Merstham 1-4 Potters Bar Town
Saturday 24th October 2020
Pitching In Isthmian Premier
The final score was a little harsh on Merstham, but there is no doubt that Potters Bar deserved the victory. But the Moatsiders were guilty of gifting their opponents a three-goal lead, and it's hard to win any game of football when you make basic mistakes.
Conditions were difficult with a blustery wind and driving rain and Merstham found themselves playing against the wind in the opening 45 minutes. There are times you need to 'play the conditions' and this was one of those times. Unfortunately, Merstham didn't, and all three first half goals were a direct result of giving the ball away cheaply in their own half. Merstham were on the back foot from the opening minutes and Cochrane went close with a near post flick in the 6th minute and then forced Tyla Dickinson into a good save five minutes later. But in the 17th minute, Merstham lost possession and a through ball found Kyei. Dickinson came charging out and as the Town forward knocked it past him, the Merstham keeper seemed to clip Kyei. The referee pointed immediately to the spot and Charles converted the spot kick, though Dickinson came close to saving it. Merstham rarely threatened at the other end, although Jude Mason might have done better with a free header from a set peice in the 22nd minute. Although the visitors were dominating possession, the Moatsiders seemed to have weathered the storm, figuratively and literally. That was until five minutes before the break. Ryan Healy conceded a free kick 25 yards out and Town's Joe Payne hit a superb free kick over and around the wall to make it 2-0. Bad went to worse when Merstham again lost the ball near their own box and Kyei went past Elliott Bolton. There was contact and the referee didn't hesitate and pointed to the spot once more. Merstham have now conceded four penalties in the last three matches. This time Kyei himself took the kick and made it 3-0.
Credit to the spirit shown by the Moatsiders, because they came out for the second half really fired up and almost immediately pulled one back when Potchu Mendes made a great overlapping run and fired in a low cross to the near post. Yannick Monga and Burridge, the Town keeper both went for it and the ball trickled into the net, with Monga claiming it. Suddenly it was a very different match with Merstham resurgent. Just minutes after pulling one back, Calvin Epkiteta almost made it 3-2 but was denied by a fine save by Burridge at his near post. A rasping drive by Ekpiteta only just cleared the bar and there was the feeling that if the Moatsiders could get a second, they would have a real chance of getting a result. Burridge was nearly caught out when he came out of his box to clear but played it straight to Monga. But his curling shot at an empty goal went narrowly wide. With 20 minutes remaining, the Moatsiders had a golden chance to make it 3-2 when Monga brought another good save form the keeper and then collected the rebound and floated the ball into the box. Calum Davies was waiting 6 yards out and had a free header, but somehow Burridge kept it out with a brilliant stop. Merstham kept going and another day might easily have made it 3-3 with all the chances and half chances they had. But with eight minutes left Town broke away on a rare counterattack and Charles fired past Dickinson's left hand to rub salt into the wound.
Merstham : Dickinson, Mendes-Calucane, Mason, Healy (Morin 64'), Simeone, Lloyd (c), Gugas-Cowin, Bolton, Davies (Hayles 79') Epkiteta, Monga (Cascoe 77).
Man of the Match : Potchu Mendes-Calucane
Unused Subs :Mills, Mensah,
Lewes 1-0 Merstham
Tuesday 20th October 2020
Pitching In Isthmian Premier
For the second game in a row, Merstham were on the wrong end of a highly dubious penalty award, but in truth it was a hugely disappointing performance by the Moatsiders that gifted a limited Lewes side the points. The game itself was instantly forgettable, but for that one controversial moment in the second half, that saw the home side being awarded a penalty and the visitors reduced to ten men.
The first half was just dire. Both sides gave the ball away with alarming regularity and Merstham's normally crisp passing game was nowhere to be seen, as player after player misplaced simple passes or surrendered possession cheaply. The Moatsiders had keeper Tyla Dickinson to thank in the 16th minute when he blocked a close-range effort after a Lewes forward breezed past Sol Patterson-Bohner. But that was the only time the Merstham keeper was called upon. At the other end, the Lewes keeper had even less to do as the Moatsiders failed to register a shot on target in the opening 45 minutes. Merstham did have a good shout for a penalty when a Lewes defender almost took Jude Mason's head off with a high boot, but the referee explained later that the foot wasn't high enough, which was a bizarre explanation when the foot was high enough to have hit the average NBA basketball player in the head. On the stoke of half time, the Moatsiders had a great chance to go in front when a long ball found Jack Leahy through on goal. Leahy lifted the ball over the advancing keeper, but the ball found the roof of the net.
The hugely contentious penalty was awarded in the 56th minute. Bertie Lloyd and Lewes' Cosgrove, who was a thorn in the side of the Merstham defence all evening, tangled legs on the edge of the Merstham box. The referee decided it was a penalty, saying that the incident had occurred 'on the line' of the 18-yard box, which of course counts as being inside. The Lewes groundman later pointed out that there was a huge divot from the challenge a foot or so outside the box, which told its own story. The Merstham players were incensed, particularly after being on the wrong end of a truly awful penalty decision at East Thurrock in the previous game. The heated exchanges were unwisely led by Calvin Ekpiteta, who was already on a yellow card. A second yellow card duly followed, as Merstham found themselves down to 10 men and then a goal down as the spot kick was duly converted. For the remainder of the game, the Moatsiders threw men forward, switching to a 3-4-2 and dominating possession. But they rarely produced a threat and their only shot on target was in added time when a free kick from Leahy was palmed away by the underworked Lewes keeper. Merstham will consider themselves unlucky to have come away with nothing, but in sport you need to make your own luck.
Merstham : Dickinson, Mensah, Mason, Mendes-Calucane, Patterson-Bohner c (Healy 68'), Lloyd, Gugas-Cowin (Davies 65'), Bolton, Epkiteta, Leahy, Monga (Mills 77).
Man of the Match : Potchu Mendes-Calucane
Unused Subs : Cascoe, Morin.
East Thurrock United 2-2 Merstham
Saturday 10th October 2020
Pitching In Isthmian Premier
Quite how Merstham left Rookery Hill with just a point will be beyond anyone who watched this entertaining encounter. Entertaining, but hugely frustrating for Frank Wilson and his players, who dominated possession and territory for the majority of the game. But the match itself only tells half the story. The other half is the injury jinx which struck again on the day before the game, as keeper Matte Pierson was injured in training. Frank Wilson and the Merstham back room staff then pulled a rabbit out of the hat by signing QPR keeper Tyla Dickinson on loan at 11pm. Not content with that, Wilson also secured the services of Brighton & Hove Albion forward Jack Leahy and completed his "stressful" Friday by securing the services of left-back Jude Mason from Sutton United. When the squad arrived at the ground, one can imagine introductions were as important as tactics. Just to add another little twist, defender and captain Sol Patterson-Bohner was then ruled out at 2pm with a neck injury, forcing another reshuffle, and a total of seven first teamers out of action.
The match itself was no less dramatic and made more entertaining by a referee who seemed to view the laws of the game as something of an inconvenience, so simply chose to ignore them frequently. I have watched football for 50 years and I have NEVER seen a player being body checked by an opposition player as he's taking a throw-in, as happened to Merstham skipper Ryan Healy. That was simply one of many bizarre decisions by Mr Gelov that left the Merstham players, fans and coaching staff seething in frustration.
Oh, yes, the match. Given all the changes and with three players making their debuts, it was an excellent performance by the Moatsiders. Unlike previous weeks they started the game very well, pressing the Rooks and giving them little time on the ball. Jack Leahy looked dangerous every time he had the ball at his feet, skipping past the right-back at will and casuing mayhem in the Rooks back line. In the 15th minute Bobby Mills got his first shot on target after good work by Leahy, but it was beaten away by Rooks keeper Janata, who was to have a busy afternoon. There were a series of close calls and near things for Merstham as the ball was frequently in the Rooks box, but the ball didn't fall kindly to the men in red when it mattered. At the other end, the Rooks did look dangerous on counter attacks and Dickinson had to be brave to fist one away from a head-high boot (no, there was no whistle). Both Ekpiteta and Leahy went close with efforts from range before Merstham finally got the goal they deserved in the 29th minutes. Potchu Mendes Calucane did well to beat his man on the right flank and got to the bye-line before intelligently pulling it back for Ekpitata, who calmly side-footed home from 10 yards. But Merstham's lead was short-lived. Out of nothing, the Rooks found a through ball and Dickinson came flying out and the Rooks player went down. The chap appointed as the referee pointed to the spot despite Dickinson beseeching the referee and assistant that he had got a hand on the ball. The ref decided that didn't really matter and gave the spot kick which was duly converted to make it 1-1 at half time.
Merstham didn't start the second half well and Dickinson was forced into a couple of smart saves. But the Moatsiders gifted the Rooks a second goal in the 56th minute when the Rooks Luke Illsley nodded home from a corner completely unchallenged. That goal galvanized Merstham and the rest of the match was like watching a re-enactment of the Alamo. Merstham forced the home side to defend desperately as they piled forward. A great through ball by sub Pierre-Alexandre Morin found Leahy, but Rooks keeper Janata did well to save at the feet of the Merstham man. A minute later, a Bertie Lloyd header from a corner hit the angle of post and bar. Another header from a corner from EJ Mensah produced an excellent save from Janata and Gugas-Cowin was then taken down from behind as he went to turn the rebound in, but taking a player out in the box was now no longer a penalty kick according to the appointed official. Moments later Leahy cut inside and curled one for the top corner which Janata saved superbly. Another corner, another goalmouth scramble and another strong appeal for a penalty kick for the Moatsiders went unanswered by the match officials. Then with 6 minutes remaining, a fine Merstham move found sub Barry Hayles on the edge of the box. His deft flick found Leahy unmarked who smashed the ball past Janata to make it 2-2. It was now a question of whether the visitors could grab a winner and they nearly did in the 90th minute when some more superb football put Morin through on goal, but Janata did well and took the ball off the Merstham man's feet to earn his side a point.
Merstham : Dickinson, Mendes-Calucane, Mason, Healy (c) (Morin 57), Mensah, Lloyd, Gugas-Cowin, Monga (McGugan 74), Mills (Hayles 70), Epkiteta, Leahy.
Man of the Match : Jude Mason
Unused Subs : Cascoe, Kamhouri.
Merstham 1-2 Kingstonian
Tuesday 6th October 2020
Pitching In Isthmian Premier
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It was a case of what might have been, as a depleted Merstham fought back strongly in the second half and very nearly snatched a point after going in at half time two down.
Kingstonian, featuring six former Moatsiders in their starting lineup began well and got off to a dream start with a goal from one of those ex-Merstham players, when Harry Osborne nodded home a corner in the fourth minute. Merstham boss Frank Wilson had been forced to re-shuffle his side when the highly-rated Elliott Bolton was forced to pull out with an ankle injury before kick off. Already missing skipper James Richmond, Omar Folkes, Joash Nembhald and Shola Ayoola, Merstham lacked cohesion and looked out of sorts in the opening twenty minutes and gave the visitors far too much time and space. K's had a couple of good chances to extend their lead, and it was only down to a combination of good goalkeeping from Matte Pierson, who made a couple of fine saves, and some poor finishing that meant the Moatsiders were only a goal down. But eventually K's superiority told, and Buchanan got on the end of a low cross to slide the ball home from close range in the 39th minute to put the visitors two up. That seemed to galvanize Merstham and they were desperately unlucky not to get one back just before the break. Sol Patterson-Bohner drove forward and his pass found Calvin Epkiteta just outside the box. The Merstham forward connected sweetly from 25 yards and K's keeper Tolfrey could only watch as the ball crashed against the underside of his cross bar and bounced into his grateful arms. A minute later Bobby Mills might have scored at the far post after good work by Gugas-Cowin, but his header lacked power and the K's keeper made a comfortable save.
The second half was a very different affair as the Moatsiders pressed higher up the pitch and began to put K's players under pressure all over the pitch. The home side dominated possession and had a number of promising situations as they finally began to find their passing game. But all too often the final pass was lacking and for all their good football and possession, they didn't do enough to test Tolfrey. But the goal they deserved came in the 66th minute and was a direct result of their high press, when another former Moatsider, Kenny Beaney, was caught in possession just outside his own box by the industrious Epkiteta, who calmly slotted past Tolfey to give Merstham real hope. K's still presented a threat with their long balls from back to front, but as the game entered the last 15 minutes, it was Merstham who looked the more likely to find the net. The real disappointment was Merstham's delivery from a number of set pieces as K's conceded a number of free licks and corners as they tried to hang on to the three points. In the end, Merstham just lacked a little bit of quality in the final third to create a genuine chance and grab an equaliser that their second half display probably deserved.
Merstham : Pierson, Mensah, Hill (Kamhouri 75) , Mendes-Calucane (McGugan 83), Patterson-Bohner (c) Lloyd, Gugas-Cowin, Healy (Cascoe 83), Mills, Epkiteta, Monga.
Man of the Match : Potchu Mendes-Calucane
Unused Subs : Hayles, Morin.
Merstham 3-0 Corinthian-Casuals
Tuesday 29th September 2020
Pitching In Isthmian Premier
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A superb second-half display full of scintillating, attacking football gave Merstham their first win of the season. The win was even more impressive because the injury jinx that has plagued Frank Wilson's men in the first few games struck again last night, not once but twice, in the opening ten minutes. With Skipper James Richmond ruled out, Sol Patterson-Bohner was given the captain's armband. He lasted about 3 minutes, before a collision with his own keeper forced him off. Minutes later, midfield lynchpin Joash Nembhard limped off with a hamstring strain.
Deprived of their two most experienced players, and forced to make two early substitutions, it was unsurprising that Casuals looked more threatening in the opening exchanges. But gradually the Moatsiders settled and the new centre-back pairing of Bertie Lloyd and Lynden McGugan, brought on to replace Patterson-Bohner, looked increasingly solid, with both players impressing. Although both sides threatened, neither keeper was brought into serious action in the opening half hour, although Lloyd did force Casuals keeper Bracken into a save with a header from a corner. Merstham took the lead after 33 minutes. Joedon Gugas-Cowin, who was a constant threat on the right flank did well to get in a cross, which appeared to have eluded everyone, but left-back EJ Mensah had ghosted in at the far past and he carefully placed his shot into the far corner to give the Moatsiders the advantage at the break.
Merstham doubled their lead just seven minutes into the second half. Again, it came from good work from Gugas-Cowin who fired in a low, cross which was fumbled by the Casuals keeper and Elliott Bolton, who had an excellent second half, was on hand to finish coolly from 8 yards. Suddenly the Moatsiders were playing with complete freedom and some of their one and two touch football was quite breathtaking. Monga and Healy were full of running and played some delightful passes, while Ekpiteta and Mills were a constant threat. The Moatsiders began to scythe through the Casuals defensive line almost at will. Every time Casuals went forward, they ran the risk of a swift Merstham counterattack, which is exactly what happened after 69 minutes. Potchu Mendes-Calucane went on another lung-bursting overlap and he was rewarded by a delightful pass from Calvin Ekpiteta which put the right back through on goal. Mendes-Calucane took a couple of touches and then hammered it past Bracken, who barely moved. Merstham could and probably should have added to their lead in the closing 20 minutes, and Bobby Mills in particular will wonder how he didn't end up on the score sheet, as he had two cleared off the line and was just wide with a couple more efforts. It was pleasing to keep a clean sheet and even more pleasing that despite the injuries to starters Ayoola, Folkes, Richmond, Patterson-Bohner and Newbhard, the squad has sufficient depth and quality to cope.
Merstham : Pierson, Mendes-Calucane, Mensah, Nembhard (Healy 10), Lloyd, Patterson-Bohner (c) [McGugan 8), Gugas-Cowin, Bolton, Mills, Epkiteta, Monga (Kamhouri 75).
Man of the Match : Bertie Lloyd
Merstham 0-1 Enfield Town
Saturday 26th September 2020
Pitching In Isthmian Premier
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Merstham boss Frank Wilson must be dreading the closing minutes of a game at the moment. After conceding in the 89th minute against Hornchurch and the 85' against Dunstable, Enfield grabbed the winner in the 87' in this hard-fought encounter. Merstham and their fans will consider the home side desperately unlucky, as their performance deserved a point at the very least. The Moatsiders certainly played the better football, especially in the second half, but failed to convert their good approach play into shots on target.
Wilson made three changes to the side that was beaten on penalties in the FA Cup. Potchu Mendes came in at right-back, while Joash Nembhard returned in midfield and EJ Mensah started at left back. The opening 20 minutes was largely played out in midfield, although keeper Matte Pierson did well to push a deflected effort around the post in the 15th minute. Merstham suffered a blow when skipper James Richmond was forced to limp off after being caught by a late challenge which went unseen by the match officials. Bertie Lloyd replaced Richmond and looked solid and assured in the centre of the defence. On the half hour there was a very unpleasant challenge by Town's Gyebi who unnecessary shoved Joedon Gugas-Cowin into the perimeter fence, resulting in the Merstham wide man eventually being stretched off with a neck injury. The match officials did little to help the situation, with repeated attempts to stop the game to get a stretcher onto the pitch ignored by the lineman for some reason. Thankfully after a check-up at East Surrey hospital the Merstham man was given a clean bill of health, but there was considerable concern for a time. Dylan Cascoe replaced Gugas-Cowin, but there was little goalmouth action to report at either end in the opening period.
In the second half, Merstham gradually got a grip in midfield with the impressive Nembhard and Elliot Bolton pulling the strings. Some of Merstham's approach play was excellent and Calvin Ekpiteta, playing as the main striker with Omar Folkes out injured, was a constant threat with the hard-running Bobby Mills stretching the Town back four. But for all the nice football in Town's final third, the Moatsiders only really forced the Town keeper into one save, when a powerful Ekpiteta shot was hit straight at him in the 57th minute. Ekpiteta went close when he dragged a shot just wide and Yannick Monga and Bobby Mills both delayed getting shots off on their weaker feet and the chances went begging. At the other end, Pierson was commanding in the air, and only made one save of note when he made a superb one-handed stop with eight minutes left. But with just three minutes remaining, Enfield grabbed the winner. A cross was dinked in from the right flank and Bricknell arrived unmarked to volley low and hard into the net from ten yards. Tough to swallow for the Moatsiders, but they will play worse and win this season.
Merstham : Pierson, Mendes-Calucane, Mensah, Nembhard, Patterson-Bohner, Richmond (c) (Lloyd 14), Gugas-Cowin (Cascoe 39) , Bolton, Mills, Epkiteta, Monga.
Man of the Match : Joash Nembhard
Merstham 2 -2 AFC Dunstable (Dunstable win 7-6 on pens)
Tuesday 22nd September 2020
The Emirates FA Cup 1stRQ
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Merstham threw away the chance to win this FA Cup Preliminary Round tie with a combination of some awful defending in the final minutes of normal time and an inability to take their chances in the penalty shoot-out that followed.
The opening 20 minutes were fairly turgid as both sides struggled to put together more than a few passes before thumping long, hopeful balls towards their strikers. But the game came to life in the 23rd minute when Joedon Gugas-Cowin cut inside and curled a delightful left-footed shot past the keeper to cap a slick move by the Moatsiders. Four minutes later, Sol Patterson-Bohner nodded home from a corner and suddenly the Moatsiders were two up and appeared to be cruising into the next round.
Going into the break two goals to the good, the last thing you want to do is to let the other team back into the game by conceding early in the second half. But that's exact what Merstham did, allowing a cross from the right and an unmarked Dylan Baker to fire into the roof of the net. The visitors were now full of confidence and asking some questions of the home side. But gradually the Moatsiders began to get on top again and looked increasingly likely to add to their lead. Elliott Bolton in midfield was having an excellent game and his work rate and passing were top drawer. But a combination of good defending by the visitors and some poor decision-making meant that the Moatsiders were still hanging on to their lead as the game entered the last five minutes. A long ball punted down the middle seemed to present little threat, but inexplicably the Merstham back line just stood and watched, allowing Stimson a clear run at goal. Worse was to follow as keeper Matte Pierson bundled into Stimson and conceded a penalty, which Stimson himself converted with ease in the 86th minute to level the tie at 2-2. Even then, Merstham sub EJ Mensah had a great chance to win in the last minute but somehow side-footed it wide from a yard.
And so to penalties. When your keeper saves two out of the first five penalties, you'd expect to win most shoot-outs, which is just what Matte Pierson did, with two superb stops. With Merstham 3-1 ahead, Dylan Cascoe had a chance to win it, but hit a post. AFC Dunstable scored to make it 3-2. Pierson then took fifth penalty himself with another chance to send Merstham through. His spot-kick crashed against the bar. Dunstable converted theirs and it was now sudden death. Pierson then saved his third spot kick and it was skipper James Richmond with the chance to win the tie. But his weak effort was easily saved. On we went, until Merstham's 10th penalty from Patterson-Bohner hit the bar and the Moatsiders somehow found themselves out of the cup.
Merstham : Pierson, Ige, Hill (Mensah 54), Monga, Patterson-Bohner, Richmond (c), Gugas-Cowin, Bolton, Folkes (Cascoe 74), Epkiteta, Mills (Healy 79).
Man of the Match : Elliott Bolton
Hornchurch 2-1 Merstham
Saturday 19th September 2020
Pitching In Isthmian Premier
A superb goal a minute from time deprived the Moatsiders of a deserved point on the opening day of the new league season. Matches between the two teams have had a habit of producing late drama in recent seasons, and Lewwis Spence's winner from all of 40 yards certainly was dramatic, but also heart-breaking for the Moatsiders.
Merstham had to weather an early Hornchurch onslaught as the home side's route one approach of pumping long, high balls to their big forwards certainly caused Merstham's defenders problems. As early as the 4th minute, it took a great block from Sol Patterson-Bohner and then a fine one-handed save from Matte Pierson to deny Clark twice from close range. In the 12th minute, Pierson was out sharply to spread himself and block an effort from Winn, who found himself with just the Merstham keeper to beat. In the 15th minute, Jake Hill made another great block to deny Clark. Former Merstham favourite Ellis Brown was proving a handful on the right flank, but gradually the Moatsiders got themselves into the game and had a few good situations of their own, notably when Calvin Ekpiteta fired just over after a good move. The home side still looked dangerous when the ball was in the air, but Merstham began to cut off the supply lines in midfield and nullify the Urchins threat. The half ended with a good chance for Patterson-Bonher from a corner, but the Merstham centre back couldn't hit the target with his header. 0-0 at the break.
The second half really continued where the first half ended, with the visitors looking increasingly comfortable and Hornchurch looking short on creativity and ideas other than pumping high balls forward. But at the other end, although Omar Folkes was working hard and making himself a nuisance, Merstham really didn't look like scoring. Hornchurch finally broke the deadlock in the 67th minute, but with a goal mired in controversy. To begin with, referee Pope failed to stop the game with a Merstham defender down in his own area. Of course, he doesn't have to, unless it's a head injury. But twice in the first half he did stop the game with Hornchurch players down. Luke Ige ended up kicking the ball out to allow Ekpiteta to get treatment. It is usually the 'done thing' to return the ball to your opponents in such situations and indeed the Moatsiders did exactly that when Hornchurch kicked the ball out to allow a player to be treated in the opening half. But Hornchurch failed to do so. Professionalism? Bad sportsmanship? You can decide for yourself. Of course, from the Hornchurch throw in, they won a corner and scored from it. It was fair to say that Merstham players and supporters alike were very unhappy with what led up to the goal. Boss Frank Wilson responded by bringing on Ryan Healy for Bobby Mills and the Merstham sub played a big part in the equaliser in the 81st minute. Some good work by Joedon Gugas-Cowin wide on the right started the move. He laid the ball back to Healy who immediately lofted in into the box. A Hornchurch defender stuck out his arms to block it and referee Pope pointed to the spot. Calvin Ekpiteta cooly drilled the resultant penalty home and with only 9 minutes left, it looked as though the Moatsiders had earned a point. But with a minute remaining, Merstham were dispossessed just inside their own centre circle. Spence saw Pierson off his line and brilliantly lofted the ball over the stranded keeper's head into the net to win it for Hornchurch. Very harsh on Merstham, but you also have to give credit for a tremendous goal.
Merstham : Pierson, Ige, Hill, Nembhard, Patterson-Bohner, Richmond (c), Gugas-Cowin (Monga 90), Bolton, Folkes, Ekpiteta (Kamkouri 90), Mills (Healy 73).
Man of the Match : James Richmond
Merstham 0-1 Woking
Saturday 12th September 2020
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Merstham concluded their pre-season campaign with a narrow defeat to Conference side Woking. The visitors put out a strong side and it was a good test for the Moatsiders. However, on a warm afternoon, while there was plenty of effort from both sides, there was relatively little quality on show. Merstham certainly weren't outplayed by the Conference outfit but will probably feel disappointed with their performance.
Woking had the better of the first half and but for some excellent defending, especially from skipper James Richmond, the Moatsiders might well have gone into the interval more than one goal adrift. The goal that Woking had threatened from the start arrived in the 25th minute when Dave Tarpey scored from close range after a good move by the Cards. The Moatsiders had one or two promising attacks, but failed to trouble the Woking keeper.
The second half was a more even contest, but Merstham gave the ball away far too cheaply and were guilty of taking too many touches on a number of occasions, especially in their own half, putting themselves under pressure. At the other end, the Moatsiders looked largely toothless, save for one golden opportunity for Omar Folkes 15 minutes from time, when he was put clean through with just the keeper to beat. Opting to take the ball round the keeper proved to be a bad decision as the keeper scooped it off his toes. At the other end, Matte Pierson had to be at his best to turn an effort round the post with an out-stretched right hand.
Merstham boss Frank Wilson will be pondering over his starting line-up for next Saturday's league opener at Hornchurch. On the basis of yesterday's performance, there are still places up for grabs.
Merstham 2-1 East Grinstead Town
Tuesday 8th September 2020
Merstham secured their first home victory in pre-season with a gutsy and very unexpected win over an East Grinstead side packed to the rafters with Isthmian Premier League experience. It was unexpected because the Moatsiders went in at half-time, not only a goal down, but also a man down, as Potchu Mendes had been given a straight red card for a professional foul half way through the first half. But Merstham produced one of their best 45 minutes of the season to turn the game around, and it was a deserved win on the second half performance.
The first half was a relatively even affair in the opening exchanges, although Town looked more dangerous and were certainly asking more questions going forward. They took the lead in the 17th minute. Although Matte Pierson did well to block the initial effort, he had no chance when the rebound was fired past him at close range. East Grinstead took control of the game, especially after the red card, although Bobby Mills had a good chance just before the break but didn't hit the target. A goal down and a man down at half-time, not even the most optimistic of Merstham fans could see anything more than damage limitation in the second half.
But Merstham were on the front foot right from the get-go and it was telling to hear Town players reminding each other that the Moatsiders only had ten men, because on the pitch, you couldn't really tell, such was the work rate and the quality on the ball from the home side. Merstham had already forced the East Grinstead keeper into making a couple of very good saves before they equalised in the 57'. A nice move resulted in Calvin Ekpiteta finding a yard of space and he drilled one into the bottom corner from 25 yards. From that point on, the Moatsiders largely outplayed the visitors and had some great chances to go ahead, notably when Ekpiteta smashed one against the bar from 10 yards. But with 15 minutes remaining, a poor goal kick from Town's substitute keeper went straight to Ekpiteta's feet. He still had work to do picking the ball up some 40 yards from goal, but his pace kept the covering defenders at bay and he slid the ball past the advancing keeper to give the Moatsiders the lead. There were chances at both ends as Town tried to salvage a draw and Merstham looked to extend their lead, but in the end, it was a well-deserved victory for the home side.
Merstham 0-1 Chertsey Town
Saturday 5th September 2020
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A goal as early as the second minute settled this competitive and entertaining pre-season friendly. Chertsey were much the better side in the first half and arguably should have had more than the one goal to show for their superiority. But Merstham completely dominated the second half and had more than enough chances to level the game.
Merstham boss Frank Wilson was rather frustrated with his team's performance in the opening 45 minutes. His starting eleven looked distinctly off the pace. The ball was given away cheaply and they rarely threatened the Town goal. Chertsey's winner was well-worked, although there appeared to be a clear offside at the beginning of the move. Nonetheless, questions will be asked as to why a Chertsey forward was left all alone at the back post and had time to control the ball before curling it past Pierson's left hand. Going a goal down early in a game is never easy, but you look for a response from the players. Unfortunately, there wasn't one. Chertsey dominated in terms of territory and possession and but for some last-ditch blocks and tackles, the Moatsiders might have gone in more than one down.
The second half was a complete reversal of the first. Frank Wilson made some changes at the interval and early in the second, and the players that came on gave the home side a lift in terms of energy and work rate. The quality of the passing also went up several notches too. Potchu Mendes, who had come on at left back, had a great chance to equalize, when he arrived late at the far post, but couldn't get his effort on target. The Chertsey keeper pulled off one superb save low to his left to preserve the lead and made a couple of other decent stops at the Moatsiders pushed for an equaliser. While the results in pre-season don't really matter, Merstham do need to break this recent habit of giving the initiative to the opposition in the first half.
Merstham 1-0 Tooting & Mitcham United
Tuesday 1st September 2020
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This match was billed as a pre-season friendly. It turned out to be anything but, with both sides playing their part in a feisty and at times, bad-tempered affair. On balance however, it was probably the best 90 minutes to date by the Moatsiders, who just about deserved the win. Boss Frank Wilson was certainly pleased with the overall performance.
With the return of EJ Mensah who slotted in at left back, and James Richmond, who had recovered from a slight groin strain which had kept him out of the Farnborough game, the defense looked far more solid. Matte Pierson was his usual reliable self, commanding his box and making a quite superb save in the second half to keep Tooting from equalising. With Bertie Lloyd and Joedon Gugas-Cowin both signing for the Moatsiders last night, the squad is taking shape.
However, the game got off to a terrible start for Merstham when last season's top scorer, Shola Ayoola was stretchered off in the 5th minute having twisted a knee. One can only hope the injury isn't as bad as it looked. The first half was a tight affair with some fierce tacking and hard running by both sides, but with few clear-cut chances, although Pierson had to make a sharp save to keep the scoreboard blank at the interval. Merstham got what turned out to be the winner in the 53rd minute, when Bobby Mills was on hand to finish off a fine move by the Moatsiders. EJ Mensah should really have made it 2-0 some ten minutes later, but somehow missed from a couple of feet out. The goal galvanized both sides however, and Tooting also came close themselves, firing wildly over the bar from 8 yards. Pierson then produced a superb save from point-blank range to deny the Terriers with 15 minutes left. Both sides had good opportunities to score, and the match could easily have produced 4 or 5 goals, but a combination of poor finishing and good defending kept it to a single goal. The bad temper on display for much of the second half, spilled over shortly before the end when all 20 outfield players got involved in a pushing and shoving contest after Luke Igg and a Terriers forward got tangled up in the Merstham penalty area. Who on earth called these 'friendlies'?!
Merstham 2-2 Farnborough
Saturday 29th August 2020
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Leading 2-0 with seven minutes left, Merstham looked to be cruising to victory. But two goals in two minutes by the visitors meant that the Moatsiders had to be content with a share of the spoils. In fairness, the visitors had totally dominated the first half, but couldn't find the back of the net, so on the overall balance of play, the draw was probably a fair result.
The Moatsiders began the game the same way they had started the game against South Park on Wednesday night. Merstham boss Frank Wilson described it very well in one word: "awful". The number of times the ball was given away by careless passes or just poor decision-making was quite staggering. Fortunately for the Moatsiders, while Farnborough's approach play was at times excellent, their final ball was frequently lacking. The home side were very fortunate to get to the interval with a blank scoresheet.
Frank Wilson made a number of changes at half time and whatever was said at the interval certainty seemed to galvanize the home team. Passes were crisper, tackles were sharper and there seemed to be more energy all around the pitch. In the 55th minute, Bobby Mills was put through on goal. For a moment it looked as though the ball had run away from him, but he stretched out a leg and the shot had just enough pace on it to beat the Farnborough keeper. The goal made a huge difference to the Moatsiders and suddenly they looked dangerous every time they went forward, with Mills and Ayoola looking especially threatening. It came as no real surprise when Merstham extended their lead in the 66th minute when Joedon Gougas, skipped past the Farnborough right back and fired in a low, hard cross to the near post when Ayoola finished with a deft touch. Merstham had several good opportunities to add to their lead and the game seemed to be heading for a comfortable home win.
But Farnborough's forwards had thrown themselves down in the box 2 or 3 times, complete with Oscar-winning sound effects for the referee's benefit. In the 83rd minute, their efforts paid off when the referee pointed to the spot and suddenly it was 2-1. A minute later and Farnborough's impressive right winger cut inside and finished superbly past Henry Lester to make it 2-2. While disappointing to concede two goals in the final ten minutes, the second-half performance will have given Frank Wilson and the home supporters plenty of encouragement.
Merstham 0-1 South Park
Tuesday 26th August 2020
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A disappointing first-half performance, but much-improved in the second, was how Merstham boss Frank Wilson described this pre-season encounter. It really was a game of two halves and the Moatsiders were unfortunate not to get a draw when a shot crashed against the underside of the bar with ten minutes left. Unfortunately, there was no Russian linesman to give a goal on this occasion.
Frank Wilson took the opportunity to have a look at a number of new players and trialists and played two different teams. South Park were by far the better side in the first 45 minutes, although the goal they scored was more due to a comedy of errors by the Moatsiders, rather than anything special the visitors produced. Merstham played far too many long, hopeful balls in the direction of Shola Ayoola and he looked frustrated by the lack of quality served up. Merstham's midfield was AWOL so South Park dominated both possession and territory. The second half was far better, and almost the complete opposite of the opening 45 minutes. Calvin Ekpiteta was a constant threat and went close on a couple of occasions. Bobby Mills made some intelligent runs, but perhaps should have scored when put through. Unfortunately for the Moatsiders, his shot rolled just wide of the post. Merstham certainly had enough chances to level the match, but all too often wanted to take an extra touch rather than get a shot away. Very much a football cliche, but it was certainly a game of two halves, leaving Frank Wilson with plenty of thinking to do as he seeks to settle upon his squad to start the new campaign.
Colliers Wood United 1-6 Merstham
Friday 14th August 2020
Merstham took no time at all to shake off the rust from their 5-month lay-off. In fact, it took them only two and a half minutes. That's when Kamkouri opened the scoring with a good finish. The Moatsiders were playing some excellent football and could easily have added one or two more before last season's top scorer, Shola Ayoola, finished clinically after good work by Yannick Monga. Ayoola grabbed his second and Merstham's third, when he nodded home a rebound off United's overworked keeper. But it was Monga who scored the best goal of the night with a dipping shot from all of 30 yards, five minutes before the break.
Merstham boss Frank Wilson made nine changes at the break and Merstham were a little less fluent at the start of the second half. United pulled a goal back from the spot after a United forward dramatically tumbled in the box. The referee, who was well placed to see it from 50 yards away, gave the penalty and Matte Pierson's first real action was to pick the ball out of the net. But Merstham restored their four-goal advantage when Agyaakwah scored direct from a corner after the United keeper misjudged the flight. Ten minutes from the end, another corner saw defender EJ Mensah turn the ball home from close range to complete the scoring.
Frank Wilson said after the game, "I was pleased with the performance and it was nice for our confidence to get a few goals. Our fitness levels were good, but we need to improve those in the next few weeks."