But Merstham wrapped up the points with another contender for goal of the season. Greenwood got his third assist when he chipped the ball across to Lee Lewis some 20 yards out. Anyone who's seen the midfielder this season will know he can strike a ball with enormous power. He proved that when his strike from 20 yards almost took the back of the net off such was the velocity of the shot. The Horndean keeper didn't even move until he went to pick the ball out of the net. As the game moved into added time, Endo Johnson made one more fine save when he came out to block at the feet of Callaghan.     

Merstham: Johnson, Khinda, Molloy, Pointing, Ogundega (Senior 69')  Drage, Lee Lewis, Oram (Mbele 81'), Greenwood, Henry, Lorenzo Lewis (Vendrells 78') 

Subs not used: Mbele, Bartley

Man of the Match: Endo Johnson

-

Merstham 5-0 Sevenoaks Town | Isthmian South East | Saturday 6th April

In front of a crowd of almost 700, Merstham delivered a scintillating first half display, with the game over as a contest well before the interval. It was a performance that the Moatsiders have been threatening to deliver for a few weeks now, but this time, some excellent approach play was capped off by some ruthless finishing. Boss Jamie Decruz made just one change to the side that had been unfortunate to lose on Easter Monday, with Billy Oram replacing Aaron Lamont. 

 

Merstham began the game well, playing at a good tempo and working hard to close Sevenoaks down whenever they had possession. It was that hard work that brought about the opening goal in the sixth minute. Lorenzo Lewis was very much second favourite for a ball played into the right-side channel, but his determination won the ball and took him past the Town left back. Spotting Oram unmarked on the edge of the box, Lewis pulled the ball back and the midfielder picked his spot and fired it into the bottom corner. Sevenoaks had plenty of possession in the opening twenty minutes, but failed to do much with it. Endo Johnson had a quiet afternoon between the sticks. His only real save came in the 19th minute when he managed to gather a bobbling shot from Baugh at the second attempt. A minute later, Lorenzo Lewis threatened again as his pace took him clear, but he was denied by the outstretched foot of Colmer, the Town keeper, at his near post. However, the reprieve was only temporary. A deep Merstham corner was met by Tobi Ogundega and a combination of keeper and post initially kept the ball out, but the ball was forced over the line by Dean Gunner at the second attempt to put the Moatsiders two up after 22'. Four minutes later, Sevenoaks had their best chance of the half and it took a goal line clearance by Ollie Khinda from Ajayi to preserve the two goal lead, though the Town striker really should have scored. Just a minute later, Sevenoaks paid dearly for that miss when the two goal lead was extended by a contender for goal of the season. Some exquisite one touch passing on the right side between Khinda, Lee Lewis and Lorenzo Lewis, led to Oram, in a very similar position to where he scored his first goal, adding his second and Merstham's third with a sublime finish from 18 yards. The Moatsiders were three up  in 27 minutes and six minutes later, the rout was on, as Merstham made it four. A set piece was only half cleared and Charlie Greenwood, who covered every blade of grass during the 90 minutes hooked it back into the box. Matt Drage cleverly headed it back over his own head to where Gunner was lurking at the far post. The Merstham skipper caught the ball sweetly on the volley as it dropped, rifling it past a stunned goalkeeper. With just over half an hour gone, and Merstham four up, the question on the lips of every Merstham fan was, "how many?". Just a minute before the break, Korrey Henry delivered a wonderfully weighted pass into Lorenzo Lewis' path. Lewis' shot seemed to be heading just inside the far corner, but Colmer got fingertips to the ball and it drifted just past the far post. 

 

Any thoughts of a Sevenoaks revival in the second half were swiftly put to bed in the 53rd minute. A long ball out of defence was met by Lorenzo Lewis and his header on the halfway line sent Henry through on goal. The Merstham striker still had a bit to do, but he kept his poise and slotted it past Colmer as the keeper advanced to make it five for the Moatsiders. For the remainder of the half, Sevenoaks had plenty of the ball, but Merstham looked more than capable of adding to their tally with quick counter attacks. As both sides made some changes, the game took on the feel of a training game, although a couple of Town players went into the referee's notebook for late challenges. Merstham made some half chances but failed to capitalise, while Sevenoaks rarely looked like scoring, although Greenwood was well-positioned to head one off the line late on. 

 

Merstham: Johnson, Khinda, Molloy, Gunner (Senior 45'), Ogundega, Drage, Lee Lewis, Oram (Lamont 63'), Greenwood, Henry (Vendrells 74') Lorenzo Lewis 

Subs not used: Mbele, Bartley

Greene King Player of the Match: Jude Molloy

Man of the Match: Charlie Greenwood

Merstham 0-1 Broadbridge Heath | Isthmian South East | Monday 1st April

Merstham will consider themselves hugely unfortunate not to have got something from this entertaining Easter Monday game. That they didn't was largely down to an inspired performance from the Bears keeper, George Clark Evans, who was on loan from Millwall. In the first half in particular, he made a string of fine saves to deny the Moatsiders, who could well have gone in at half time a couple of goals up, rather than one down.

 

Merstham boss Jamie Decruz opted to start the same side that had begun the game at Hythe. It was an open, attacking game and both sides looked capable of scoring every time they went forward. It took Merstham just nine minutes to give Clark Evans his first test, when Lee Lewis' well-struck shot from a free kick just outside the box brought an excellent low save from the keeper. Doughty had a great chance for the visitors on 19', when he beat the offside flag and was through on goal, but Merstham's keeper Endo Johnson made a fine stop. Broadbridge took the lead on 22', when Chesworth fired home a free kick from 20 yards, but the Moatsiders will reflect on rather needlessly conceding the free kick in the first place. But that goal seemed to galvanise Merstham, and they laid siege to the Bears goal for the next 20 minutes. On 28', Korrey Henry should have brought Merstham back level when he had a free header from 10 yards, but failed to hit the target. A minute later, Lee Lewis again tested the Bear's keeper with a superb strike from 25 yards that the keeper got finger tips to, and deflected for a corner. On 31', it was becoming a contest between Lee Lewis and the keeper as another Lewis free kick was well saved by the Bear's keeper, but no-one in an amber shirt could turn the rebound home. From the corner, Henry volleyed over when well placed after a Gunner header found him in the box. On 35', Gunner's powerful header from a corner was pushed away acrobatically by Clark Evans. Next it was Lorenzo Lewis' turn to be denied by a spectacular stop as the keeper got fingertips to Lewis' fierce shot and deflected it onto the post and out for a corner. It wasn't all one-way traffic though and in the 38th minute, Johnson produced a spectacular save to turn away a well-struck shot from Penfold that was heading for the top corner. The first-half ended with the Merstham faithful not quite able to understand how they hadn't scored. 

 

While the first half was highly entertaining and end to end, the second half was much more a case of Broadbridge digging in and asking the Moatsiders, 'can you break us down?'. Both sides started to feel the effects of playing 48 hours earlier and there were some tired legs out there. One exception was Jude Molloy, whose lung-bursting runs down the left wing were one of the biggest causes of concern for the Bears' defence. But for all their possession, Merstham couldn't find a way to prise open the visitor's defence. There were some half chances and a lot of promising situations, but Clark Evans didn't really have a save of note to make. Merstham's one clear-cut chance came when Lorenzo Lewis was put clear by a defence-splitting pass by Oram, but the winger got the ball tangled under his feet as he went to shoot and scuffed his shot wide from close range. Merstham were pushing right up to the last minute of added time, but just couldn't find that one moment of quality, or luck that would have given them a deserved equaliser.   

 

Merstham: Johnson, Khinda, Molloy, Gunner, Ogundega (Senior 63'), Drage, Lee Lewis, Lamont (Oram 63'), Greenwood, Henry, Lorenzo Lewis (Vendrells 82')

Subs not used: Mbele, Bartley

Greene King Player of the Match: Charlie Greenwood

Man of the Match: Jude Molloy

-

Hythe Town 0-1 Merstham | Isthmian South East | Saturday 30th March

A goal from Dean Gunner after just three minutes was enough to give the Moatsiders all three points on a sunny afternoon on the Kent coast. The game was played on a truly dreadful playing surface which made good football completely impossible. But Merstham deserved their win and had their finishing been better, the margin of victory would have been far more comfortable. 

 

Merstham boss Jamie Decruz gave a debut to new signing Matt Drage, who was one of three changes to the side beaten at Littlehampton last time out. Aaron Lamont came into the midfield and Jude Molloy returned at left wing back. 

 

It was apparent from the opening moments that the pitch could not be trusted. The ball bobbled and bounced like a beach ball on a windy beach and one had sympathy for both sets of players as it made passing and ball control a complete lottery. The game was not helped by some pedantic refereeing from Mr Goldup, who gave a series of free kicks for innocuous challenges, including yellow cards for Lamont and Greenwood yet failed to give yellow cards for similar offences by the home side. A remarkably inconsistent display from the man in black. 

Merstham started the game brightly and pushed their opponents back. In the second minute, Korrey Henry was brought down just outside the box on the right side of the pitch. Lamont stepped up and delivered a perfectly flighted free kick into the danger area, which Gunner met with a thumping header from eight yards, giving the keeper no chance. Merstham looked capable of adding a second and on more than one occasion a good ball into the box just failed to find a Merstham shirt. At the other end, keeper Endo Johnson had one of his more comfortable afternoons and didn't really have a save to make the entire game. Town's main threat came from the long throw of Steventon and that always looked their most likely source of an equaliser. The Moatsiders and Gunner came close to adding a second in the 20th minute when his close range effort from a corner clipped the outside of the post. Lorenzo Lewis was looking a threat and he might have done better with a shooting chance in the 34th minute, but failed to hit the target. Gunner again got on the end of another free kick just before the break but he couldn't keep his shot down and it sailed harmlessly over the bar. Aside from a couple of half chances, Hythe really didn't threaten and the Merstham defence dealt comfortably with most things that came their way. 

 

The second half was a much more open affair, as Hythe threw men forward and were exposed at the back on more than one occasion. In the 51st minute an  excellent give and go between Lorenzo Lewis and Ollie Khinda saw the Merstham wide man drill a low cross to the near post where Korrey Henry was arriving at pace. The Merstham striker got to the ball ahead of the defender but his shot from point blank range hit Briggs, the Town keeper, who knew nothing about it and was scrambled to safety. A few minutes later, Lewis had a great chance himself as he cut inside, but dragged his shot wide when he really should have hit the target. Merstham were very much on top and seemed likely to grab a second at any moment. In the 64th minute a cross from the right was met by Lewis in the box, but his downward header was cleared off the line by a covering defender. A minute later and a superb through ball from Charlie Greenwood gave Lewis a clear run at goal with just the keeper to beat. But the Merstham man hit his shot straight at Briggs and another chance went begging. In the 75th minute, it was Lee Lewis' turn to test the Hythe keeper as his well-struck shot from 25 yards took a wicked bounce off the treacherous playing surface and Briggs did well to push it away for a corner.  As the game entered the final 15 minutes, the Moatsiders had to withstand a barrage of long throws from Steventon, which led to a few heart-in-mouth moments as the ball bounced around in the Merstham box before being hacked clear. Gunner might have done better with a free header from a corner in the 87th minute, but his effort sailed over the bar. As the game moved into stoppage time, more long throws created a degree of panic in the Merstham box and Hythe had a couple of half decent chances but failed to hit the target. But it was a good battling performance from the Moatsiders and an important three points to give themselves breathing space in mid-table.

 

Merstham: Johnson, Khinda, Molloy, Gunner, Ogundega, Drage, Lee Lewis, Lamont, Greenwood, Henry, Lorenzo Lewis (Vendrells 71)

Subs not used: Mbele, Senior, Oram, Bartley

Man of the Match: Lee Lewis

-

 

Littlehampton Town 2-1 Merstham | Isthmian South East | Saturday 23rd March

Merstham seem intent on giving a helping hand to anyone near the foot of the Isthmian South East table. Littlehampton came into the game having won only once in the last ten games and not having scored for four games. Merstham proceeded to give their hosts a helping hand in their bid to avoid relegation by gifting them an almost comical goal after nine minutes and then compounded that by conceding a second with schoolboy defending on the half hour. Make no mistake, this was against a poor Littlehampton side that looked bereft of confidence in the opening exchanges.

 

Merstham's cause wasn't helped when Harry Pointing and Jude Molloy were ruled out and with Harry Murphy unavailable, Merstham's lack of defensive cover was exposed as manager Jamie Decruz was forced to deploy Lee Lewis as a makeshift left back. That experiment lasted just 30 minutes and with his side two nothing down, the Merstham boss took off the unfortunate Richie Mbele, brought on Ben Senior and went to a 3-5-2. But by then, the damage had been done because the home side were full of confidence and the Moatsiders looked like a side that hadn't played together before. 

 

The opening goal was a good example. There was little danger as the ball ran loose 30 yards from the Merstham goal. But Endo Johnson and his defenders all just looked at each other and no-one took control of the situation. Town's George Gaskin couldn't believe his luck and ran onto the loose ball as Johnson belatedly tried to close him down. Even then the Town striker hit his shot straight at Johnson who blocked it, but the rebound fell kindly to Gaskin who gleefully knocked it into an empty net as the Merstham defenders stood and watched. Merstham had some good attacking moments in the twenty minutes that followed but all too often players took too many touches or ran into cul de sacs of their own making instead of playing simple passes. Town keeper James Binfield didn't have a shot to save in the game, which tells you everything you need to know about Merstham's lack of quality in the final third. Bad went to worse in the 29th minute when Herbert picked the ball up on the half way line and ran completely unchallenged past a statuesque Merstham defensive line and had all the time in the world to put his side two up. Then came the Merstham substitution and an immediate response from the visitors. Lorenzo Lewis put in a good, deep cross to the far post and sub Ben Senior, who had only been on the pitch for a minute, guided a superb header back across Binfield into the corner to make it 2-1. But the Moatsiders didn't capitalise on that rare moment of quality and the game drifted into first half added time. But the half ended in quite bizarre fashion. Referee Luke Chapman, who had a dreadfully poor game throughout, and his assistant got into a real muddle over a simple throw in in front of the Merstham technical area. They both gave it different ways and confused everyone. Merstham were convinced they had the throw as the linesman, who was closest to the action had given it their way. For some reason the referee overruled him but didn't make his decision clear. A Town player gambled and took the throw in as the players and match officials were debating the decision. Chapman let the game proceed with a Town player through on goal as the Merstham team had all pushed up assuming it was their throw. Only the ineptitude of the Littlehampton forward meant they didn't go in 3-1 up. The referee immediately blew his whistle for half time and was surrounded by irate Merstham players and staff in the centre circle. While not condoning it, the match officials brought it entirely upon themselves.   

 

The second half was notable more for the dreadful weather as a combination of heavy rain and hail made the playing conditions difficult. But if the travelling Merstham fans hoped that their team would come out fired up for the second half and would put the visitors under pressure, they were sadly mistaken. If anything, it was the home side that looked more like adding a third. It was more a lack of quality than anything else that prevented them from doing so. Tobi Ogundega almost turned in a free kick on the hour mark and there were a few occasions when Merstham created good openings especially down the right side, where Lorenzo Lewis was one of the few Merstham players who looked like he might do something. But Merstham failed to get a shot on target in the whole of the second forty five minutes and Littlehampton, rather like Phoenix Sports had done two weeks earlier, were very grateful for the gift-wrapped three points. 

 

Merstham: Johnson, Khinda, Gunner, Ogundega, Lee Lewis, Oram (Lamont 71'), Mbele (Senior 31'), Greenwood, Henry, Vendrells (Bartley 77'), Lorenzo Lewis 

Subs not used: None

Man of the Match: Lorenzo Lewis

-

Merstham 2-2 Herne Bay | Isthmian South East | Saturday 16th March

 

Two goals up inside the first nine minutes, Merstham looked well set to take all three points. But a second half fightback by Herne Bay ensured that honours were even, which on the balance of the overall match, was probably a fair result. Nevertheless, the Moatsiders will be disappointed they couldn't hang on, especially as the Herne Bay equalizer came with just seven minutes left. 

 

Putting their recent poor form behind them, the home side began the game very much on the front foot and a surging run down the left by Jude Molloy earned them a corner inside the first minute. They opted to play a short corner which was cleared by the visitors at the expense of a throw in. Molloy took the throw, got the ball back from Bartley and hit a first-time cross to the far post where Harry Pointing rose above a defender to power a header past Brooks to put the Moatsiders in front with just 80 seconds on the clock. Things got even better for Merstham when Billy Oram's long ball found Lorenzo Lewis in space on the left flank. The wide man had only one thing in mind as he cut inside and as the defenders backed off, Lewis hit a ferocious right-foot shot which flew into the top corner to put the home side two up. Herne Bay gradually recovered their composure and began to string some passes together. Merstham sat back and allowed the visitors to have the ball, but were always looking to spring quick counter attacks and looked capable of adding a third. On more than one occasion, a better final ball from Merstham would have put them through. Ollie Khinda will perhaps look back on a surging run and reflect he might have played in Lorenzo Lewis rather than opting to shoot. For all their possession, Herne Bay didn't get a shot on target until the 38th minute when Liam Friend rose highest to a deep corner and a combination of a Johnson touch and the foot of the post prevented the visitors clawing a goal back before the break. As it was, the home side went into half time with their two goal lead intact. 

 

That two goal lead only lasted for 3 minutes of the second half. A long ball from the back found Bola in space. Dean Gunner opted to step in and try to nick the ball from him, but the forward rolled the Merstham skipper and with only Johnson to beat, thumped his shot past the keeper to make it 2-1 and suddenly it was game on. Walder brought a comfortable save from Johnson as the visitors pushed in search of a quick second. But Merstham began to look dangerous too and Charlie Greenwood's curling shot from the edge of the box was saved spectacularly by Brooks at full stretch with his left hand on 57'. Just moments later, Molloy was only inches away from restoring the Moatsiders two goal lead as his shot beat Brooks but also the far post. Play went straight up the other end and the Moatsiders had a lucky escape when a near post cross should have been turned in by Osinfolarin, but he contrived to hit the inside of the post from a yard and Johnson fell on the ball on his goal line. It was end to end stuff now and Brooks was again called into action in the 61st minute when he stood strong at his near post to beat away a Lorenzo Lewis effort. Lewis thought he's got his second of the game ten minutes later when he looked very much onside and slotted past Brooks. But as he ran away to celebrate, the assistant's flag cut short his joy. It was a controversial moment and even one of the Herne Bay defenders admitted after the game that Lewis was onside when he received the ball. Going 3-1 up with 15 minutes left would almost certainly have made the game safe, but it wasn't to be. With just 7 minutes left, Bola hit a speculative shot from 25 yards which seemed to deceive Johnson and bobbled into the far corner of the net to make it 2-2. Although the visitors searched for a winner to bolster their play off chances, Merstham saw out the remaining minutes to add another important point and consolidate their mid-table position.   

 

Merstham: Johnson, Khinda, Gunner, Pointing, Molloy, Oram, Mbele, Greenwood, Lee Lewis, Bartley (Vendrells 49'), Lorenzo Lewis (Senior 84')

Subs not used: Henry

Man of the Match: Charlie Greenwood

-

Phoenix Sports 2-1 Merstham | Isthmian South East | Saturday 9th March

Merstham were outfought, out-worked and out-run by a limited but effective Phoenix Sports side, who both wanted and deserved the three points. On a truly dreadful playing surface, the quality of the football and the spectacle were equally dreadful. Phoenix were happy to hoof the ball into the air at every available opportunity and fight for the second ball. Given the horrendous state of the playing surface it was an effective ploy, and one which the Moatsiders struggled to cope with. The match frequently resembled a game of rugby given how much the ball was in the air. But in the end, there was one team that really wanted the three points and that was the home side.   

 

Missing Tobi Ogundega at the back and Korrey Henry up front, boss Jamie Decruz had to revert to a back four and also give a debut to Quaine Bartley. But it was the change in shape that was the problem and all afternoon, Merstham looked vulnerable at the back. They could easily have been two or three down in the first 15 minutes as Kileba caused havoc with his pace of the right flank. In the 7th minute a cross from the right was almost turned home, but Endo Johnson managed to get a hand to the ball and it deflected against the foot of the post. Two minutes later, another glorious chance for the home side went begging when a shot from 12 yards was dragged wide. Next it was Leppard's turn to miss for Sports when he failed to hit the target from the edge of the box. Merstham occasionally threatened themselves, but didn't test the Phoenix keeper. The one moment of real quality came in the 27th minute when Lee Lewis hit a superb shot from 25 yards, and the ball flew like an arrow into the far corner of the net to give the Moatsiders a lead they really didn't deserve. It was a beautifully struck shot with great technique and completely out of character with anything that had gone before, or that followed. Phoenix equalised nine minutes later. The referee, whose performance matched the overall quality of the game, gave a free kick to the home side for reasons best known to himself. Hayes took the free kick and hit a low shot which Johnson could only push away, and Lahan was first to react to turn the ball home and make it 1-1 at the break. 

 

Any hopes that the game would improve in the second half were swiftly put to bed and arguably the match got even worse as a spectacle. Phoenix took the lead in the 56th minute with a goal that summed up the game for the Moatsiders. A ball was lumped towards the corner flag which the Phoenix player battled for and won. He hit a low cross into the box and the ball resembled a pinball for a few moments before finally breaking to Leppard who fired home. Just four minutes later, Merstham had a glorious chance to get back on terms when Abel Vendrells was put clean through on goal. But his shot came off of Walker's outstretched foot and was probably going wide in any event. The Phoenix defence coped fairly comfortably with the Merstham attacks in the remaining 30 minutes and won virtually everything in the air and weren't afraid to put a foot through the ball to clear their lines. Anywhere will do was their philosophy, but it worked. The nearest Merstham came to salvaging a point was a Harry Pointing header from a corner in the 85th minute which was nodded off the line by Douglas. In added time, a shot from Dean Gunner was saved fairly comfortably by the keeper, but the Moatsiders really didn't deserve anything from a dreadfully poor game.

 

Merstham: Johnson, Khinda, Gunner, Pointing, Molloy, Lamont (Lorenzo Lewis 63'), Oram (Mbele 63'), Greenwood, Lee Lewis, Bartley, Vendrells (Senior 81')

Subs not used: Murphy, Henry

-

 

Merstham 0-3 Chichester City | Isthmian South East | Tuesday 5th March

Promotion-chasing Chichester brought Merstham's winning run to an abrupt halt and the Moatsiders can have few complaints about the result after the visitors dominated the majority of the game. It was a disappointing evening for Merstham, who failed to replicate the form that had seen them win three of the last four games.

 

With Lee Lewis unavailable, boss Jamie Decruz made just one change to the side, bringing in Richie Mbele for Lewis. 

 

In the opening twenty minutes, neither side were able to create anything very much in the final third and the game was largely played in midfield. In fact City's best moments came from two dreadful passes from Merstham players deep in their own half. Although neither mistake proved costly, it rather summed up a lack-lustre performance from the home side, who were careless in possession and lacked their usual energy when looking to win the ball back. Merstham did, however muster the first shot on target in the 21st minute, when Billy Oram's effort from 20 yards was shovelled away for a corner by the City keeper. In the away fixture just over a month ago, Merstham conceded the first goal that night to an unlucky deflected shot. History repeated itself on 24 minutes, when Wild's speculative shot from just outside the box took a wicked deflection off Tobi Ogundega and looped over Endo Johnson's despairing dive to give the visitors an undeserved lead. But that goal galvanised Chichester and they added a second just five minutes later, when they sliced through the Merstham defence all too easily and Clarke slotted the ball into the bottom left corner. Merstham's cause wasn't helped when Oram limped off and was replaced by Aaron Lamont. A fine save by Johnson in first half added time ensured the Moatsiders only went in two down.

 

Merstham began the second half much more brightly and played with more energy and a higher tempo, and for the first time in the evening, they had the visitors on the back foot. Korrey Henry had a frustrating evening, frequently getting caught offside, but in the 52nd minute he timed his run to perfection and had a clear sight of goal. But arguably he took one touch too many and by the time he shot, his angle was much tighter and Magee was able to beat his shot away. You felt that Merstham needed to score while they were on top, but Chichester weathered the storm and in the 68th minute, they made the game safe by adding a third. A hopeful ball over the top should have been dealt with by either the onrushing Johnson or Harry Pointing. In the end they both hesitated and allowed Wild to nip in and take the ball past both of them and knock it into an empty net. In the 20 minutes that remained, Merstham had their moments, but it looked more likely that Chichester would add a fourth on the break, rather than the home side would open their account. But for a couple of fine saves by Johnson and some last-ditch defending, they may well have done so. Merstham will need to regroup quickly as they seek to pull away from the bottom half of the table.

 

Merstham: Johnson, Khinda, Gunner, Ogundega, Pointing, Molloy, Mbele (Lorenzo Lewis 69'), Oram (Lamont 37'), Greenwood, Henry, Vendrells (Senior 81')

Subs not used: Murphy

Man of the Match: Jude Molloy

-

 

Merstham 3-1 Burgess Hill Town | Isthmian South East | Tuesday 27th February

Merstham's recent run of good form continued with as they came from behind in a very entertaining Tuesday night game at the Hybrid Fitness Stadium. Although a cliche, this was a classic 'game of two halves'. The first half was dominated by Burgess Hill and but for keeper Endo Johnson, the Moatsiders could well have been in a deep hole by the interval. But in the second forty five minutes, Merstham completely turned the game around and in the end ran out comfortable winners thanks to a brilliant Korrey Henry hat-trick.

 

Merstham boss Jamie Decruz made just one change after the victory at Sheppey, with Billy Oram coming into the starting line up in place of Aaron Lamont. But it was the visitors from Sussex who began the match very much on the front foot and could easily have gone ahead as early as the third minute when Hallard dragged his shot wide when unmarked 12 yards out. A minute later, Johnson made his first save of the evening when he got down well at his near post to keep out a close-range effort from Perry. In the opening 15 minutes it was all Town as their neat, incisive football was creating all sorts of problems for the home side. However, it was Merstham who almost went in front very much against the run of play in the thirteenth minute, when Harry Pointing's diving header from a Lee Lewis corner was cleared off the line. Just when it looked as though Merstham had weathered the early Burgess Hill storm and were starting to play their way into the game, they went behind after 27 minutes. A Merstham attack broke down and Burgess Hill broke quickly. Caught in transition, the Moatsiders were all over the place and Rowe had time and space to pick his spot from 10 yards, giving Johnson no chance. But the Moatsiders were indebted to Johnson in what remained of the first half for keeping them in the game. Twice in quick succession, Hallard was put through on goal with just Johnson to beat and twice the Merstham keeper made himself big and blocked the striker's efforts. If either one had gone in, then the Moatsiders would have been in real trouble, but as it was they got to the interval just trailing by the single goal.

 

Whatever the Merstham coaching staff said at half time had an immediate impact at the start of the second half. Suddenly the home side were a yard quicker, pressing high up the pitch, denying the visitors the time and space they had enjoyed for most of the first half. Town kept trying to play out from the back, but the Moatsiders now were picking off passes and winning possession in the Burgess Hill half of the field. That high press led directly to Merstham's equaliser in the 54th minute, when they won the ball back in the visitors' half. Jude Molloy played a superb through ball to Korrey Henry who finished with aplomb past Hallard. The momentum of the game completely changed and it was now Merstham who were playing some excellent stuff and looking dangerous. Merstham's second goal after 64 minutes owed everything to the strength and determination of Korrey Henry. Lee Lewis won an aerial dual just outside the Town box and as the ball bounced on the 18 yard line, Henry muscled his way past the two central defenders and then finished sublimely past Hallard. By now the game was getting increasingly tetchy and Abel Vendrells and Hallard were both shown yellow cards after the keeper took exception to a challenge by the Merstham forward. With ten minutes remaining, Henry completed his hat-trick when he stooped to head home a corner and make the three points safe for the home side. It was the perfect hat-trick; left foot, right foot and a header. A minute later, Burgess Hill frustration boiled over when Henry, once again running at goal, was scythed down by Honore. There was no honour about his late, reckless and very late challenge, and he was rightly shown a straight red. Merstham almost added a fourth, but Lorenzo Lewis' goal was chalked off by the assistant's flag. With 10 points from the last 4 games, Merstham have now climbed to 13th place in the Isthmian South-East table.

 

Merstham: Johnson, Khinda, Gunner, Ogundega, Pointing, Molloy, Lee Lewis, Oram, Greenwood (Lamont 90') Henry (Mbele 85'), Vendrells (Lorenzo Lewis 77')

Subs not used: Murphy

Man of the Match: Korrey Henry

-

 

Sheppey United 0-1 Merstham | Isthmian South East | Saturday 24th February

A well-taken goal by midfielder Lee Lewis was enough to give the Moatsiders all three points in a game that was rather like the February weather on a cold, bleak afternoon on the Kent coast. While the game was instantly forgettable, the result was hugely important for Merstham as they seek to pull away from the relegation zone. The ability to grind out a result when you haven't played particularly well is a sign of a good side and that's just what the Moatsiders did on the Isle of Sheppey. 

 

There was very little to get the crowd of 630 excited in the opening 45 minutes. Neither side were able to carve out a chance worthy of the name and the majority of the game was played between the two penalty boxes, but rarely in them. Both siders were guilty of giving the ball away with overhit or misplaced passes. The only exception to the rule was Merstham's Aaron Lamont, recalled to the side after injury and he sprayed the ball around with tremendous accuracy, in stark contrast to what was going on around him. But although they couldn't get going as an attacking threat, the Moatsiders looked comfortable in defence and were working hard all over the pitch, forcing the hosts to play largely sideways and back. Both sides threatened occasionally, but the final ball was lacking and neither keeper was called into action. 

 

At the start of the second half, Sheppey started the better and began to move the ball more quickly, creating space on the flanks and putting the visitors under sustained pressure for the first time in the game. Merstham were probably guilty of sitting a little too deep and giving the Sheppey players a little too much time and space. In the 57th minute, United's Bradshaw should have done better when he had a clear shooting chance but blazed over the bar when well-placed. A minute later, Lambert, who had been Sheppey's most dangerous player, missed a golden chance to put his side ahead when he was all alone 12 yards out but somehow failed to hit the target. Three minutes later, Merstham were indebted to keeper Endo Johnson who produced a superb reflex save to turn away Leonard's shot. What made the save even better was it was deflected just before it got to Johnson, who quickly readjusted to push the ball away with his left hand. Very much against the run of play, the Moatsiders took the lead in the 63rd minute. Jude Molloy dinked a ball through the United defence for Lee Lewis to chase. The midfielder was second favourite, but his pace and strength carried him past the defender and he cooly finished with a chip over the advancing keeper to put the visitors in front. The goal meant that the home side had to chase the game and there was always the chance that the Moatsiders would catch them on the break. Sub Lorenzo Lewis very nearly did so, when he skipped past a couple of challenges on the right flank, before cutting inside and hitting a piledriver when narrowly missed the top corner. At the other end, Sheppey put the visitors under pressure, especially in the last 10 minutes and the 5 minutes of added time, but a combination of good defending and a lack of quality around the box meant that Johnson didn't need to perform any more heroics. The final whistle sounded and the players went to celebrate another huge three points on the road with the Merstham faithful.

 

Merstham: Johnson, Khinda, Gunner, Ogundega, Pointing, Molloy, Lee Lewis, Lamont (Oram 64'), Greenwood, Henry (Mbele 88'), Vendrells (Lorenzo Lewis 80')

Subs not used: Adam, Dyer

Man of the Match: Lee Lewis

-

Merstham 2-2 Ashford United | Isthmian South East | Saturday 17th February

A stirring second half fightback gave Merstham a share of the points, which on balance, was probably the right result. Having dug themselves a hole, the Moatsiders showed great fighting spirit in the last half hour to claw their way back into the game, although the Merstham faithful will wonder why they had to go two goals down before they sprang into life. 

 

Boss Jamie Decruz was able to name an unchanged side for the first time this season and the Moatsiders came into the game full of confidence after their terrific win at Ramsgate the previous Saturday. But Merstham began the game slowly and handed the initiative to the visitors, which they duly accepted. The first half saw the home side sitting far too deep and allowing the visitors too much time on the ball to pick their passes. The Moatsiders were also sloppy in possession and all too often, attacks broke down because of either a poor pass or players choosing the wrong option. That said, neither side created much in the opening half hour. Merstham got the first shot on target on 18', but Abel Vendrells' shot went straight at the United keeper. A few minutes later, Ashford should have opened the scoring but Vance delayed getting his shot away and it was charged down by a covering defender. The opening goal came in the 32nd minute and was a disappointing one to concede as it came from a Merstham attack. Ashford broke quickly down the left and the ball was played into the box and broke to Bola who this time made no mistake from 10 yards. It was a largely uninspiring first half from both teams, but the visitors probably deserved their lead as they had more possession and looked the more likely to create something in the final third. Merstham were a pale shadow of the side that had run Ramsgate ragged.

 

Ashford almost doubled their lead in the opening moments of the second half when Draycott had a great chance, but his shot was deflected for a corner. Merstham should have been back on terms in the 50th minute when a cross from Korrey Henry found Vendrells completely unmarked, but the striker headed over the bar from 8 yards. Six minutes later, Ashford went two up and it was a goal that was really handed to them on a plate. The Moatsiders were trying to play through midfield but a poor pass was picked off 30 yards from their own goal, and two passes later, Abobia had the simple task of picking his spot to give the visitors breathing space. At that point it was hard to see Merstham getting anything from the game.  But just four minutes later, Merstham got themselves right back into the contest. Charlie Greenwood did exceptionally well to get to the bye line and pull the ball back to where Ollie Khinda was waiting and the wing back made no mistake from close range. Suddenly the whole game changed and the Moatsiders were a yard quicker and it was the visitors who were on the back foot. The equaliser wasn't long in coming. Tobi Ogundega surged forward and found Khinda on the right flank. His first-time cross found Vendrells in space in the box. His first touch was excellent and with his second touch he fired a low shot into the corner to make it 2-2 after 67 minutes. At that point, it looked like there would only be one winner. Merstham almost did just that. With 15 minutes left, a superb through ball sliced upon the United defence and left Henry through on goal. But the striker delayed his shot slightly and a last-ditch challenge from Dymond was enough to deflect his shot wide for a corner. But Ashford weren't settling for a point and having weathered the Merstham storm they came back in the closing stages and an effort by Walsh went narrowly wide. Both sides had half chances in the last few minutes, but couldn't take them and in the end had to settle for a point apiece. 

 

Merstham: Johnson, Khinda, Gunner, Ogundega, Pointing, Molloy, Lee Lewis, Mbele (Oram 62'), Greenwood, Henry (Lorenzo Lewis 87'), Vendrells

Subs not used: Lamont, Adam, Corbin

Man of the Match: Oliver Khinda

-

Ramsgate 0-2 Merstham | Isthmian South East | Saturday 10th February

During the course of a season, there are usually one or two games that will live long in the memory. This was one of those. Merstham produced one of the shocks of the season by upsetting league leaders Ramsgate in front of a crowd of 1,031. This was Ramsgate's first defeat at home and Merstham's first away win of the season. It was a superb display by the Moatsiders and they thoroughly deserved the three points. Resolute in defence, energetic in midfield and dangerous in the final third, Merstham produced the complete team performance. 

 

Merstham boss Jamie Decruz made three changes after the narrow defeat to Cray Valley. Korrey Henry was fit enough for his first start since mid-December and what a difference he made to the side. New signing Abel Vendrells made his debut up front and swiftly established a great rapport with Henry as the two combined well to give the Rams centre backs a difficult afternoon. Ritchie Mbele also returned to the side and his tenacious tackling and positional sense was key to limiting the Rams' ability to build play through the midfield. The midfield three of Mbele, Charlie Greenwood and Lee Lewis were outstanding, both in stopping the opposition playing, but also their intelligent use of the ball when in possession.

The Moatsiders started well and from the off, the partnership of Henry and Vendrells showed promise. Ramsgate passed the ball crisply and looked dangerous with Bioletti on the right side testing Jude Molloy with his pace and trickery. But even when the Rams winger got his cross into the box, the Merstham central defenders dealt with the threat fairly comfortably. It wasn't until the 16th minute that Ramsgate got their first opening. Paxman turned in the box and shot and it took a great block by Tobi Ogundega to deflect the ball away for a corner. But a minute later, Vendrells cut in from the right and from an acute angle he forced Rams keeper Hadler into his first save of the half, blocking the shot at his near post. Sixty seconds later, the Moatsiders went in front. Lewis and Molloy combined nicely on the right side and the Merstham wing back dinked one to the far post where Henry was all alone and had the simple task of nodding the ball home from inside the six yard box. There was a stunned silence in the stadium save for the 40 Merstham fans going wild with delight. Far from sitting back on their lead, Merstham continued to be aggressive and Lewis shot narrowly over the bar from 25 yards. But Ramsgate also threatened and skipper Dean Gunner got his head in the way of a goal bound effort from Taylor. In the 26th minute, Merstham were awarded a free kick in the Rams' half. Lewis delivered a good ball into the box and Ramsgate didn't deal with it. The ball bounced and Greenwood was first to it, nodding the ball into the far corner from 8 yards to put the visitors two up. There was complete disbelief from the majority of the crowd as Greenwood was mobbed as celebrated with the Merstham faithful behind the goal. It wasn't until the half hour mark that keeper Endo Johnson was called into action as he produced a brilliant save low to his right to keep out Martin's free kick. Merstham almost added a third a minute later when Henry and Vendrells again combined and Vendrells shot was superbly saved by Handler. Handler was again to the rescue on 36' as Henry skipped past Johnson and the keeper got a strong right hand to deny Henry a second goal. In first half added time, Molloy went close with a shot just over the angle of post and bar and Vendrells once again called Handler into action. The half ended with a frustrated Stone kicking Henry in an off the ball incident, which led to some angry exchanges as the players left the field.

While the first half was end to end, the second half was much more a case of Merstham keeping what they had and Ramsgate trying to break the Moatsiders down. The Rams had plenty of possession and the game was largely played in the Merstham half, but the Moatsiders defended well and limited the home side to speculative crosses into the box from the flanks. Of course, Ramsgate did create a few half chances and Bioletti might have done better with a shot from the edge of the box after 53 minutes. But the back five of Merstham were immense and Pointing, Ogundega and Gunner were frequently in the right place to snuff out the danger. Wing backs Khinda and Molloy not only defended well, but still found the energy to surge forward periodically to relieve the pressure. Lorenzo Lewis came on to replace Henry and on 68 minutes his pace got him in front of Parter and the Rams defender dragged Lewis to the ground inside the box. It was a stonewall penalty, but the sort you often don't get away from home to the league leaders and the referee didn't give it. Although Ramsgate dominated possession and territory, they didn't get a shot on target and aside from a few scrambles in the box, Endo Johnson was relatively untroubled. Merstham almost grabbed a third in the 83rd minute when Lewis went through and his shot from the edge of the box went under Handler but got a deflection off his body and on the 3G surface bounced down and then up and over the bar. On a grass pitch, it would almost certainly have gone in. The last 15 minutes of normal time and 6 minutes of added time seemed to last an eternity, but finally the referee blew the final whistle and Merstham were able to celebrate a famous win on the road and three vital points in their fight against relegation.

Merstham: Johnson, Khinda, Gunner, Ogundega, Pointing, Molloy, Lee Lewis (Oram 90'), Mbele, Greenwood, Henry (Lorenzo Lewis 62'), Vendrells (Corbin 78')

Subs not used: Lamont, Collins

Man of the Match: Abel Vendrells

-

Merstham 0-1 Cray Valley PM | Isthmian South East | Saturday 3rd February

A dogged defensive display from the Moatsiders made high-flying Cray Valley work hard for the three points. In the end, it was one moment of quality that was enough to separate the sides. Although the visitors dominated possession and territory for the majority of the game, Merstham dug in and made sure they stayed in the game. But it was always going to be a big ask for the Moatsiders. After picking up a good point at Chichester on Tuesday night, both Aaron Lamont and Ben Senior failed fitness tests before the game and with Richie Mbele and Harry Murphy also unavailable and Will Kendall still sidelined with concussion, boss Jamie Decruz was forced into something of a makeshift line up. The good news for the Moatsiders was the return of both Korrey Henry and Billy Oram from injury, both of whom came off the bench in the closing stages. 

 

The match quickly settled into a pattern that was to last for the majority of the game as Cray took the game to Merstham. The Moatsiders sat back and invited the visitors to try and break them down. Charlie Greenwood in midfield set the tone and worked his socks off, chasing and closing down the opposition all over the park. Cray Valley might have gone in front as early as the seventh minute. A goalmouth scramble in the six yard box led to the ball getting smacked against the post from close range before the ball was hacked clear. But after that early scare, Merstham restricted the visitors to speculative shots from distance. Cray delivered a number of crosses into the box, but the Moatsiders dealt well with the threat and Endo Johnson didn't really have a save to make until tipping a shot over the bar a minute before the break. The problem for Merstham was that they couldn't retain possession when they did win the ball back and as a result, they offered no real threat going forward.

 

Johnson may have had a quiet first half, but in the second half he certainly earned his money and was forced into a string of fine stops to keep the visitors at bay. However, it was the Moatsiders who created the first real chance of the second half when, in the 47th minute, Lorenzo Lewis and Ollie Khinda launched a quick counter attack down the right side and Khinda's shot was beaten away by Cray's keeper.  It was then Johnson's turn to impress. He made a routine save to deny Della-Verde, but then made an excellent reflex save thrusting out a strong left hand to push away a header from Coombes. As the match went past the hour mark, there were the first hints of frustration from the visitors. That frustration went up a notch as Johnson produced a superb save, springing to his left to flick a bouncing header from Waldern past the post. But in the 63rd minute, Cray finally made the breakthrough. For once, Merstham didn't close down quite quickly enough and Vigor had just enough time to pick his spot and rifled one past Johnson from 20 yards just inside the far post. But Merstham didn't crumble and stayed in the game. Johnson produced another good save low to his left to deny Ekpiteta. With 20 minutes left, Jamie Decruz rolled the dice and threw on Corbin and Henry for Collins and Ogundega and switched to a back four. Merstham started to look more of a threat going forward, although Johnson kept his side in the game with another fine stop to deny Vigor. With five minutes remaining, Oram replaced Lewis and showed some nice touches. As the game entered the 90th minute, Merstham were awarded a free kick some 25 yards out. Lee Lewis caught it beautifully, hitting it hard and low past the wall, but Ovenden did very well to get his body behind it. A minute later, Callum Corbin went through but under pressure couldn't get enough purchase on his shot and Ovenden blocked with his feet. In the end, Cray deserved their victory, but the Merstham faithful applauded their side off the pitch, appreciative of the efforts from the men in amber and black.

 

Merstham: Johnson, Khinda, Gunner, Ogundega (Corbin 70'), Pointing, Malloy, Lee Lewis, Allen, Greenwood, Collins (Henry 70'), Lorenzo Lewis (Oram 84')

Subs not used: Senior, Lamont

Greene King Player of the Match: Ollie Khinda

Man of the Match: Charlie Greenwood

-

 

Chichester City 1-1 Merstham | Isthmian South East | Tuesday 30th January

A superb goal from Charlie Greenwood early in the second half was enough to earn the Moatsiders a valuable and well-deserved point. It was a much-improved display from the Merstham and will give them confidence as they start a difficult programme of matches in February. 

 

Boss Jamie Decruz made changes to personnel and to the shape of the team, opting for a 3-5-2. With both Jude Malloy and Will Kendall unavailable, Harry Murphy and Tom Collins came into the starting line up, as did Richie Mbele in midfield. The Moatsiders looked far more solid defensively with Mbele providing cover in front of the back three. 

 

Chichester played some neat passing football, as you'd expect from a team that play on a new 3G surface. But a lot of their passing was sideways and backwards. When they did play forwards, the Merstham players snapped into challenges and pressed as a unit. In the opening quarter of an hour, the Moatsiders frequently won the ball back in midfield. They certainly looked more dangerous than their hosts and but for the intervention of the assistant on a few occasions with some tight offside calls, they may well have sprung the high line that Chichester were playing. Merstham almost took the lead in the seventeenth minute, when some good work by Greenwood put Ben Senior through on goal and it was only the outstretched foot of Magee, the City keeper that denied Senior. Chichester weren't creating much to concern Merstham's back line and the closest they came was when a header from Wild went just over. Tom Collins had a half chance when he was first to a cross into the box, but couldn't get his body shape right to make good contact and the ball went harmlessly wide. Endo Johnson had a quiet game. He was only called into serious action once when he parried Munt's near post effort in the 33rd minute. Five minutes later, Senior was only denied by a great block by Dunn, who slid in to deflect Senior's shot was seemed destined for the back of the net. Just when it seemed the half would end goalless, Merstham conceded a very unlucky goal. A long ball over the top saw Bello closing in on goal. Murphy got round to cover and went to block the shot by the Chichester striker. But the ball hit Murphy's leg and looped up and over the stranded Johnson into the net, to give the home side an undeserved lead at the interval. 

 

Merstham began the second half strongly and were rewarded with an equaliser in the 50th minute. A ball over the top saw Collins and the City keeper in a sprint to get there first. The keeper just won the race, but as he was outside his area he could only knock it away back into midfield. Greenwood picked up the loose ball some 40 yards out. He took a touch and seeing the keeper stranded, chipped the ball from all of 35 yards over the heads of two defenders scrambling to cover and into the vacant net. It was a sublime chip to put the Moatsiders back in the game. For the next 15 minutes, it was the visitors who dominated possession. Although playing some really nice football in patches, they couldn't carve out any further opportunities. Chichester gradually came more into the game and did have some half chances. Their best chance came with seven minutes remaining, when the Moatsiders gave the ball away needlessly and Honare had a good shooting opportunity from the edge of the box but failed to hit the target. Merstham almost snatched it at the end when sub Lorenzo Lewis cut inside and forced a smart, low save from Magee at his near post with two minutes remaining. But both sides will concede that a draw was probably a fair result on the night.    

 

Merstham: Johnson, Khinda, Gunner, Ogundega, Pointing, Murphy, Lamont (Lee Lewis 86'), Mbele, Greenwood, Senior (Jordan 90'), Collins (Lorenzo Lewis 70')

Subs not used: Corbin

Man of the Match: Richie Mbele

-

 

Beckenham Town 2-1 Merstham | Isthmian South East | Tuesday 27th January

After a poor run of results in January against sides they would have hoped to pick up points against, Merstham have been drawn into a relegation battle once again. Playing against the team propping up the Isthmian South East table, the Moatsiders produced a woeful performance. But for goalkeeper Endo Johnson the game might already have been over by half time. The Merstham keeper produced a number of vital stops and was one of the few players that could hold his head up after this desperately disappointing display. It was only in the last twenty minutes, with Town down to ten men, and a change in the midfield, that Merstham began to look a threat. On another day, with a little luck they might have snatched a point, but no-one could deny that Beckenham were the better side over the 90 minutes. 

 

Town had their first sight of goal in the 8th minute, but Roberts blazed wide from a good position. The opening quarter of an hour really set the tone for the game. There was very little quality on show from either side, but the home side looked more threatening and were slicing through the Merstham midfield with alarming ease. It wasn't until the 17th minute that Merstham threatened when a Lee Lewis shot went narrowly wide. But a minute later, Johnson produced a brilliant double save as he first pushed away a close range shot from Bloomfield and then was up quickly to block Griffin's follow up effort. Five minutes later, Johnson was again to the rescue, spectacularly tipping over Griffin's shot from 25 yards that was heading for the top corner. The Moatsiders were guilty of giving the ball away very cheaply with some sloppy passing, too often choosing the more difficult option. They rarely strung more than a couple of passes together and were toothless going forward. Beckenham's keeper didn't have a shot to save in the first 45 minutes. But the real problem was in the middle of the park where the Merstham midfield were not only second best, but frequently spectators as the Town midfield went through them like a hot knife through butter. Thanks to Johnson and some last-ditch defending, the Moatsiders made it through to the interval on level terms. 

 

The number of times this season that Merstham have conceded goals immediately after half time is alarming. It happened on Tuesday night at Broadbridge and for the watching Merstham supporters there was a horrible sense of deja vu. With just a minute played, Merstham allowed Griffin to cut inside and he was only denied by a superb stop from Johnson. But Griffin was first to the rebound and knocked it into the net with Johnson helpless. Merstham almost got back on terms immediately. A lovely chipped ball put Charlie Greenwood through on goal. His shot was blocked at close range by the Town keeper, though Greenwood and the Merstham supporters behind the goal were screaming for a penalty, claiming that Greenwood had been fouled as he went to shoot. The aptly named referee, Mr Butcher, who let a litany of fouls go unpunished again saw nothing amiss. On the hour, Johnson produced another fine save low to his left to push away Roberts' shot. But moments later, Beckenham went two up with a superb strike from Finlay from 25 yards giving Johnson no chance. Manager Jamie Decruz had seen enough. He brought on Corbin, Collins and Mbele for Lamont, Lewis and Senior. The changes galvanised the Moatsiders and for the first time they began to play with urgency and made the home side look very ordinary. They were helped when Beckenham were reduced to 10 men with fifteen minutes left, after a nasty tackle by Finlay on Dean Gunner saw the referee produce a straight red and rightly so. But although Merstham piled on the pressure, and had some half chances they couldn't get a shot on target, which was as much down to poor quality in the final third as good defending. In the fourth minute of stoppage time, Merstham did get one back as Tom Collins poked the ball home after a scramble from a corner, but it was too little too late. The game ended in a mass pushing and shoving match as Jamie Decruz got involved with the Beckenham bench who were trying to delay the game. After tempers calmed, the referee showed the Merstham boss a red card, which capped a dreadful afternoon for the Moatsiders. 

 

Merstham: Johnson, Khinda, Gunner, Ogundega, Malloy, Lamont (Mbele 67'), Senior (Corbin 67'), Lee Lewis , Greenwood, Kendall, Lorenzo Lewis (Collins 67').

Subs not used: Dyer, Jordan

Man of the Match: Endo Johnson

-

Broadbridge Heath 6-6 Merstham | Isthmian South East | Tuesday 23rd January

Sir Alec Ferguson once said, "Football, bloody hell!". Quite. 

 

For those that didn't attend one of the most remarkable matches in Merstham's long and illustrious history, you could be forgiven for thinking that the game was called off and the two managers instead played FIFA24 on an XBox to decide the result. At times, the match did indeed resemble a video game, as first one team scored, then 60 seconds later the other team scored. While the atrocious weather conditions played their part in a quite bizarre game, the game was also littered with mistakes from both sides that contributed to the surreal scoreline. Few teams in Isthmian League history will have scored six times away from home and yet come away with only a point. At various times, the Moatsiders led 2-0, 3-1, 4-3 and 5-4 and yet as the game entered the 95th minute they were 6-5 down. After Ben Senior's dramatic late equaliser, Merstham boss Jamie Decruz was pleading with the referee to blow the final whistle and put an end to the footballing madness. He wasn't alone.  

 

On a wet, windy and thoroughly unpleasant night in Sussex, Merstham gave debuts to new signings Aaron Lamont and Lee Lewis, with Jude Molloy on the bench. Both teams took time to settle and try to get used to the combination of driving rain and a swirling wind, which made the flight of the ball hugely unpredictable all evening. Merstham struck first in the 20th minute. Ben Senior picked up the ball on the left and cut inside. His shot from just inside the box appeared to take a couple of deflections before hitting the back of the net. If the Moatsiders first goal was a little fortunate, their second goal two minutes later would have graced any football ground in the world. Lamont picked the ball up some 40 yards out, took a touch and then tried his luck from all of 35 yards. Wind-assisted perhaps, but the ball flew like a rocket past the stunned Broadbridge keeper who didn't even move, such was the velocity of the shot. The last thing you want to do when you go two up is immediately let the opposition back into the game, but that's what Merstham did just three minutes later. The back four stood and watched as the ball was slipped between them and Mason Doughty rounded Endo Johnson and knocked it into the empty net. Then followed a period of relative calm, before Charlie Greenwood started another goal fest when he fired home on 38 minutes after Harry Murphy's low cross had been pushed out by the keeper. That made it 3-1. But once again, Merstham let Heath back in it, when Doughty got his second of the game after 43 minutes, following some more sloppy defending by the Moatsiders to make it 3-2 at the interval.

 

Anyone coming out of the refuge of the bar just a couple of minutes late for the second half would have missed two more goals. Ninety seconds after the restart, Doughty completed his hat trick to make it 3-3. But the Moatsiders responded immediately and went 4-3 up after 47 minutes, as Lamont set up Greenwood, who grabbed his second with a cool finish from 12 yards. But Merstham's lead only lasted five minutes (anyone notice a pattern here?) as a corner from the left wasn't dealt with and Bromage volleyed home to make it 4-4 after 52 minutes. For the first time in the game, the home side took control of the game and certainly dominated both possession and territory for fifteen minutes. It was rather against the run of play that Merstham retook the lead in the 68th minute. Jude Molloy, on for Murphy, delivered the first of several superb balls into the box and Will Kendall's header looped over the keeper into the net to put the visitors in front again, 5-4. The lead this time lasted barely a minute. Broadbridge levelled things up again as Bromage got his second goal of the game, again from a corner that wasn't cleared. He was on hand to poke the ball over the line after a goalmouth scramble. If you're keeping up, that made it 5-5 on the night. Just as it looked as though that was the end of the scoring, there was more late drama. First, Mutongerwa hosted an up and under high ball into the Merstham box which Owen Farrell would have been proud of. Johnson came to claim it but was totally deceived by the swirling wind and could only palm it behind him into his own net to give the home side their first lead of the night in the 87th minute. But credit to the Moatsiders as they forced the home side back and in the fifth minute of added time, Ben Senior got his second goal as he latched on to a poor clearance and drilled a low shot in off the far post to make it 6-6. Bloody hell.

 

Merstham: Johnson, Khinda, Gunner, Ogundega, Murphy (Molloy 62') Lamont, Senior, Lee Lewis (Corbin 90') Greenwood, Kendall, Lorenzo Lewis (Jordan 90').

Subs not used: Dyer, Mbele

Man of the Match: Will Kendall

-

 

Herne Bay 2-0 Merstham | Isthmian South East | Saturday 13th January

Merstham are still in search of their first away win of the season. The consensus of the coach load of supporters that followed the Moatsiders to the Kent seaside was that they could have got something from the game, as there was very little to choose between the sides. Ultimately it came down to one moment of quality from Herne Bay's Danny Walder, and a contentious penalty halfway thorough the second half which effectively decided the game. 

 

Jamie Decruz switched to a back three for the game, with Tobi Ogundega returning from injury and he was also able to welcome back Will Kendall after missing the last 5 games. 

 

In the opening quarter of an hour, the Moatsiders appeared to have settled nicely into the game and the home side were only able to muster a couple of shots from distance, which threatened local seagulls more than the Merstham goal. But out of the blue on 16 minutes, Bay took the lead. A free kick some 30 yards out from goal was played short to Walder. With no-one closing him down he opted to try his luck from 25 yards. The ball swerved viciously, bending away from Endo Johnson and found the bottom corner. Both sides had half chances  and some good situations. Ben Senior should have done better after being set up by Charlie Greenwood but blazed high and wide. Tom Collins might have done better with a ball into the box but he couldn't get a proper connection. At the other end, Herne Bay were causing a few problems down the Merstham left flank, and a header by Rowland appeared to clip the outside of the post, but nether keeper was really tested. The Merstham faithful behind the Herne Bay goal kept themselves entertained by engaging in some banter with Bay keeper, Harry Brooks, who responded in kind and by the end of the game, he had become a new fans' favourite. But he had very little to trouble him during the course of the 90 minutes. At the break, the hosts led by a goal, but the visitors were still very much in the contest as neither side were dominating. 

 

In the opening ten minutes of the second half, Lorenzo Lewis twice went close. First with a near post shot which wrong footed Brooks but went narrowly wide and then on the hour mark, Lewis was put through on goal but delayed his shot just enough for a covering Bay defender to get a touch on his shot, which shaved the post and went behind for a corner. At the other end, Johnson produced a great save to tip over a shot from Kamara, but in the 63rd minute, the game swung decisively in favor of the home side when Ollie Khinda was adjudged to have tripped Rowland. The trip wasn't the issue, it was more than it was right on the edge of the area. The Moatsiders were convinced it was outside, but the referee pointed to the spot and Osinfolarin converted to make it 2-0. It didn't really look like the Moatsiders could get one, let alone two and the game rather petered out. Bay forced a succession of corners near the end, but the Merstham defence coped fairly comfortably with them. One bright spot was the return to action of Adam Adam, who has been out since injuring a knee in pre-season.  

 

Merstham: Johnson, Gunner, Pointing, Ogundega, Khinda, Mbele (Corbin 68'), Senior, Greenwood (Corbin 84), Collins (Jordan 72'), Kendall (Adam 87'), Lewis.

Subs not used: Dyer

Man of the Match: Tobi Ogundega

-

 

Merstham 2-0 Erith & Belvedere | Isthmian South East | Tuesday 9th January

Sometimes sport is about 'winning ugly'. Not playing especially well, but grinding out a result. After the disappointing and unexpected home loss to Littlehampton on Saturday, this game against the second-from-bottom club had the feel of a 'must win'. On a bitterly cold night at the Moatside, Merstham did just about enough to secure three vital points. 

 

Merstham began the game brightly, showing a lot more energy than they had on Saturday. They pressed Erith high up the pitch and on several occasions won the ball back in promising situations, but failed to create anything of note. However, the visitors could have scored as early as the second minute after a mistake by Pointing gifted the ball to Elliott, but he dragged his shot wide from the edge of the box. Merstham certainly had the better of the opening twenty minutes, but they lacked any sort of cutting edge in the final third and failed to trouble the Erith keeper. At the other end, the visitors were presented with two or three very good opportunities by some dreadful Merstham passing. But luckily for the Moatsiders, on each occasion the Erith forwards chose the wrong option and the chance went begging. As the half wore on, Erith settled into the game and looked more dangerous going forward, aided and abetted by some awful Merstham passing. The overly zealous and fussy refereeing of Peter Callum certainly didn't help the flow of the game, with four players booked in the first forty five minutes and the game continually stopped for minor infractions. It took the Moatsiders 31 minutes to muster a shot on target, when Lorenzo Lewis cut inside from the right and his near post shot was blocked by the Erith keeper. But there was little quality on show from either side and a blank scoresheet at the interval rather summed up a poor first half.

 

Merstham began the second half much as they did the first, with energy and purpose, pressing Erith high and giving them less time on the ball. Unlike the first half, that energy was maintained and the Moatsiders began to dominate possession. The high press led directly to Merstham's opening goal in the 59th minute. Ritchie Mbele put the Erith defence under pressure and a hurried pass when straight to his feet just inside the box. Mbele took his time and laid the ball off to Ben Senior cutting inside from the left. Senior took a touch and then curled a beautiful shot into the far corner giving the keeper no chance.  Three minutes later and the Moatsiders added a precious second goal. A corner was whipped in low to the 6 yard box and skipper Dean Gunner flicked it goalwards. An Erith defender cleared it off the line, but the assistant on the far side indicated the ball had crossed the line and Gunner wheeled away to celebrate. But Erith didn't throw in the towel and two minutes later, Endo Johnson produced a superb save to tip over Elliott's screamer from 25 yards. A mistake by Pointing with fifteen minutes left almost gifted Erith a way back into the game, but with Johnson stranded outside his box, the Erith forwards managed to make a complete hash of a golden opportunity to pull one back. Merstham should have made it three, when Tom Collins was tripped in the box with five minutes left, but Senior's spot kick went wide. Not Merstham's best football by any stretch of the imagination, but they worked hard and dug deep to grind out a much needed result.

 

Merstham: Johnson, Abnett, Murphy, Gunner, Pointing, Khinda, Mbele (Jordan 77'), Senior, Greenwood (Corbin 84), Collins, Lewis (Dyer 77').

Subs not used: none

Greene King Player of the Match: Ben Senior

Man of the Match: Michael Abnett

-

Merstham 0-1 Littlehampton Town | Isthmian South East | Saturday 6th January

Merstham are something of a Jekyll and Hyde team at the moment. While capable of producing great performances as they did against Three Bridges on Boxing Day, they are also just as likely to deliver the sort of display that gifted a very mediocre Littlehampton Town outfit three valuable points. Part of that is no doubt caused by the lack of a settled side. Both Charlie Greenwood and Korrey Henry picked up injuries last time out and were only fit enough for a place on the bench. Top scorer Lorenzo Lewis also picked up an injury in the first half and had to be replaced at the start of the second half. That said, it was still a desperately disappointing performance from the Moatsiders who rarely threatened the Littlehampton goal and just didn't look like scoring. In truth it was a very poor game, with Merstham seemingly incapable of stringing more than three or four passes together, all too often hitting aimless balls forward, which were meat and drink to the Town defenders. 

 

Littlehampton had the first chance of the game when the dangerous Bobomurodov got to the bye-line and pulled it back for Dolaghan who produced a tame finish straight at Merstham keeper Endo Johnson. Merstham's first and arguably only chance came on 20', when Lewis skipped past his man and put in a great cross to the far post where Tom Collins couldn't quite get enough power or direction on his header and the Town keeper was able to palm the ball away. Littlehampton went ahead on 29' when the Merstham defence stood and watched as the ball ran to Dolaghan who thumped it past Johnson from 10 yards to give the visitors a rather undeserved lead. It took a terrific reflex save from Johnson in first half added time to ensure the home side didn't go into the break two down. 

 

The second half started with Lewis limping off in the 47th minute and being replaced by Jaevon Dyer. As the half wore on, it looked more likley that Town would extend their lead than the Moatsiders would grab an equaliser. Fortunately for Merstham, the visitors lacked quality, especially in the final third and failed to capitalise on some promising situations. The only real highlight of the second half was a tremendous save from Johnson when he tipped over a piledriver from Jarvis that was arrowing towards the top corner.  The game against Erith on Tuesday now takes on even greater significance.

 

Merstham: Johnson, Abnett, Murphy (Greenwood 58'), Gunner, Ogundega, Khinda, Mbele, Senior, Corbin (Jordan 68'), Collins, Lewis (Dyer 48').

Subs not used: Henry, Brazier.

Man of the Match: Ben Senior

-

Sittingbourne 3-0 Merstham | Isthmian South East | Saturday 16th December

Christmas came early for Sittingbourne as the Moatsiders gifted their opponents the three points by conceding two soft goals second half goals. With Michael Abnett pulling out of the game, Callum Corbin injured and Samir Bajja unavailable, there were further reshuffles for boss Jamie Decruz. Harry Murphy returned at left back, and new signing Tobi Ogundega, on loan from Sutton, made his debut at centre back with Shyman Taank moving to right back. The other Merstham debutant was Jaevon Dyer on the left wing.

 

The first half was desperately short of festive cheer as neither side offered much by way of quality in an attacking sense. There was plenty of endeavour but both defences looked solid and neither keeper was asked to make a save of note. The game wasn't helped by a very bobbly playing surface, which would play a significant role in deciding the destination of the three points in the second half. Sittingbourne had the two best chances of the half. The first in the eleventh minute when May should have hit the target at least, but dragged his shot wide of the far post. Then on the half hour, skipper Dean Gunner positioned himself perfectly to head an effort from Hope off the line after a goalmouth scramble following a long throw. While Merstham threatened periodically, they just couldn't pick the right pass in the final third and all too often promising situations came to nothing. It was something of a relief when the referee's whistle sounded for the interval. 

 

The game changed dramatically when just after half time, Theobolds mishit a shot from the edge of the box. Merstham keeper Endo Johnson knelt to gather the tame effort, but the ball hit a divot and jumped wickedly past the startled keeper, off his shoulder and into the net. Even the Sittingbourne keeper was offering his sympathy to the Merstham supporters behind his goal as a paid up member of the goalkeepers union at that unfortunate turn of events. That goal on 51' changed the momentum of the game and Sittingbourne began to look more threatening, and minutes after the opening goal, Dean Gunner was again in the right place to head another effort off the line. But Merstham dug in and although Sittingbourne had more possession, at just 1-0 there was still hope for the visitors. However, at the other end the Sittingbourne keeper was virtually a spectator as the Moatsiders failed to muster a shot on target until a few minutes before the end. Sittingbourne made the points safe in the seventy-fifth minute. El-Mogharbel easily skipped past Khinda on the right and his low cross was turned in by May. Johnson's miserable afternoon was complete when, with five minutes remaining, he dropped a tame shot at the feet of Harris who accepted the early Christmas present and tapped it home to give the home side a flattering-looking scoreline. 

 

Merstham: Johnson, Taank, Murphy, Gunner, Ogundega, Khinda, Greenwoood (Mbele 76'), Dyer (Kendall 76') Senior, Henry, Lewis (Brazier 86').

Subs not used: none

Man of the Match: Dean Gunner

-

East Grinstead Town 4-1 Merstham | Isthmian South East | Saturday 2nd December

On a freezing, foggy afternoon in Sussex, a dire fifteen minute spell at the start of the second half cost Merstham the three points. While Town were deserved winners, the Moatsiders didn't help themselves by gifting the opposition a couple of goals. As has been the case in recent weeks, there were more enforced changes. Both Michael Abnett and Harry Murphy were missing at full back, while Billy Oram is out for a couple of months with a knee injury.  

 

Merstham began brightly and should have gone ahead in the second minute. Ben Senior beat his full back and fired in a low cross to where Korrey Henry was waiting inside the six yard box for what looked an easy tap in. But somehow the ball squirmed between his feet and ended up going wide of the far post. But moments later, it was East Grinstead's turn to spurn a gilt-edged opportunity as an unmarked Walsh missed the target from 8 yards. In the 9th minute  Walsh was again wasteful, as he fired into the side netting from a great position. Ex-Merstham favourite Omar Folkes was proving a handful, and he was the next man to go close when he dragged his shot wide of the far post. At the other end, another former Moatsider, keeper Matte Pearson was called into action as Senior's shot at the near post was beaten away. It was end to end, but both sides lacked composure in the opposition box, as Lorenzo Lewis demonstrated when he cut into the box but then blazed wildly over the bar. Folkes then tried to chip Endurance Johnson, but his effort just cleared the bar.  As the first half drew to a close, both sides started to find their range. Twice in a couple of minutes, Johnson was forced to tip shots from distance over the bar, while Pearson made a good save from Lewis, deflecting the winger's shot for a corner. Just when it seemed the half would unbelievably end scoreless, Merstham went ahead. A quick counter attack and a perfectly weighted pass from Corbin released Lewis. His pace took him clear of the chasing defenders, and as Pearson came to meet him, he unselfishly squared the ball for Korrey Henry to pass it into an empty net.  But in the fifth minute of stoppage time, Town equalised with a soft goal. A long throw into the box wasn't dealt with. A couple of defenders seemingly had the chance to clear but the ball was like a pinball in the Merstham penalty area before it fell invitingly at the feet of Green, who fired home the equaliser from six yards and make it 1-1 at the break.

 

By the time the second half got under way, the fog that had started to blow in after half an hour, had become noticeably thicker, and at times in the second half it was impossible to see the corner flags on the far side of the ground. Unfortunately, the Moatsiders looked similarly foggy in thought and deed in the opening fifteen minutes of the second half. From the kick off, East Grinstead dominated possession and looked threatening every time they went forward. They went ahead from the penalty spot in the 55th minute. Dean Gunner had gone to ground to try and block a Folkes shot, but as the ball ran loose, he stuck out his feet and Folkes went down like a falling oak tree. Wilson hammered home the spot kick. Two minutes later, Ben Senior went on a surging run from inside his own half and forced Pearson into a diving save, pushing Senior's curling shot away with his left hand for a Merstham corner. That corner led to East Grinstead's decisive third goal. Peter Wedgeworth and Callum Corbin tried a short corner, but Corbin's return pass was woefully short and was easily intercepted. Thirty second later, the ball was in the Merstham net as Dos Santos fired past Johnson to make it 3-1 after 63 minutes. It was hard to see how the Moatsiders would get back into the game. In fact, it was hard to see the game at all at times, as the fog became ever thicker. Both sides had promising attacking situations. Gunner did supremely well to head a well-struck shot off the line, with Johnson beaten while Pearson made a couple of comfortable saves. With five minutes left, Johnson could only stand and watch as a Walsh shot from 25 yards smacked against the inside of his left post, before nestling in the far right corner to give East Grinstead their fourth. 

 

Merstham: Johnson, Brazier, Taank, Gunner, Wedgeworth, Khinda, Senior, Baija (Pearch 79'), Corbin (Greenwood 66') Henry (Kendall 66'), Lewis.

Subs not used: None

Man of the Match: Ben Senior

-

Merstham 0-1 AFC Croydon Athletic | Surrey Senior Cup | Tuesday 28th November

Missing six first choice players, a severely depleted Merstham were knocked out of the Surrey Senior Cup on a bitterly cold night at the Moatside. A combination of injury and parent clubs not allowing loan players to play meant that Taank, Khinda, Corbin and Greenwood couldn't play, while Oram and Senior were missing through injury. The Moatsiders had goalkeeper Endurance Johnson to thank for keeping them in the tie, as he made a string of top class saves.

 

From the outset, Merstham looked exactly what they were - a side cobbled together for the game. Peter Wedgeworth was pressed into service as a makeshift centre back, while new signing Tijani Eshilokun made his debut in midfield. Croydon dominated possession and territory from the outset and should have gone ahead in the 11th minute, but veteran striker Louis Theophanous missed a sitter from 8 yards. A few minutes later, Johnson made a superb save, getting down quickly to palm away a Theophanous shot from a similar distance. In the 19th minute, Johnson was again called into action to deny Pierrick, though that was a more comfortable stop. At the other end, Merstham rarely looked threatening and all too often gave the ball away when they did have possession. In the 31st minute, a horrible mix-up between Dean Gunner and Michael Abnett gave Theophanous a clear run at goal, but as he went to slide it past Johnson, the keeper thrust out a big right hand to once again deny the striker. But Croydon's dominance eventually told and they went ahead in the 39th minute. Although Johnson did well to block a close-range shot from Osideko, the ball fell to Cheklit, who looked offside, but the flag stayed down as the midfielder tucked away the rebound. Merstham's cause wasn't helped when Josh Millo went down from a rugged challenge just before the break, and it was no surprise when he was replaced by Korrey Henry at the interval.

 

Merstham certainly played better in the second half and carried more of a threat up front, with Henry's link play getting Lewis and Pearch more involved. Although there was plenty of action in and around both boxes, neither side really made any clear cut chances. The fact that at least three shots cleared the safety fencing at the Albury Road end tells you everything you need to know about the quality of the shooting! While it remained 1-0, there was always a chance the home side could get back into the game. Equally though, as Merstham began to throw bodies forward in search of an equaliser, there was a risk they would get caught on the break. They were in the 78th minute when Osideko sliced through the Moatsiders defence, but once again it was Johnson to the rescue, as he came out and blocked at the winger's feet. The same player hit the Merstham bar with a minute remaining. As the game went into added time, Merstham had some promising free kicks in and around the Croydon box, but they all came to nothing. All that remained was for Johnson to cap a fine display with another excellent save as the seconds ticked away.  

 

Merstham: Johnson, Abnett, Gunner, Wedgeworth, Murphy, Eshilokun (Brazier 73'), Pearch, Baija, Kendall (Quincey 60'), Millo (Henry 45'), Lewis.

Subs not used: Basey

Man of the Match: Endurance Johnson

 

-

Cray Valley PM 4-1 Merstham | Isthmian South East | Tuesday 21st November

Going into a match and being forced to change three of your back five is less than ideal, especially when you're playing away to one of the promotion favourites. It proved too much for the Moatsiders and, as the scoreline suggests, they were soundly beaten by Cray Valley.

 

With keeper Endurance Johnson unavailable, Zack Basey was recalled after being out injured for the past six weeks. Harry Pointing was recalled by parent club Walton & Hersham on Sunday, leaving boss Jamie Decruz frantically trying to find another centre back. He was able to secure Bromley's Shyam Taank on loan and he went straight into the side. Left back Harry Murphy had picked up a knock at Sevenoaks, so Peter Wedgeworth came in at left back. Not ideal preparation. 

 

Cray Valley are not especially pleasing on the eye in terms of pattern of play, but they have great pace on the flanks and their game plan of getting it wide and letting the wide players create havoc is simple, but much harder to stop. Merstham's full backs had their hands full all night long, with Gayle on the right being a real menace. Cray should probably have opened the scoring in the fifth minute, when Parker managed to side foot the ball wide from 8 yards. Totally against the run of play, the Moatsiders took the lead on 15 minutes. Lorenzo Lewis' determination got him on the end of a long ball out to the right wing, which he had no right to win. He drove into the box and cut the ball back for Korrey Henry to smash into the top corner from ten yards. The lead only lasted six minutes. The Millers were awarded a corner, which irritatingly clearly came off the Cray man last. A low ball was met by Chambers and his slightly scuffed shot deceived Michael Abnett guarding the far post and squeezed through his legs before bobbling over the line. From that point on Cray had plenty of possession, but a combination of wasteful delivery into the box, poor finishing and some outstanding defending by the beleaguered Merstham back line meant that Zack Basey really didn't have a shot to save. In fact, Merstham probably had the clearest cut chance when on 37 minutes, a Wedgeworth free kick from 40 yards landed perfectly at Billy Oram's feet six yards out, but the midfielder didn't make proper contact and the keeper saved easily. Just when it looked as though the Moatsiders would get to the interval on level terms, Cray took the lead with a lucky goal. A mishit shot from 25 yards went straight to Vigor, all alone on the penalty spot. He was able to turn and pick his spot to give the home side at 2-1 lead at the break. 

 

The Moatsiders looked much more threatening at the start of the second half although the pace of Gayle and Asiedu on the flanks meant the Millers were always asking questions of the Merstham back four. The killer goal came on 57 minutes. A free kick by Vigor out by the corner flag somehow evaded everybody and ended up nestling in the far corner of the Merstham net, with everyone in a white shirt looking at one another. At 3-1, it looked like it was game over although Jamie Decruz bought on Will Kendall to give the Moatsiders a double threat up top and give it a go. But the second half became a tale of 'almost but not quite' as both teams put together some nice approach work, but the final ball was lacking quality at both ends. Basey made a couple of good blocks near the end and both Lewis and Henry had shooting chances but couldn't find the target. Cray added a fourth in stoppage time as Barrington got on the end of a cross, but it was largely academic by then.

 

Merstham: Basey, Abnett, Taank, Gunner, Wedgeworth, Khinda, Senior (Millo 67'), Oram (Greenwood 48'), Baija (Kendall 61') Henry, Lewis.

Subs not used: Pearch, Corbin

Man of the Match: Dean Gunner

-

 

Sevenoaks Town 2-2 Merstham | Isthmian South East | Saturday 18th November

 

A 90th minute equaliser from Lorenzo Lewis earned the Moatsiders a well-deserved draw after they dominated the second half. It was an entertaining encounter, with both sides creating a hatful of chances, but it really was a tale of two halves. 

 

The Moatsiders made just one change from the win against Phoenix Sports. Will Kendall was unavailable so Korrey Henry started up front and his performance will undoubtedly give boss Jamie Decruz a nice selection headache, as the striker impressed on his return to the starting eleven.

 

On a miserable and dank November day, Sevenoaks started brightly and in the opening minute, a shot flashed past Endurance Johnson's left upright, as the keeper could only watch and pray it went wide. In the opening 20 minutes, the Moatsiders barely got out of their own half as they endured wave after wave of attacks. Former Moatsider Dan Bennett was very influential, as he kept finding pockets of space between the Merstham lines and playing clever little passes into the Oaks front runners. Johnson was called into action in the 9th minute when he beat away a shot from Liburd. He made a far better save five minutes later, when he got down well to push away a Bennett shot from close range. Henry had his first sighter at goal when his shot went over the angle of post and bar, but that was a rare threatening moment from the visitors. With the Moatsiders under constant pressure, it felt as though it was only a matter of time before Sevenoaks scored and they duly did in the 22nd minute, when Liburd finished from close range after good work from Shomotun on the right wing. Slowly, Merstham began to work their way into the game, although Johnson was again called into action with a flying save to repel another Liburd effort in the 32nd minute. But a minute later, it was 1-1, rather against the run of play. Korrey Henry, who was becoming more of an influence as the half wore on, grabbed his first of the season after a nice give and go with Callum Corbin to put Henry through on goal. Former Merstham stopper Amadou Tangara came flying out to half block Henry's first effort, but the ball squirmed under the keeper and rolled gently towards the empty net. It became a footrace between Henry and a covering defender, which Henry just won to slide the ball home. It was now a far more even contest and Henry tested Tangara again a few minutes later with a well-struck shot from the edge of the box. Right on the stroke of half time, Sevenoaks got a highly-controversial second. Corbin appeared to be fouled more than once deep in the Merstham half, but the referee ignored the vehement appeals for a free kick. Seconds later, the ball was nestling in the back of Johnson's net after Shomotun's effort from the edge of the box took a wicked deflection to wrong foot the Merstham keeper and leave the visitors trailing 2-1 at the break.

 

Billy Oram was forced off at the interval with a knee injury and was replaced by Samir Bajja. But right from the start of the second half, the Moatsiders were very much on the front foot. Their work rate in closing down the Sevenoaks players was exceptional and for the first time in the game, the home side looked rushed in possession and started to give the ball away. Merstham so nearly equalised in the 47th minute when Bennett made a desperate goal line clearance, after Harry Pointing's header had found a Merstham boot close to goal. Lorenzo Lewis had been quiet in the first half, but was looking increasingly threatening. In the 53rd minute he beat his full back and his low near post cross looped up off a combination of Tangara, Henry and a defender and dropped invitingly for Ben Senior a few yards out. But the Merstham man couldn't quite get enough on the ball to fire it home and his shot hit the post instead and was scrambled to safety. Merstham players and spectators had their heads in their hands as it looked like a certain equaliser. Sevenoaks did occasionally threaten on the counter attack and skipper Dean Gunner made a tremendous block to deny them a shot on target. With 63 minutes gone, Jamie Decruz brought off Corbin and sent the re-signed Charlie Greenwood into the fray. The move almost paid immediate dividends as Greenwood tenaciously won the ball in midfield and played a one two with Henry before chipping Tangara, only to see his effort just clear the bar. As the clock wound down, it was beginning to look like the Moatsiders were going to be out of luck. With two minutes left, it took a brilliant goal line clearance by Dean Gunner to keep Merstham in the contest, after Johnson had half saved a well-struck shot from Cadogan. Then, as the game entered the 90th minute, up popped that man Lewis to notch his sixth goal in his last five games. Ironically, it came from a bad throw out by Tangara, which was intercepted by Michael Abnett. Two passes later and Lewis was cutting in on goal from his favourite right-wing spot and he hammered a low shot into the far corner to make it 2-2 and ensure Merstham took a well-earned point away from their trip to Kent.  

 

Merstham: Johnson, Abnett, Pointing, Gunner, Murphy, Khinda, Senior (Pearch 71'), Oram (Bajja 45'), Henry, Corbin (Greenwood 63'), Lewis.

Subs not used: Wedgeworth, Millo

Man of the Match: Korrey Henry

 

-

Merstham 3-0 Phoenix Sports | Isthmian South East | Saturday 11th November

Merstham picked up their third win in the last five with a dominant display from the first to the last minute. In fact, the Moatsiders dominated from the 14th second when they took the lead. From a ball played deep into the Phoenix half, Ben Senior picked up a loose ball and found Callum Corbin just outside the box. The midfielder spotted Lorenzo Lewis in space on the right and rolled the ball into his path. The winger didn't hesitate and smashed an unstoppable shot into the top corner to notch his fifth of the season. Three minutes later, Corbin was again the provider as he floated a beautiful ball to the back stick finding an unmarked Senior. The Phoenix keeper did well to close the angle and block Senior's low shot. Lewis was causing the Sports defence all sorts of problems and the Merstham midfielders kept looking for the winger, who clearly had the beating of the hapless left back. Every time the Moatsiders went forward it looked as though they would score. In the 18th minute a quick counterattack found Oram in loads of space, running at a back-pedalling defence. Picking his pass, he again found the dangerous Lewis, who this time hit his shot inches wide of the far post. Merstham were dominant in terms of both possession and territory. On a number of occasions, some superb approach play was just lacking the final pass, and it was something of a surprise when the first half ended with Merstham still only one up. They could and should have been two or three up at the interval. The only time that the visitors threatened was when a sloppy pass from Oli Khinda, who otherwise had a terrific game as the holding midfielder, went straight to Andy Pugh, who had a clear run at goal, but sliced his shot horribly wide.

 

Any thoughts that the visitors may have had about a change in fortune in the second half were soon put to bed, as the second forty five minutes was a carbon copy of the first. The only difference was that Merstham did turn their superiority into goals. Billy Oram, who was outstanding throughout, was the architect of Merstham's second. He won the ball just inside the opposition half and then hit a slide-rule pass into the sprinting Lorenzo Lewis. Lewis didn't have to break stride and took a touch before firing it across the keeper into the far corner to put the Moatsiders two up after 57 minutes. It was no more than they deserved. A couple of minutes later, Corbin should really have made it three, when his put his shot over the bar from 10 yards after a great run and cross by Harry Murphy. Phoenix had one or two moments but Endurance Johnson didn't really have a shot to save.  Merstham made the points safe in the 68th minute and once again it was Oram who was the provider. He beat his man wide on the left touchline and fizzed in a low cross where Will Kendall and a defender were both sliding in. The ball ended up in the back of the net and Kendall may or may not have got the final touch, but no-one really cared by then. There was still time for Phoenix's Jack Hopkins to be shown a straight red as he jumped into a tackle and caught Oram. Luckily, the Moatsiders man wasn't badly hurt. Dean Gunner might have made it four when Corbin found him with a chip to the far post, and then with a header from a free kick, but that would have been the icing on the cake. The Moatsiders climb to 14th, having been bottom five games ago.

 

Merstham: Johnson, Abnett, Pointing, Gunner, Murphy, Khinda, Senior, Oram (Savanve 76'), Kendall (Henry 70'), Corbin (Millo 63'), Lewis (Pearch 76').

Subs not used: Cheeseman, Millo

Man of the Match: Billy Oram

Greene King Player of the Match: Callum Corbin

-

 

Merstham 0-3 Ramsgate | Isthmian South East | Tuesday 7th November

The scoreline reflects not only the match itself, but also the imbalance that exists within the football pyramid. Ramsgate, fresh from their exploits in the FA Cup, looked exactly what they are; an expensively assembled team that has been built, not only to win promotion to the Isthmian Premier, but to the National Conference. Good luck to them, but the quality of player they are able to put out on the pitch is several levels beyond the Isthmian South East Division, as Woking found out at the weekend. The Moatsiders worked hard, but spent most of the evening chasing the ball as the Ramsgate players moved it quickly and crisply around the pitch. That said, it was two defensive mistakes that gave Ramsgate their first two goals, although once they scored, the result was never really in doubt. 

 

As for the game itself, the only change from last time out was Oliver Khinda on loan from Sutton United, making his debut at right-back. It was the Moatsiders who had the first big opportunity of the match in the 5th minute, when Will Kendall had a free header from 8 yards out, but put it wide. From the start, Ramsgate totally dominated territory and possession and looked capable of scoring at any given moment. Green's header from a near-post corner clipped a post in the 10th minute. Merstham threatened briefly when Lorenzo Lewis got to the bye-line and fired in a low cross which managed to evade everyone in the six yard box, but that was as close as they got to giving the Rams keeper something to do. Ramsgate went ahead in the 16th minute. Endurance Johnson fisted away a low cross, but didn't get distance and the ball was quickly recycled back into the box where Taylor was waiting. His first two efforts were blocked on the line, but he made no mistake with his third attempt. From that moment on, Merstham just couldn't get out of their own half. Ramsgate pressed high and won the ball back quickly so even when the Moatsiders broke up a Rams attack, another was quickly launched. Merstham did defend well and worked hard to restrict the Rams, who didn't create much by way of clear-cut chances, but some of their football was quite superb. The second goal in the 33rd minute was a consequence of trying to play the ball out from the back. Johnson attempted to find am amber shirt, but the pass was anticipated and picked off easily 30 yards from the Merstham goal. With the back four out of position, Elito had the simple task of beating Johnson, as the inquest in the Merstham defence began. The Moatsiders did well to keep their chins up and kept working hard, but the Rams were relentless in applying pressure and could have added to their tally with more clinical finishing.

 

The second half was largely a repeat of the first half. The visitors moving the ball around the pitch at will and the Moatsiders working hard to restrict the Rams to shots from distance. Paxman went close with a free kick immediately after the break and then with a shot that curled towards the top corner, which just missed the target. Johnson made a good block at his near post from the same player in the 70th minute. If anything, the second half was more notable for a bizarre refereeing performance by Mr Heron. He booked five Merstham players for a variety of offences, but what really incensed the home players, management and spectators alike was that similar offences by the visitors were completely ignored. A number of spectators commented that it was one of the worst refereeing displays seen at the Moatside, although it didn't effect the result. Yet another dubious free kick award led to the third goal, which was rifled into the net from 25 yards by Jadama. From that point on, it was really damage limitation, and Merstham rode their luck as Martin hit the bar and a combination of last-ditch challenges and profligate finsihing meant the score stayed at 3-0 at the final whistle. But Merstham won't be too down-hearted as Ramsgate will no doubt win the league this season by some distance.  

 

Merstham: Johnson, Khinda, Pointing, Gunner, Murphy, Bajja, Senior, Oram, Kendall (Henry 63'), Corbin (Millo 63'), Lewis (Pearch 71').

Subs not used: Savane, Abnett.

Man of the Match: Harry Murphy

-

 

Merstham 3-2 Sheppey United | Isthmian South East | Saturday 28th October

Watching Merstham under Jamie Decruz is nothing if not entertaining. In his three games in charge, the Moatsiders have scored nine and conceded eight.  More importantly however, they have picked up six points and moved off the bottom of the Isthmian South East Division. But it was another roller coaster of a game. Two goals up at the break and then pegged back to 2-2, the Moatsiders simply went straight down the other end and scored again. The Merstham boss is still building his new-look team and there were debuts for Samir Bajja and Ben Senior in midfield, both of whom had excellent games, with Harry Murphy also returning to the side at left back. Although Lorenzo Lewis was the Man of the Match, this was an all round team performance, with everyone giving 100% and working their socks off from the first minute to the last.

 

For the neutral, it must have been a great game to watch, as both sides committed plenty of bodies to attack and there was goalmouth action aplenty throughout the 90 minutes. Sheppey had a decent chance after just 4 minutes, but Spencer dragged his shot wide from 12 yards. Everyone has been impressed with Callum Corbin's passing since he arrived on loan from Bromley, and it was his slide rule pass between two Sheppey defenders that gave Lorenzo Lewis, cutting in from the wing, his first real sight of goal. The winger has been in fine form in recent weeks and he made no mistake as his shot found the bottom corner to put Merstham in front after 11 minutes. Merstham keeper, Endurance Johnson had a busy afternoon and he was tested with a skimming shot off the rain-slicked surface from Willis on 15'. He then made an even better save on 24' when he tipped a shot from Spencer over the bar. Lorenzo Lewis was again involved as the Moatsiders doubled their advantage after 28 minutes. He skipped past Sheppey's Del Morgan and then fired in a low cross which went through a crowd of players to the far post, where Corbin was arriving unmarked to fire home from six yards. But Sheppey were still very much in it and it took a superb save by Johnson to half stop a shot from Majoyegbe and Dean Gunner was covering behind his keeper to hook the ball off the line. In first half added time, Johnson produced another brilliant save to palm a fiercely-hit shot from Diallo over the bar.

 

Sheppey made two changes at half time and came out with real intent at the start of the second half, immediately pushing Merstham back. Johnson made another good save from Spencer, but he was left helpless on 48' when a shot from Willis from all of 25 yards flew past the keeper to make it 2-1. The second half was like a basketball game as it went from end to end. Will Kendall was put through on goal but his shot lacked the power to trouble the United keeper. Merstham's two goal lead was just a distant memory on 56' when Johnson did well to palm a close-range header onto the post, but Willis was on hand to fire the ball into the unguarded net to make it 2-2. The Moatsiders came roaring back and a perfectly-weighted through ball by Billy Oram found Lewis cutting in from the right. His thunderous shot from just inside the box absolutely flew into the top corner to put Merstham back in front on 58'. At that point, it seemed unlikely that would be the end of the scoring, as both sides threatened every time they went forward. Johnson was called into action on more than one occasion as Sheppey went in search of the equaliser and looked especially dangerous down Merstham's right flank after Peter Wedgeworth limped off. But Merstham also certainly had their moments and on more than one occasion, the ball flashed across the United box, with no-one in an amber shirt able to apply a finishing touch. As the clock wound down, Sheppey threw everyone forward and pumped ball after ball into the Merstham box, but Harry Pointing and Dean Gunner were immense and made a number of important blocks and last-gasp tackles. The four minutes of added time seemed to last an eternity, but at last referee Williams blew his whistle and the Merstham faithful celebrated another heart-stopping home win.

 

Merstham: Johnson, Wedgeworth (Cheeseman 59'), Pointing, Gunner, Murphy, Bajja, Senior, Oram, Kendall , Corbin, Lewis (Pearch 76').

Subs not used: Henry, Hammond, Quincey

Man of the Match: Lorenzo Lewis

-

Ashford United 3-2 Merstham | Isthmian South East | Saturday 22nd October

After the euphoria of the dramatic 4-3 win against Beckenham last time out, the Moatsiders came back down to earth with a bump. The scoreline looks close, but in reality they were second best for most of the afternoon. Merstham can have no complaints about the result and aside from a fifteen minute purple patch before half time when they scored twice, they were completely outplayed by a slick Ashford side. Merstham's midfield never got to grips with the movement of the Ashford players, while the United strikers continually dropped off the Merstham centre backs, picking up the ball in space and turning and running at the back four.

 

The tone of the game was set from the opening minutes and Ashford could easily have gone in front early on. Ex-Moatsider Lanre Azeez blazed wide and then Endurance Johnson, making his league debut in goal for the Moatsiders pulled off a fine one-handed save low to his left to deny Parish. Johnson was also tested by Bola from range as Ashford continued to dominate. Merstham didn't help themselves with some poor passing and by surrendering possession all too easily with aimless balls forward. Draycott, who was pivotal to Ashford's attacking play, missed an absolute sitter after 21 minutes, when he poked the ball wide from six yards. The let-off for the Moatsiders was short lived however, as Parish slotted past Johnson on 27'. But the Moatsiders were furious that the referee clearly got in the way of Alexiou, which allowed Boal a clear run at goal before playing in Parish to finish from close range. However, the Merstham protests fell on deaf ears. But just three minutes later, the Moatsiders were level when midfielder Billy Oram unleashed a thunderbolt from all of 30 yards, which flew into the bottom corner leaving the United keeper grasping thin air. Straight from the restart, it took a superb save by Johnson to deny Bola as Ashford almost regained the lead immediately. At last, the Moatsiders were playing some good football as confidence began to surge through the side. Will Kendall was inches wide with a volley after a good ball in by Callum Corbin. A minute later, it was Corbin again who threaded a beautiful ball between two United defenders for Lorenzo Lewis to cut in from the right and hammer a shot past Russell to put the visitors 2-1 up after 34 minutes. Suddenly, the game had turned on its head and it was all Merstham. Joshua Millo brought a good save from Russell and then an excellent bit of play on the left saw an overlapping Peter Wedgeworth deliver a great ball into the box. Lee Quincey, arriving at pace and on the stretch, couldn't quite direct his shot on target and the ball flew narrowly over the bar. Arguably, the half time interval came at just the wrong time for the Moatsiders who went in a goal up and very much on top.

 

Strangely, the second half reverted to exactly how the first half began, with the home side dominating possession and territory. Ashford threatened but didn't really carve out any clear cut chances and were reduced to shooting from distance. But as the half wore on, it felt almost inevitable that Ashford would score. But the Ashford equaliser on 71' will greatly frustrate the Merstham coaching staff as it came from a Merstham attacking set-piece. The ball was cleared and then a simple ball over the top on saw Bola outpace Alexiou and finish comfortably past Johnson. Once Ashford got back on terms, there was only likely to be one winner and sure enough with eight minutes left, Parish got his second with a close range finish at the near post to give the home side all three points. 

 

Merstham: Johnson, Wedgeworth, Alexiou, Quincey (Hammond 69'), Pointing, Gunner, Millo, Oram, Kendall (Henry 82'), Corbin, Lewis (Pearch 53').

Subs not used: Cheeseman

Man of the Match: Peter Wedgeworth

-

Merstham 4-3 Beckenham Town | Isthmian South East | Saturday 7th October

If Tom Cruise had written this as a Mission Impossible script, you might have said it was pretty far fetched. Bring in six new players for your first game and then go three nil down at half time, only to win with a last-gasp goal in added time? No. That's pure Hollywood. But that is exactly what Jamie Decruz and his new-look Merstham side did and it was every bit as dramatic as it sounds.

 

In his first game in charge and having had just two training sessions, the new Merstham boss brought into the side Harry Murphy at left back, Harry Pointing at centre back, Joshua Millo, Billy Oram and Callum Corbin in midfield and Will Kendall up front. What a difference that made to the side. Pointing was commanding at centre back, Murphy assured at left back and Kendall a willing runner up front. But it was the midfield that has been a problem area all season that was revitalised. Oram was excellent and ran the game in the second half. Corbin played as a number 10 and was busy and creative and unlucky not to score in the first half, while Millo sparked the second half fight back with a goal and he also won the penalty. As Decruz said after the game, the side is still a work in progress but there is considerable promise. Merstham stalwarts like Dean Gunner, Peter Wedgeworth and Lorenzo Lewis also had excellent games.

 

As for the game itself, it was a highly entertaining, but quite an odd affair. Merstham started on the front foot and Lee Quincey, who had his best match to date in an amber shirt, should have put the home side in front after fifteen minutes. A horrible sliced clearance from a Town defender went straight to Quincey all alone on the edge of the box. But the midfielder shot straight at the Town keeper. Barely five minutes later, Corbin jinked inside and curled a beautiful shot with his right foot, which smacked against the inside of the far post and was scrambled clear. But Town also looked dangerous in attack with veteran striker Louie Theophanous a handful. Harry Gamble should have given Town the lead in the 23rd minute when a mix up in the Merstham defence left him just needing to hit the target, but he shot wildly over. But Town did take the lead on 32', when Merstham gave the ball away in midfield and although Basey did well to block Theophanous' initial shot, Ryan was on hand to stab the ball home. As Merstham pushed forward in search of an equaliser, the lack of a holding midfielder became apparent as twice Town caught Merstham in transition, as first Adesite on 39' and then Theophanous on 43' added to the lead.  Three down at the interval was extremely harsh on the Moatsiders, but a real test of character for the new-look team. 

 

The fightback began on 47' when a dreadful header by Orlu gave Millo a clear run at goal. But the Merstham winger still had plenty to do and managed to hold off Orlu before calmly slotting past the keeper. Just two minutes later, the referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot after a clumsy challenge in the box on Millo. Will Kendall stepped up and sent the keeper the wrong way to make it 3-2. Millo was replaced shortly afterwards by Lewis Pearch, after a late tackle by a Town defender. Amazingly, on 59' the Moatsiders were level. A short corner caught Town napping and Corbin whipped in a superb cross, which Lorenzo Lewis glanced into the far corner. Lewis was giving Town left back Griffin a torrid time and it looked as though Merstham would score every time they attacked down the right. Lewis was denied by an excellent stop by the Town keeper who palmed a piledriver over the bar. The Moatsiders should have gone in front on 80' when Oram had a clear sight of goal from 12 yards but blazed over. As the game headed into the 90th minute, Pearch cut inside, leaving two defenders for dead, but his shot from the edge of the box just lacked a little composure and sailed over the bar. But in the 92' minute, Pearch certainly made amends. A delightful through ball from Oram found Pearch, who cooly dinked it over the keeper to send the Moatside wild with delight and secure a first win league of the season.

 

Merstham: Basey, Wedgeworth, Murphy, Quincey, Pointing, Gunner, Millo (Pearch 57'), Oram, Kendall, Corbin, Lewis (Abnett 77').

Subs not used: Alexiou, Gharbaoui, McKimm

Man of the Match: Billy Oram     

-

Merstham 0-1 Sittingbourne | Isthmian South East | Saturday 16th September

Although the unseasonably warm weather didn't help, this game was desperately short on quality, entertainment and goalmouth action. Sittingbourne just about deserved the three points, simply because they had more of the ball and looked as though they might fashion a chance. Merstham, on the other hand, squandered possession with misplaced passes and rarely threatened. 

 

Merstham were able to include Korrey Henry in their starting line-up in his third stint with the club, and there were recalls for Lewis Pearch and Lee Quincey. The match was a scrappy affair and the first half was summed up in the fifteenth minutes when Merstham keeper Zack Basey, in trying to play out from the back, got his feet in a muddle and ended up side footing it straight to Sittingbourne's Jean-Baptiste Fisher. With Basey out of possession, all the forward needed to do was roll the ball into the unguarded net from 20 yards. Instead he managed to loft it over the bar and waste the best chance of the half. Merstham's back four defended well and kept the visitors at arm's length for most of the half. The nearest they came was two minutes before the interval when Donvieve Jones nodded just wide of the post from a free kick. On the stroke of half time, Basey made a good save to push away a goal-bound effort, but there was little else to get excited about in a drab first half.  

 

Merstham did improve after the break. Andrew Mensah replaced Blaize-Carr in the 52nd minute and very nearly scored with almost his first touch. A whipped in ball from the left saw Mensah all alone six yards out and looked certain to score. But the ball eluded his foot and went off for a goal kick. If that had gone in, it may have been a very different game. Gharbaoui and Collins both had shots from distance but nothing to trouble the keeper. Basey made a smart stop low to his left to deny Splatt. Skipper Reuben Collins limped off with a back injury in the 75th minute, which didn't help the Moatsiders and probably played a part in conceding the eventual winner. It came from a needless free kick as Okoro fouled a Sittingbourne player going away from goal. The free kick was floated to the far post and Jones was unmarked to head past Basey with ten minutes left. In added time, a mazy dribble by Pearch almost produced a chance, but the final ball into the box was comfortably cleared. The defeat leaves the Moatsiders one off the bottom and in dire need of a win.

Merstham: Basey, Alexiou, Gunner, Collins (Okoro 75'), Abnett (Ando 58'), Oaks, Pearch, Gharbaoui, Quincey, Blaize-Carr (Mensah 52'), Henry.

Subs not used: Dixon, Lewis

Man of the Match:  Zack Basey

 

-

 

Three Bridges 3-3 Merstham | Isthmian South East | Monday 28th August

What a contrast this was to Saturday's game. Good football, plenty of shots on target, spectacular saves and goals aplenty. Merstham took the lead, then went 3-1 down with just ten minutes left, but came roaring back with two goals in four minutes to earn a point. Boss Tony Reid again rang the changes with Abnett, Oshineye, Holden and Lewis coming into the starting eleven.

 

The game began at a high tempo and Merstham rode their luck in the first fifteen minutes as the home side hit the woodwork twice. In the first minute, Lawson hit the post when it looked easier to score and in the eighth minute, the same player's thumping header hit the underside of the bar and bounced down and out, with the home side saying it had crossed the line, but the officials disagreed. But it wasn't all one way traffic. In between the woodwork strikes, Greg Akpele cut in from the flank but blazed over from 10 yards, having done all the hard work. Zack Basey then produced an excellent save low to his left to palm away a shot from 25 yards. After a shaky first 20 minutes, the Moatsiders began to settle and were closing their opponents down quicker and higher up the pitch. On 23', a through ball found Lewis Pearch with just the keeper to beat, but the winger delayed fractionally and a covering defender deflected his shot wide. But three minutes later, the Moatsiders took the lead. Excellent pressing in the final third by Abnett and Pearch won the ball back. The Merstham full back went on a maurading run into the box and then unleashed a piledriver with his left foot that absolutely flew into the far corner. Five minutes later, Lorenzo Lewis had a great chance to extend the lead, but his shot was blocked by the legs of the Bridges' keeper. Just when it looked as though the Moatsiders would go into half time a goal up, Archer, who was a constant menace all afternoon, played a quick give and go, slicing through the Merstham defence and slotted past Basey as the keeper came to meet him. In first half added time, Leighton blazed over from a few yards out, but credit Oshineye for his challenge to put the Bridges' striker off.

 

If the first half was entertaining, the second half was arguably even better. It was a more even contest with both sides looking capable of scoring, but also conceding. Lorenzo Lewis was all over the place. On 58' he was tracking back and made a great last-ditch challenge to deny Lawson. Three minutes later, a superb diagonal ball by Ayman Gharbaoui, on as a half time replacement for Traore, found Lewis cutting in from the left. The winger beat his man, but his shot rolled just wide of the far post. With twenty minutes left, Merstham threw men forward for a free kick. But not only was it easily dealt with by the Three Bridges' defence, the Moatsiders also got caught in transition. Archer ghosted past a couple of poor challenges before putting it on a plate for O'Neill to put the home side in front. Merstham almost replied immediately, but Akpele's shot hit the side netting. On 79' a dubious free kick was awarded against Holden 20 yards out. O'Neill curled the free kick around the wall and into the net to put the home side 3-1 up and with it seemingly the three points. But Merstham has other ideas. Two minutes later, a Merstham corner was only half cleared and the ball fell to Pearch who found the bottom corner from 12 yards. On 85', a rampaging run by Michael Abnett on the left wing and a superb cross on the run into the six yard box saw sub Paul Lusuku and a Bridges' defender arrive together. It was hard to see who got the last touch. It could easily have been either player. No matter. Merstham were level. Next it was Basey's turn to shine. As the game headed into added time, he produced a brilliant fingertip save to deny O'Neil. Then moments later he produced two more top drawer saves in quick succession as the home side piled on the pressure. But as the game went deep into stoppage time, there was more drama. Basey came flying out and made a brave diving punch to get there just ahead of Rivera, who thumped into Basey. The referee blew his whistle, presumably for a foul on the keeper. But to Merstham's horror, he pointed to the penalty spot. Credit to the referee however. He went to his assistant and after a brief conversation, changed his decision. There was still time for more drama as Curran got a straight red for sything down Gharbaoui as Merstham were launching a counter attack.   

  

Merstham: Basey, Oshineye (Ando 46'), Alexiou, Gunner, Abnett, Oaks, Holden, Pearch, Traore (Gharbaoui 46'), Akpele, (Lusuku 68'), Lewis.

Subs not used: Reynolds, Atkinson

Man of the Match:  Zack Basey

 

-

Merstham 0-2 Hythe Town | Isthmian South East | Saturday 26th August

This game certainly won't go down as a classic. While Hythe deserved their victory, their style of football certainly isn't for the purists. Most of the spectators probably had a stiff neck by the end of the 90 minutes, as the ball spent more time in the air than on the ground. But Hythe have a method that works for them and Merstham found it difficult to cope with, especially in the first half. The home side wasn't helped by the absence of Reuben Collins, Korrey Henry and Craig Kingswell. Things were made more difficult when Andrew Mensah was injured in the warm up and had to be replaced in the starting line up by Akpele. All in all there were five changes from the disappointing FA Cup defeat last time out.

 

It was a scrappy game from the start, and Hythe's tactics were immediately apparant. Long throws into the box and balls hoofed forward from the back meant the Moatsiders' back four were under constant pressure. Town's height at set pieces caused problems all afternoon and it was no great surprise when a corner from the right led to the opening goal. Merstham left Lewis Smith unmarked and the Town skipper nodded down and over Peter Wedgeworth, who was guarding the near post, to put the visitors in front after 12 minutes. Merstham found it hard to get the ball down and play and even when they did, they were guilty of giving away possession far too cheaply. Lewis Pearch was the pick of the Merstham front runners and looked dangerous when he did get the ball at his feet, which wasn't often enough. But for all of Town's territorial dominance, Zack Basey really didn't have a save to make, though that was in part down to some excellent defending by Dean Gunner and Charlie Alexiou. 

 

Merstham began the second half far better, though Basey had to be alert to touch a low shot from Embery around the post. In the 57th minute, Merstham had a great chance to get back on terms. A long ball this time from the Moatsiders back four, was chased by the ever-willing Mike Dixon. He outpaced Allan and as Town keeper Molloy came rushing out of his area, the Merstham striker touched it past him. With the goal unguarded, Dixon shot from just outside the right side of the penalty box. The ball trundled slowly towards the net, but agonisingly wide of the far post. Basey made another good stop on 65' after Smith tested him low to his right, with the keeper just falling on the loose ball in time. Merstham hung in the game, and at 1-0 there was always hope. Hythe seemed content with the one goal and began to slow the game down, allowing Merstham more possession. But the Moatsiders lacked precision with their passing and spurned some good situations. With seven minutes left, Hythe wrapped the game up. Basey thought about throwing the ball out to Michael Abnett, but fatally hesitated before finally throwing it. But he'd telegraphed it and Smith nipped in to steal the throw before squaring it for Schafer, who finished comfortably from 10 yards. 

 

Merstham: Basey, Ando, Alexiou, Gunner, Wedgeworth (Abnett 66'), Oaks, Pearch, Traore, Akpele, Carder, Dixon (Lusuku 86').

Subs not used: Holden

Man of the Match: Dean Gunner

Greene King Player Of The Match: Lewis Pearch

-

 

Faversham Town 2-1 Merstham | Emirates FA Cup | Saturday 19th August

Despite going a goal up, Merstham were dumped out of the FA Cup by a Faversham side that dominated the game and could easily have won more comfortably. It was a disappointing performance once again from the Moatsiders, who had made a number of new signings after the previous outing. In fact, the Merstham line-up showed seven changes from the Lancing game. Alexiou and Wedgeworth returned to the side, while Anthony Oaks, Ryan Atkinson, Andrew Mensah and Shaquan Williams made their debuts. 

 

Merstham began the game brightly and there was an early chance for Lee Quincey who shot just wide of the far post. On 12', Andrew Mensah cut in from the right and his shot was palmed out by the Town keeper, but Quincey couldn't quite sort his feet out to turn home the rebound and the home defence scrambled the ball away. In the fourteenth minute, Merstham got the goal their early play deserved. A free kick from midway inside the Town half was beautifully curled in by Peter Wedgeworth. Faversham's Billy Bennett was first to the ball, but only succeeded in nodding it past his own keeper to put the visitors in front. But that was as good as it got for Merstham. Instead of building on that gift, the Moatsiders allowed Faversham to knock the ball around with increasing confidence. There were several close calls, as both Basey and his back four were working overtime to keep the home side at bay. There was a sense of inevitability about the equaliser which came on 29', but the Merstham coaching staff will be desperately disappointed with how they conceded. A corner on the left was played short to Aibangbee, who was totally unmarked on the edge of the area. He had all the time in the world to curl one into the far top corner, giving Basey no chance. Five minutes later, the Moatsiders were very lucky not to concede a second when Bennett somehow hit the post from 6 yards with the goal at his mercy. Miler should also have done better just before the break. It was with some relief that Merstham made it to the interval at 1-1.

 

That relief lasted about 15 seconds of the second half. Straight from the kick-off, Faversham waltzed through a non-existent midfield. Basey saved the first effort, but Parsons was on hand to slide the ball in from close range. From that point on, it felt more a question of how many Town would score rather than whether the Moatsiders could get back into the game. The Merstham back four and goalkeeper were under constant pressure to keep out wave after wave of Faversham pressure, as the home side completely bossed the game. Merstham need to bring more quality into the side and quickly.

 

Merstham: Basey, Alexiou, Collins (Ando 79'), Gunner, Wedgeworth, Oaks, Atkinson (Akpele 66') Quincey, Mensah, Dixon, Williams  (Lewis 69').

Subs not used: O'Donovan, Pearch, Reynolds, Abnett

Man of the Match: Charlie Alexiou

-

Lancing 1-0 Merstham | Isthmian South East | Saturday 12th August

 

The scoreline may suggest a close game, but the harsh reality is that Merstham got off lightly. On another day, Lancing might easily have won by four or five, such was their superiority. It was only a combination of some good goalkeeping by Zack Basey and some woeful finishing by Lancing that kept the score respectable. Merstham weren't helped by some dreadful refereeing, with a host of Merstham names going into the notebook for innocuous tackles. One of those was Lee Quincey, who was booked after just 18 minutes when he clearly won the ball. Such was the approach of the match official that Merstham boss Tony Reid felt he had no option but to sub the midfielder before half time rather than risk a second yellow and be reduced to ten men, which would almost certainly have happened. 

 

But the inept officiating wasn't the cause of Merstham's problems. They were completely outplayed in midfield, with the visitors having all sorts of time and space to look up and pick a pass. Even when the Moatsiders did get the ball to their front men, it failed to stick and the home side were instantly back in possession again. It was backs to the wall stuff for most of the afternoon. Lancing had their first opportunity in the second minute, but Laing fired straight at Basey. On 7', Basey was called into action again, flicking a shot from Taggert over the bar. Totally against the run of play, in the twelfth minute, the Moatsiders had probably the best chance of the half when Craig Kingswell was presented with the ball 20 yards out as the home side made a complete hash of playing out from the back. But the Merstham striker took too many touches and allowed a combination of defender and goalkeeper to block his shot. Normal service was resumed soon after as Basey made a save low to his right. For all their possession, Lancing didn't create too many openings, but on 29', Dean Gunner did well to hook a deflected shot off the line. On the stroke of half time, a rare foray forward by the Moatsiders saw a chance for Lewis Pearch, but he dragged his shot wide. In added time, Basey spectacularly tipped a 25 yard free kick from Laing over the bar. Goalless at the interval. 

 

Any hopes that Merstham would produce something better in the second half were soon put to rest. On 48', Basey produced a great save from Jones who controlled and volley a ball from just inside the box. Then came the goal that Lancing deserved. A cross from the left was met at the far post by Watson, who nodded home from close range. On 58', Jones should have made it two, but blazed over when well placed. Three minutes later a marauding run from Lancing's right back Bennett, ended with his shot flashing just wide of the post. On 64' a shot by Laing went just over the bar. Merstham didn't really look like getting back into the game at any point, but when you're only one down, there's always hope. However, Lancing, in spite of spurning several more good chances ran out comfortable winners in the end. After the euphoria of last week's FA Cup win, it's back to the drawing board for Tony Reid and his staff.

 

Merstham: Basey, Ando, Afonso, Graham, Collins, Gunner, Pearch, Tones (Dixon 53') Quincey (Traore 40'), Kingswell,  Bangurah (Lewis 46').

Subs not used: Alexiou, Reynolds

Man of the Match: Zack Basey

-

Merstham 2-1 Raynes Park Vale | Emirates FA Cup | Saturday 5th August

 

This Emirates FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round tie was the first real test for Tony Reid and his new-look Merstham side. In the end, a superb goal ten minutes from time by substitute Mike Dixon won it for the Moatsiders, but it really was a game of two halves. 

 

Tony Reid was forced to shuffle his pack for this one, with both Charlie Alexiou and Adam Adam ruled out with injury and his loan signings from Sutton United not eligable. Into the side came Cerny Ando at right back and Lewis Pearch on the right wing. 

 

The first half was played in monsoon-like conditions and it took the players some while to adjust to the slick playing surface, with passes frequently skidding out of play. But the Moatsiders got off to a dream start when they went ahead in just the fourth minute. A beautifully flighted free kick from Lee Quincey was met with a bullet header from Reuben Collins, which flashed past the Vale keeper into the net. But instead of capitalising on their early goal, the Moatsiders seemed to go into their shell and defended far too deeply, handing both possession and territory to their opponents. The Merstham back four came under increasing pressure as ball after ball was hoisted into the box and Dean Gunner and Reuben Collins were working overtime to deal with the danger. The Moatsiders were very much second best in the midfield battle and even when they won back possession, they surrendered it again all too easily. On 13', Merstham keeper Zack Basey produced a fine save low to his left to keep out a shot from JJ Stepney, but it felt as though an equaliser was coming. So it proved because after eighteen minutes, Vale were level. A cross into the box from the right was met by the head of Brad Sweeney six yards out, gaving Basey no chance. It was no more than Vale deserved. Merstham seemed sluggish and lacking energy and they were in some ways fortunate that Raynes Park lacked the quality and creativity to carve out more clear-cut chances. Basey only really had to make one save, tipping over a shot from Ndozid. Though on the stroke of half time, it took a superb block by Ando to prevent a goal-bound shot from Green hitting the target. 

 

Tony Reid said after the game that he let his players know during the interval that he was very unhappy with their performance in the first half. Whatever was said, it certainly galvanised the men in amber and black. It was a completely different Merstham side that came out in the second half. They closed down Vale all over the pitch and flew into challenges and won far more second ball. Some of the challenges by both sides were a little reckless and Vale were very lucky to keep ten men on the field after two very poor tackles on Lorenzo Lewis and Lee Quincey. Although Merstham were on top for most of the second half, they didn't really create clear cut chances, though neither did Vale as both keepers were largely untroubled. The closest Vale came was on 77', when a corner produced a goal mouth scramble and a close range effort was chested off the line by Peter Wedgeworth. Basey fell gratefully on the loose ball. The game seemed to be heading for a replay until substitute Mike Dixon produced a rare moment of quality. A long kick from Basey wasn't dealt with by the Vale defence and the ball bounced on the edge of the area. Dixon didn't hesitate and hit a stunning, dipping volley which flew past Bishop to give the Moatsiders the lead. As the game moved into added time, Craig Kingswell had a chance to make the game safe but was denied by a good save by Bishop. The Merstham striker was first to the rebound but was shoved in the back by O'Sullivan. The referee went to blow for a penalty but changed his mind at the last second. In the last of the six minutes of added time, Sweeney was put through on goal by a terrific defence-splitting pass, with just Basey to beat. The Vale striker opted to dink the ball over the advancing keeper, but got it all wrong and put it wide. Seconds later, the referee blew and Merstham were through to the next round of the FA Cup. 

 

Merstham: Basey, Ando, Wedgeworth, Graham, Collins, Gunner, Pearch (Bangurah 82'), Quincey (Dixon 75'), Kingswell, Reynolds, Lewis.

Subs not used: Gjoshe, Okoro, O'Donovan

Man of the Match: Reuben Collins

Greene King Player Of The Match: Reuben Collins

bottom of page