MATCH REPORTS 2022/23
- Match Reports by Chris Pullen -
Merstham 1-1 Chertsey Town - Saturday 3rd December - Isthmian League
A Charlie Greenwood penalty two minutes from time earned the Moatsiders a well-deserved point in a game that was always highly competitive, but rather short on quality. No-one could fault the work-rate of both sides, but what was lacking was any real finesse or incisiveness in the final third. As a result, both keepers had a relatively quiet afternoon as shots on target were few and far between.
Boss Peter Adeniyi only made one change to the team that won at Westfield, bringing in Adam Allen for Dom Duvall.
The ball was treated like a hot potato in the opening 30 minutes, with both sides turning the ball over all too frequently and surrendering possession cheaply. Far too often, the ball was played forward more in hope than expectation, and rarely did either side try and play through the lines. There were moments when the Moatsiders threatened, but the final pass or cross into the box wasn't good enough. It wasn't until the 34th minute that the first shot on target was registered by either team when Montague hit a tame effort straight at Filip Chalupniczak. Three minutes later, Merstham had their best chance of the game. Adam Allen picked up the ball 40 yards out and rather than play sideways or backwards, he went straight at the Chertsey defence. He weaved past three Town defenders before slipping the ball into the path of Adam Adam, but the midfielder dragged his shot wide of the far post. It was no great surprise that it was scoreless at the break.
The second half began as the first half had ended, with both defences on top and neither side looking capable of breaking the deadlock. Credit though to the Moatsiders back four. Aaron Goode and Luke Reid were commanding in the middle and full backs Aziz Sankoh and Roman Charles-Cook were solid in defence and looked to burst forward when they could. If ever a game was destined to be 0-0, it was this one. You could only see a goal coming from a mistake or a moment of individual brilliance. With fifteen minutes remaining it was the Moatsiders who made the mistake. A routine high ball should have been cleared but was mis-cued into the path of a Chertsey forward. Two passes later and Town's Sam Murphy was put through on goal and he finished with aplomb. A few weeks ago, Merstham may well have crumbled and lost by two or three. But this side is made of sterner stuff. They were, however, indebted to Charlie Greenwood when he got back to make a superb block on the goal line to prevent Murphy adding his second and putting the game to bed.
With two minutes left, the Moatsiders were awarded a free kick inside the Chertsey half. The ball appeared to be sailing out at the far post, but Bryan Zepo hung in the air and got his head to the ball, trying to nod it back across goal. The ball struck the outstretched arm of Chertsey's Gogonas. There was no intent but under the current interpretation, it was a clear penalty, and the referee had no doubt. After the customary and tiresome complaints from the Chertsey players, Charlie Greenwood stepped up and calmly slotted home the spot kick. There was a little late pressure for the Moatsiders to endure as a series of rather debateable free kicks were awarded in the last few minutes of stoppage time, but the game ended with honours even, which was the right outcome.
Merstham: Chalupniczak, Charles-Cook, Goode, Read, Sankoh (Sterling-Parker 85'), Kamara (Adeniyi 58') Allen, Wilson (Bello 77'), Greenwood, Adam, Zepo.
Unused subs : Hendy, Barker Bateman
Man of the match: Luke Read
Sponsors' man of the match: Roman Charles-Cook
Westfield 0-1 Merstham - Saturday 26th November - Isthmian League
Finally! On the fifteenth time of asking, the Moatsiders claimed their first league win of the season, with a well-deserved three points at high-flying Westfield. Merstham could and perhaps should have won more comfortably as they certainly had the better chances over the course of the ninety minutes.
Manager Peter Adeniyi gave debuts to right-back Roman Charles-Cook, on loan from Sutton United and Adam Adam on dual registration from Worthing. Both had good games, with Charles-Cook Merstham's man of the match. Michael Kamara was shifted into a holding midfield role with Aaron Goode, who also had a fine game, moving into the centre of the defence.
Merstham began the game well, having the lion's share of possession and looking solid at the back. As has been the case in recent weeks however, good approach play tended to break down in the final third and it wasn't until the twentieth minute that they offered a real threat. A superb through ball from Charles-Cook hit Bryan Zepo perfectly in stride. The Merstham striker took one touch and his strike from 18 yards flew past the Westfield keeper but smacked against the post. Westfield offered an occasional threat, but usually only after the Moatsiders gave the ball away in their own half. Merstham had another great chance to take the lead when the ball found Dom Duval on the edge of the box, but the winger's effort flew high and wide. On the stroke of half time, Duval whipped in a cross from the left flank and Kamara unmarked six yards out, really should have hit the target with his header.
The second half really continued in much the same vein. Duval tested Wheeler with a shot that skimmed across the surface from 25 yards. Moments later, Filip Chalupniczak made his first save of note when he pushed away a well-struck effort from Walters. But Merstham finally got the goal they deserved when Charlie Greenwood nodded home on 65'. It was Greenwood who began the move by winning the ball in midfield and launching a quick counterattack. He combined well with Zepo and continued his run into the box to get on the end of Charles-Cook's cross and head past Wheeler. Six minutes later, Zepo had the chance to add a second when he weaved his way through the Westfield back line. Wheeler was out quickly to block Zepo's first effort and did well to recover and block Zepo's second shot from the rebound. Peter Adeniyi brought himself on with 12 minutes left and almost immediately created a great chance for Aaron Goode. The player-manager beat two defenders by the corner flag, got to the bye-line and pulled the ball back to where Goode was waiting unmarked on the penalty spot. But the defender couldn't keep his shot down and blazed over the bar. Having conceded an injury time equaliser in the previous game, the seven minutes of added time were torturous for Merstham players and supporters alike. A free kick into a crowded box in the sixth minute of added time dropped to a Westfield foot, but the ball flew wide of Chalupniczak's goal. Moments later, the referee blew for full time and the Moatsiders were finally able to celebrate that elusive first league win.
Merstham: Chalupniczak, Charles-Cook, Goode, Read, Sankoh (Adeniyi 78'), Kamara (Allen 63'), Wilson, Greenwood, Adam, Duval (Diallo 85'), Zepo.
Unused subs: Bello
Man of the match: Roman Charles-Cook
Thatcham Town 1-1 Merstham - Saturday 19th November - Isthmian League
Merstham were denied their first league win on the season by a goal in the 3rd minute of added time. To make matters worse, Lorenzo Lewis was sent off for a lunging challenge in the final seconds of a bad-tempered game. There is no doubt that it was a reckless challenge, but as ever it was the reaction of the opposition players that helped ensure the referee reached for a red card. In the ensuing melee, Town's Joshua Edwards also received a second yellow and joined Lewis on his way to the dressing room.
The Moatsiders gave a debut to keeper Filip Chalupniczak, signed on loan from Sutton United. He was without question Merstham's man of the match, not just for a string of fine saves, but also his commanding presence on the pitch. Overall though it was a poor game. Neither team could be faulted for their effort, but there was a lack of quality all over the pitch. The Moatsiders have played far better in recent weeks, but the players certainly gave their all for the cause.
Thatcham started the better and forced the early running with Ramarni Medford-Smith advancing down the left and seeing his cross go untouched as it bobbled narrowly wide. Mo Ceesay and Levi Heholt both saw shots pushed behind by Chalupniczak, though both were relatively comfortable saves. Merstham rarely threatened, in part because the front three didn't manage to retain possession long enough to link play and bring the midfield into the game. However, Merstham gradually grew into the game and moments before the interval, as Town failed to clear a corner, Bryan Zepo fired straight at the town keeper from close range. Goalless at the break.
Early in the second half, the Moatsidsers were again indebted to their keeper as Chalupniczak pulled off two fine saves. The first with his legs from a shot that was deflected from the edge of the box, and a second from point-blank range to deny Martin, who should have scored. A few minutes later, Thatcham paid the price when Zepo eluded a couple of defenders and fired home from the edge of the box with a well-taken goal. From that moment on, the Moatsiders defended resolutely and worked tirelessly in midfield to deny Thatcham time and space. Adam Allen in particular was everywhere, and Peter Adeniyi led by example. As the game became increasingly scrappy and heated, the visitors looked set to claim the much-needed win as Thatcham had really run out of ideas. Then as the game entered added time, Merstham launched a counterattack. But Jordan Wilson was caught in possession in the Thatcham half and with a number of players caught in transition, suddenly gaps appeared. Jaime Obama-Nvumba, on as a substitute, won possession and played it to Mo Ceesay who off on a surging run before returning the ball back to Obama-Nvumba, who rounded the keeper before slotting it home to deny Merstham their first win of the season in heart-breaking fashion.
Merstham: Chalupniczak, Goode, Read, Kamara, Sankoh, Wilson, Adeniyi, Allen, Duval (Sterling-Parker 46'), Lewis, Zepo.
Unused subs: Greenwood, Diallo, Willcocks
Man of the match: Filip Chalupniczak
Merstham 1-5 Basingstoke Town - Saturday 12th November - Isthmian League
Merstham seem unable to string together two good forty-five minutes this season. On Saturday, they played some excellent football in the first half, but fell behind early in the second half and began chasing the game, leaving gaps at the back for several proverbial London buses, never mind Town's clinical forward line, which exploited those gaps to the full. The game got off to a blistering start and could easily have been 2-2 after 15 minutes, with some great chances going begging at both ends. Mo Otuyo made a couple of fine saves, but the Moatsiders were also unlucky with shots blocked on the Basingstoke line. Merstham certainly had the better of the first twenty minutes without really forcing a save from Mark Scott, and they should have made more of their possession. Scott was then forced into action saving at full stretch from a marauding Aaron Goode. But the breakthrough came from the resulting corner. The ball was delivered into the six-yard box, headed up in the air, and Goode was quickest to react, volleying home acrobatically in the twenty-first minute. Ten minutes before the break, Town were level. Bradley Wilson went past Goode, who stuck out a leg and undid his earlier good work. James Clarke’s spot kick was unstoppable. On the balance of play, it was just about deserved. Merstham had played some lovely passing football, whilst the visitors moved the ball quickly forward and, in George Reid, had the most dangerous player on the field.
We’d played less than three minutes of the second half when the visitors completed the turnaround. It was that man Reid who made the breakthrough, a neat passing move saw him go past Otuyo and find the net from a narrow angle. The Moatsiders immediately tried to hit back, and a cross spun off Scott Armsworth’s boot two yards in front of his own line. The ball could have gone anywhere, but it cleared the bar. The corner came to naught, but another chance came to Goode, and his shot went inches wide of the keeper’s right-hand post. On fifty-four minutes, another corner for Merstham and this time Charlie Greenwood’s shot was deflected wide. The corner saw home fans scream for a penalty, but what they got was a throw in. Merstham were looking more than capable of getting back on terms and Adam Allen forced a fine save from Scott. Merstham pressed forward, while the visitors tried to catch them on the break, but on sixty-six minutes there was almost calamity for Merstham. Otuyo came out for the ball, slipped, Touray pounced, but was denied by Merstham's outstanding defender, Luke Reid who somehow got his body in the way to stop a certain goal. But eventually Merstham's cavalier defending did get punished when Reid received the ball on the edge of the box, cut inside and fired into the corner to make it 3-1 on 70'. Merstham kept up the pressure, whilst the visitors pulled almost everyone behind the ball and looked to break quickly. Six minutes later they did exactly that and this time, Otuyo couldn’t stop Wilson. Four-one, and without doubt, game over. Ten minutes to go, and a goalmouth scramble looked certain to end in a Merstham goal, but somehow ended up as a corner. Play went straight up the other end, and Wilson’s cross was turned home by Stefan Brown for five. Harsh on the Moatsiders, but they need to turn good possession into goals.
On Monday night, Merstham hosted Sutton United in the Surrey Senior Cup. Sutton fielded their Academy side, while the Moatsiders had a mixed side of a few first teamers, with one or two like Lorenzo Lewis and Rory Dacosta returning from injury, and a number of the Development Squad gaining much needed experience. There was also a debut in goal for Jordan Olds on loan from Bromley and Dominic Duval on loan from Farnborough. Sutton raced into a two-goal lead inside the first 20 minutes, thanks to some calamitous defending for the opening goal and the match officials failing to spot a blatant hand ball to rival Maradona's in 1986 for the second. The Moatsiders dug in, played some nice football but with no end product and Sutton added a third fifteen minutes from time.
Chipstead 1-1 Merstham - Saturday 5th November - Isthmian League
That first league win remains elusive, but once again, Merstham will look back on a match they completely dominated for forty-five minutes, took the lead, but then failed to finish off the home side, allowing Chipstead to steal a point.
Merstham, as has been the pattern in recent games, started well, moving the ball crisply around on a greasy playing surface. The majority of the first half was spent camped in the Chipstead half, but for all their possession, Merstham only really carved out a couple of chances. The best was on 11', when Omar Koroma played a defence-splitting pass to Lorenzo Lewis. But Lewis delayed his shot allowing a covering Chips defender to recover and make the block. Alpha Diallo, who came on as a sub for the injured Lewis on 31', almost scored when he tried to control the ball coming in at the far post, but the ball cannoned off his skin and ended up going inches wide. As for the rest of the half, lots of promising situations, but the final ball lacked quality, or on occasions, players chose the wrong option. As a result, for all their dominance, Merstham failed to turn that superiority into goals. In fact, Chipstead nearly performed a smash and grab on the stroke of half time, when Kieran Lavery's shot was blocked by Mo Otuyo.
But three minutes into the second half, Merstham finally got the goal they deserved. A superb low cross from wing-back Aziz Sankoh skidded through the six-yard box and Omar Koroma was in the right spot to side foot the ball into the net from a yard. Just five minutes later, Merstham and Koroma were agonisingly close to extending that lead. Chipstead turned the ball over and Merstham launched a quick counterattack. Koroma picked up possession just inside the Chipstead half. He looked up and saw Chips keeper Kerbey well off his line and tried an audacious chip from all of 50 yards. The ball cleared the hapless keeper but smacked against the bar to deny Koroma a spectacular second. As the half wore on, the Moatsiders began to sit deeper to try and protect their lead and allowed Chipstead the initiative. There were a few half chances for the home side, and you could feel the nervousness spread through the Merstham side as they tried to hang on for that priceless first win. As a result, passes went astray or long balls were hit aimlessly upfield. On 71' Charlie Greenwood had a great chance to add a second, but his shot from 12 yards was blocked by Perkins. In increasingly difficult conditions, with a strong wind and swirling rain, the Moatsiders became camped in their own half. But on 74', Chipstead were given a lifeline when a long ball hit Aaron Goode's arm and the referee deemed it to be in an unnatural position and gave the Chips a penalty, which Lavery converted to make it 1-1. Chipstead with their tails up had a couple of half chances as the ball was in and around the Merstham 18-yard box. But it was the Moatsiders who could and should have snatched it right at the end. First Greenwood had a golden opportunity when the ball broke to him all alone ten yards out. He tried to pick his spot but ended up putting the ball well over the bar from 10 yards. Then with almost the last kick of the game, sub Raheem Sterling-Parker was inches away from turning home another Sankoh cross as he slid in. Honours even in the end, but again Merstham will feel they should have picked up all three points.
Merstham: Otuyo, Goode, Reid, Kamara, Sankoh, Wilson (Adeniyi 74'), Allen, Greenwood, Koroma, Lewis (Diallo 31'), Zepo (Sterling-Parker 74')
Unused subs: Barker Bateman
Man of the Match: Omar Koroma
Merstham 0-3 Chatham Town - Monday 31st October - Isthmian League Velocity Cup
The Velocity Trophy was never going to be high up on Peter Adeniyi's priority list this season and a team that showed eight changes, featuring four youngsters making their debuts from Merstham's Development team gives you an indication of how the Moatsiders approached it. That said, it was a very good team performance, which was unfortunately not reflected in a score line that was harsh on a young Merstham side. The fact that Ben Card, the Chatham keeper was probably the man of the match, tells you a lot about the Merstham performance. But it was also a familiar tale of the opposition taking their chances, while the Moatsiders failed to convert some good opportunities.
The opening exchanges were very even and Merstham registered the first shot on target when a 25-yard free kick from Malakai Morris was tipped over by Town's keeper on 16'. Against an experienced Chatham side, which featured ex-Moatsiders Simon Cooper and Fabio Saraiva in their line-up, Merstham acquitted themselves well. Debutants Pharrell Willaims and Lewes Barker Bateman looked comfortable on the ball and didn't look at all overawed. However, Chatham took the lead on 31' when Saraiva got ahead of Williams to nod home a low cross from the right. Merstham had the chance to equalise almost immediately when a Wilson free kick was met at the far post by a Merstham head, but the keeper saved with his legs from point-blank range. On 39', Zepo was clean through on goal but he delayed his shot and Cooper got back to make a great tackle. Morris was then booked for a dive in the box after going past two players, but didn't pull the trigger. Merstham were made to pay on 40', when Gilbert hit a screamer from 30 yards after the ball was cleared from a corner. His shot flew through a mass of bodies in the box and past an unsighted Otuyo. Town led 2-0 at the break but that really wasn't a reflection of the first half.
But five minutes into the second half, a shot from 25 yards by Thompson skimmed off the wet surface to make it three and pretty much settle the tie. But the Moatsiders kept their heads up and kept pushing forward. On 70', Sankoh went on a barn-storming run and his shot was arrowing towards the bottom corner before Card produced a superb save with his right hand to keep it out. Harry Hendy and Charlie Sisarello were brought on to make their debuts and Sisarello almost marked his debut in style with a shot from the edge of the box destined for the corner, but once again the Town keeper produced an excellent save to tip the ball onto the post. There was still time for Morris to pick up a second yellow with ten minutes left for another dive in the box. Lorenzo Lewis almost pulled one back in the 90th minute, but, once again, Card was there to block his fiercely struck effort.
Merstham: Otuyo, Williams (Hendy 52'), Abubakari, Alexiou, Sankoh, Wilson (Sisarello 75'), Barker Bateman, Diallo, Morris, Lewis, Zepo (Bello 60').
Unused subs: None
Man of the Match: Jordan Wilson
Merstham 0-1 Hanworth Villa - Saturday 29th October - Isthmian League
Quite how Merstham ended up losing this game only they will know. As has been the pattern in recent weeks, they dominated the opening 45 minutes but managed to miss a host of chances. Hanworth scored with their only shot on target, which tells you all you need to know. Boss Peter Adeniyi made five changes to the side beaten at Uxbridge. New signings Aaron Goode, Adam Allen and Omar Koroma came straight into the side and both Adeniyi and Lorenzo Lewis came into the starting line-up.
Merstham suffered an early blow when Michael Aziaya was injured in the opening moments on the game following a robust, studs-up challenge. The midfielder tried to carry on but limped off in the 8th minute and was replaced by Bryan Zepo. Merstham were in control from the opening minutes and both Lewis and Bello shot narrowly wide. But for all Merstham's possession, they didn't create any clear-cut chances in the opening 20 minutes. Lewis looked dangerous and it took a cynical foul by Hanworth's Dunne to stop Lewis running at goal, which earned him a yellow card. From the resulting free kick, Koroma tested Villa keeper Buss with a low shot, but the keeper made a comfortable save. Minutes later, Buss was again in action as he pushed away another effort by Lewis and the rebound was hacked to safety. Five minutes before the break, Merstham had a golden chance to take the lead. A dreadful attempted header back to the keeper by a Villa defender went straight to Koroma, who was through on goal with just Buss to beat. The striker elected to take it around Buss, who seemed to get a touch on it and Koroma got the ball tangled under his feet. As defenders raced back, Koroma mis-cued his finish high, wide and not very handsome. On 42', a Merstham corner fell to Rory Dacosta and he shot straight at Buss who beat the ball away. The rebound fell to Goode on the edge of the box and his well-struck shot smacked against the angle of post and bar. The half ended goalless, but Merstham should have gone in at least two up such was their dominance.
The second half was only a minute old when Zepo had a free header from six yards out, but he failed to hit the target. Hanworth only really looked like scoring from a set piece and on 51', the inevitable happened. A long throw into the box was flicked on at the near post and Samra was on hand at the far post to poke the ball home from a yard. It was Hanworth's first shot on target. From that moment on, Merstham stopped playing football and in their anxiety to get back into the game, they started playing far too long and direct. That was meat and drink to the Villa defence who were content to sit and hold what they had. In fact, Villa might have scored on a couple of counter attacks as the Moatsiders committed men forward, but they failed to hit the target from good positions. Merstham huffed and puffed but lacked the quality and a little lady luck in the final third to test Buss.
Unless the Moatsiders turn dominant opening halves into a complete 90-minute performance AND take their chances, that first league win of the season is going to remain elusive.
Merstham: Otuyo, Goode, Read, Dacosta, Sankoh, Aziaya (Zepo 8'), Adeniyi (Diallo 69'), Bello (Alexiou 65'), Koroma, Lewis.
Unused subs: Wilson, Abubakari
Man of the Match: Luke Read
Merstham 1-2 Leatherhead - Saturday 22nd October - Isthmian League
Merstham remain rooted to the bottom of the table but will again look back on the chances they created and wonder how they only scored the one goal. It was a decent enough performance from the Moatsiders, but they should have scored at least once if not twice in the opening twenty minutes when they were dominant. In the end, they paid the price for profligacy in front of goal and two defensive mistakes allowed the Tanners to steal the three points.
In the opening 15 minutes, Leatherhead were pinned in their own half, but Merstham spurned chance after chance to go in front. As early as the second minute, from a corner, Luke Reid had a chance from an acute angle but his shot was deflected just past the far post. In the tenth minute, Charlie Greenwood found himself completely unmarked six yards out, but he scuffed his shot and Williams made a comfortable save. Two minutes later, Charlie Alexiou was clean through on goal, after the Leatherhead central defenders made a complete hash of a routine long ball. Again, Williams came to the rescue when his outstretched leg deflected Alexiou's shot wide. But gradually the visitors got themselves into the game and it became a much more even affair, with no further clearcut chances for either side. Dan Hector might have done better on 41' after he cut inside but fired wide from 18 yards. It remained scoreless at the break.
Leatherhead started the second half well and Tarpey should have done better on 52' but sliced his shot wildly. Michael Aziaya very nearly gifted the Tanners the opener when his awful header fell well short of Otuyo, but a combination of dithering by Allassani and then Rory DaCosta getting back to clear off the line reprieved Aziaya. But moments later it was a Dacosta error, when he dived in trying to win the ball on the halfway line, that did give Leatherhead the chance to go ahead, which Trey Williams accepted by slotting the ball past Otuyo on the hour mark. But Merstham were only behind for three minutes and drew level with one of the goals of the season. The Moatsider launched a quick counterattack and had an overload at the far post but appeared to have squandered the chance. The ball was half cleared and Aziaya, fully 35 yards out, didn't heisitate. The ball left his foot like a tracer bullet and flew into the top corner of the net. No goalkeeper in the world would have stopped that. Chances were few and far between but it always felt like one side would grab the winner. So it proved and it was a poor goal for the Moatsiders to concede. A long ball to the far edge of the box should have been cleared but wasn't. Hector picked up the ball, jinked inside and then hit a shot that nestled into the far corner with just six minutes left. Even so, the Moatsiders had a great chance to equalise two minutes later as the ball fell to Bryan Zepo on the six yard box who looked certain to score. But, like Greenwood in the first half, he mis-cued and gave Williams the chance to make the save and deny Merstham a deserved point.
Merstham: Otuyo, Wilson (Lewis 85'), Reid, Kamara, Dacosta (Hyman 69') (Trah 89') Sankoh, Aziaya, Greenwood, Diallo, Alexiou, Zepo,
Unused subs: Bello, Adeniyi
Man of the Match: Michael Aziaya
Ashford Town (Middlesex) 0-0 Merstham - Saturday 15th October - Isthmian League
For the second time in a week, Merstham went into the second half with a 2-1 advantage and ended up losing 3-2. This time, the Moatsiders can point to two highly controversial decisions by the referee which turned the game in favour of the home side. Blaming the match officials is an easy option, but when they were cheered off by the home fans at the final whistle, it gives you a pretty good idea of their overall performance.
It must be said that Merstham were on the right side of a decision by referee Keane as early as the second minute. A hopeful long ball over the top wasn't dealt with by the Town defence and Lindell Stewart was tripped in the box. The referee instantly pointed to the spot. Up stepped Byran Zepo to fire the spot kick into the top corner to give the Moatsiders an early lead. The game was frenetic, but Merstham rarely looked in trouble defensively and had a measure of control. They didn't create further clear-cut chances until the 27th minute, when makeshift striker Charlie Alexiou was denied by the outstretched foot of the Town keeper after Zepo put him through on goal. The Moatsiders did add a second on 32'. A deep corner to the far post went through the hands of the Town keeper under pressure and the ball lobbed to Zepo who did very well to head the loose ball back across goal and into the far corner. But five minutes before the interval, Ashford pulled a goal back in controversial circumstances. A needless free kick was conceded 30 yards out and the ball was curled into the 'corridor of uncertainty' between keeper and defenders. It appeared to come off a Merstham leg and deflect past Mo Otuyo into the far corner. The Moatsiders were initially relieved to see the assistant flagging for offside. But referee James Keane went across and after a protracted conversation in which the referee did most of the talking, he turned and awarded the goal. Lorenzo Lewis had a chance to immediately restore the two-goal advantage but blazed over from 18 yards. On the stroke of half time, Otuyo made a superb save from a free kick on the edge of the box, spectacularly tipping the ball over the bar when it looked destined for the top corner.
Ashford began the second half very much in the ascendancy and began to ask questions of the Merstham defence. Luke Read was perilously close to turning the ball into his own net on 48' when he deflected a whipped in cross just wide. Moments later, Town's Ondo should have scored but managed to lift the ball over the bar from six yards out. Boss Peter Adeniyi tried to change the momentum of the game by making a double substitution on 56', bringing on Charlie Greenwood and Jordan Wilson for Lewis and Stewart, but that did little to stem the flow. The Moatsiders did have their moments on the counterattack and Zepo almost got his hat trick on the hour mark but shot straight at the keeper from 8 yards. That miss proved costly as less than a minute later from an Ashford corner, referee Keane again intervened and gave the home side a penalty. Apparently, it was given for a shirt tug in the box, though he was the only one that saw it. Keeper Mo Otuyo was desperately unlucky as he saved the initial spot kick only to see Yakubu turn the rebound into the net to make it 2-2 on 60'. From that point on, it felt as there was only going to be one winner, as the two controversial decisions seemed to knock the stuffing out of the visitors. A free kick for a tackle by Greenwood who clearly won the ball, epitomised the overall performance of referee Keane, which was littered with clear and obvious mistakes. On 71' Yakuba somehow missed the target from a yard and three minutes later Iqbal hit the post, which led to an almighty scramble as first Otuyo made a great block, then Reid did likewise before Kamara somehow bundled the ball off the line. A few minutes later, Otuyo produced another top drawer save to get his fingertips to Brown's curling shot from just outside the box. But Ashford finally got the goal their pressure deserved when Otuyo pushed away a low shot destined for the far corner, but it went straight to Maguire who turned it into the empty net. Merstham very nearly got a late equaliser as Jordan Wilson sliced through the Town rear-guard but his shot was straight at the keeper. In added time, a cross by Wilson went straight through the six-yard box but no-one in grey could get a touch.
Merstham: Otuyo, Hyman, Reid, Kamara, Sankoh, Aziaya, Blackwood (Adeniyi 81), Stewart (Greenwood 56), Alexiou, Zepo, Lewis (Jordan 56).
Unused subs: Diallo, Sterling-Parker
Man of the Match: Mo Otuyo
Merstham 0-0 Marlow - Saturday 1st October - Isthmian League
This was certainly not a game for the football purist. To say this was a disappointing match is an understatement with both sides equally culpable for a general lack of quality throughout the ninety minutes.
The opening exchanges were scrappy, with both sides surrendering possession cheaply and frequently, which rather set the tone for the remainder of the game. Goalmouth incidents were few and far between and both goalkeepers were largely unemployed. There were two incidents of note in the first half. The first was when Merstham's centre back Luke Reid picked up a yellow card for a late challenge on a Marlow forward, which he could have no complaints about. The second in the 23rd minute, was a rare moment of quality from the Moatsiders. A series of quick, one-touch passing scythed through the Marlow defence and put Lindell Stewart though on goal. His shot was arrowing towards the bottom corner before Marlow's keeper got his fingertips to it and deflected it just wide of the far post. A mistake by Michael Kamara a few minutes later should have been punished by Marlow's Rogalski, but the forward dithered and eventually lost possession without getting a shot away.
The second half was arguably worse than the first forty-five minutes. Again, there was one moment of quality from Merstham. A superb through ball from Jordan Wilson found the ever-willing Charlie Greenwood running through on goal. The midfielder hit it first time but chipped it narrowly wide of the post. With ten minutes left, Reid picked up a second yellow and the Moatsiders had to play out the remaining minutes with ten men. However, despite forcing a series of corners and free kicks, Marlow managed to waste virtually all of them with quite lamentable delivery, much to the relief of the home side.
Merstham: Otuyo, Wilson, Reid, Kamara, Sankoh, Aziaya, Greenwood, Adeniyi, Diallo (Hyman 63), Stewart (Bello 76), Lewis (Sterling-Parker 69).
Unused subs: Blackwood, Trah.
Man of the Match: Charlie Greenwood
Grays Athletic 4-1 Merstham - Sunday 25th September - Isuzu FA Trophy
With the game finely poised at one apiece at half time, Merstham threw away an opportunity to progress in the FA Trophy by conceding two sloppy goals in the first five minutes of the second half. Although the 4-1 score line was harsh on the visitors, the bottom line was that Grays took their chances whereas the visitors squandered a number of good situations.
Perhaps kicking off at 1pm on Sunday did not suit Merstham, because they began the game lethargically and were lucky not to be a goal down in the opening few minutes when a shot by Grays' Osude hit the foot of the post with Mo Otuyo well beaten. The game was end-to-end in the opening exchanges and Lorenzo Lewis had a great chance to put the Moatsiders in front on 6', but he fired his shot into the side netting from 10 yards. A minute later, Grays should have scored when Watts blasted the ball over the bar when all alone 12 yards out. It wasn't a great surprise when Grays took the lead on 12' when Watts hit a superb dipping volley from 30 yards out, which went over Otuyo and into the net. Merstham were giving the ball away with alarming regularity, but Grays defending was no better than the Moatsiders and there was always a glimmer of hope that the visitors could get back on terms. They did so on 23', when Lorenzo Lewis went down in the box after a Grays defender stuck a leg out as Lewis shaped to go past him. Given Merstham's lamentable record from the penalty spot this season, an equaliser was far from certain, but midfielder Charlie Greenwood coolly slotted the penalty past the keeper and the Moatsiders were back on terms. The game began to settle down and Merstham began to get a measure of control, although it took a fine save from Mo Otuyo on the stroke of half time to push away a close-range effort from Watts to ensure the game was all-square at the break.
The second half began disastrously for the visitors. On 48', a low cross from the right was half blocked and Jamal Abubakari, inside his 6 yard box decided to take a touch before clearing the ball, allowing Grays' Chukwu to charge the clearance down which bobbled into the net. Two minutes later, a free kick for Merstham just outside the Grays' box led to the visitors conceding another poor goal. Lewis' free kick was blocked and the ball hacked clear. From that point on it became a foot race as Grays' players sprinted forward in numbers, while Merstham were slow to recover. Merstham managed to avert the initial danger, but then gave the ball away in their final third. The ball was fed into the box from the left flank and Chukwu had time to receive the ball, swivel and fire it into the bottom corner. Although there was still plenty of time left, it felt like the contest was over. Merstham kept trying but all too often the quality needed in and around the box was sadly lacking. Grays rubbed salt into the wound on 72' when another Grays counterattack saw the Moatsiders shorthanded at the back and Gordon was allowed a clear run at goal before slotting it past Otuyo from 18 yards to make it 4-1.
Merstham: Otuyo, Alexiou, Reid, Abubakari (Kamara 77) Sankoh, Aziaya, Greenwood, Diallo (Sterling-Parker 73), Stewart, Hyman, Lewis (Bello 62).
Unused subs: Blackwood, Morris, Trah, Adeniyi.
Man of the Match: Charlie Greenwood
Merstham 3-0 Hythe Town - Monday 12th September - Isuzu FA Trophy
Merstham finally got their first win of the season with a solid, all-round team performance in this FA Trophy First Qualifying Round game. Merstham manager Peter Adeniyi had used the previous week to revamp his squad, bringing in right-back Jordan Wilson from Kingstonian, centre-back Luke Read, who had made over 100 appearances for Carshalton in the previous four seasons and forward Stephane Trah from Chalfont St Peter. Both Wilson and Read went straight into the side, which showed five changes from last time out.
The Moatsiders began the game well, although Hythe came close in the opening minutes with a header that skimmed the bar from a long throw. But Merstham were moving the ball well and enjoying a lot of possession. With Byran Zepo back from injury, the forward line had a focal point, with Charlie Greenwood playing in a much more advanced position just behind Zepo to give him options. Reid settled in well in partnership with Michael Kamara and the shape of the team and pattern of play looked far more joined up than it had in previous weeks. Lorenzo Lewis was looking especially lively wide on the left and he opened the scoring in the fifteenth minute. It was a good Merstham move from back to front and Greenwood linked well with Zepo before laying it off to Lewis. Wide on the left, Lewis took a touch to go inside before hitting a low, hard drive from 25 yards. The Town keeper got a hand to it but was rather surprisingly beaten at his near post. But the Moatsiders didn't care as Lewis wheeled away to celebrate, chased by his teammates. On 24', Reid almost marked his debut with a goal when he slid in at the far post but from close range, he couldn't direct his effort and the ball flew over the bar. The Moatsiders were very much on top and looking capable of adding a second. That goal arrived on 26' and what a goal it was! Lewis played a defence-splitting pass to Greenwood who was brought down crudely by a Town defender just outside the box. On another day, Town's Fregene might have seen red, but the referee brandished a yellow instead. Lewis took the free kick and smashed it past the keeper, who was beaten by sheer power, to put the Moatsiders two up. Town had a good chance to reduce the arrears when Steventon had a free header from a corner, but he failed to hit the target. Just before the interval Greenwood had a chance to extend the lead with a close-range header, but he couldn't get over the ball and it ended up as a comfortable save for the keeper. But no-one could deny that the Moatsiders weren't full value for their two goal lead at half-time.
Hythe made a change at half-time, bringing on Gray at the back and switching to 3-5-2. They looked much better for it and the midfield, which the Moatsiders had dominated in the opening forty-five minutes, was far more competitive. On 50', it took a great block by Wilson to deny Collin on a swift counterattack. A few minutes later, Town's Goldsmith hit one from 30 yards that skimmed the bar. Hythe had plenty of possession, but really failed to test Mo Otuyo, who had a comfortable evening. Reid and Kamara looked dominant at the back and Hythe's only real threat came from set pieces. The Moatsiders continued to look dangerous whenever they came forward. The game was becoming very stretched which probably suited Hythe more than Merstham, who weren't content to sit back and defend. Greenwood went close on 68' with a shot from the edge of the box and minutes later, Zepo was agonisingly close to prodding the ball home as it flashed across the six-yard box. On 78' a mazy run by Alpha Diallo left several blue shirts in his wake as he ghosted past them. But his finish just lacked power and the Town keeper managed to get a foot to it and keep the ball out. A minute later, Diallo had an even better chance when he was all alone ten yards out. But his shot was superbly saved by Lee-Wharton low to his left. The Moatsiders had a great chance to wrap it up on 87' when Zepo did well to hold the ball up. For some reason, Steventon first grabbed him, then hauled him down and the referee pointed to the spot. Any Merstham supporter will tell you that this season has been a tale of missed penalties. That trend continued as Zepo hit the spot kick wide. But as the game went into added time, another Merstham counterattack found Diallo alone in the box. He took his time, drew a defender and then laid it off to Zepo, who looked like he must score, but his shot was cleared off the line by a covering defender. The ball broke to sub Malakai Hyman, who blasted it home from 12 yards to put the icing on the cake.
Merstham: Otuyo, Wilson, Kamara, Reid, Sankoh, Adeniyi (Blackwood 71), Aziaya, Greenwood, (Hyman 73), Diallo, Hyman, Lewis (Tray 70').
Unused subs: Ringer, Alexiou, Abubakari, Morris.
Man of the Match: Luke Reid
Merstham 1-2 South Park - Monday 29th August - Isthmian League
Merstham made it a miserable Bank Holiday weekend with their second loss in three days, but they will be wondering how they lost a game that they dominated for 65 minutes. Although it was a far better performance than at Binfield, the Moatsiders missed too many chances and in the end individual mistakes cost them dear.
The Merstham line up showed four changes to the side that started at Binfield, with Mo Otuyo making his debut in goal. The opening exchanges were relatively even, though as the half wore on, the Moatsiders began to enjoy a greater share of possession and started to look threatening. Both sides had some promising situations, but the final pass or, at times, simple decision-making was poor. Merstham became increasingly dominant in possession and on 38' they were rewarded with a penalty. Some nice one-touch passing between Lorenzo Lewis and Malachi Morris ended with Morris having his legs taken away in the box as he shaped to shoot. Morris dusted himself down and took the spot kick himself. The Moatsiders had missed their previous two penalties, so it wasn't a huge surprise when Park keeper Basey got a good hand to the spot kick and will possibly feel he should have done better with it as he palmed it into the net. But one nothing almost became two in first half added time, when a powerful shot from Lewis cannoned off the foot of the post with Basey well beaten. How the Moatsiders could have done with that extra cushion.
The second half was only 40 seconds old when Malakai Hyman had a great chance to extend the lead. He went through with only Basey to beat, but his tame finish was easily smothered by the keeper. Two minutes later, another good Merstham attack ended with Siao Blackwood prodding the ball just wide with only Basey to beat. South Park had a great chance to get back on terms on 56', but McGee blazed over the bar from 10 yards. Hyman had another gilt-edged chance when put through on goal with just Basey to beat. He lobbed the ball over the advancing keeper but didn't get enough on it and the ball was easily cleared. But the Moatsiders looked comfortable and in control of the game, that is until the 64th minute. With no apparent danger, Charlie Alexiou went to play it back to his keeper, but his pass was woefully under-hit and Park sub Quiasssaca latched onto it and slotted the ball past a stranded Otuyo. In a blink of an eye the game turned, and South Park raised their game by 20% as the confidence seeped out of the Moatsiders. Quiassaca then won the game for the visitors on 76' when hesitant defending allowed him to run at the back four and slot the ball past Otuyo.
Merstham: Otuyo, Alexiou, Kamara, Abubakari, Sankoh, Blackwood, Aziaya (Greenwood 85), Morris (Sterling Parker 69') Diallo, Hyman, Lewis (Adeniyi 79').
Unused subs: Ringer
Man of the Match: Lorenzo Lewis
Binfield 4-0 Merstham - Saturday 27th August - Isthmian League
Binfield cruised to a comfortable and deserved win, but Merstham made it easy for the Moles with a very poor performance.
Merstham began brightly and were on top for the first ten minutes, creating a couple of half chances. It wasn't easy to play football on a very poor surface but that was the same for both sides. The first half was relatively even until Binfield opened the scoring on 31'. A long ball over the top turned the Merstham defence and they were still all at sea when Harvey Harry's scuffed shot deflected past Joe Ringer into the corner of the net. A minute before the break, Jamal Abubakari needlessly tried to win out by the corner flag. That allowed Harry to get past him and into the box. Abubakari then compounded his initial mistake by bringing down the Moles striker from behind. Liam Tack converted the penalty to make it 2-0 at the break.
The second half was just ten minutes old when Merstham were handed a great chance to get back in the game. Raheem Sterling-Parker was needlessly fouled by Morgan as he dribbled into the box. Sterling-Parker took the spot kick himself, but it was a very poor effort and Moles keeper Grace saved comfortably with his legs. That knocked the stuffing out of the Moatsiders. On 74' a cross from Denton from wide on the right eluded everyone, including Ringer and went straight in to the far corner to make it 3-0 . In added time, Binfield rubbed salt into the wound when Efedje's near post finish made it four.
Merstham: Ringer, Alexiou, Kamara, Dacosta (Morris 45), Sankoh, Abubakari, Blackwood, Greenwood (Da Silva 45) Diallo, Hyman, Sterling-Parker (Lewis 75').
Unused subs: Adeniyi, Aziaya, Lewis
Man of the Match: Alpha Diallo
Sevenoaks Town 2-0 Merstham - Wednesday 24th August - Emirates FA Cup
Merstham bowed out of the FA Cup and paid the price for failing to take their chances in the first game, as Sevenoaks progressed to the next round with a fairly comfortable win. Two goals in three first half minutes were enough to put Sevenoaks through and although the Moatsiders produced a spirited second half display, Town keeper McCarthy didn't have a shot on target to deal with. Injuries to both Ore Bello and Bryan Zepo picked up on Saturday forced Merstham boss Peter Adeniyi into two changes, with Morris and Abubakari coming into the side. Adeniyi also switched to a back three, with Abubakari coming in on the right alongside Kamara and Dacosta.
To say that the Moatsiders were poor in the first half is probably being a little kind. Sevenoaks were a yard quicker and won every challenge on the ground and in the air. In football terms, it looked as though they wanted it more. Joe Ringer was tested by a stinging shot at his near post from Hector as early as the third minute, which the Merstham keeper pushed behind for a corner. Hector was a constant menace and kept finding a pocket on space between the back three and Aziaya and Blackwood in midfield. Gondoh was running the show for Town and his shot on 20' went narrowly wide. For the opening 25 minutes, Merstham saw little of the ball as they were penned in their own half and when they did gain possession, they gave it back all to easily. Just when it felt as though Merstham were gaining a foothold in the game, they conceded a truly dreadful goal on 34'. It began with a free-kick to the Moatsiders deep in Town's half on the right side. A very poor delivery didn't clear the first man and it was headed comfortably clear. Town had proved several times how quickly they turn defence into attack and did so once again. Ringer came well out of his goal to deal with a through ball, and he had plenty of time to clear it. But the Merstham keeper scuffed his clearance which went straight to Hector on the halfway line. With Ringer stranded 40 yards from his goal most expected Hector to take a pot at the goal, but he elected to play it wide to Gondoh on the right. He cut in, drew Ringer and unselfishly squared it to Bamba to tap into an empty net. A few minutes later, Sevenoaks showed the Moatsiders how to take a free kick. From wide on the left, the ball was beautifully flighted in by Wilson and Olurunnisomo bundled it across the line on 37'. It was hard to argue that Town weren't good value for their 2-0 lead at the interval.
Merstham boss Peter Adeniyi made two changes at half time, taking off Morris and Aziaya and replacing them with Charlie Greenwood and Malakai Hyman, who went up front. But the whole side came out with a different level of energy and commitment and looked so much better for it. That said, it was Sevenoaks who almost extended their lead as twice in the opening ten minutes of the half Ringer stood up well to block shots from first Gondoh and then Hector who were both through on goal. But Merstham were having more of the ball and looking threatening too for the first time in the game. Raheem Sterling-Parker had a great chance to pull one back on 57' but blazed over the bar from just inside the box. Ringer produced another fine save low to his left to keep out a skimmer from Mensah that was heading for the bottom corner. On 71', Merstham came close to pulling one back after great work from Greenwood wide on the left and Alexiou, arriving late at the far post could only stab the ball wide at full stretch. That was really as close at the Moatsiders got. They enjoyed plenty of possession in the final 15 minutes but couldn't create anything of note and Sevenoaks were happy to sit deep and defend in numbers.
Merstham: Ringer, Alexiou, Kamara, Dacosta, Sankoh, Abubakari, Blackwood, Aziaya (Greenwood 45) Diallo, Morris (Hyman 45), Sterling-Parker (Lewis 75').
Unused subs: Adeniyi.
Man of the Match: Charlie Alexiou
Merstham 1-1 Sevenoaks Town- Saturday 20th August - Emirates FA Cup
Merstham could and probably should be in the draw for the next round of the FA Cup. A missed penalty with fifteen minutes remaining was the clearest opportunity, but the Moatsiders also spurned a couple of gilt-edged chances in the final minutes of a highly entertaining cup-tie. On the plus side, it was a much-improved performance from Peter Adeniyi's young team and there were signs that the new-look side is starting to gel.
The match was end-to-end from the start, but both defences looked solid, and the two keepers were well-protected, although Joe Ringer did have to push away a speculative effort from ex-Moatsider Dan Hector in the fourth minute. The game was ignited by a cracking goal from Mertsham left back Aziz Sankoh on 24'. A long throw by Michael Kamara was only half-cleared, and the ball dropped to Aziz on the edge of the box who hammered it into the far corner. Town had a chance to test Ringer on 31', but an incisive burst by Olarunnisomo ended with a complete miskick when only 12 yards out. Just before the break, another Merstham corner almost led to a second goal. The corner wasn't dealt with, and Charlie Alexiou's close range effort was blocked by Town keeper McCarthy. The ball again ran free to Sankoh on the edge of the box, but this time his shot went straight at McCarthy. There was still time for Ore Bello to rob a Town defender, but he dragged his shot wide.
Sevenoaks responded by making two changes at the interval and started the second half strongly as Gondoh began to pull the strings in midfield. They drew level on 50' when the Moatsiders got caught in transition. Town sprang forward and with the home side trying desperately to get back, Sevenoaks left-back Duru cut inside his man before curling the ball into the far corner of Ringer's net. It was an excellent finish to put the visitors back on terms. For the next 10-15 minutes, it was Sevenoaks who were on top and looking the more likely to grab a second. But the Moatsiders dug deep, defended well and weathered the storm. As the game entered the final 20 minutes, it was Merstham who looked the stronger and began to ask questions of the Town defence, with Bryan Zepo proving a handful. It was Zepo's burst into the box on 28' that caused panic in the Town defence. The ball was taken off Zepo's toes as he went to shoot but ran to Bello. A lunge by a Town defender appeared to take the Merstham man's legs and referee Josh Langley-Fineing, who had an excellent match, immediately pointed to the spot. With Merstham's nominated penalty taker Raheem Sterling-Parker having already been substituted, skipper Michael Kamara placed the ball on the spot. Kamara opted for power rather than guile, but his effort cannoned against the underside of the bar and was scrambled clear. But that didn't deter the Moatsiders as they continued to push for a winner. Lorenzo Lewis was desperately unlucky when his superb strike from 20 yards was arrowing into the top corner before McCarthy produced a world-class save to tip the ball over the bar. Diallo was then denied by a superb block by Weaire with five minutes left. A series of corners saw a ball glanced on at the near post and ran straight through the six-yard box without an amber shirt able to turn it into an empty net. As the game went into six minutes of added time, an awful header by a Town defender put Lewis through on goal with just the keeper to beat, but his tame effort was comfortably saved by McCarthy
The Moatsiders must now travel to Sevenoaks for the replay on Wednesday evening at 7.30pm.
Merstham: Ringer, Alexiou, Kamara, Dacosta, Sankoh, Blackwood, Aziaya (Greenwood 90) Diallo, Bello (Hyman 77), Sterling-Parker (Lewis 64'), Zepo.
Unused subs: Adeniyi, Abubakari, Morris
Man of the Match: Aziz Sankoh
Tooting & Mitcham Utd 0-0 Merstham- Tuesday 16th August - Isthmian League
Merstham picked up their first point of the season and almost snatched all three when Lorenzo Lewis hit the bar in the 90th minute. But it was an instantly forgettable encounter, which was high on endeavour, but low on quality.
Resplendent in their new grey and black away strip, manager Peter Adeniyi made four changes to the side that lost at home to Southall, with Sankoh, Sterling-Parker, Diallo and Morris all starting. It was Tooting who came closest to scoring on 10', when Mbango's cross shot went inches wide. Those behind the goal confirmed that keeper Joe Ringer got fingertips to the ball, and although the match officials gave a goal kick, it really was a fine save by the Merstham keeper. But that was as good as it got in terms of any real excitement in a poor opening forty-five minutes. Both sides treated the ball as if it were a hot potato and all too often the ball was launched forward more in hope than expectation. Both sides worked hard and no-one could fault the effort, but it was rare that either side strung more than a couple of passes together in their opponent's half before surrendering possession. The closest Merstham came to troubling the Tooting keeper was a Dacosta header that went narrowly over the bar ten minutes before the break.
The second half was a carbon-copy of the first, with possession given away cheaply and misplaced passes the order of the day. But in the final twenty minutes, the momentum of the game started to shift as the Moatsiders began to gain the ascendancy. They looked fitter and stronger than the home side and suddenly space, that had been at a premium all evening, started to appear in the Tooting half of the pitch. On several occasions the ball was fizzed into the Tooting box, but although the Moatsiders had plenty of players in and around the area, it wouldn't quite drop to a man in grey and black. It was generally a case of 'almost but not quite' as Merstham tried to fashion an opportunity. As the game entered the final minute, a good Merstham move on the left flank found Lorenzo Lewis in the box. The forward let the ball run across him before unleashing a powerful, right-footed drive which smacked against the angle of post and bar with the keeper well beaten. But over the ninety minutes, a draw was a fair result. Merstham's attention now turns to the FA Cup with a home tie against Sevenoaks Town on Saturday.
Merstham: Ringer, Alexiou, Kamara, Dacosta (Abubakari 79'), Sankoh, Blackwood, Aziaya, Diallo, Morris (Bello 86') Sterling-Parker (Lewis 67'), Zepo.
Unused subs: Adeniyi, Hyman
Man of the Match; Michael Kamara
Merstham 1-2 Southall - Saturday 13th August - Isthmian League
On a blistering hot afternoon, more suited to cricket than football, Merstham began their campaign in the Isthmian South Central with a disappointing performance. They were beaten by two free kicks, but there is no question that the visitors deserved the three points. A brand-new side will no doubt take several games to gel, but there were very few individual performances of note, except for the introduction of Raheem Sterling-Parker from the bench, who galvanised a lack-lustre display.
Southall started by far the better. They almost went ahead on 9', when a shot from Heneghan crashed against the underside of the bar and bounced down on the line, before being hooked clear. It is fortunate that goal line technology is not available at this level, as it looked very close to being over the line. But by the 15th minute, the visitors were in charge, and it was no great surprise when they took the lead on 19'. A free kick was needlessly conceded 25 yards out. Heneghan bent the ball around the wall on the side they were meant to be covering and into the bottom corner. Questions must be asked about how the wall was lined up to go in like that. The Merstham faithful might have hoped for a response, but there really wasn't one. The Moatsiders seemed content to play the ball sideways and backwards without really trying to break the lines. After a while, patience ran out and a long diagonal ball was hit from back to front, but all too often it went out of play or straight to the Southall keeper, who was time wasting from the 20th minute, aided and abetted by a referee who seemed to believe that the ball being in play was somewhat of an inconvenience and took minutes getting the game restarted. If anyone deserved a yellow card for time-wasting, it was the match official. Aside from wasting time, the Southall keeper didn't have a shot to save in the opening 45 minutes. Joe Ringer in the Merstham goal wasn't overly busy either, but he had to palm away a shot from Mark on 38'. With five minutes of the half remaining, Merstham conceded another free kick in almost an identical position to the first goal. Once again Heneghan lined it up. This time he curled a superb shot over Ringer's grasping fingers into the top corner to make it 2-0 at the interval.
Peter Adeniyi brought on Malachi Morris up front at half time, but the game quickly settled into a familiar pattern of both defences largely on top. Undoubtedly conditions didn't help, but the Moatsiders build up was too slow and didn't really move a well-organised Southall defence around enough to create space. The pattern didn't really change until the 55th minute, with the introduction of Raheem Sterling-Parker. From his arrival on the pitch, he created problems for the visitors with his ability to hold the ball and link play up. He also was unafraid to turn and run at tiring defenders. A free kick won by Sterling-Parker was floated into the far post on 65' and Charlie Alexiou will wonder how he missed the target from close range. With seven minutes remaining, Taylor bundled needlessly into the back of Bryan Zepo and the referee pointed to the spot. It took the best part of 3 minutes to actually take the spot kick as the Southall players had undoubtedly some pleasant conversations with the match official. Eventually, Sterling-Parker stepped up to calmly convert the penalty on 40'. That led to a nervy last 10 minutes for the visitors, but the Moatsiders were unable to carve out a clear-cut chance to try and snatch a point.
Merstham: Ringer, Hyman, Alexiou, Kamara, Dacosta, Adeniyi (Diallo 83'), Blackwood, Aziaya (Morris 45'), Lewis (Sterling-Parker 55'), Bello, Zepo.
Unused subs: Sankoh, Abubakari
Man of the Match: Raheem Sterling-Parker
Merstham 2-3 Reading XI - Saturday 23rd July - Pre-Season Friendly
As the centrepiece of the Merstham Community Day, the players of both sides produced an entertaining and free-flowing game, which could have gone either way. The Moatsiders battled back from two down to pull it back to 2-2, before Reading grabbed the winner with 15 minutes left.
Merstham had a great chance to go in front as early as the fourth minute. A ball over the top of the Reading defence saw the Reading keeper and Raheem Sterling-Parker in a race for the ball near the edge of the box. The Merstham striker got there first and nodded the ball past the stranded keeper, but a covering defender hooked it off the line. However, the referee had seen the keeper clatter into Sterling-Parker and pointed to the spot. Lorenzo Lewis stepped up to take the spot kick, but his well-struck effort smacked against the inside of the post and was cleared to safety. Both sides were playing some neat, attractive football and the home side didn't look out of their depth at all. Like many sides, Merstham like to play out from the back, but that always brings with it an element of risk. On 25', Merstham keeper Joe Ringer delayed his clearance fractionally longer than he should have done, as he was closed down by a Royals forward and the ball rebounded off the Reading player into the corner of the net to make it 1-0. With five minutes remaining of the first half, Reading added a second with a beautifully worked move. A series of one-touch passes was neatly finished off by Reading's centre-forward as he slid the ball past Ringer. But on the stroke of half time, the Moatsiders pulled one back when a cross from the right was turned in at the near post to make it 2-1 at the break.
The second half started as the first half did with Sterling-Parker in a race for a through ball with the Reading keeper. This time the Merstham forward finished with aplomb as he lobbed the ball over the keeper to make it 2-2 on 47'. The Moatsiders almost took the lead on the hour, but a goal bound effort that beat the keeper was cleared off the line. The Royals won the game with a carbon copy of Merstham's first goal. Good work down the right side led to a low, near-post cross that was turned in from close range on 75'. But the Moatsiders will have been pleased with their performance as they matched Reading throughout the game for fitness, work rate and quality on the ball.