MATCH REPORTS 2018/19

MATCH REPORTS 2017/18

Monday 6th May 2019

Bostik League Premier Division Play-Off Final

Tonbridge Angels 2 v 0 Merstham

Report by Chris Pullen

The Moatsiders' amazing promotion charge finally came to a halt in the Play-Off Final at Longmead on Bank Holiday Monday, in front of huge crowd of 2,268. But make no mistake, The Angels had to work hard for their victory, which was only assured in the 90th minute with a contentious penalty. In a game of very few chances,  and relatively little goalmouth action, Tonbridge went in front in the 33rd minute and sat and defended for most of the second half, inviting the Moatsiders on, hoping to hit them on the break. Try as they might, Merstham just couldn't find a way to get through the massed ranks of blue and white, but they never stopped trying. It certainly wasn't a game of free-flowing football as it had been at times against Carshalton, but knowing the Tonbridge brand of football, it was never likely to be a game for the football purist. But credit to the Angels, who have their own style of playing, and as we all know, there is more than one way of winning a football match. 

 

With the kick off delayed by 15 minutes due to the large crowd all typically arriving at ten minutes to three, the Merstham supporters digested the changes that Hayden Bird had opted to make to the team that won at Carshalton. Into the side came Jake Hutchings at centre back, with skipper Simon Cooper moving to right back in place of Michael Abnett. Fabio Saraiva also returned, with Roman Michael-Persil dropping to the bench.  

 

The game eventually kicked off and it was the Angels who controlled possession in the opening exchanges, pressing the Moatsiders, who were guilty of giving the ball away cheaply as they tried to settle into the game. Joe Turner, Angels' leading scorer, had the first effort of the game in the fifth minute, but his shot deflected for a corner. From the set piece Sonny Miles and Jake Hutchings crashed to the ground, and the home fans behind the goal yelled for a penalty, but the referee gave the decision the other way.  Fabio Saraiva had Merstham's first effort on goal a few minutes later, firing a shot a yard outside of the near post. Walter Figueira was looking lively and it seemed certain that the big, but less than mobile, Tonbridge defenders were in for a long afternoon. He almost got away on a couple of occasions and looked a real threat. As we entered the twentieth minute, the Moatsiders were gradually getting into the game and Kenny Beaney and Tom Kavanagh were finding the range with their passes. Figueira was proving a handful as cut in from the left flank, turning a hapless Angels defender inside out before firing into the side netting from a tight angle, when he might have done better pulling the ball back to a waiting Kavanagh. The match was turning into a bit of a midfield stalemate, with the Moatsiders defending well and looking for the counter attack, and Angels seemingly devoid of any idea how to break down the visitors. The crowd had quietened, mainly because there was little reason for them to be noisy. Then out of nothing, Tonbridge took the lead. Ironically, it came from a Merstham attack, when a misplaced pass in midfield was picked off and suddenly the Merstham rearguard was out of position. Turner got away down the left, and pulled the ball back to Derry, whose shot was well saved  by Amadou Tangara, but the rebound fell kindly to McKenzie who made no mistake from 8 yards.

 

Four minutes from the break, both sides were reduced to ten men, and it was both number fives who received their marching orders. A Merstham corner was attacked by both players and there was a tangle of feet and legs. Sonny Miles was on ground and appeared to keep his legs locked around Ollie Cook's legs. As Miles got up, words were exchanged and Cook pushed Miles away, unwisely, because Miles took the opportunity to flop to the ground, as if hit by a London bus, epitomizing what is wrong with football today. Despite the conduct being a lot less than violent, the play acting convinced referee Ryan of the need to produce two red cards, when arguably two yellows might have sufficed, and both Sonny Miles and Oliver Cook headed to the changing room. 

 

The first attempt of the second half came from Walter Figueira, but his shot was comfortably saved by Henly, the Angels keeper. But Figuiera was soon asking more questions of the Tonbridge defence and Parter was forced to put the ball behind for a corner. Another  followed, as Figueira again tried to take on two defenders, one of whom poked the ball out of play. But although Merstham were dominating possession, most of their passes were being played in front of the two banks of four defenders, and although the men in amber were constantly looking for that defence-splitting ball, it was either intercepted or ran through to the Angels keeper. Michael Abnett replaced Ben Harrison and Dan Bennett came on for Tom Kavanagh as Hayden Bird sought to break the stalemate. With more and more Merstham men committed to the attack, there was always a chance that Angels would catch them on the break and in one counter attack, Turner's effort when just wide of the far post. Roman Michael-Percil joined the party and his mazy run set up a shot for Simon Cooper, but it flew five yards wide.  With 10 minutes left Gus Sow fired in a low shot which Henly had to dive to his right to save, but that was the first time the Angels keeper had really been forced into action, which told the story of the second half. On another break, Angels left back Parter advanced towards the Merstham goal and oddly no-one came to challenge him, so he continued right into the box, before Tangara charged out to block his shot from close range. As the game entered the 90th minute, Parter went on another run, and managed to find D’Sean Theobalds inside the box. Down he went, under challenge from Walter Figueira and the referee pointed to the spot. It looked soft to say the least, a fact confirmed by several neutrals at that end of the ground. Up stepped Turner who opted for power and blasted it down the middle, to put the result beyond doubt.   

 

So,  the Tonbridge party started as the final whistle blew, although it seemed a little odd to be celebrating quite so much with another game to play, but to the victor the spoils. The Merstham fans massed behind the Tonbridge goal rightly stayed behind to applaud the players for their tremendous effort as the weary squad came over to thank the fans for their tremendous support.    

 

Merstham: Amadou Tangara, Simon Cooper (c), Ben Harrison (Michael Abnett 57), Jake Hutchings, Ollie Cook, Tom Kavanagh (Dan Bennett 65), Kershaney Samuels, Kenny Beaney, Walter Figueira, Gus Sow, Fabio Saraiva (Roman Michael-Percil 76).

Unused subs: Tutu Henriques, Calum Davies

Man of the Match: Jake Hutchings

 

Thursday 2nd May 2019

Bostik League Premier Division Play-Off Semi-Final

Carshalton 1 v 2 Merstham

Report by Chris Pullen

A tense play-off semi final was settled by a Kershaney Samuels goal 11 minutes from time, but it was a phenomenal team performance by the Moatsiders that booked them a place in the Isthmian Premier Play Off Finals at Tonbridge Angels for the first time in their history.

 

Unsurprisingly, Merstham Manager Hayden Bird named the same side that had sensationally beaten Worthing in the previous match that had earned them the trip to Colsten Avenue. A crowd of more than 1,100 greeted the two sides as they walked out of the tunnel on a cool Thursday evening and there was a fair smattering of amber and black in among the red and white Robins fans. 

 

With only 90 seconds played, the Moatsiders sensationally repeated what they had done to Worthing by snatching an early goal and once again, it was that man Walter Figueira that did the damage. Carshalton's central defender Luke Reid made a dreadful hash of playing it back to his keeper, and the ever alert Figueira latched onto the woeful back pass, firing it past Bishop into the bottom corner. Unsurprisingly, the goal knocked the home side and for the opening quarter of an hour it was all Merstham. With Kenny Beaney and Tom Kavanagh dictating the tempo of the game, Carshalton found it hard to get hold of the ball. From a Beaney corner, Ollie Cook had a half-chance with a far post header, but put it wide. Roman Michael-Percil had a shooting opportunity, but couldn't keep the ball down and it sailed over the crossbar. But the Robins pulled themselves together and began to get into the match and in the 17th minute, they equalised. A sweeping move began as Ottaway chested the ball down for Bradford on the left. He cut infield and the overlapping Price was played in. His low cross was met by Peter Adeniyi at the near post who flicked the ball beyond Amadou Tangara and inside the far post. Now it was the Robins who had the momentum and began to push the visitors back. Merstham rode their luck in the 27th minute when Bradford angled an inswinging cross into the area. It flew just in front of the incoming players but, with Tangara well beaten, the ball cannoned off the far post back to Price who tried place his shot from 18 yards, but Tangara recovered in time to save it. Merstham gradually rode out the storm and the only other thing of note in the first half was a booking for Omar Koroma just before the break for a late challenge on Michael Abnett, which was to prove significant later in the game.

 

Merstham created the first chance of the second-half as Ben Harrison and Tom Kavanagh teed up Michael-Percil. He couldn't get his shot away, but the ball ran to Figueira, who fired just over from 20 yards. At the other end, Price's cross just needed a touch as it whizzed across the six yard box. Amadou Tangara had to be quick off his line to thwart Adeniyi and Price fired over from the edge of the area. But whereas both sides looked like scoring in the opening period, the tactical adjustments made by both managers at the break resulted in stalemate and the game was largely being played between the two 18 yard boxes, with neither keeper being called into action. It began to look increasingly like extra time and a possible penalty shoot out, but Kershaney Samuels had other ideas. With 11 minutes left, Walter Figueira spun on a pass from Harrison to get away from Read. He played the ball into Kershaney Samuels and continued his run, dragging defenders with him and opening up a space for Samuels. The midfielder tried his luck from 20 yards and it it was a decent effort, but one that Bishop should have comfortably saved. Instead, he could only push it up into the net to cue wild celebrations from the Merstham faithful packed behind the goal. Carshalton responded by throwing on an extra forward, but in a moment of stupidity, Koroma picked up a second yellow card for dissent and the Robins were down to 10 men. But that didn't stop them creating a great for Bradford with a couple of minutes remaining when he latched onto an Adeniyi flick inside the Merstham box, but his half-volley flew inches wide of the near post when he should have hit the target. In added time a couple of Carshalton balls into the box caused alarm in the Merstham back line, but finally the referee blew the whistle for full time and players and supporters could finally begin to celebrate an amazing achievement. One down, two to go!!

 

Merstham: Amadou Tangara, Michael Abnett, Ben Harrison, Simon Cooper (c), Ollie Cook, Tom Kavanagh, Kershaney Samuels (Jake Hutchings 89), Kenny Beaney, Walter Figueira, Gus Sow (Dan Bennett 73), Roman Michael-Percil (Fabio Saraiva 73).

Unused subs: Tutu Henriques, Calum Davies

Man of the Match: Kenny Beaney

 

Saturday 27th April 2019

Bostik League Premier Division

Worthing 2 v 4 Merstham

Report by Chris Pullen

A blistering start by the Moatsiders, who were quite incredibly three up in the first six minutes, all but booked their place in the Bostik Premier play offs for the first time in the club's history. Having secured the three points, Merstham left the pitch to discover they had finished 5th in the table, which is an amazing achievement for such a small club. The fifth place finish means that the Moatsiders now travel to face Carshalton Athletic at Colsten Avenue on Thursday, May 2nd. 

 

Merstham began the game with a strong wind at their backs and made full use of it in the opening period. Worthing are a side that like to play out from the back, and right from the opening seconds, the Moatsiders pressed them and harried them in possession. With only a minute and a half gone, Worthing keeper Lucas Covolan attempted an ambitious pass into a midfield player, but instead found Kershaney Samuels. In a moment of pure class, Samuels, instantly recognising that Covolan was off his line and wide of his goal, chipped the ball audaciously over the keeper's head. The ball bounced once and then into the Worthing net to spark wild celebrations among the Merstham fans behind the goal. Worthing persisted trying to play from their own area and once again it proved fatal as Merstham won the ball back in the Worthing half. Walter Figueira picked up the ball some 30 yards out, dipped a shoulder to give himself some space and then hit a screamer from 25 yards that flew past Covolan's left hand into the top corner. Less than four minutes gone and the Moatsiders were already two up! Two became three 90 seconds later. Once again, Merstham won the ball back in the Rebel's half and once again Figueira had the ball 25 yards out. Merstham's top scorer needed no second invitation and in what was a carbon copy of his first goal, beat Covolan with a wonderful strike from outside the box, finding the same top corner of the net. Merstham's supporters were in dreamland. Six minutes gone and the visitors were 3-0 up! Unsurprisingly, Worthing looked shell-shocked. Figueira was again on target in the 10th minute, but this time his shot lacked power and Covolan was able to make a comfortable save. The Moatsiders were playing the ball around with pace and purpose and for the opening quarter of an hour, The Rebels barely crossed the halfway line. But gradually, the home side cleared their heads and began to play, with David Ajiboye looking lively on the right flank. However, it was the visitors who nearly added a fourth on 27', when Tommy Kavanagh picked up the ball some 30 yards out. With the Merstham faithful extolling him to shoot, he decided to let fly, and it took a spectacular full length save from Covolan to keep it at three. The save became more important 8 minutes later when Ajiboye cut in from the right wing, past three Merstham defenders before unleashing a fierce shot which Amadou Tangara did superbly well to push away. The ball ran to Ollie Pierce at the far post and, from a tight angle, the Rebels striker hammered it back across goal into the far corner of the net to give Worthing a glimmer of hope at 3-1, with 35 minutes gone. Suddenly, it was the Rebels who were now asking questions of the Merstham back line. But there were no further chances for either side, and both sets of players and supporters were able to draw breath after a hugely entertaining first half. 

 

With the strong wind now at their backs, Worthing began the second half believing that they could still get something from the game and penned the Moatsiders in their own half, much as Merstham had done to them. A free kick from 25 yards from Worthing's Alfie Young beat Tangara, but happy for Merstham went narrowly wide. But still looked a threat and in the 57th minute, a long ball upfield left Walter Figueria and Worthing's Ricky Aguair in a footrace. As the ball bounced in the box, Figueira muscled his way past Aguair and the panicked defender clumsily hauled the Merstham man to the ground. Referee George Warren pointed immediately to the spot and reached into his back pocket, pulling out a straight red card for the Rebels defender. Up stepped Tom Kavanagh, who, opting for power, smashed the ball past Covolan to put the Moatsiders 4-1 and, with Worthing down to 10 men, surely into the play-offs. But credit to Worthing. They refused to throw in the towel and kept going forward. In the 68th minute, Worthing's Jesse Starkey staked his claim for the 'goal of the match' award. Cutting in from the right, he unleashed a shot from almost 30 yards which, wind-assisted, flew past Tangara's despairing dive and suddenly it was 4-2. Merstham still looked dangerous on the counter attack and Roman Michael-Percil had a good chance with 15 minutes left, but fired it straight at Covolan. As the game entered its final phase, Merstham boss threw on Tutu Henriques and then Jake Hutchings to shut up shop. After five added minutes for stoppages, which seemed to last at least 15, the referee finally blew for full time and the Merstham play-off celebrations began in earnest. 

 

Merstham: Amadou Tangara, Michael Abnett, Ben Harrison, Simon Cooper (c), Ollie Cook, Tom Kavanagh,Kershaney Samuels, Kenny Beaney, Walter Figueira, Gus Sow (Jake Hutchings 90), Roman Michael-Percil (Tutu Henriques 75).

Unused subs: Jayden Antwi-Nyame, Dan Bennett, Lewis Pearch.

Man of the Match: Walter Figueira

Monday 22nd April 2019

Bostik League Premier Division

Merstham 2 v 0 Kingstonian 

Report by Chris Pullen

Coming into the Easter weekend, Merstham needed to take six points out of six to put themselves back into contention for a play-off spot and they did just that, with a hard-fought 1-0 victory at Whitehawk on Saturday, followed by a slightly more comfortable win against K’s. With the Bank Holiday temperatures better suited to cricket than football, it was never likely to be an easy fixture, despite K’s having little to play for. 

 

Despite the warm weather, the game started quite frenetically, as both sides looked for an early goal. The Moatsiders had a couple of half chances in the opening 10 minutes, but it was K’s Louie Theophanous who had the clearest opening, when a ball over the top picked out his well-timed run. The K’s striker hit it well enough, forcing an excellent save from Merstham keeper Amadou Tangara. The K’s press was disrupting Merstham’s passing, but everyone knew that the visitors would be unable to maintain it given the heat. After the early goalmouth action, the game began to settle down, and neither side could create anything of note in the final third. But Merstham made the all-important breakthrough in the 29th minute. A delightful through ball from Fabio Saraiva over the top of a high K’s backline, found Roman Michael-Percil who only had Tofrey to beat. But the K’s keeper forced Michael-Percil wide, forcing the Merstham man to delay getting his shot away, allowing two covering K’s defenders to get back and block it. But fortunately for Merstham, Gus Sow was following up, and he notched his fourth goal in 6 games with a cool finish into the bottom corner. The goal knocked some of the stuffing out of K’s and for the remaining 15 minutes of the half, it was all Merstham. With Tom Kavanagh and Kenny Beaney dominating midfield, Merstham began to carve out a string of chances. Michael Abnett blazed wide when arriving late at the far post and Fabio Saraiva’s shot on the turn wasn’t far away. Walter Figueira headed narrowly wide from a Kenny Beaney corner and it was no great surprise when the Moatsiders did grab a second in added time at the end of the half. A superb through ball from Kenny Beaney found Michael-Percil wide of the left. The Merstham wide man cut inside and hit a low shot which seemed to surprise Tolfrey, who was beaten at his near post to give the Moatsiders a well-deserved 2-0 lead at the interval. 

 

When you are leading 2-0 at the break, the last thing you want to do is to concede an early goal at the start of the second. But for an incredible miss by K’s sub Michael Dixon in the 46th minute, who managed to smash the ball against the underside of the bar from a couple of yards, that’s what should have happened. Even after Dixon hit the bar, in the ensuing goalmouth scramble and with the ball resembling a pin ball, K’s had 2-3 further chances, but a combination of heroic defending and less than clinical finishing let the Moatsiders off the hook. It was a pivotal moment. At 2-1, it might have been a very different second half. K’s certainly had more possession in the second period, but the Moatsiders were content to manage the game and didn’t commit too many men when going forward. Michael Abnett volleyed wide and Michael-Percil hit a shot from the edge of the box straight at Tolfey, but for the most part Merstham were largely untroubled and Tangara had little to do. With 10 minutes left, Merstham came close to adding a third when an Abnett cross found Sow at the far post, but the bounce of the ball allowed a K’s defender to recover and put in enough of a challenge to prevent Sow hitting the target. With three minutes left, Tangara was called into action when he had to push away a free kick from Lamont, which bounced just in front of the Merstham keeper. As the game entered stoppage time, Fabio Saraiva was desperately unlucky when his curling free kick from 25 yards smacked against the left upright. With the last kick of the game, sub Kershaney Samuels had the chance to lob Tolfrey as the keeper came out, but his lob landed on the roof of the net. 

 

Merstham: Amadou Tangara, Michael Abnett (Jake Hutchings 88), Ben Harrison, Simon Cooper (c), Ollie Cook, Tom Kavanagh, Fabio Saraiva, Kenny Beaney, Walter Figueira, Gus Sow (Kershaney Samuels 80), Roman Michael-Percil (Dan Bennett 76).

Unused subs: Jayden Antwi-Nyame, Tutu Henriques

Man of the Match: Kenny Beaney

 

Saturday 20th April 2019

Bostik League Premier Division

Whitehawk  0 v 1 Merstham

Report by Chris Pullen

At the business end of the season, how you win is irrelevant. The only thing that matters is that you win. This was certainly not a game that will live long in the memory. A  hard, bumpy pitch and temperatures that would be more normal in July or August, conspired to produce a contest that largely devoid of quality football. But no-one that followed the Moatsiders down to the south coast really cared. The three points were absolutely vital to get the push for the play-offs back on track. Anything else and the play-off dreams would have been over.

 

Manager Hayden Bird certainly caused some raised eyebrows with his team selection. Opting to pair Tutu Henriques and Simon Cooper at centre back, and bringing back Michael Abnett at right back was a bold move, but one wholly vindicated by the result. Roman Michael-Percil also returned to the side. 

 

The Moatsiders started the game well and got off to a dream start with a goal in the sixth minute. Michael Abnett's cross from near the corner flag was deflected up into the air in the Hawks box. Walter Figueira's challenge was enough to ensure the ball was only half cleared to where Gus Sow was waiting. The Merstham midfielder showing great technique, volleyed the bouncing ball into the top left corner to put the visitors one up. In the 12th minute, Simon Cooper got on the end of a Kenny Beaney corner and his header flashed narrowly wide. But that was as close as the Moatsiders came to extending their lead. Although they were largely untroubled by an anemic Whitehawk attack, neither were they able to test Hawks keeper Broadbent again. Indeed, it took Whitehawk 41 minutes to record a shot in anger at the Merstham goal and they looked very much like a team struggling near the foot of the table. But the playing surface wasn't in any way conducive to how the Moatsiders like to play football, and although they did threaten on occasions, neither side really looked like scoring. 

 

The second half was very similar to the first, although the Hawks did finally get a shot on target in the 57th minute, though it was comfortably dealt with by Amadou Tangara. The Hawks decided that route one football was their best option and began to pump a series of high balls into the Merstham box. For the most part, the Moatsiders dealt well with the tactic, although it also looked to be the most likely way for Whitehawk to get back into the match. Merstham struggled to get hold of the ball and began to get penned in their own half. Hawks' Lewis Unwin wasn't far away with a header from a corner. In the 65th minute, from another corner, Yiannis Ambrosine had a free header from 8 yards. Fortunately, it was directed close enough to Kershaney Samuels stationed on the line, allowing him to stick out a foot to prevent a certain equaliser. On a rare Merstham sortie upfield, a Fabio Saraiva effort brought a fine save by Broadbent who got fingertips to the shot, which was destined for the far corner. But as the game entered the last quarter of an hour, Merstham, desperate to hang on to what they had, began to sink deeper and deeper. The Hawks had a decent shout for a penalty with five minutes left, when Cooper appeared to pull back a Hawks player, but to the relief of the Moatsiders, the referee waved it away. At the final whistle, the prevailing emotion of Merstham players and spectators alike seemed to be one of relief, rather than celebration. One game down, two to go... 

 

Merstham: Amadou Tangara, Michael Abnett, Ben Harrison, Simon Cooper (c), Tutu Henriques, Tom Kavanagh,Kershaney Samuels (Fabio Saraiva 67), Kenny Beaney, Walter Figueira (Ollie Cook 90), Gus Sow, Roman Michael-Percil (Dan Bennett 83).

Unused subs:  Jake Hutchings, Jayden Antwi-Nyame

Man of the Match: Michael Abnett

 

Saturday 13th April 2019

Bostik League Premier Division

Merstham 1 v 3 Folkestone Invicta

Report by Chris Pullen

Merstham’s play hopes were dealt a severe blow as Folkestone made the most of a below par performance by the Moatsiders. Credit to the Kent side though, who defended well and took their chances when they came.

With only one win in the last five outings, this fixture had the feel of a must win to maintain the push for the play-offs, which is perhaps why Merstham began the game tentively, although Gus Sow did have an early chance, but the Invicta defenders closed the door and deflected his effort away for a corner. But neither side were doing much in possession and the ball was in the air rather too much for the home side’s liking. Neither goalkeeper was asked to do anything more than fielding back passes. The closest Merstham came was an effort from Simon Cooper who fizzed a shot across the face of the goal. It was a scrappy affair until the 28th minute, when the game suddenly exploded into life. A Merstham throw in on the left flank didn’t seem to present much danger, but the Folkestone defence gave Ben Harrison too much space and the fullback whipped in a dangerous cross to the far post. Kershaney Samuels had ghosted in unmarked and his cool, side-foot finish put the home side in front. Folkestone almost equalised straight from the restart and would have done, but for the outstretched left boot of keeper Amadou Tangara who denied Ade Youseff from close range. But the visitors did get back on terms five minutes before the break. A superb free kick from all of 30 yards by Ira Jackson flew over the Merstham wall and past Tangara’s despairing dive to level things at 1-1. Then disaster struck for the Moatsiders on the on the stroke of half time. Tangara scuffed his goal kick along the ground and straight to Yousuff. The Folkestone forward controlled the ball and then calmly laid it into the path of Kieron McCann who fired past Tangara to give Invicta the lead at the interval.

Although the second half was an improvement on the first, the Moatsiders again looked relatively innocuous in attack. Walter Figueira wriggled past two defenders, but his shot was straight at keeper Tim Roberts who saved comfortably. Fabio Saraiva only just failed to get on the end of a Sow cross, but chances were few and far between. Boss Hayden Bird rolled the dice and in the 65’ brought on Calum Davies and Dan Bennett to freshen up the attack. Bennett went close to grabbing an equaliser in the 73rd minute, when he was put through with just keeper Roberts to beat, but he shot straight at the Folkestone stopper who was able to push it away. As the game entered the last knockings, the Moatsiders began to throw more and more players forward in a desperate search for an equaliser, and as a result, gaping holes began to appear at the back. Tangara was forced to make a couple of good saves from close range and a combination of some last-ditch tackles and poor decision-making by Folkestone players meant that they didn’t make the most of the space they were being given. But eventually, in the first minute of added time, a swift counter-attack from a Merstham corner, found Ade Youseff with time and space in the box and he beat Saraiva, before hammering it past Tangara to make the points safe.

Merstham: Amadou Tangara, Simon Cooper, Ben Harrison (Calum Davies 65), Jake Hutchings, Ollie Cook, Tom Kavanagh (Dan Bennett 65), Gus Sow, Kenny Beaney, Walter Figueira, Fabio Saraiva, Kershaney Samuels (Calum Davies 84).

Unused subs: Tutu Henriques, Michael Abnett.

Man of the Match: Kenny Beaney

 

Saturday 6th April 2019

Bostik League Premier Division

Lewes 2 v 1 Merstham

Report by Chris Pullen

For 45 minutes, Merstham were totally in control of this match and there only looked to be one winner. But two sucker punches in the second half, meant that the Moatsiders left the Dripping Pan empty-handed, despite being the better side and playing the better football. You have to take your chances though, especially when you're on top, and the Moatsiders sadly failed to capitalise on their first half dominance.

 

With skipper Simon Cooper out with a  flu bug, Harry Osborne returned at right back. Ben Harrison had recovered from a sore back and filled the left back slot, allowing Fabio Saraiva to return to midfield.

 

This season, the Moatsiders have frequently started games slowly, but right from the kick-off, it was the visitors who took the game by the scruff of the neck. Merstham were slick in possession and tenacious in winning the ball back high up the pitch, causing panic in the Rooks' back four on a number of occasions. As early as the 4th minute, Gus Sow won the ball and chipped in a delicate ball which was only slightly too high for Kershaney Samuels, who couldn't keep his header down. Moments later, Sow could have scored himself, when Walter Figueira did well to beat his man and find Sow at the back post. The Merstham midfielder got in a good downward header, but on a firm playing surface, the ball bounced up and over the bar. A rare misplaced pass by Kenny Beaney set up a shooting chance for Lewes' Ben Pope, but Amadou Tangara got down well and stuck out a big left hand to corral the shot. But that was a rare Lewes break and at the other end, wave after wave of Merstham attacks were putting the Rooks defence under all sorts of pressure. Saraiva very nearly got on the end of another low Sow cross, but the ball was slightly behind him and Saraiva couldn't adjust his feet in time to turn the ball home. In the 21st minute, an in-swinging Beaney corner was met by Figueira's powerful header, but unfortunately it was straight at Rooks keeper Carey, who was able to turn it over the bar. Next it was Saraiva's turn to test Carey, but his his well-stuck shot from 25 yards was also straight at the keeper, who was again able to help it over the bar. But in the 35th minute, Tom Kavanagh, who was having a fine game, put pressure on the Lewes full back and won the ball back inside the box. The defender lunged in and caught the Merstham man on the shin, and referee Stokes pointed immediately to the spot. But Kershaney Samuels' penalty hit the inside of the post and was hacked clear by Lewes. Unfazed, the Moatsiders continued to press forward. Three minutes before the break, Gus Sow's acceleration got him to a through ball ahead of the Lewes keeper, who stuck out a hand and caught the Merstham man's leg. It happened ten yards away from the assistant. Referee Stokes looked at his assistant, but to the utter amazement of Sow and the closest Merstham players, the linesman chose not to flag, presumably as one penalty against the home side was sufficient. Quite how it was goalless at the break was a mystery to both Lewes and Merstham supporters alike. 

 

The second half was only a minute old when Merstham got caught in possession deep in their own half and Charlie Coppola took full advantage and hit a superb strike from 25 yards which gave Tangara no chance. But Merstham responded almost immediately, when a clever little chip by Beaney found Figueira's well-timed run and Merstham's top scorer made no mistake, slotting it coolly past Carey to make it 1-1 on 50'. At that point, most of the travelling band of Merstham supporters were expecting their side to go on and win it and the pattern of the first half was being repeated, as Merstham surged forward. Figueira almost grabbed a second, after Sow played him in, but the angle was too tight and Figueira could only find the side netting. Samuels tested Carey with a shot from just outside the box, but it was a comfortable save for the Rooks keeper. Then, totally against the run of play, Lewes got a second. It came from a Merstham attack. A long clearance out of defence found Coppola. His floated cross into the box picked out an unmarked Harry Reed, who gleefully side-footed home from close range to put the Rooks in front on 63'. Now Merstham had to chase the game. But the second goal seemed to knock the wind out of the Moatsiders and their fluent and incisive football of the first-half had largely disappeared. Lewes were content to pack their defence and hope to catch the Moatsiders on the counter, which they came close to doing on a few occasions, as gaps began to appear in the visitors' back line.  Aside from a couple of dangerous balls into the box, Lewes defended fairly comfortably and the Moatsiders were reduced to playing sideways in front of the packed Lewes ranks, rarely looking like getting through. In the end, a promising performance petered out and Carey in the Rooks net, was relatively untroubled in the remaining 25 minutes as the Moatsiders failed to create a chance worthy of the name.  

Merstham: Amadou Tangara, Harry Osborne, Ben Harrison (Roman Michael-Percil 78 ), Jake Hutchings, Ollie Cook, Tom Kavanagh (Dan Bennett 66), Gus Sow, Kenny Beaney, Walter Figueira, Kershaney Samuels (Calum Davies 84), Fabio Saraiva.

Unused subs: Tutu Henriques, Michael Abnett.

Man of the Match: Tom Kavanagh

 

Tuesday 2nd April 2019

Transatlantic Friendy

Merstham 0 v 1 Vancouver Whitecaps

Report by Chris Pullen

Although billed as a friendly, this was a competitive game and the goal celebrations after Vancouver netted their winner 20 minutes from time, showed just how much it meant to the touring side, after earlier defeats to Bournemouth's and Brighton's academy sides. The result was largely irrelevant to the Moatsiders. What the game did allow was to give some valuable game time to the likes of Michael Abnett, Harry Osborne, Calum Davies, Tutu Henriques and Dan Bennett, all of whom were short of match practice. It also gave the squad the opportunity to get Saturday's poor performance out of their systems, which is much harder to do in training.

 

The Moatsiders could easily have been two up inside the first three minutes of the game as Calum Davies was thwarted by Whitecaps keeper Evan Ince and Simon Cooper failed to hit the target with a free header. The first half was dominated by the home side and only a combination of fine goalkeeping by Ince and some rather wasteful finishing by the Moatsiders combined to keep the score line blank. Vancouver did offer some threat going forward with the powerful Theo Bair proving to be something of a handful. 

 

The second half was a much more even affair, although substitute goalkeeper Thomas Hasel was equally as busy as his colleague was in the first half, as the Moatsiders continued to rain in shots, in keeping with the torrential downpour. However, Vancouver asked a lot more questions of the Merstham back four and keeper Amadou Tangara was also called into action several times, pulling off a couple of excellent saves. In the 67th minute, the Whitecaps broke the deadlock when sub Kamron Habibullah got on the end of a well-worked move and tapped the ball home from a yard, leading to some enthusiastic celebrations! Merstham had chances to draw level and the Whitecaps had chances to extend their lead as the game became a little end-to-end. But it was a unique evening that both clubs enjoyed.

 

Vancouver Whitecaps Head coach Nick Dasovic said, "Again, this is competition that our players aren't used to. This was a great opportunity to play against men who are bigger, stronger, more physical.  This tour to England has been a perfect test for what we needed to continue pushing the group in their development, and hopefully move more of our young players onto the first team."

 

Final word to Whitecaps goalkeeper coach Raegyn Hall, who said, " Merstham FC - incredible hosts to wrap up our UK."

 

Merstham Squad: Amadou Tangara, Michael Abnett, Simon Cooper, Harry Osborne, Tutu Henriques, Jake Hutchings, Ollie Cook, Tom Kavanagh, Dan Bennett, Gus Sow, Kenny Beaney, Walter Figueira, Kershaney Samuels, Calum Davies, Roman Michael-Percil, Jaden Antwi-Nyame.

 

Saturday 30th March 2019

Bostik League Premier Division

Merstham 0 v 2 Burgess Hill Town

Report by Chris Pullen

Over the years, Burgess Hill have been something of a bogey side for the Moatsiders, and so it proved again, as two second half goals by Tommy Wood put a dent in Merstham's play-off hopes. It was a well-deserved win by the visitors, who were rarely troubled by a Merstham side that were a pale shadow of the side that put five past Harlow the previous Saturday. Merstham boss Hayden Bird was at a loss to explain his side's performance, who started badly and never really got going in the entire match. 

 

The game as a spectacle was a poor one and the first half was instantly forgettable. Town had the best chance of the half in the second minute when the Moatsiders were dispossessed in their own half and Dan Rock found Ross Murdoch unmarked on the edge of the Merstham 18 yard box. But the Town forward scuffed his shot and the ball rolled harmlessly wide. Burgess Hill were happy with the ball in the air, which suited their big, strong side. But for some reason the Moatsiders were also playing an alien long ball game, which played into the hands of the Town back line. Merstham's trademark short passing game was completely absent, partially because so many simple passes were being misplaced. It quickly became contagious, and the Moatsiders rarely looked capable of threatening the Green Elephants. Aside from a few crosses, Amadou Tangara was as unemployed as his Town counterpart, as both sides struggled to create anything of note. The Moatsiders finally created a chance on the half hour, when Walter Figueira pulled the ball back from the bye-line to Roman Michael Percil, who was unmarked 8 yards out. But the Merstham man completely mis-kicked, which perfectly summed up the first half for the home side. All in all, it was a desperately disappointing opening 45 minutes.

 

Merstham almost got the perfect start to the second half, as Gus Sow's pass found Kershaney Samuel's run, but the midfielder couldn't keep his shot down and the ball sailed harmlessly over. In the 49th minute it looked as though Burgess Hill would give the Moatsiders a helping hand, as a dreadful back pass by Bennett was intercepted by Michael-Percil, but Town keeper Josh James did well to deny the Merstham man. However, the early promise soon faded away and Merstham couldn't get anything going. Then, on the hour, the inevitable happened. A long ball out to the right wing found Murdoch all alone, mainly because he was at least 5 yards offside. Although Murdoch was right in front of the assistant, he failed to flag and the Town man had time to deliver an inch-perfect cross to Tommy Wood, standing unmarked 6 yards out, who calmly nodded the ball home. That should have sparked a reaction from the Moatsiders, but if anything it was Burgess Hill who looked increasingly likely of adding to their lead. In the 68th minute, Town's Aaron Smith-Joseph's strike went narrowly wide, and a minute later, Tangara made an excellent save with his legs to deny the same player. Ollie Cook had a half chance from a Kenny Beaney corner, with 15 minutes left, but the Merstham centre-back just couldn't get over the ball and his header looped over the bar.  With 9 minutes remaining. Wood tested Tangara again from range, but his shot was comfortably held by the Merstham keeper. In the 85th minute, Town wrapped up the points when the lively Joseph Felix found Kipeya and his cross shot gave Wood a simple tap in at the far post. A rare moment of quality from Merstham sub Dan Bennett put Kenny Beaney through, a minute from time, but the Town keeper James was quickly off his line to block and with it went Merstham's last chance of salvaging anything from the game.

 

Merstham: Amadou Tangara, Simon Cooper (c), Fabio Saraiva (Jaden Antwi-Nyame 83), Jake Hutchings, Ollie Cook, Tom Kavanagh (Dan Bennett 67), Gus Sow, Kenny Beaney, Walter Figueira, Kershaney Samuels (Calum Davies 67), Roman Michael-Percil. 

Unused subs: Harry Osborne, Michael Abnett

 

Man of the Match: Jake Hutchings

 

Saturday 23rd March 2019

Bostik League Premier Division

Merstham 5 v 1 Harlow Town 

Report by Chris Pullen

In the end, it was a comfortable victory for the Moatsiders to keep them firmly in the play-off hunt. In the first half, Merstham were completely dominant and could and probably should have scored four or five. But at the start of the second half, a comfortable 2-0 lead, was suddenly pegged back to 2-1 and for a ten minute spell, it looked as though Harlow might grab a hugely unexpected equaliser. But the Moatsiders came through their rocky spell, regained their authority and bagged three more goals to secure the points.

 

The Moatsiders got off to a perfect start when Gus Sow opened the scoring in the third minute. It was a delightfully worked goal. A clever flick by Walter Figueira found Sow's run and the Merstham midfielder took one touch before prodding it past the advancing Town keeper Brzozowski, who was in for a busy afternoon. Merstham then proceeded to play some delightful football, with quick passing and clever runs by the Merstham forwards and midfielders creating havoc in the visitors defence. That said, if you give players with the passing ability of Kenny Beaney and Tom Kavanagh the time and space to get their heads up and decide which option they will choose, you are asking for trouble. Harlow rarely put pressure on the ball and Merstham had very little difficulty in passing through the Harlow lines. The only real surprise was that it took the Moatsiders until the 29th minute to add a second. This time it was Roman Michael-Percil with the clever through ball to Walter Figueira. The Merstham marksman dipped a shoulder, sending the last Town defender the wrong way before blasting it straight though Brzozowski. If the Town keeper might have done better with Merstham’s second, the visitors had Brzozowski to thank for keeping the score down in the final 15 minutes of the first half. A minute after the goal, Fabio Saraiva should have added a third when Figueira found him unmarked ten yards out, but Saraiva spooned his effort high over the bar. In the 33rd minute, Brzozowski produced a brilliant save, thrusting out a strong right hand  to deny Michael-Percil, after excellent work on the right by Kavanagh. In the 38th minute, Jake Hutchings got on the end of a Beaney corner, but was denied by Brzozwski’s flying save. Then the keeper had to plunge bravely at the feet of Figueira to pluck the ball off his toes. Two minutes before the break, a superb chip by Kenny Beaney found Michael-Percil’s well-timed run. The Merstham man seemed a little surprised himself that he’d beaten the offside trap and although he got his shot away, his finish was too close to the keeper, allowing Brzozowski to stick out a left foot and deflect it away for a corner. The half-time whistle went with most of the spectators wondering why the Moatsiders weren’t up by four or five.

 

But football is a funny game and within five minutes of the restart, Harlow were back in the game with a well-taken goal. It was their first shot on target, but Merstham keeper Amadou Tangara could only stand and watch as Matt Foy’s curler from 25 yards found the far corner. Suddenly Town were back in the game and two minutes later almost grabbed an equaliser when Tom Hitchcock waltzed through the Merstham defence and, but for a superb save by Tangara, the visitors would have been back on terms. It was a rocky 15 minutes for the Moatsiders, who had coasted through the first half. It wasn’t until Gus Sow added his second and Merstham’s third in the 65thminute, that order was restored. Once again, it was Figueira with the assist, as his inch-perfect pass found Sow’s run and the midfielder just beat Brzozowski to the ball, dinking it over the advancing keeper. But Harlow still posed a threat and Tangara for once, failed to gather a cross cleanly, but made amends by doing well to block Foy’s effort after the ball had dropped dangerously in the box. Town were committing more men forward and it proved fatal as Merstham produced a devastating counter attack with 12 minutes left. Tom Kavanagh, who had an excellent game, picked the ball up on half-way and seeing a lot of green grass ahead, drove forward, before hitting a low drive bound for the bottom corner. Brzozowski did well to push it away, but Kavanagh was quickest to react and got to the loose ball first. Seeing Simon Cooper’s run, Kavanagh chipped it to the far post where Cooper, Brzozowski and a defender all converged, but the Merstham skipper got there first and stabbed it home to make it four. With two minutes remaining, a Beaney corner was allowed to bounce through the six yard box to where Jake Hutchings was lurking and he nodded home to make it five and ensure the scoreline finally reflected Merstham’s overall dominance.

 

Merstham: Amadou Tangara, Simon Cooper, Ben Harrison, Jake Hutchings, Ollie Cook (c), Tom Kavanagh (Dan Bennett 83), Gus Sow, Kenny Beaney, Walter Figueira, Fabio Saraiva (Ciao Guimaraes 87), Roman Michael-Percil (Michael Abnett 77).

Unused subs: Harry Osborne, Calum Davies

Man of the Match: Gus Sow

 

Saturday 16th March 2019

Bostik League Premier Division

Margate 1 v 0 Merstham 

Report by Chris Pullen

A gale-force wind and a resolute Margate team combined to ensure Merstham left the Kent coast with nothing to show for their afternoon's work. The wind really did ruin the game as a spectacle, with the ball frequently being blown backwards 10-15 feet every time it was in the air. Nonetheless, as Merstham boss Hayden Bird noted after the game, it was the home side that adapted better to the difficult conditions and on the balance of play, deserved the win. The Moatsiders will point to hitting the woodwork twice, though those were on isolated occasions, rather than periods of sustained pressure.

 

Margate certainly began the game very much on the front foot, with the lively George Brown creating havoc down the left side in the opening 15 minutes, with Merstham had enormous difficulty getting out of their own half. It was extremely challenging to play football on a plastic pitch with a strong wind, but the Moatsiders did at least have the wind at their backs in the first half. But it was Margate that looked the livelier and almost took the lead after 17 minutes when Leighton's header from an in-swinging corner was superbly cleared off his own line by Gus Sow. Gate's right back Paxman was next to test the Moatsiders when his surging run and finish, which fortunately for the visitors went into the side netting. Leighton might have done better with a free header from 10 yards following a long throw, but nodded it wide of the far post. Walter Figueira offered a rare threat at the other end, when he drifted inside from the left touchline, skipped past three defenders, but scuffed his shot and didn't cause Gate keeper Wells any real alarm. Two minutes before the break, Margate took the lead that they probably deserved, but it was a very poor goal to concede from a defensive perspective. With the Moatsiders caught sleeping, Margate took a short corner and Brown had all the time in the world to deliver a pin-point cross to Leighton, who, under no real pressure, buried his header past Tangara. Right on the stroke of half time, Merstham almost grabbed an equaliser when a speculative shot from 25 yards from Fabio Saraiva, was finger-tipped onto the crossbar by Wells. It was the Moatsiders' only shot on target, which, when you have a strong wind at your back, was disappointing to say the least, but then so was the first-half performance as a whole.

 

The second half began with the wind now in the faces of the Moatsiders. Leighton showed his counterparts that wind-assisted shooting was certainly worth a try as his shot from 25 yards flew narrowly over the angle of post and bar as Tangara could only watch and hope. But minutes later, Tangara kept his side in the contest with a brave save at the feet of Shu-Silva, as the Gate forward was sent clear. The rebound off Tangara flew into the air and Leighton really should have hit the target with the goal at his mercy, but headed it wide. At the other end, Gus Sow wasn't too far away when his shot on the turn went narrowly wide. In the 65th minute, a rare mistake by Jake Hutchings fortunately went unpunished, when his header back in the direction of Tangara went straight to Shu-Silva, but the Merstham keeper did well to bail out his centre-back by saving with his feet.  With 15 minutes left, Merstham went desperately close to snatching an equaliser when Roman Michael-Percil's shot from all of 30 yards, beat Wells, hit the inside of the post and trickled agonisingly past the other post for a goal-kick. Hayden Bird brought on Davis and Cooper and switched to a 3-5-2, but the Moatsiders really didn't carve out another chance worthy of the name, and Margate held out fairly comfortably for the win. 

 

Merstham: Amadou Tangara, Harry Osborne (Michael Abnett 83), Ben Harrison, Jake Hutchings, Ollie Cook (c), Tom Kavanagh (Simon Cooper 76), Gus Sow (Calum Davies 76), Kenny Beaney, Walter Figueira, Fabio Saraiva, Roman Michael-Percil. 

 

Unused subs: Tutu Henriques

Man of the Match: Ollie Cook

 

Saturday 9th March 2019

Bostik League Premier Division

Merstham 0 v 0 Haringey Borough

Report by Chris Pullen

A game between the second and third placed sides in the table was always likely to be a tense, tight affair, and so it proved. There were few clear-cut chances for either side, but Merstham certainly had the best openings. 

Merstham boss Hayden Bird surprised a few people with his team selection, opting to keep the pacey Roman Michael-Percil on the bench and playing Fabio Saraiva wide on the left. 

 

Haringey actually started the better and for the first 10 minutes, the game was largely played in the Merstham half. It soon became clear that Borough were going to be a threat from any set piece, and Kirby wasn't far away with a header from a corner that went narrowly over the angle of post and bar in the 11th minute. Borough's back four were holding a high line and Walter Figueira was caught offside a few times in the opening quarter of an hour. But in the 17th minute, his well-timed run from inside his own half chasing a delightful flick from Saraiva sent him clear. With Kirby floundering in his wake, Merstham's leading scorer bore down on goal with just keeper Valery Pajetat to beat. But Figueria final touch forced him slightly wider than he intended and his shot lacked power, allowing Pajetat to save with his right foot. A minute later, Figueira robbed Borough's skipper as he tried to play out from the back, cut inside and his powerful shot was heading for the bottom corner before Pajetat, at full stretch, managed to get a hand to the ball and push it away for a corner. After their familiar slow start, Merstham exerted a measure of control and, aside from set pieces, Ollie Cook and Jake Hutchings were largely untroubled at the back. But Merstham weren't really threatening either and certainly weren't at their fluent best, with too many passes going astray. Although the blustery conditions were a factor, it seemed both sides were playing the occasion, well aware of the importance of the result and after the promising start, the first half rather petered out.

 

Within 30 seconds of the restart, Kershaney Samuels did get a shot on target, but his shot went straight into the midriff of the Borough keeper. Two minutes later. Samuels produced a delicate chip over the Borough defenders right into the feet of Figueira. Merstham's leading scorer didn't hesitate and fired a shot which beat Pajetat's right hand, but also went inches wide of the far post. Haringey were still a threat from set pieces and in the 67th minute, a corner was only half-cleared and the ball bounced inside the Merstham box. Aresti got his head to the ball, which looped over Tangara and hit the top of the bar before bouncing over. Roman Michael-Percil was brought on in place of Gus Sow and the Merstham wide-man was set free down the right flank thanks to a great ball by Tom Kavanagh. Michael-Percil fired in a cross and Figueira, with his back to goal, brought the ball under control, swiveled and shot in one movement. Unfortunately for the Moatsiders, the shot was just close enough to Pajetat to make another fine save. For the final 15 minutes, Merstham pressed forward, but Borough defended well for the most part and were clearly happy with a point. In the final minute of the four added for stoppages, Merstham so nearly won it. The ball was chipped to the far post to where Roman Michael-Percil was lurking unmarked, six yards out. Just when it looked as if he was going to repeat his game-winning heroics of the previous week, his header flashed narrowly wide of the post and the Moatsiders had to settle for a point. 

 

Merstham: Amadou Tangara, Harry Osborne, Ben Harrison, Jake Hutchings, Ollie Cook (c), Tom Kavanagh (Tutu Henriques 85), Kershaney Samuels (Manny Ighuray 85) , Kenny Beaney, Walter Figueira,  Fabio Saraiva, Gus Sow (Roman Michael-Percil 57). 

 

Unused subs: Michael Abnett, Caio Guimaraes

Man of the Match: Kenny Beaney

 

Saturday 2nd March 2019

Bostik League Premier Division

Leatherhead 0 v 1 Merstham

Report by Chris Pullen

A 93rd minute goal ensured Merstham left Fetcham Grove with three valuable points, as Hayden Bird's men consolidated their position near the top of the table. For the second week in a row, the Moatsiders had to withstand an aerial bombardment, against a very physical and very direct Leatherhead outfit.

 

The Tanners had obviously done their homework and decided the best way to combat Merstham's passing game was to ensure the ball was in the air as much as possible. At times in the first 20 minutes, spectators could have been forgiven for thinking they were at Twickenham, as the ball rarely touched the ground and, coupled with the 'robust' defending of the Leatherhead players, it did not make for a great spectacle. Leatherhead pressed high up the pitch and forced Merstham's defenders to play quicker and longer than they would have liked, giving Walter Figueira little chance against the oppositions's big centre-backs. Merstham didn't help themselves though, as a number of relatively simple passes failed to find their target, which meant the visitors had enormous trouble clearing their lines and ended up pinned inside their own half for long periods. Leatherhead's only real tactic seemed to be to launch the ball forward at every opportunity and get numbers in the box. It did create some problems, but with captain Ollie Cook outstanding at the back, and Amadou Tangara again commanding his area, the Moatsiders weathered the early storm. But as the half wore on, Leatherhead began to create some chances. In the 24th minute, Tangara made a smart save low to his left to deny Leatherhead's Travis Gregory effort from just inside the box. But it was Charlie Hestor-Cook who wasted the best chance for the Tanners, when he blazed wildly over the bar from 12 yards on 37'. Merstham had shown very little as an attacking force, but five minutes before the break, they almost took the lead in bizarre fashion. Kershaney Samuels scuffed a shot goalwards, but it took a deflection off Tanners' captain Will Salmom, hit the foot of the post, appeared to hit the keeper and almost sneaked in, but the keeper was alert enough to fall on the ball. There was still time for yet another ball into the Merstham box and Jerry Nnamani probably ought to have hit the target, but headed wide.

 

At half-time, Merstham boss Hayden Bird told his players to be braver in possession, especially his defenders, and right from the start of the second half, the players did exactly that and began to play the way the Merstham faithful have become accustomed to. Whereas in the first period, the ball probably should have been given Air Miles, in the second half, it was on the grass far more and being played between Merstham feet. The Leatherhead players had expended a great deal of energy playing their high-pressing game and it looked as though it was taking its toll. Suddenly, the Moatsiders were finding space and time in possession. They should have taken the lead in the 52nd minute, when a great run by Roman Michael-Percil scythed through the Tanners statuesque back four. He fired the ball low into the six yard box, where Figueira was perfectly placed to tap it into an empty net. But he didn't. Somehow the ball screwed wide off his foot, perhaps from a bad bounce on a bumpy pitch. Figueira returned the compliment by doing superbly well to beat the full back and square the ball back to Michael-Percil, but the Merstham wide-man fired over from 10 yards when he should have hit the target. Michael-Percil then went close as he tried to place one in the bottom corner from the edge of the box. Leatherhead's players were now running on empty and the Moatsiders took the game by the scruff of the neck, dominating possession and asking questions of the Tanners defence. With 15 minutes left, Micheal-Percil's electric pace and tight control took him clean through the Leatherhead defence. As he got close to the Tanners' keeper, he hesitated and delayed shooting, allowing the retreating defenders to recover and snuff out the danger. Moments later, Figueira brought an excellent save out of Oualah in the Leatherhead goal, who tipped over a fiercely-struck effort from Merstham's leading scorer. But for all the good work in the second half, it looked as though the game would end goalless as the board went up showing four minutes of added time. Then in an ironic twist, a long kick downfield by Tangara cleared the head of Salmon and Roman Michael-Percil's pace put him clean through again. This time the Merstham man didn't hesitate and coolly slid the ball past Oualah and wheeled away in triumph, before being mobbed by his delighted teammates. There was barely time to restart the game before the final whistle blew. Second-placed Haringey Borough visit the Specsavers Stadium next in what should be a mouth-watering encounter.

 

Merstham: Amadou Tangara, Harry Osborne, Ben Harrison, Jake Hutchings, Ollie Cook (c), Tom Kavanagh, Roman Michael-Percil, Kenny Beaney, Walter Figueira, Kershaney Samuels (Manny Ighuray 81) Fabio Saraiva (Gus Sow 58). 

Unused subs: Michael Abnett, Caio Guimaraes, Tutu Henriques

Goals: Roman Michael-Percil 90'

Man of the Match: Ollie Cook

 

Tuesday 26th February 2019

The Specsavers Surrey Senior Cup

Met Police 1 v 0 Merstham

Report by Chris Pullen

 

Merstham's defence of the Surrey Senior Cup came to an end in a hugely disappointing second round tie at Imber Court. With both teams in the hunt for promotion from their respective divisions, it was unlikely either side would be at full strength and the Moatsiders team showed five changes from Saturday's line up. Nonetheless, it was still a strong side, reflecting manager Hayden Bird's desire to retain the trophy. 

 

The opening 15 minutes were a sign of what was to come. Neither side could be rebuked for a lack of effort, but there was certainly a lack of quality on show. Both sides gave the ball away with alarming frequency and it was only on rare occasions that the Moatsiders were able to string together a sequence of passes. Both keepers were largely unemployed, except on kicking duties and the game meandered along, with neither side really looking like scoring. For Merstham, Manny Ighorae made a few penetrating runs and Walter Figueira worked hard in a less familiar right-sided role. But for some reason there was a big gap between the lines and the front runners often found themselves isolated and eventually crowded out. Merstham seemed to awake from their slumbers after about 25 minutes and there was a flurry of activity around the Police goal. First, Figueira came close to opening the scoring on the half hour, when a close range effort came back off the foot of the post and minutes later, Ben Harrison's acrobatic volley unfortunately went straight at the Met's keeper. Figueira again went close with a header that went just past the far post. But the best chance of the half fell to the Police defender Mekhail McLaughlin, when the ball dropped to his feet eight yards out from a flick-on at a corner, but the defender responded like a defender and blazed wildly over. As the half closed, Figueira's drive from 25 yards was well-fielded by the Met keeper, Williams. 

 

The promise that the Moatsiders had shown in the last 15 minutes of the first half unfortunately didn't return after the break. The only real chance that Merstham created was after 58 minutes, when Calum Davies had an opportunity to volley home from inside the box, but he failed to catch the ball properly and the danger was averted. The rest of the second half had very little by way of entertainment and was largely devoid of goalmouth incident, although the Moatsiders did have a good shout for a penalty with five minutes left when Davies appeared to be brought down. However, just as the game appeared to be heading to penalties, a Police counter attack found Police sub Rhys King with the ball at his feet on the right flank. He did well to cut inside Ben Harrison and then beat Amadou Tangara at his near post to put the holders out. 

 

Merstham: Amadou Tangara, Michael Abnett (Caio Guimaraes 54), Ben Harrison, Tutu Henriques, Ollie Cook, Kershaney Samuels (c), Walter Figueira, Kenny Beaney, Calum Davies, Fabio Saraiva, Manny Ighurae (Roman Michael-Percil 73).

Unused subs: Harry Osborne, Lewis Pearch, Ben Drake.

Man of the Match: Walter Figueira

Saturday 23rd February 2019

Bostik League Premier Division

Tonbridge Angels 0 v 1 Merstham

Report by Chris Pullen

Arguably the Bostik Premier's match of the day, as third-placed Tonbridge faced fourth-placed Merstham. At the end of 90 minutes, the two clubs had swapped places in the table, and the Moatsiders had come through a stern test of their play-off credentials against a Tonbridge side that had previously been unbeaten in 2019. Manager Hayden Bird was delighted to welcome back Jake Hutchings, re-signed from Wingate & Finchley, and the centre back went straight into the side, with skipper Simon Cooper shifting to right back to replace the injured Harry Osborne. With Tom Bird having left the club and Ben Harrison away, Fabio Saraiva continued as a make-shift left back. 

 

Tonbridge began the game very much on the front foot and kept the Moatsiders largely penned into their own half in the opening 15 minutes. Merstham didn't really help themselves with some careless passing and both Tom Kavanagh and Gus Sow ended up in the referees noteback for slightly desperate lunges as Angels' players threatened to get away. Angels Joe Turner looked lively and threatened on more than one occasion with shots from distance, but Amadou Tangara had little to do in the opening 20 minutes. At the other end, Walter Figueira looked dangerous whenever he got the ball against the less mobile Angels centre backs. Gradually, Merstham got their own passing game going and Kenny Beaney soon started pulling the strings in the middle of the park. But Angels still posed a threat from set pieces, especially long throws and corners, as they were able to load players into the box. Tangara got down well to block a close-range effort from Adam Ramadan in the 29th minute and a few minutes later Simon Cooper did superbly well to deflect a Turner effort away for a corner. Merstham defended well, despite Tonbridge's aerial threat and usually did enough to make it difficult, even if they were unable to win the first header.  But the Moatsiders always carried a threat when they were in possession and so it proved in the 39th minute when they took the lead. Simon Cooper got the ball with his back to goal, close to the touchline, half way inside the Angels' half. With a drag back that any winger would have been proud of, Cooper left the Angels left back for dead before delivering a wicked low cross into the Angels box. The lurking Figueira got just enough purchase on the cross to divert it past a flat-footed Henley in the Angels' goal to put the Moatsiders one up. Tonbridge responded and Turner shot wide when well placed. In first half stoppage time Tangara did well by sticking out a strong left hand to again deny Turner.

 

The second half was only three minutes old, when Roman Michael-Percil had a great chance to double the lead. A superbly-weighted through ball from Sow split the Angels defensive line, and found the Merstham wide man clean through on goal. But as Angels keeper Jon Henly came out to narrow the angle, Michael-Percil got the ball slightly stuck under his feet and couldn't generate any real power with his finish, allowing Henley to get a toe to the ball and deflect it wide. For for the first 15 minutes of the second half, it was the Moatsiders who looked likely to add to their lead. Kershaney Samuel's shot was deflected narrowly wide from the edge of the box after a superb counter-attacking move by the visitors and from the resulting corner, Tom Kavanagh was first to the ball and his sweetly-struck volley brought a good reflex save from Henley. But Angels couldn't clear the ball and Ollie Cook who was still in the box from the original corner, headed the rebound from Henley back across goal and Figueira couldn't quite get enough on the ball to turn it in. But Angels were by no means finished and they began to throw bodies forward in search of an equaliser. They became very 'route one', repeatedly pumping long balls from the back towards the Merstham box with very little attempt at finesse. Hutchings and Cook were rocks in the centre of the Merstham defence and dealt with most of the aerial threat comfortably. Amadou Tangara commanded his box superbly, giving assurance to his defenders whenever the ball was lobbed into the box. But there was always the chance that a chance would come, especially as the Moatsiders began to drop deeper and deeper as the game entered the closing stages. It took a superb goal-line clearance from Kershaney Samuels to deny Sonny Miles an equaliser from yet another Tonbridge corner with ten minutes left. The Merstham midfielder somehow hooked the ball off the line as Angels' players were just starting to celebrate an equaliser. Tonbridge continued to huff and puff, but the Merstham team defended brilliantly from front to back and Angels couldn't carve out a clear-cut chance. As the final whistle went, the Merstham players went to celebrate with the travelling supporters and in particular with the the bereaved daughters of Jackie Jenkins who so tragically passed away earlier in the week. It was a moving tribute to a very popular and much-loved figure at Merstham Football Club. 

 

Merstham: Amadou Tangara, Simon Cooper (c), Fabio Saraiva, Jake Hutchings, Ollie Cook, Tom Kavanagh,Kershaney Samuels (Tutu Henriques 82), Kenny Beaney, Walter Figueira (Calum Davies 89), Gus Sow, Roman Michael-Percil (Manny Ighuray 69).

Unused subs: Michael Abnett, Caio Guimaraes

Goals: Figueira 39'

Man of the Match: Jake Hutchings

 

Saturday 16th February 2019

Bostik League Premier Division

Merstham 2 v 1 Corinthian Casuals

Report by Chris Pullen

A goal six minutes from time by Casuals Warren Mfula, transformed a fairly comfortable afternoon for the Moatsiders, into a nervy final few minutes, with the home side glad to hear the final whistle. But Merstham maintained their promotion push with another win and move up to fourth in the table.

 

With a number of players carrying knocks and both usual left backs absent, Manager Hayden Bird was relieved when Harry Osborne and Kershaney Samuels both declared themselves fit. Fabio Saraiva was drafted in as an emergency left back and certainly didn't let anyone down in this unfamiliar role.

 

As normal, the ​Moatsiders got off to a slow start and Corinthian Casuals enjoyed the lion's share of possession in the opening quarter of an hour. Merstham keeper Amadou Tangara had to be quick off his line in the 13th minute to make a brave save at Mfula's feet, although the Moatsiders were lucky that the follow-up shot by Jordan Clarke was deflected narrowly wide. Moments later Mfula again tested Tangara with a cross shot that the Merstham stopper appeared to get fingers to, as the ball went wide of the far post. Roman Michael-Percil had a great chance when put through by Walter Figueira, but the Merstham man dragged his shot wide when well-placed. Gradually, the Merstham midfield, superbly marshalled by Kenny Beaney, took control and began to dominate proceedings. The trademark short, sharp passing came to the fore as Merstham began to pin the visitors back in their own half. A Harry Osborne header from a Beaney corner was brilliantly tipped over by Casuals keeper Bracken on 25'. But Merstham finally got the goal they had been threatening in the 31st minute and it was newly-wed skipper Simon Cooper who made the breakthrough, stabbing home another Beaney corner from 8 yards to give the Moatsiders the lead at the interval. 

 

The second half was only three minutes old when Merstham doubled their advantage. Figueira was played through an retreating Casuals back line. His fierce drive was straight at Bracken, but the Casuals keeper could only parry the ball into the air and it dropped to Gus Sow near the penalty spot. The Merstham midfielder did well to catch the rebound on the volley, but fired it straight at Bracken. The Casuals keeper got something on it, but the ball dropped behind him and tricked towards the goal line. Bracken scrambled back and clawed the ball out, but the assistant signaled that the ball had crossed the line and Merstham were two up. On the hour mark, Bracken was again in action as he pushed away an Osborne volley, after the Merstham full back had got on the end of a far-post cross. It appeared to be more a question of how many the Moatsiders would score, as there was little or no threat from the visitors. With 20 minutes left, Calum Davies, on for Figueira, was put clean through and just as he was about the slot it past Bracken, he was bundled into from behind by Jack Strange. A stonewall penalty. Or at least it was to everyone watching except... referee Daniel Austin, who waved it away. At the same it didn't seem a terribly significant moment as the Moatsiders were cruising to victory. But Casuals threw caution to the wind in the last 15 minutes and Merstham began sitting deeper and deeper, inviting the visitors on, not helped by an injury to Tom Kavanagh and with all 3 subs, on the limping midfielder was pushed up front, more for nuisance value. With eight minutes remaining it took a fine save by Tangara to deny Clarke and then a brilliant goal-line clearance from sub Michael Abnett to hook the rebound off the line. But it was only a temporary reprieve as Osman found space on the left of the Merstham defence and his deft chip to the far post found Mfula all alone and he powered a header past Tangara to give the visitors hope. Suddenly the Moatsiders were hanging on and effectively down to ten men, with a limping Kavanagh little more than a passenger by now. But Casuals weren't able to carve out another opportunity. It was an unexpectedly tense finish for the home supporters, but the Moatsiders hung on for a deserved win.

 

Merstham: Amadou Tangara, Harry Osborne (Michael Abnett 76), Fabio Saraiva, Simon Cooper (c), Ollie Cook, Tom Kavanagh, Gus Sow, Kenny Beaney, Walter Figueira (Calum Davies 63), Kershaney Samuels, Roman Michael-Percil (Caio Guimaraes 63).

Unused subs: Manny Ighuray, Tutu Henriques.

Goals: Cooper 31' Sow 48'

Sponsors' Man of the Match: Simon Cooper

Saturday 9th February 2019

Bostik League Premier Division

Brightlingsea Regent 1 v 1 Merstham

Report by Chris Blanchard

On what proved to be a cold, blustery day on the Essex coast, the Moatsiders  achieved a credible draw at Brightlingsea Regent. 

 

Manager Hayden Bird made changes to his starting eleven, with Kenny Beaney returning after injury and Ben Harrison at left back. With Harry Osborne and Roman Michael-Percil picking up injuries on Wednesday night, Kershaney Samuels shifted to right back and Manny Ighorea started on the wing. 

  

On an uneven surface the hosts started on the front foot creating a good chance as early as the 4th minute, producing a good save from Amadou Tangara who smothered the ball well. The gusty wind appeared to be facing the Merstham players but undeterred they started to get their passing game together and on 10 minutes Walter Figueira broke clear with a good attempt, only to have a free kick given against him, a decision which baffled the away support. Minutes later, a lovely floated free kick on  was put narrowly wide by skipper Simon Cooper. The game began to "ebb and flow" with Brightlingsea putting on the pressure in response and there was a very good shot from Condon. This was followed by a quick break by Manny Ighorea, but there was no Merstham player to support him and he lost possession. Brightlingsea continued to press hard and on  19 minutes following sustained pressure from a corner, there was an almighty goal mouth scramble with shots blocked and one cleared off the line, with several Regent players claiming the ball had crossed the line. This narrow escape spurred the Moatsiders on. Ben Harrison was getting more opportunities to get forward and on 34 minutes sent a lovely ball into the Regent box, where Figueira's shot was saved by Bradbrook. The pressure mounted and on 36 minutes another shot by Merstham led to a corner which was headed narrowly over the bar by Ollie Cook. Regent were now playing on the break and Condon hit a speculative shot from distance which was palmed away for a corner by Tangara. With half time fast approaching, a wonderful break by Ben Harrison was followed by a superb ball into the Regent box and met on the volley by Fabio Saraiva which rocketed into the net to give the Moatsiders the lead at the interval.

 

Brightlingsea came out with much more purpose in the second half and had a lot of early possession, pushing Merstham back.

On 57 minutes, Manny Ighorea who had been a worthy replacement for the injured Roman Michael Percil, was replaced by Calum Davies. Brightlingsea continued to have the bulk of the possession, but Merstham were coping well. But the Moatsiders were undone by an innocuous ball into the Merstham box which caused a mix-up in the defence. The defenders and goalkeeper left the ball for each other and by the time the defenders reacted the damage was done and Regent's Jake Turner scored easily to level things up on 61 minutes. Both sides continued to probe and as the game entered its final stages, another good Merstham attack saw the Regent's Jordan Barnett collide badly with his own goal keeper and hit the ground hard. It was obviously a bad injury and it looked as though the player had some kind of fit, which was later confirmed after the match. He was well looked after by both physios but eventually stretchered off.  By now the game had fizzled out, the injury taking the sting out of the game, with both sides settling for a point a piece. An eventful afternoon and although it was a good point it could have been that much better.

 

Merstham:  Amadou Tangara, Kershaney Samuels, Ben Harrison, Simon Cooper (C), Ollie Cook, Tom Kavanagh, Gus Sow,  (Ciao Guimaraes 88) Kenny Beaney , Walter Figueira, Fabio Saraiva, Manny Ighorea (Calum Davies 57).

Subs not used : Michael Abnett, Tutu Henriques, Harry Osborne.

Goal : Saraiva 44'

 

Man of the match - Ben Harrison  

Attendance 231.  

 

Wednesday 6th February 2019

Bostik League Premier Division

Merstham 1 v 2 Bognor Regis Town

Report by Chris Pullen

Although Merstham suffered their second successive defeat, this really was a game that could have gone either way. For the neutral and the football purists, it really was a highly entertaining game between two well-matched sides, intent on playing good football, despite the heavy pitch and pouring rain. 

 

With midfield lynch-pin Kenny Beaney out having picked up a knock on Saturday, manager Hayden Bird reshuffled his midfield, which in the opening quarter of an hour, struggled to contain the Rocks, who started much the better. In the 3rd minute, Amadou Tangara had to be alert and made a fine tackle outside his box to thwart Bognor's Jimmy Muitt. Bognor's pacey forwards were asking questions of the Merstham back four and looking dangerous, especially down the right flank. But it wasn't all one-way traffic and Walter Figueira had a great chance to open the scoring in the 12th minute, but was denied by the legs of Rock's keeper Dan Lincoln, who made a number of fine stops on the night. But the Rocks were in control and it was no great surprise when they took the lead in the 18th minute when a 25 yarder from Bradley Lethbridge zipped off the wet surface past Tangara's left hand into the bottom corner. Bognor almost doubled their lead a few minutes later, when Dan Smith couldn't quite convert a fierce right-wing cross. However, gradually Merstham began to gain a measure of control in the middle of the park and in the 27th minute they fashioned a fine equaliser. Gus Sow, who had a fine game, won the ball back and drove forward before finding Fabio Saraiva. Saraiva laid the ball into Tom Kavanagh's path who weaved his way into the Bognor area and found an unmareked Sow, and the Merstham midfielder smashed the ball past Lincoln from 10 yards. As sometimes happens after a goal, the momentum of the game changed and suddenly it was the Moatsiders in control and looking likely to add a second, although Bognor still looked dangerous on the break, and Tangara was forced into a good save from a fierce drive by Smith.  At the other end, Lincoln was at full stretch to palm away a Kershaney Samuels effort. On the stroke of half time, the Moatsiders should really have gone in front and only desperate Rocks' defending  blocking three successive shots inside the box from Sow, Saraiva and Figueria prevented Merstham taking the lead. 

 

But just 3 minutes into the second half, the Moatsiders were caught by a sucker punch as Bognor re-took the lead. Tomlinson galloped forward and played a good ball into the feet of Smith on the edge of the Merstham box. The Rocks forward turned superbly and left his marker for dead before firing past Tangara. Once again, the momentum of the match shifted and now the Rocks were back in the ascendancy. Merstham didn't help themselves by making a number of poor clearances and arguably overplaying when close to their own goal, taking some huge risks on a greasy surface. But the Moatsiders were still very much in the game and had a number of promising situations, although seemed strangely reluctant to chance their arm by shooting from distance on a tricky night for any goalkeeper. As the game entered its final phase, the Rocks sank deeper and deeper to protect what they had, and the Moatsiders surged forward at every opportunity. Sub Michael Abnett's deflected shot caused panic in the Rocks defence before it was scrambled away. It was sub Manny Ighorae who went closest to equalising with 5 minutes left, when his fierce shot was blocked by Lincoln and Calum Davies was narrowly beaten to the rebound by a desperate clearance by Chad Field. Despite intense pressure by the Moatsiders, Bognor hung up to claim all three points, but Merstham really did deserve a point at least.

 

Merstham: Amadou Tangara, Harry Osborne (Michael Abnett 70), Tom Bird, Simon Cooper (c), Ollie Cook, Tom Kavanagh (Calum Davies 75) Gus Sow, Fabio Saraiva, Walter Figueira, Kershaney Samuels, Roman Michael-Percil (Manny Ighuray 75).

Unused subs: Caio Guimaraes, Ben Harrison.

Goal: Sow 27'

Man of the Match: Gus Sow.

 

Saturday 2nd February 2019

Bostik League Premier Division

Bishop's Stortford 2 v 0 Merstham

Report by Chris Blanchard

Merstham's ten match unbeaten run finally came to a halt in unfortunate circumstances at the Prokit Stadium. It was a match that could easily have gone either way, especially if Merstham had converted a penalty just after the hour mark, with the game goalless at the time. 

 

The game was the proverbial slow burner, played on a pitch that was bumpy and uneven and didn't suit the Moatsiders style at all. The first half was very "cat and mouse", with neither side creating much of note. The Moatsiders enjoyed a fair share of possession, but carried very little threat and the Bishops Stortford keeper didn't have to make a save, as the visitors unusually failed to register a shot on target. What little threat there was came from the hosts, and it took an excellent block by skipper Simon Cooper on 22 minutes to deny Warman after a quick counter attack by Bishops Stortford. But Amadou Tangara, who was awarded with the League's Golden Glove award in January, was largely a spectator too.  

 

In a bid to give the Moatsiders a bit more of a threat going forward, Hayden Bird made two changes at half time, with Fabio Saraiva  and Calum Davies coming on for Kershaney Samuels and Gus Sow. However, it was the home side that started on the front foot and Amadou Tangara was forced to produce an excellent save in the 48th minute to deny Charles. Gradually the Moatsiders began to look better going forward and in the 64th minute were awarded a penalty for handball. The travelling Merstham faithful had shouted more in hope than expectation, and were somewhat surprised to see it given. After the tiresome protests that precede almost every penalty award, up stepped Fabio Saraiva to take it. Saraiva struck it well but Stortford keeper Janata guessed right and was pushed it away, and then produced an even better save to block the follow up. Suitably encouraged by the miss, Bishops Stortford began to press forward in earnest and after a period of sustained pressure made the breakthrough in the 77th minute, when a pass from substitute Alex Warman deflected into the path of Worman who shot low past Tangara for his second goal in successive matches. Merstham reacted by replacing Tom Kavanagh with Manny Inghorae on 80 minutes and pressed forward in search of an equalizer. but that left space for the blues to exploit and Tangara saved well from Charles three minutes later and then from Worman, diverting a goalbound shot away for a corner with his foot. The Moatsiders forced several corners, and Janata pulled off a fine near post save to deny substitute Calum Davies equalising. From the resultant corner in the second minute of added time, Stortford broke away and Renee supplied the pass for Miles to net the second with a cool finish.

 

Merstham : Amadou Tangara, Harry Osborne, Ben Harrison, Simon Cooper (c) Ollie Cook, Tom Kavanagh (Manny Ighorae 80) Kershaney Samuels (Fabio Saraiva 46) Kenny Beaney, Walter Figueira , Gus Sow (Calum Davies 46) , Roman Michael-Percil.

Subs not used: Ciao Guimaraes, Tutu Henriques.

Merstham Man of the Match Ollie Cook.

 

Wednesday 30th January 2019

Bostik League Premier Division

Merstham 1 v 0 Worthing

Report by Chris Pullen

This game was always going to be a good test of Merstham's play-off credentials and so it proved. In a tight game, with few clear-cut chances for either side, the consensus was that the Moatsiders shaded it and deserved the three points on the balance of play. But the result was still in doubt right up to the final whistle, as Worthing did their utmost to salvage a point on a freezing night at the Specsavers Stadium.

 

 

Unsurprisingly, manager Hayden Bird opted for the same starting eleven that dispatched Hornchurch at the weekend. With snow having fallen the night before and the thermometer dipping below zero, it was great credit to the ground staff that the pitch was not only deemed playable, but didn't present a problem for the officials as the temperature plummeted. Merstham began the game well and almost scored in the 4th minute, when Ollie Cook rose highest at a corner, but could only direct his header straight at the Worthing keeper. In the 13th minute, Walter Figueira's snap shot from 25 yards only just cleared the bar and a minute later, it took a superb, one-handed save from Perntreou in the Worthing goal to deny Gus Sow, after an interchange of passes that would have not been out of place in the Premiership. But as the half wore on, Worthing's high line continually caught the Moatsiders offside to the frustration of all concerned, which meant too many promising moves broke down in the Worthing final third. The Rebels were content to soak up the Merstham pressure and try and hit them on the break and the Merstham back four and defensive midfielders were on constant alert to deal with the quick counter attacks. It was a good game to watch though, despite the lack of goal scoring opportunities for both sides. Amadou Tangara didn't have a save to make in the opening 45 minutes, such was the cover in front of him.

 

The second half was similar in pattern to the first. The Moatsiders bossed possession and looked the more likely to score, but were still falling foul of the offside trap. Figueira finally beat it on the hour mark, but for once his control let him down at the crucial moment and the chance went begging. But then came the gilt-edged chance that the Moatsiders had been looking for. Perntreou, with ball at feet and looking to play out from the back, passed the ball straight to Figueira on the edge of his own box. Merstham's leading scorer was as surprised as anyone, and his momentary hesitation allowed Pernterou to recover and block his initial effort. The recovering defenders, helped block the follow up from the ever-alert Gus Sow and clear the danger. Harry Osborne was not only giving a masterclass in defending, but he was also proving a real handful to the Worthing defence with his powerful overlaps. With 20 minutes left, another surging run forward lead to a chance for Figueira, but the ball bobbled over his foot when it looked like the Merstham man was about to knock it into an empty net. A few minutes later, Worthing weren't too far away themselves, when a near-post corner was flicked on and only just missed the far post. But Ollie Cook and Simon Cooper were dominate at the back, and dealt with most of the Worthing counter-attacks comfortably. It looked increasingly as though the match would end goalless. That was until the 83rd minute. Roman Michael-Percil had ensured a frustrating evening to that point, having been caught offside several times. But picking the ball up wide on the left, he left Worthing's right-back Billy Barker for dead and drove into the box, drawing defenders. As he got close to the bye-line, he pulled the ball back to where Kershaney Samuels was lurking. His side footed finish, deflected off a defender and past Pernterou into the net, giving the keeper no chance. Sub Calum Davies almost added a second with three minutes left, but his shot was blocked as he looked to place it wide of Pernterou. Worthing piled bodies forward in added time for free kicks and corners, but the Moatsiders held firm to secure another win and their fifth clean sheet in the last six games.

 

Merstham: Amadou Tangara, Harry Osborne, Tom Bird, Simon Cooper (c), Ollie Cook, Kershaney Samuels, Gus Sow (Tom Kavanagh 79), Kenny Beaney, Walter Figueira, Fabio Saraiva (Calum Davies 79), Roman Michael-Percil (Ben Harrison 88).

Unused subs: Manny Ighuray, Caio Guimaraes.

Goal: Samuels 83'

Man of the Match: Simon Cooper.

 

Saturday 26th January 2019

Bostik League Premier Division

Merstham 3 v 0 AFC Hornchurch

Report by Chris Pullen

Merstham stretched their unbeaten run to nine games with a comfortable win against a spirited, but limited AFC Hornchurch side. Although it was by no means a free-flowing display by the Moatsiders, it always seemed like the home side had sufficient control of the game to collect the three points.

 

 

With Tom Kavanagh suspended following his red card at Carshalton, the Moatsiders were pleased that Harry Osborne declared himself fit again, returning at right-back, allowing Kershaney Samuels to move back into his preferred midfield slot. As has been the pattern in recent weeks, Merstham started the game slowly. The opening 15 minutes was one where both sides gave the ball away at regular intervals and neither goalkeeper was called into action. Merstham were finding it hard to establish their pattern of play and in the early exchanges, Hornchurch threatened on more than one occasion. In the 19th minute, a flicked header from a near post Hornchurch corner had to be headed away from close to the goal-line by Ollie Cook. Cook was beaten moments later when George Saunders skipped past him and fired in a dangerous cross that luckily evaded the red shirts in the box. But as the half wore on, the Moatsiders began to dominate possession, although without looking especially threatening. The exception was set pieces and two superb in-swinging corners by Kenny Beaney saw both Simon Cooper and Walter Figueira go close with headers. Merstham eventually made the breakthrough five minutes before the break. Walter Figueira did well to jink past his man and hammer in a low, near post cross. A combination of keeper, defender and Fabio Saraiva all came together at the near post in a pile of bodies. The ball bounced away to a lurking Harry Osborne who smashed the ball into the roof of the net from 8 yards.

 

 

Two minutes into the second half, the game was effectively over as a contest as Merstham added a second. Gus Sow's driving run was ended by a Hornchurch foul, but credit referee Alex Mathieson for playing a great advantage. The ball ran to Kershaney Samuels, who cut inside and then hit a superb shot from 25 yards which crashed against the left-hand post. Luckily for the home side, Fabio Saraiva was following up and finished coolly to make it 2-0. It felt like game over, but Hornchurch threw caution to the wind and Merstham keeper Amadou Tangara was forced into a smart save to deny George Purcell. Tangara became increasingly busy as the half progressed as the home side lost their way a little and demonstarted his safe handling on more than one occasion. As the visitors pressed forward, there was always the chance that the Moatsiders would catch them on the break and so it proved in the 76th minute. Hornchurch gave the ball away from their own throw in near half way. It was picked up by Figueira, who played a beautifully weighted through ball, splitting the Hornchurch back line, into the path of Roman Michael-Percil. The Merstham speedster outpaced the covering defenders before deftly chipping it over the advancing keeper to make it three nil and wrap up the points. Hornchurch kept pressing for a consolation  goal and two or three times, some sloppy passing at the back from the Moatsiders almost gifted the visitors with a goal. Tangara had to make a brilliant save from a close-range effort by Urchins sub Joe Christou with 10 minutes left, to ensure he kept another clean sheet.

 

Merstham: Amadou Tangara, Harry Osborne, Tom Bird (Ben Harrison 90), Simon Cooper (c), Ollie Cook, Kershaney Samuels, Gus Sow (Manny Ighuray 83), Kenny Beaney, Walter Figueira, Fabio Saraiva, Roman Michael-Percil (Caio Guimaraes 86).

Unused subs: Calum Davies, Tutu Henriques. 

Goals:  Osborne 40', Saraiva 47', Michael-Percil 76'

Man of the Match: Harry Osborne.

 

Saturday 19th January 2019

Bostik League Premier Division

Carshalton Athletic  1 v 2 Merstham

Report by Chris Pullen

Merstham have a reputation throughout the Bostik League for being a team that plays good football. But on a cold January afternoon at Colsten Avenue, they also proved they could battle, graft and defend with great discipline when they have to. Down to 10 men for 70 minutes, they certainly had to do just that and needed all of those qualities to pull off a tremendous victory. With Harry Osborne injured, the versatile Kershaney Samuels was asked to fill in at right back, as the Moatsiders looked to extend their unbeaten league run to eight games.

 

Merstham began the game slowly and the Robins took an early grip on the game, especially after they were awarded a controversial goal in the 7th minute, which really should have been disallowed on two counts. A shot by Dixon was miscued and ended up at Ottaway’s feet on the left bye-line. The Carshalton forward was perhaps two yards offside. The ball had also gone over the line and out of play. Ottaway wisely played to the whistle as everyone else stopped, and knocked it back to Dixon, who casually side footed home from six yards. The Merstham players had stopped as the ball was clearly out. Somehow, the linesman missed both the offside and the ball being out of play and to the horror of the visitors, the goal was given. Cue Merstham fury. Oddly, the referee didn’t even go and speak to his co-official and the goal stood. Merstham were rocked and for the next 10 minutes, it was all Carshalton. Slowly but surely, the Moatsiders began to get into the game and a Walter Figueira effort wasn’t too far off the mark, after the forward had robbed a sleeping Robins defender. In the 20th minute, the Moatsiders were back on level terms. An in-swinging corner by Kenny Beaney was badly misjudged by Robins’ keeper Ohman, and an unmarked Ollie Cook stooped to head home from six yards. But the joy was short-lived. Carshalton won a corner almost from the restart. The ball was swung into a crowded box where Cheklit rose highest and headed it goal-wards and only the arm of Tom Kavanagh on the line prevented Carshalton regaining the lead. It was a clear penalty and a straight red card for the Merstham midfielder. Up stepped Hamilton-Downes to take the penalty, but Amadou Tangara came to his side’s rescue by blocking the low spot kick. The Moatsiders now faced a repeat of their encounter with Carshalton in September, when Kenny Beaney was dismissed, and 10-man Merstham managed to win 2-0. Could history repeat itself? In the 27th minute another moment of controversy, when the Merstham keeper was adjudged to have failed to prevent a corner, which led to Tangara talking his way into the referee’s notebook as he took issue with the assistant’s decision. But despite being down to 10 men, Hayden Bird opted to keep two up front, which meant the Moatsiders still offered a threat going forward. Kenny Beaney forced the Robin’s keeper to claw away his curling free kick on the half hour. On 33’, Merstham were again indebted to their goalkeeper, as Tangara did a fine impression of David de Gea and stuck out a big right boot to block a Dixon effort, which was the Robin’s best chance of the half. Carshalton paid for that miss on the stroke of half time. A superb raking pass by Beaney picked out Samuels wide on the right. A slide-rule pass by Samuels found Figueira’s well-timed run and Merstham’s top scorer didn’t need a second invitation, as he hammered a low drive past Ohman’s right hand into the bottom corner, to give the Moatsiders an unexpected lead at the interval.

 

The second half was largely a case of the Robins attack against the Merstham defence. Bradford had an early chance from another corner, but the Carshalton player headed over the bar. Merstham’s back four were excellent, as Cook and Cooper dealt with Carshalton’s aerial threat, while Samuels and Bird managed to keep the Robins' wide men largely in check. The midfield three of Sow, Saraiva and Beaney worked their socks off and covered a huge amount of ground, while Figueira and Michael-Percil did a great job of holding the ball up and giving their defence a chance to get up the pitch. In goal, Tangara dominated his box and his handling, especially on crosses, was exemplary. Robins player-coach Peter Adeniyi should really have equalised ten minutes from time, when Mendy whipped in a cross and the ex-Merstham man had a free header eight yards, but somehow failed to hit the target. Carshalton created one final clear-cut chance in the 82’, when Sogbanmu bundled his way through the Merstham back line, but Tangara made a good block, which lead to an almighty goalmouth scramble before the ball was finally hacked clear. No individual man of the match award this week - every player in an amber jersey (plus the green one) produced a man of the match performance.

 

Merstham: Amadou Tangara, Kershaney Samuels, Tom Bird, Simon Cooper (c), Ollie Cook, Tom Kavanagh, Gus Sow, Kenny Beaney, Walter Figueira (Calum Davies 67'), Fabio Saraiva, Roman Michael-Percil (Tutu Henriques 80').

Unused subs: Caio Guimaraes, Ben Harrison, Manny Ighuray.

Goals:  Cook 20', Figueira 44'

Man of the Match: The Team.

 

Wednesday 16th January 2019

The Velocity Trophy QF

Merstham 1 v 1 Bishop’s Stortford

(Bishops Stortford win 3-2 on penalties)

Report by Chris Pullen

Merstham bowed out of their second cup competition of the season on penalties, having suffered the same fate in the FA Cup.  But having dominated the game from start to finish, the Moatsiders will be wondering how they are not in the semi-final of the Velocity Trophy.

Manager Hayden Bird made several changes to his starting line-up, with Tom Bird and Kershaney Samuels out with slight knocks and Walter Figueira getting a rest on the bench.

From the outset, the Moatsiders controlled possession and the tempo of the game. Roman Michael-Percil tested Janata, the Stortford keeper making his debut, as early as the 8th minute with a shot that Janata spilled, but fortunately for him, no-one in amber was on-hand to gobble up the rebound. It was a promising start, but for all their possession, which was probably 70% for the match as a whole, the Moatsiders lacked penetration and rarely looked like scoring. The passing was pleasing on the eye, but lacked incisiveness and moves broke down as the ball was played into congested areas, as Stortford had everyone behind the ball. While Bishop’s Stortford defended well, they rarely broke out of their own half and Amadou Tanagara in the Merstham goal was not called into action once in the opening 45 minutes. But in fairness, neither was Janata either for most of the half. Merstham didn’t get another shot on target until the 35th minute when Michael-Percil’s shot skimmed off the surface and again Janata couldn’t gather it cleanly. This time Tom Kavanagh was on hand to try and force home the loose ball, but the young keeper did well to recover and block Kavanagh’s close-range effort, conceding a corner in the process. From the corner, Merstham took the lead. Simon Cooper glanced on Kenny Beaney’s corner and Ollie Cook had the simplest of jobs of finishing from almost on the goal line. A goal to the good at the break and dominating the game, it seemed more a question of how many the Moatsiders would add to their tally.

Stortford brought on Haaron Belaid at the interval and he almost equalised immediately after the restart, as Tangara made a good stop at his near post from Belaid’s snap shot. But the second half swiftly reverted to the same pattern as the first, with Merstham dominating possession, but only rarely threatened to unlock the visitors defence. Calum Davis almost hooked a volley into the far corner in the 54th minute, but then out of the blue, Bishop’s Stortford equalised. A deep cross from right flank should really have been dealt with, but the ball ran through to Belaid who gleefully hammered it into the roof of the net to bring the visitors level. Fabio Saraiva went close with a free kick from 25 yards and Davies was off target after a sweeping Merstham move for once pulled the visitors defence out of shape. Hayden Bird sent on top scorer Walter Figueira and Tayshan Hayden-Smith to try and win it. With a minute left, Hayden-Smith had a great chance to do that, but his finish from 12 yards was too close to Janata, who made a good stop. And so to penalties. Merstham got off to the worst possible start when Janata saved the first penalty from Tom Kavanagh. A good stop by Amadou Tangara from Stortford's second penalty briefly restored parity. But after Figueira hit the bar, Tayshan Hayden-Smith needed to score to keep the contest going. But his penalty was well saved by Janata and the Moatsiders were out. 

Merstham: Amadou Tangara, Harry Osborne, Ben Harrison, Simon Cooper (c), Ollie Cook, Tom Kavanagh, Gus Sow (Caio Guimaraes 75), Kenny Beaney, Calum Davies (Walter Figueira 69),Fabio Saraiva (Tayshan Hayden-Smith 69), Roman Michael-Percil.

Unused subs: Tutu Henriques, Manny Ighorae.​

Goals:  Cook 36'

Man of the Match: Tom Kavanagh

 

Saturday 12th January 2019

Bostik League Premier Division

Merstham  1 v 0 Enfield Town

Report by Chris Pullen

 

Merstham survived a second half onslaught by Enfield Town as their impressive unbeaten run against the league’s top sides continued. Enfield arrived at the Specsavers in fourth place, but like Dorking and Lewes before Christmas, left with nothing. Arguably the score line was a little harsh on the visitors, who had plenty of possession and created a number of chances. But take nothing away from Moatsiders. This was their third clean sheet in a row, and if you can stop the opposition scoring, you’re always in with a chance of winning football matches.

 

An unchanged Merstham began the game brightly and Gus Sow wasn’t far away with a half chance after less than a minute gone. With both sides playing some attractive football, and looking to get forward at every opportunity, the game held a promise of goals to come. Merstham keeper Amadou Tangara was called into action in the 12th minute when he made a good one-handed save, low to his left to keep out Matt Johnson’s close-range effort. Less than a minute later Merstham were in front. A good move found Kershaney Samuels wide on the right flank. He got to the bye-line and fired in a chest-high, near post cross. Town’s keeper Joe Wright caught the ball and then inexplicably dropped it almost on his goal line. The alert Walter Figueira pounced to notch his seventh goal in seven games to give the Moatsiders the lead. Both sides looked dangerous going forward and the collective height of Enfield was a genuine threat at set pieces. In the 23rd minute, Merstham almost gifted Town an equaliser when a long ball over the top caused confusion at the back and only a great block by Tom Bird denied Enfield’s Sam Youngs getting a shot on target. From the resulting corner, Town centre-back Mark Weatherstone headed just over the bar. But Merstham’s pace on the counter attack was always a threat, with Figueira and Roman Michael-Percil proving a real handful for Town’s back four. Merstham came close to a second when a defence-splitting pass from Kershaney Samuels found Michael-Percil, who cut inside but his shot was straight at Wright. On the stroke of half time, a dipping Samuels free kick from 25 yards was tipped over the bar by Wright. 

 

While the first half was an even contest, the second half was all Enfield. From the outset they dominated possession and territory, with Merstham penned back and finding it hard to get hold of the ball. When they did get possession, they were wasteful with it and as a result, the ball kept coming straight back. Town’s Bilal Sayoud had a good chance to get a shot on target in the 48th minute, but his wayward shot rather summed up Enfield’s afternoon – some fine approach work, but too often they failed to test Tangara.  A few minutes later, Town’s Billy Bricknell did the same when he blazed wide from the edge of the area. Bricknell did get a shot on target ten minutes later, but it lacked power and Tangara saved comfortably. Merstham were forced into a change on the hour, when Tom Bird limped off and was replaced by Ben Harrison. Although Merstham were forced to defend, they defended extremely well and while the Merstham keeper was busy, he wasn't truly extended at any point. Ollie Cook made a great block at the near post to deny Bricknell and Merstham players were constantly putting their bodies on the line to thwart the visitors. Cook and Cooper were immense at the back, while Kavanagh and Beaney were working tirelessly to close down the space in front of the back four. Enfield still looked dangerous at set pieces and from a free kick, sub Sam Hatton’s header scraped the bar. With 10 minutes remaining, Enfield thought they’d grabbed an equaliser when Weatherstone headed home from another free kick, but his joy was short-lived as the Town player saw the raised flag of the assistant. The final ten minutes was like watching a re-run of The Alamo, as Town threw ball after ball into the box. But Merstham weathered the siege to collect the win and have now picked up 17 points out of the last 21 on offer.      

 

Merstham: Amadou Tangara, Harry Osborne, Tom Bird (Ben Harrison 60), Simon Cooper (c), Ollie Cook, Tom Kavanagh, Kershaney Samuels (Fabio Saraiva 75), Kenny Beaney, Walter Figueira, Gus Sow, Roman Michael-Percil (Tayshan Hayden-Smith 86).

Unused subs: Calum Davies, Caio Guimaraes.

Goals:  Figueira 13'

Man of the Match: Kenny Beaney

Saturday 5th January 2019

Bostik League Premier Division

Merstham  3 v 0 Wingate & Finchley

Report by Chris Pullen

Merstham continued their good run of form with a comfortable enough win against a Wingate & Finchley side that put in plenty of effort, but lacked that bit of quality when needed and critically failed to take their chances in the first half.  It was a workmanlike performance from the Moatsiders, but winning when you don't play particularly well is always the hallmark of a good side.

Manager Hayden Bird was able to welcome back Ollie Cook, who had been out injured for several weeks, to replace the injured Tutu Henriques. Otherwise it was the same side that had picked up a point against K’s on New Year’s Day.

As is often the case in Isthmian League Premier games, the opening exchanges were fairly frantic. Wingate were more than happy to launch the ball forward in the air and for a time, Merstham were guilty of doing the same thing, which meant the ball was in the air more than it was on the grass. In the early exchanges, Roman Michael-Percil was seeing plenty of the ball and in the sixth minute, he skipped past former Merstham man Jake Hutchings and fired in a near post ball that Gus Sow was inches away from turning in. But Wingate were very much in the contest and Luke Ifal went very close to opening the scoring when he intercepted a sloppy Merstham pass in midfield and shot narrowly past the far post. In the 20th minute, Wingate’s David Manu had a great chance to open the scoring when he was put clean through on goal, but Merstham keeper Amadou Tangara pulled off a terrific save to deny the striker. Wingate would live to regret that miss as five minutes later, Merstham went in front. Roman Michael-Percil did superbly to beat two players on the left wing before cutting the ball back from the bye-line to find Kershaney Samuels, who side-footed home to put the Moatsiders one up. A few minutes later, Tangara almost gifted the visitors an equaliser when he dithered over a back pass and was robbed by Manu. The keeper however redeemed himself by sticking out a boot to block Manu’s goalbound effort and the Moatsiders were able to scramble the ball away. Merstham went straight down the other end and Michael-Percil was denied by a smart save by Wingate keeper Shane Gore. The second goal duly arrived in the 36th minute, but it was rather a bizarre goal. A good passage of play saw a bouncing ball arrive at Tom Kavanagh’s feet on the edge of the box. Kavanagh attempted a pass out wide but mis-hit it completely. Happily for the Moatsiders, the ball looped goalwards, over stranded Wingate keeper Shane Gore and hit the bar. With the instincts of a goalscorer, Walter Figueira was quickest to react and slotted the ball home from six yards. A minute before half time, Wingate’s Loic Hernandez had a great chance to pull one back, when he found himself at the far post with only Tangara to beat. The Merstham keeper's challenge did enough to force the Wingate man to stab his shot narrowly wide.

Wingate came out with renewed determination after the break and territorially, certainly had the better of the half, though rarely looked like scoring. There was a scare in the 51st minute when an almighty goal mouth scramble ensued following a Wingate corner, but the Moatsiders survived that moment of alarm.  As the half wore on, Merstham appeared content to keep what they had, though the pace of Michael-Percil and Figueira’s trickery meant the Moatsiders always looked dangerous on the counter attack. Some nice work by Kershaney Samuels gave Michael-Percil a shooting opportunity which Gore did well to block at his near post. Simon Cooper was inches away from getting on the end of an excellent cross by Samuels. But the industry of Sow, Beaney and Kavanagh in midfield meant that the visitors were reduced to playing a lot of long balls, which were mopped up by the excellent Merstham back four. Cook and Cooper were very solid while fullbacks Harry Osborne and Tom Bird not only defended well, but were quick to get forward and turn defence into attack. A minute from time, Walter Figueira produced a moment of magic and left two defenders for dead. His whipped cross was headed narrowly over his own cross bar by Ola Williams and could easily have ended up in the net. From the resulting corner, the ball was played into Figueira’s feet at the near post. With a lighting quick turn, Figueira lured Wingate’s Sam Tring into sticking out a foot which caught the Merstham man, who went down. Referee Kyle pointed to the spot and up stepped Roman Michael-Percil to convert the spot kick and add some gloss to the final score.

Merstham: Amadou Tangara, Harry Osborne, Tom Bird, Simon Cooper (c), Ollie Cook,  (), Tom Kavanagh, Kershaney Samuels (Caio Guimaraes 90), Kenny Beaney, Walter Figueira, (Calum Davies 90), Gus Sow, Roman Michael-Percil (Tayshan Hayden-Smith 90).

Unused subs: Ben Harrison, Tutu Henriques.

Goals: Samuels 25', Figueira 36', Michael-Percil 90'

Man of the Match: Tom Bird

 

Tuesday 1st January 2019

Bostik League Premier Division

Kingstonian  0 v 0 Merstham

Report by Chris Pullen

Merstham completed their arduous Christmas programme with a good point at a K’s side expecting to be championship contenders at the end of the season. If you’d said to Merstham boss Hayden Bird prior to the challenging run of fixtures that his side would play the top four sides in the league consecutively and remain unbeaten, no doubt he would have taken it. In beating both Lewes and Dorking convincingly and putting a halt to table-topping Haringey’s ten match winning run, there was never any danger that third-placed Kingstonian would underestimate their visitors. Hayden Bird was able to welcome back Gus Sow from suspension and Tom Kavanagh from illness and both went into the starting line-up.

The first half was largely forgettable. As has been their habit in recent weeks, Merstham began the game slowly and took some time to find the mark with their passes. K’s were little better and the opening exchanges were littered with mistakes. K’s had the first chance of the game after 7 minutes, when Theophanous volleyed over when well-placed. Merstham then suffered a blow as Tutu Henriques limped off after quarter of an hour with a hamstring injury. It meant a re-shuffle for the Moatsiders as Harry Osborne had to move to centre-back, Kershaney Samuels dropped into the right-back slot and sub Tayshan Hayden-Smith went into the wide right position. Despite the re-shuffle, the Merstham defence coped reasonably comfortably with the direct brand of football on offer from Kingstonian. Although defensively sound, Merstham offered little threat offensively, as too often, promising moves fizzled out well before reaching the K’s box. Merstham keeper Amadou Tangara had little to do, but when called upon in the 38th minute, he got down brilliantly to turn away a cross that was deflected goal-wards by Harry Osborne. With a minute of the first half remaining, Osborne, who had an otherwise outstanding match, almost gifted K’s the opener when his poor pass out of defence went straight to Dempsey, but the youngster fired wildly over with just Tangara to beat.

The second half began with a good chance for K’s from a corner, but Daly’s header failed to hit the target. Thephanous also had a decent opportunity from a cross but fired over from 10 yards. But as the second half wore on, it was the Moatsiders who began to look far more dangerous. The midfield pairing of Kavanagh and Beaney started to dictate play and increasingly it was the K’s defenders who were on the back foot, worried by the pace of Roman Michael-Percil and Hayden-Smith. as well as Walter Figueira’s clever movement. In the 68th minute, Figueira had a great chance when a corner wasn’t cleared and the ball dropped to his feet, but the Merstham forward blazed over from eight yards. With 12 minutes left, Merstham had a great chance to win it. Samuels’ superbly weighted pass split the K’s back line and Gus Sow’s well-timed run put him through on goal with just K’s keeper Tolfrey to beat. But Sow’s finish was too close to the keeper who saved well, ensuring that both sides ended up with a point apiece. Not one of Merstham’s most fluid displays, but a good point at one of the favourites.

Merstham: Amadou Tangara, Harry Osborne, Tom Bird, Simon Cooper (c), Tutu Henriques (Tayshan Hayden-Smith 15), Tom Kavanagh,Kershaney Samuels, Kenny Beaney, Walter Figueira, (Calum Davies 59), Gus Sow, Roman Michael-Percil.

Unused subs: Ben Harrison, Caio Guimaraes, Ollie Cook

Man of the Match: Harry Osborne

 

Saturday 29th December 2018

Bostik League Premier Division

Haringey Borough  2 v 2 Merstham

Report by Chris Pullen

Merstham twice came from behind against the league leaders to earn a well-deserved point in a thoroughly entertaining encounter at Coles Park. The result was even more impressive given the number of first team regulars out of action. With Gus Sow suspended and Tom Kavanagh ill, manager Hayden Bird gave starts to Ciao Guimaraes in midfield and new signing from East Thurrock, Roman Michael-Percil. The bench was supplemented by some of the Merstham youth team, with Lewis Pearce, Ben Drake and Morgan Chatfield all making the step up.

Haringey, on a run of 10 consecutive league wins, began the game full of confidence and Merstham had to try to withstand the early storm. Boro’s pace, height and sheer power threatened to overwhelm the visitors and it wasn’t a huge surprise when they took the lead in the 10th minute. A long throw from the right wasn’t cleared and the ball fell to Boro’s Ralston Gabriel whose shot was superbly saved by Amadou Tangara. But the rebound fell kindly to Scott Durojaiye, who hooked the ball into the unguarded net. The Moatsiders had to dig deep to stay in the contest as Haringey poured forward and looked dangerous every time they attacked. Harry Osborne was in the right place to prevent a second Boro goal after 14 minutes when he cleared Gabriel’s goal-bound effort off the line. Next, Tangara did well to turn a fierce drive from McDonald over the bar. After the 20 minute mark however, the Moatsiders began to settle into the game and started to find their fluent passing game, although were again grateful to Amadou Tangara in the 25th minute when the keeper did well to keep out a close range shot from Boro’s impressive Joel Nouble. Merstham were playing some neat and attractive football with Michael-Percil and Guimaraes linking play nicely with Walter Figueira. The game was much more of an even contest as Kenny Beaney and Kershaney Samuels gradually won the battle to control the middle of the park. But it took a mistake by Rakim Richards on the half hour mark to get the Moatsiders on level terms. His poor pass was intercepted by the alert Figueira, who still had plenty to do. But Merstham’s top scorer held off the converging defenders before finishing superbly with a low drive, just inside the left-hand post from 20 yards. The goal changed the momentum of the game and suddenly it was all Merstham. The smaller, more nimble midfielders were playing through and around the Boro defensive lines and some of the one-touch stuff and little flicks was a joy to behold. Merstham almost snatched the lead just before the break when Michael-Percil’s drive from 25 yards went narrowly wide. One of the main talking points at the break was the three disallowed Boro goals, all chalked off for offside. Naturally, the home supporters’ perspective of the decisions was somewhat different to how the officials saw it!

Merstham began the second half as they’d finished the first. Their slick passing had the home side chasing around the pitch and the Moatsiders began to look increasingly dangerous going forward, but without really testing the Boro keeper. On several occasions, Merstham players spurned a shot at goal in favour of an extra touch or an ambitious pass and the opportunity was gone. But Haringey were also threatening, and the home crowd were soon baying for blood as another assistant’s flag disallowed a fourth goal. The game was end to end, with both sides looking to break quickly from defence. It was a quick counter attack that restored Boro’s lead after 67 minutes. Merstham sub Calum Davies misplaced a pass deep in Haringey’s half and 30 seconds later, the ball was in the Moatsiders net. McDonald, looking suspiciously close to offside again, raced onto a through ball by Baker, rounded Tangara with some ease and slotted it into an empty net. But once again, Merstham showed plenty of grit and determination and were soon back on level terms. A long ball down the line by Harry Osborne found Figueira wide on the left. The Merstham forward drove into the box and attempted to chip the ball past the back-pedaling defender and immediately appealed for a penalty as Mitchell appeared to use an arm. Referee Aji Ajibola agreed and pointed to the spot. Then came a moment of pure genius by Kershaney Samuels. The Boro keeper remonstrated and, in time-honoured fashion, attempted to delay the kick by retreating slowly back to his line. As soon as he was on his line, the referee blew his whistle for the kick to be taken. At that point, Kershaney Samuels was standing by the ball with the ball on the spot. Everyone, and most of all the Boro keeper, expected Samuels to walk back to take a run up. But instead, the quick-witted midfielder simply took one pace and slotted the spot kick into the bottom corner past a bemused keeper. A perfectly legal goal, but it didn’t prevent the Haringey players haranguing the referee, with the embarrassed keeper protesting that he wasn’t ready. Nonetheless, the goal stood and the Moatsiders were again level at 2-2. For the final 15 minutes, Boro launched a wave of attacks to try and get the winner, but the Merstham back four, marshaled brilliantly by Tutu Henriques, were outstanding. It wasn’t one-way traffic however, and when Merstham broke, they did so with pace and precision and looked capable of grabbing a winner themselves. But the game ended with honours even, which was probably the right result on the day. But a great all-round team performance from the Moatsiders, continuing their impressive sequence of results against the top four sides.

Merstham: Amadou Tangara, Harry Osborne, Tom Bird, Simon Cooper (c), Tutu Henriques, Kershaney Samuels, Roman Michael-Percil, Kenny Beaney, Walter Figueira, Caio Guimaraes (Calum Davies 59), Tayshan Hayden-Smith.

Unused subs: Ben Harrison, Lewis Pearce, Ben Drake, Morgan Chatfield.

Man of the Match : Kershaney Samuels

 

Saturday 22nd December 2018

Bostik League Premier Division

Merstham 4 v 1 Dorking Wanderers

Report by Chris Pullen

A devastating burst of 3 goals in five first half minutes blew away high-flying Dorking Wanderers as Merstham made it three wins in succession and moved into the top half of the table.  Winning is always nice, but the quality of the football being played by Hayden Bird’s men in recent weeks has been attracting rave reviews from all quarters. 

 

Unsurprisingly, the side that had played so well against Lewes on Wednesday night was given another opportunity to test themselves against one of the league’s top sides, as big-spending Dorking arrived at The Specsavers Stadium level on points with second-place Lewes.

 

As you might have expected from a local derby, the opening ten minutes was frenetic as tackles flew in and the man in possession had very little time on the ball. Dorking probably enjoyed the greater share of possession early on and rather like Wednesday’s game, it took a little while before the Moatsiders were able to get their passing game going. Merstham did create the first opening after 8 minutes when Walter Figueira set up a shooting chance for Tayshan Hayden-Smith, but his shot was well blocked by a Dorking defender. At the other end, a free kick by Matt Briggs gave Amadou Tangara an anxious moment as he shovelled the bouncing ball away. A Merstham corner in the 20th minute found Figueira, whose flick was cleared off the line by David Ray. Then after 28 minutes came the opening goal. It came from a dreadful pass by Lewis Taylor straight to Gus Sow just inside the Dorking half. But the Merstham midfielder still had plenty to do. Running at the back-peddling defenders, Sow used the runs of his teammates as a diversion and drove into the box. As Dorking keeper Huk came out, Sow finished with a delightful dink over the keeper and into the empty net. Two minutes later, a clever interchange between Figueira and Hayden-Smith gave the Merstham forward a clear sight of goal and Huk did well to tip his goal-bound effort over. But it was only a short reprieve. From Kenny Beaney’s corner, an unmarked Tutu Henriques rose above everyone and his powerful header into the top corner put the Moatsiders two up. A minute later and the Merstham faithful were thinking Christmas had come early, as Figueira made it 3-0. Hayden-Smith and Kershaney Samuels opened up the Wanderers defence and Samuels jinked his way to the bye-line before hammering in a low cross where Figueira was lurking to finish from close range. A minute later it was almost four, as Huk did well to push away a Hayden-Smith shot from 25 yards and then did even better to block Figueira’s follow-up, who was first to the loose ball. Tangara was finally called into action to block a shot by McShane and Moore should have done better from the rebound. Dorking looked shell-shocked and it was all too much for Briggs, who took out his frustration on Tom Bird and earned himself a straight red card for a reckless challenge, with just over five minutes of the half remaining. 

 

Dorking made three changes at the start of the second half and the intent was fairly clear, as the first few minutes of the second half saw Merstham players clattered into at every opportunity. Without wishing to second guess what the instructions might have been at the interval, it looked as though the aim was to provoke some retaliation from the Moatsiders and perhaps even up the numbers on the pitch. After an incident-packed first half, the second half was notable only for a series of tetchy fouls and several poor challenges. It certainly disrupted the football of the home side, although the Moatsiders were understandably more interested in managing the game, rather than adding to their tally. That said, Merstham still looked dangerous going forward and it took the out-stretched boot of Huk to deny Hayden-Smith a fourth. With 15 minutes left, Dorking were awarded a free kick centrally, right on the edge of the area and Jason Prior fired home to give Wanderers a consolation. But the Moatsiders were to have the final word. A superb through ball by sub Ciao Guimaraes, who again showed some sublime touches, found Kershaney Samuels all alone on the right. As Huk advanced to narrow the angle, Samuels produced a delightful chip over the stranded keeper to restore the three-goal advantage. New signing Manny Ighoare went close in added time with a shot narrowly past the left upright as the Moatsiders made it five wins in six games. 

 

Merstham: Amadou Tangara, Harry Osborne, Tom Bird, Simon Cooper (c), Tutu Henriques, Tom Kavanagh, Gus Sow, Kenny Beaney, Walter Figueira (Calum Davies 65), Kershaney Samuels (Manny Ighorae 89), Tayshan Hayden-Smith (Caio Guimaraes 83).

Unused subs: Ollie Cook, Ben Harrison.

Man of the Match : Gus Sow

 

Wednesday 19th December 2018

Bostik League Premier Division

Merstham 3 v 2 Lewes

Report by Chris Pullen

High-flying Lewes were brought down to earth by a superb, all-round team performance from the Moatsiders. It was an entertaining and hard-fought encounter, packed full of incident and a great advert for non-league football.

Merstham’s team sheet showed two changes from the side that won so well away at Potters Bar. Tom Bird came in and left back and Kershaney Samuels shrugged off his ankle injury to return to midfield.

The game started off at a frantic pace. On a surface made slick by heavy rain, the visitors from the south coast pressed the Moatsiders hard all over the pitch and succeeded in disrupting Merstham’s short passing game in the first quarter of an hour. Lewes had the better of the early exchanges as Merstham struggled to cope with the high energy press. In the 16th minute, Tutu Henriques was penalised for a challenge on the edge of his box. Lewes’ James Hammond drilled the resulting free kick low into the right hand corner of the net, past Amadou Tangara’s despairing dive. At this stage of the game, Lewes were good value for their lead and while Merstham were playing some nice football, it was all being played in front of the Lewes defensive lines, and rarely looked threatening. That all changed in the 21st minute with one of the goals of the season so far. Simon Cooper won the ball deep in his own half and carried it forward before finding Walter Figueira. There then followed a passage of play that would not have looked out of place in any football stadium in the world, as the ball zipped between Beaney, Hayden-Smith, Samuels and Figueira, leaving defenders chasing shadows. Cooper had continued his run forward and when the ball arrived at his feet 20 yards out, the Merstham skipper coolly picked his spot and found the bottom corner as the ball skipped off the slick surface past Lewes keeper Carey. The goal changed the game. The Lewes high-energy press was less effective as the Moatsiders played their way around it. Tom Kavanagh and Kenny Beaney were immense in the middle of the park, Kershaney Samuels was knitting things together between the lines, while Gus Sow did enough running for two players. In the 33rd minute, Merstham took the lead. Beaney sprayed a pass out to the right wing where Harry Osborne was galloping forward. The right back took the ball in stride, before delivering a superb low cross across the six yard box that defenders and goalkeepers hate. Walter Figueira, celebrating his permanent move to Albury Road, could hardly miss from close range. Merstham very nearly made it three straight from the Lewes restart, when the ever-alert Gus Sow pinched the ball from a sleeping Lewes defender and found Figueira, whose powerful drive was well-saved by Carey. The Moatsiders went in 2-1 up at the break and well worth their lead.   

    

When you lead at the interval, the last thing you want to do is to concede at the start of the second half, which is just what happened. With just three minutes gone, Lewes’ Luke Blewden cut inside from the right flank, skipped past three challenges and found the bottom corner from the edge of the box. A fine goal, though defensively the Moatsiders will probably feel they could have done more to avert the danger. A goal that early on might have changed the momentum of the game, but to their credit, Merstham shrugged it off and continued to play their football and still looked the better side. The game however, became increasingly tetchy and referee Gerry Heron was repeatedly reaching into his pocket for the yellow card as the challenges flew in from both sides. On the hour mark, another Lewes free kick from Hammond almost gave the visitors the lead, but this time Tangara got enough on the ball to turn it onto the post and away for a corner. Kenny Beaney was then denied by a sprawling block by a Lewes defender, with the ball deflecting for a corner. From the corner, the ball dropped to Figueira in the box and the Merstham striker reacted faster than anyone to control it with one touch,before jabbing the ball into the net for his second and restore Merstham's lead in the 67’. Tackles flew in as the visitors piled forward, but Merstham defended well and looked dangerous on the break and Kenny Beaney went close to adding to the lead with two minutes remaining. In the 90th minute, Gus Sow went on yet another lung-bursting run forward. But he slightly over-ran the ball and then lunged in to try and win it back. Having already been booked in the first half, it was no great surprise to see a second yellow, followed by a red for the Merstham man, which was an unfortunate end to his otherwise excellent performance. Sub Ciao Guimaraes almost put the icing on the cake in the fifth minute of added time, when he coolly wrong-footed a defender and the goalkeeper, but his shot found the foot of the post.     

 

Merstham: Amadou Tangara, Harry Osborne, Tom Bird, Simon Cooper (c), Tutu Henriques, Tom Kavanagh, Gus Sow, Kenny Beaney, Walter Figueira (Calum Davies 90), Kershaney Samuels, Tayshan Hayden-Smith (Caio Guimaraes 81).

Unused subs: Ollie Cook, Ben Harrison, Manny Ighorae

Man of the Match : Tom Kavanagh 

Saturday 15th December 2018

Bostik League Premier Division

Potters Bar Town 0 v 1 Merstham

Report by Chris Pullen

Merstham battled hard against both Potter Bar and truly appalling weather and playing conditions to earn a well-deserved three points. It was an important win for the Moatsiders, showing once again their resilience and character in bouncing back from a disappointing result in midweek. Manager Hayden Bird took one look at the less than pristine playing surface and went inside to make changes to how his side would play. The only personnel change was the return of Harry Osborne to the side at right back.

 

By kick off time, 'Storm Deirdre' had arrived and with the rain hammering down and a freezing cold wind often making the rain horizontal, it was always going to be challenging conditions for both sides. But the Moatsiders admirably stuck to the footballing beliefs of their manager, and tried to keep the ball on the deck and play out from the back whenever possible. The weather was a big factor in a fairly scrappy first half, but what football there was invariably came from the visitors. They looked by far the more dangerous, though for all their good approach play, the end product was all too frequently lacking. Tayshan Hayden-Smith's snap shot on 15 minutes called Town keeper Laurencin into action for the first time, though it was a save you'd expect the keeper to make. A strike from distance from Tom Kavanagh went narrowly wide and Hayden-Smith went close again, when he latched onto a poor clearance from the Town keeper, only to see his goal-bound effort intercepted by a covering defender. On the half hour, Gus Sow probably should have done better with a shooting opportunity from the edge of the box, but he lent back and the ball sailed over the crossbar. At the other end, the Merstham back four and keeper were largely untroubled, as the Moatsiders midfield controlled the game. Five minutes before the break, a good counter-attack created another shooting chance for Walter Figuiera, but his curling effort again failed to find the target. The half ended 0-0, but the visitors should have gone in a goal or two to the good, given the chances they had created. 

 

The opening exchanges in the second period were no different. In the 49th minute, Simon Cooper will feel he should have scored with a free header from a corner. A few minutes later a smothering high press from the Moatsiders won the ball back deep in Town's half and Hayden-Smith found the ball at his feet with just the keeper to beat. But Laurencin did well to spread himself and blocked the shot with his legs. Potters Bar finally made a good chance of their own when adventurous right back Bettache was given a rare shooting opportunity, but he blazed wide when well-placed. In the 63rd minute, Merstham finally got the goal they deserved, which unexpectedly arrived from a set piece. Kenny Beaney swung in a corner from the right and Walter Figueira was first to it, deftly glancing the ball into the far corner. The goal finally galvanized the home team into action and a powerful run from sub Morgan-Cummings and clever pass gave Cole a clear sight of goal, but the forward was wasteful with his finish. The final 15 minutes became quite frenetic as Potters Bar began to throw men forward and the Moatsiders launched a series of counter attacks which could and should have doubled the lead on several occasions. However, a combination of good defending and indifferent finishing meant that there was still only one goal in it. With just over five minutes left, there was a strange incident, when Merstham keeper Amadou Tangara, with the ball in his hands, but no-one near him, gestured to his face and went down. It was soon apparent the keeper was in some distress as worried players gathered round and both physios attended to him. No-one watching could quite work out what the problem was, but after the game it was revealed that the goalkeeper had suffered a form of hypothermia, brought about by the freezing wind and driving rain, which had affected his vision and balance. At one point it looked as though he would need to be replaced, but the Merstham stopper bravely carried on after lengthy treatment. Potters Bar sensed their chance as the Moatsiders retreated to protect their goalkeeper, and piled forward in search of the equaliser. With a few minutes of the 90 remaining, Tangara performed heroics as he produced a terrific block to deny Costa at close range, after the ball had ricocheted around the Merstham box. But Tangara could do nothing when, in the fifth minute of added time, he was beaten by a Wynter shot. But fortunately for the Moatsiders, the ball smacked against the foot of the post. Much to the relief of both sets of players and the hardy 111 spectators that had braved the elements, a few moments later the referee blew for full time. It is rare to see both sets of players run off the pitch at the end, but that in itself gives a good indication of the horrendous weather.

 

Merstham: Amadou Tangara, Harry Osborne, Ben Harrison, Simon Cooper (c), Tutu Henriques, Tom Kavanagh, Gus Sow, Kenny Beaney, Calum Davies (Kershaney Samuels 45), Walter Figueira, Tayshan Hayden-Smith (Tom Bird 73).

Unused subs: Ollie Cook, Caio Guimaraes, Eoin Kirwan

Man of the Match : Harry Osborne 

 

Tuesday 11th December 2018

Bostik League Premier Division

Merstham 0 v 2 Leatherhead

Report by Chris Pullen

Merstham's inconsistent form continued as they were well-beaten by a Leatherhead side, themselves struggling to string together a run of results. Manager Hayden Bird had no complaints about the result, but felt his side's decision-making when in possession left a lot to be desired on the night. It was a scrappy game, with the Moatsiders rarely able to get their trademark short passing game going, against a physically bigger and stronger outfit. In fairness to Leatherhead, they played to their strengths and pressed the home side at every opportunity for the majority of the game. That led to Merstham resorting to a number of uncharacteristic long, hopeful balls towards the front runners, who were never going to win much in the air and bigger and stronger defenders. 

 

Merstham did get the first strike on target, when Kenny Beaney asked questions of the Leatherhead keeper, but the Tanners went straight down the other end and keeper Amadou Tangara was forced into a far more difficult block to keep out a powerful effort from Shaun Okojie. Merstham were definitely off the pace and looked heavy-legged as a team. Leatherhead were quicker and sharper all over the pitch and began to take control of the game. Jerry Amoo somehow failed to make proper contact with a free

header from 8 yards which bounced tamely into Tangara's gloves. Merstham showed occasional flashes of form and a good move between Kershaney Samuels and Walter Figueira released Calum Davies, but the Merstham man could only find the side netting from a tight angle. It was however, no great surprise when the Tanners took the lead in the 27th minute, though Merstham will be disappointed with the manner in which they conceded it. A free kick from the right was curled in towards the far post and Ibrahim Olutade arrived relatively unopposed to bundle the ball home from close range. Two minutes later and the Moatiders dodged a bullet when Okojie missed a sitter from a cross, when it looked easier to score. Merstham then had Ben Harrison to thank for covering behind his keeper and being perfectly placed to head one off the line after a Leatherhead counter attack had ripped through the Moatsiders rear guard. The general consensus at half time was that Leatherhead could and probably should have been two or three up at the break, given the clear-cut chances they'd created. 

 

The second half continued as the first ended and on 47', a corner wasn't cleared and their was a scramble in the box before a strike from Olutade was deflected wide. With the Moatsiders rarely looking like getting back in the game, Hayden Bird made a tactical switch in the 65th minute, and brought on Harry Osborne for Calum Davies, pushing Kershaney Samuels into a more familiar central midfield role and Walter Figueira into the central striker role. The move had almost instant results. The Moatsiders were getting their foot on the ball in midfield, as Samuels was finding room where none had previously existed. For 10 minutes, they began to push the Tanners back for the first time and an equaliser didn't look completely out of the question. Then came the sucker punch. With most of the team pushed on, the Moatsiders gave the ball away in the centre circle and a through ball split the out-of-position Merstham centre backs, giving Okojie a clear run at goal. Having missed two sitters, the Tanners forward finished with aplomb by chipping Tangara as the Merstham keeper left his line to narrow the angle. Merstham's Gus Sow did finally get one on target with a powerful drive from almost 30 yards than smacked against the foot of the post with perhaps the faintest of touches from the Tanners keeper. Two minutes from time, Leatherhead almost made in three when Okojie's header from a corner rattled the crossbar. 

 

Merstham: Amadou Tangara, Kershaney Samuels, Ben Harrison, Simon Cooper, Tutu Henriques, Tom Kavanagh, Gus Sow, Kenny Beaney, Calum Davies (Harry Osborne 64), Walter Figueira, Tayshan Hayden-Smith (Tom Bird 78).

Unused subs: Ollie Cook, Caio Guimaraes, Eoin Kirwan, Fabio Saraiva.

Man of the Match : Tutu Henriques 

 

Saturday 8th December 2018

Bostik League Premier Division

Merstham 1 v 0 Whitehawk

Report by Chris Pullen

It took a well-taken goal 10 minutes from time by Kenny Beaney to finally end Whitehawk's stubborn resistance, but for 80 minutes, the Moatsiders completely dominated this encounter and did everything but score. 

 

On an afternoon punctuated by torrential downpours, Merstham’s injury crisis meant that it was largely an unchanged side from the team that beat Worthing in the Velocity Trophy in midweek. The only change was the return of Kenny Beaney. Merstham started brightly and the pattern of the game was established early on; Merstham with most of the possession and Whitehawk content to sit and hope to counter attack, though as the game wore on, those counter-attacks became more and more infrequent. The Moatsiders looked dangerous going forward and Walter Figueira was very much to the fore early on, as he constantly asked questions of the Whitehawk defence. There were a few close shaves for the Hawks as the ball skidded through their penalty area without finding a Merstham man. The first real effort on goal came in the 16th minute, when Kershaney Samuels got forward from his right-back slot and fired in a low shot that skidded off the slick surface. The Hawks keeper, Melvin Minter, who was in for a busy afternoon, did well to push it away and then recovered quickly to block Tayshan Hayden-Smith’s follow-up at close range. Kenny Beaney was then desperately unlucky to see his shot hit the inside of the left post, seemingly roll along the line and then out for a goal kick on the right side. In the 28th minute, a Merstham corner was half cleared to the edge of the box to Simon Cooper. The Merstham skipper hooked it left-footed over his shoulder and watched it beat Minter, but smack against the post. Two minutes later it was Calum Davies’ turn to test Minter from range and the Hawks keeper just managed to get his body behind it but couldn’t hold it. The ball went back out to the edge of the box, where Gus Sow curled a right-footer which seemed to graze the post as Minter scrambled desperately to keep it out. On a rare excursion forward, a through ball almost found Whitehawk’s lone striker Nathen Pinney, but Merstham keeper Amadou Tangara was out like a flash and made an excellent sliding tackle outside his box to deny the Hawks man. With seven minutes of the first half left, Merstham thought they had finally opened their account when Calum Davies lashed home a deflected shot. The referee initially gave a goal, but seemingly influenced by vociferous protests by the Whitehawk players, he went to consult his linesman, which was an odd thing to do considering the assistant had not flagged, nor called the referee over. After a brief exchange, the referee disallowed the Merstham goal, presumably for hand ball, which is what the Hawks players were appealing for. A controversial decision to say the least. On the stroke of half time, Tom Kavanagh found himself in the box with a bouncing ball and cleverly lifted it over Minter, but the keeper back-pedaled swiftly and flicked the ball over the bar. In added time, Simon Cooper hit a thunderous drive, but straight at Minter, who palmed it over. 

 

The second half began as the first half ended. If anything, Merstham dominated even more and Whitehawk rarely got out of their own half. Sow, Kavanagh and Beaney were dominating midfield and it seemed only a matter of time before Merstham opened the scoring. In the 48th minute Calum Davies was put clear by Figueira but failed to hit the target. In the 52th minute, Figueira flicked on a corner and a second header from Tutu Henriques crashed against the Hawk’s crossbar. A minute later and another chance went begging for Merstham as Davies went close. By now the heavens had opened and it looked as though Whitehawk would need divine intervention to survive, but somehow they kept a rampant home side at bay. Shots were being fired in from all angles and Minter must have felt like a target in a shooting gallery. But a combination of good defending and wasteful finishing was beginning to frustrate players and spectators alike. A Kershaney Samuels free kick skimmed the bar and then Minter tipped a Figueira shot away. Just when it looked as though Whitehawk would somehow escape with a point, Merstham scored. A short corner between Samuels and Beaney allowed the midfielder to cut into the box and then instead of power, he opted for a clever side side-footed finish low inside the near post. The goal celebrations were as much relief as joy. Whitehawk threw caution to the wind and did force Tangara into a relatively routine save as the game entered added time. It was a good performance and a well-deserved win, although Merstham will know they should have won far more comfortably than the single goal margin.

 

Merstham: Amadou Tangara, Kershaney Samuels, Ben Harrison, Simon Cooper, Tutu Henriques, Tom Kavanagh, Gus Sow, Kenny Beaney, Calum Davies (Caio Guimaraes 89), Walter Figueira, Tayshan Hayden-Smith (Tom Bird 83).

Unused subs: Ollie Cook, Eoin Kirwan, Fabio Saraiva.

Man of the Match : Gus Sow 

 

Tuesday 4th December 2018

Velocity Trophy

Worthing 1 v 3 Merstham

Report by Chris Pullen

What a difference 72 hours makes! After turning in their worst performance of the season at Folkestone, Merstham bounced back in style and ended up comfortable winners of this Velocity Trophy cup tie. Given their pre-match preparation, the victory was all the more remarkable. The match kicked off 30 minutes later than the scheduled 7.45pm start, because half of the Merstham side had been delayed by traffic problems on the M23. A number of the players did little more than a few stretches before they were walking out onto the pitch. The squad has been hit by a string of injuries, especially to defenders, and manager Hayden Bird didn't have much to play with in terms of rotating the starting line up, though he did hand midfielder Eoin Kirwan his first start in the centre of midfield. His debut did not get off to the best of starts when he was clattered in the first 5 minutes and was down for several minutes while he was checked over, given it was a head injury, but he recovered sufficiently to put in a solid 75 minutes. 

 

Understandably, the Moatsiders took a little while to settle, and Worthing started the better, but without really threatening the Merstham goal. The first real opening fell to Calum Davies after 15 minutes, when he was denied by Worthing's keeper Kleton Perntpedu, after being put through by a fine ball by Tayshan Hayden-Smith. In the 19th minute, Merstham keeper Amadou Tangara comfortably tipped a free kick by Worthing skipper Sam Rents over the bar. However, from the resulting corner, the referee penalised Walter Figueira for a shirt tug and pointed to the spot. James Crane made no mistake to put the home side one up. But Merstham responded well. Figueira almost made amends a few minutes later, when a superb turn and shot was blocked well by the legs of Perntpedu. Figueira was a real handful for the Worthing defence and several times he beat his man with ease, and whipped in some great crosses that no one in amber could quite reach. But the pressure was mounting and Merstham were in the ascendancy. They got the equaliser they deserved four minutes before the break. A deep corner found Ben Harrison, who did well to head the ball back into the six yard box and Simon Cooper was quickest to react and fired home off the underside of the cross bar. Even before the half time whistle went, both Figueira and Hyden-Smith had decent chances to put the visitors in front, but neither were able to hit the target.

 

From the start of second half, the Moatsiders were the dominant side. They pressed the Rebels high up the pitch and although Worthing insisted on trying to play out from the back, the pressure applied by the Merstham forwards and midfielders meant they often were forced into surrendering possession in dangerous parts of the pitch. In the 50th minute, the Moatsiders broke up a Worthing attack and sprang forward. A good ball from Gus Sow released Figueira, and he drove forward, before putting in dangerous low cross. Calum Davies and a Worthing defender got to the ball together and the ball went spinning off a foot into the net. The Merstham forward was in no doubt after the game it was his touch that was the decisive one! He almost grabbed a second five minutes later, as his shot only just cleared the bar and it took a last-ditch tackle by Crane to deny Hayden-Smith when he looked certain to score. It was all Merstham now and only real worry was that the Moatsiders hadn't killed the game off, as chance after chance went begging. Figueria called the Worthing keeper into action more than once and it seemed only a matter of time before a third goal arrived. Arrive it eventually did, nine minutes from the end. Davies' pass found his strike partner wide on the right. Figueira teased and turned his defender inside out before firing across the keeper and in off the far post to seal the win for the Moatsiders. Even in the dying minutes, both Figueira and Sow had chances to add a fourth, which would not have flattered the visitors.

 

Merstham: Amadou Tangara, Kershaney Samuels, Ben Harrison, Simon Cooper, Tutu Henriques, Tom Kavanagh, Gus Sow, Eoin Kirwan (Caio Guimaraes 75),  Calum Davies, Walter Figuira, Tayshan Hayden-Smith.

Unused subs: Ollie Cook, Kenny Beaney, Fabio Saraiva, Michael Abnett

Man of the Match : The team  

 

Saturday 1st December 2018

Bostik League Premier Division

Folkestone Invicta 6 v 2 Merstham

Report by Chris Pullen

Merstham paid the price for some dreadful defending, coupled with a host of individual errors that ensured the game was over as a contest after just 16 minutes, with the Moatsiders already three goals down. Well-beaten on the day, all you can hope is that 'it was one of those games' that you do get during the course of a season.

 

On a thoroughly unpleasant afternoon on the Kent coast, the Moatsiders lengthening injury list meant another re-shuffle at the back. With Ollie Cook and Simon Cooper only fit enough for the bench and Harry Osborne and Michael Abnett out, boss Hayden Bird opted for a 3-5-2 formation with Tutu Henriques, Jake Hutchings and Ben Harrison as the back three. Perhaps it was the proximity of the English Channel, but Merstham however, looked all at sea from the opening moments. Folkestone took control of the game from the kick off and it took a fine reflex save by Merstham keeper Amadou Tangara in the third minute to keep the scores level. But that was only a temporary reprieve. In the 8th minute, Jake Hutchings, running back towards his own goal, with Invicta's Ian Draycott in pursuit, was uncharacteristically indecisive and robbed. The ball ran loose and Draycott fired home off from the edge of the box, off Tangara's arm. Two minutes later and it was 2-0. Midfielder Alfie Paxman waltzed through the statuesque Merstham back line without a challenge worthy of the name, and side footed it past Tangara, in off the post. It soon got worse. A through ball from O'Mara, found McCann with no defender near him, with a clear run on goal. McCann lobbed it over Tangara and saw his shot come back off the bar. But the Invicta man was the first to react to the rebound and volleyed the bouncing ball home to make it 3-0.  Merstham at this point, had barely got out of their own half. But gradually, the shell-shocked visitors began to string a few passes together. In the 24th minute, the Moatsiders were awarded a free kick just outside the box. Tom Bird hit a low drive, which flicked off a defender, wrong-footing Invicta keeper Roberts, and ended up in the back of the net. Suddenly there was a glimmer of hope. But Hayden Bird had seen he needed to make a change in formation as the back three clearly wasn't working. He brought on Simon Cooper for Ben Harrison, and opted for a more familiar 4-2-3-1.  Then out of the blue, Merstham scored again. Good work on the left flank by Walter Figueira saw him beat his man and put in a teasing cross. Calum Davies competed for it, with the result that the ball dropped invitingly to Gus Sow who could hardly miss from six yards. Half and hour played and it was suddenly 3-2. But almost immediately it was 4-2. From the restart, a long ball was played into the channel and Invicta's Yusuff did well to chase down the ball and fire in a low, near-post cross. Draycott's initial effort was blocked by Tangara, but the rebound fell to the Invicta man who made no mistake the second time from close range. Tom Bird tested Roberts with another free kick that the Invicta keeper did well to fist away. Tom Kavanagh was booked and shortly after committed another relatively innocuous offence, but that didn't stop the Folkestone players surrounding the referee and demanding a second yellow for the Merstham midfielder. It was clear that Kavanagh was told 'one more and you're off' by referee Myatt. Finally the first half goal-fest came to an end with Folkestone 4-2 in front.

 

It was no great surprise when Tom Kavanagh didn't reappear for the second half, with Tayshan Hayden-Smith on in his place. At 4-2, there was still a glimmer of hope that the Moatsiders could pull another one back and put their opponents under pressure. However, that dream was punctured almost immediately. Ninety seconds after the restart, a Folkestone free kick wide on the left was swung in towards goal by Draycott, but seemingly comfortably into the waiting hands of Amadou Tangara. However, the ball, like a wet bar of soap, squirted through the hands of the Merstham keeper and ended up in the net to make it 5-2 and that was pretty much game over. Aside from a series of bookings by the referee, some of which were justified, but others seemed harsh to say the least, the second half was a bit of a damp squib, much like the weather. Neither goalkeeper was tested again and both sides seemed to have accepted the result. The conditions were difficult, with a cross wind and driving rain, but the pace of the game slowed considerably. As the game entered the fourth minute of added time, Paxman played a one-two on the right touchline, outpaced Hutchings and coolly sent Tangara the wrong way to add a sixth and make the Moatsiders' misery complete.  

 

Merstham: Amadou Tangara, Gus Sow, Tom Bird, Ben Harrison (Simon Cooper 27), Tutu Henriques, Jake Hutchings, Tom Kavanagh (Tayshan Hayden-Smith 45), Kenny Beaney, Calum Davies, Walter Figuira (Caio Guimaraes 83), Kershaney Samuels (c).

Unused subs:  Eoin Kirwan, Ollie Cook.

Man of the Match : none   

 

Saturday 17th November 2018

Bostik League Premier Division

Burgess Hill Town 3 v 0 Merstham

Report by Chris Pullen

One word sums up this match. Frustration. Quite how the Moatsiders came away from the Green Elephant Stadium with nothing to show for their afternoon's work beggars belief, such was their dominance for large parts of the game. It was just 'one of those games'. Merstham twice hit the woodwork and carved out several clear-cut chances, but just couldn't find the back of the net. Burgess Hill on the other hand, rode their luck, but made the post of the opportunities that came their way. In terms of the performance, it's hard to criticise the Moatsiders, except in one key area - their finishing. Merstham will undoubtedly play a lot worse and win during the remainder of the season.

 

With a squad still depleted by injuries, manager Hayden Bird opted to change his formation to 3-5-2. On the plus side, he was able to welcome back Ollie Cook from injury, who went straight back into the starting line up. 

 

On a mild and sunny November afternoon, the early exchanges were quite scrappy and while the Moatsiders were nowhere near their fluent best, they still looked the better side. Merstham first struck the woodwork in the 13th minute. Harry Osborne clipped in a cross from the right wing, which was missed by everyone and fortunately for home side, hit the inside of the far post and bounced away to safety. Merstham were by now settling into the game and beginning to put some nice interchanges together. One slick passing move on 17' gave Walter Figueira a shooting opportunity, but it was a fairly comfortable stop for Hillian's keeper Josh James. A few minutes later, Osborne's clever through ball put Figueira through and the Merstham forward's strike flew past James and smacked against the same post, before being hacked to safety. In the 24th minute, Figueira was unlucky when his perfectly-executed bicycle kick from six yards flew straight into James' midriff. By this point, the Moatsiders were totally in control of the game and it looked only a matter of time before they opened the scoring. Naturally therefore, it was Burgess Hill who took the lead, totally against the run of play. A low free kick was curled into the Moatsiders box and missed by everyone except for James Richmond, who slid in and guided the ball home from 8 yards to put Town one up after 29 minutes. Merstham then had a glorious chance to equalise five minutes later. Gus Sow outpaced the last defender and was able to latch onto a bad back pass. He knocked the ball past the Hillians keeper, who had raced out of his box to try and clear the danger. It appeared that all he had to do was knock the ball into an empty net. But a recovering defender probably did enough for Sow not to try and score himself. Instead he squared the ball to Calum Davies, but his shot was blocked and somehow the ball was scrambled away. At that point, you began to wonder if it just wasn't meant to be for the Moatsiders. On the stroke of half-time, Davies and Figueira combined well to put Figueira through, but James did well to spread himself and block Figueira's close-range effort. In first half added time, a rare slip by Ollie Cook almost gifted Town another, but Amadou Tangara was out quickly and bravely to dive at the feet of the Town forward to prevent the Moatsiders going in two down. In reality, if the visitors had left the field 3-1 ahead, there would have been very few complaints. But instead, they went into the break a goal down.

 

In fairness to Burgess Hill, they made life much harder for the Moatsiders in the second half. They certainly offered more of a goal threat going forward, and their defenders didn't give Merstham nearly as many sights of goal. That said, there were also times when the Moatsiders overplayed and made poor decisions in crucial areas of the pitch. Burgess Hill more potent attack carved out two chances on the hour mark. First Tangara had to be out smartly to block at the feet of Ben Pope and moments later, Pope blazed wildly over the bar when clear on goal. Merstham continued to enjoy a lot of possession, but, unlike the first half, they weren't creating much by way of opportunities. With 20 minutes left, a goalmouth scramble almost brought Merstham an equaliser, but Town defenders threw themselves in the way and blocked a seemingly goal-bound effort by Tom Kavangah, which had the Merstham midfielder screaming at the referee that his shot had been defected wide by an arm. With five minutes left, substitute Tayshan Hayden-Smith almost found a way throw when he cut inside and hit a venomous low drive, but James produced a fine save. Ollie Cook was thrown upfront as a makeshift target man. But inevitably gaps were appearing at the back for Merstham, as they threw bodies forward in search of the equaliser. A Burgess Hill counter attack was stopped on the edge of the Moatsiders' box, but unfairly according to referee Robson. Up stepped Pope to curl the free kick over and around the wall, into the net to give Town all three points. Just to rub salt into the wound, Deacon added a third in stoppage time to make the final score very unbalanced. But, if you don't take your chances, it's hard to win football matches and Merstham will reflect on their last three league encounters where they've dominated matches but failed to turn their superiority into three points. 

 

 

Merstham: Amadou Tangara, Harry Osborne, Tom Bird, Ben Harrison, Ollie Cook, Jake Hutchings, Tom Kavanagh, Gus Sow (Caio Guimaraes,70), Walter Figuira, Calum Davies (Tayshan Hayden-Smith 70), Kershaney Samuels (c).

Unused subs: Eoin Kirwan, Tutu Henriques, Timi Oshineye

Man of the Match : Harry Osborne          

 

Saturday 14th November 2018

Bostik League Premier Division

Merstham 1 v 1 Margate

Report by Chris Pullen

It was a game that could easily have gone either way. Merstham dominated the first half and went in a goal up, which didn’t really reflect their superiority. But Margate came back in the second half and were the better side, although both teams had chances to take all three points.

The Moatsiders had to call upon the services of the evergreen Tutu Henriques to bolster the defence, as Michael Abnett joined Simon Cooper and Ollie Cook on the lengthening injury list. Fabio Saraiva was also out, so Hayden Bird again had to tinker with his starting line-up, moving Harry Osbourne to right back and bringing in Tutu Henriques at centre-back. Tayshan Haden-Smith also returned to the side, having been cup-tied the previous week.

The Moatsiders were on their game straight from the kick off, playing their fluent brand of short, sharp passing that is appreciated throughout the league. Pressing high up the pitch, the visitors could do little more than clear their lines before the amber shirts were back in possession. Some of the one-touch football was a delight to watch. In the eleventh minute, the goal of the season competition was almost decided by an audacious effort by Walter Figueira. From a rare Margate corner, the Moatsiders cleared the ball towards Figueira. As the ball bounced in the centre-circle, Figueira saw Newcombe, the Margate keeper, off his line and volleyed the ball towards the Margate goal. The goal bounced over the frantically back-peddling goalkeeper and looked for all the world as if it would end up in the net. But the ball agonisingly just scraped the top of the bar and the watching spectators were denied a goal   that would have lived long in the memory. Tutu Henriques almost marked his return to the side with a rare goal. From a Kenny Beaney free kick, Henriques found himself in acres of space at the far post and his firm header was clawed away at the near post by Newcombe. On 34’, Merstham finally got the goal their dominance deserved. Harry Osbourne won a tackle deep in the Margate half and found Figueira on the edge of the box. The Merstham man’s fierce, low drive was too hot for the Margate keeper to hold and the ball ran loose in the six-yard box. Tashan Hayden-Smith was first to react and smashed the ball into the empty net as Margate defenders tried in vain to recover. A thoroughly deserved 1-0 lead at the break.

The second half was a different story. Margate were a far more difficult proposition and began to pen the Moatsiders inside their own half and look increasingly dangerous. Margate’s Sid Sollis had the first good chance of the half in the 55’, when a long cross found him in space at the back stick and Merstham keeper Amadou Tangara did well to parry his effort.  Four minutes later, a Margate free kick from Collins was deflected narrowly wide. But it wasn’t all one-way traffic. Kershaney Samuels, who was central to most of the Moatsiders best moments, created a shooting opportunity for Gus Sow, but the midfielder couldn’t keep his shot down. But it was no great surprise when Margate fashioned an equaliser in the 69th minute. The Moatsiders weren’t able to clear their lines from a corner and the ball was slung back into the box from the left flank, where Margate captain, Lewis Friend, was waiting at the far post. His header squeezed inside the near post and Amadou Tangara will probably be disappointed he wasn’t able to keep it out, but on the balance of play in the second half, it was hard to say Margate didn’t deserve it. Merstham had a shout for a penalty when sub Calum Davies was put clean through, but in the eyes of the officials, a last desperate lunge by the covering defender got enough of the ball and they waved away the Merstham claims. Tangara made amends for his earlier slip with a superb, one-handed save low to his left to keep out a close range header with ten minutes left and then made a good reflex stop from another header in the last few minutes. Both teams had half chances to win it as the clock ran down, but a draw seemed about right as the final whistle blew. 

          

Merstham: Amadou Tangara, Harry Osborne, Ben Harrison, Tom Kavanagh, Tutu Henriques  Jake Hutchings, Gus Sow (Tom Bird 77), Kenny Beaney ©, Walter Figuira, Kershaney Samuels, Tayshan Hayden-Smith (Calum Davies 67).

Unused subs: Caio Guimaraes, Eoin Kirwan

Man of the Match : Kershaney Samuels           

 

Saturday 10th November 2018

Buildbase FA Trophy

Salisbury 2 v 0 Merstham

Report by Chris Pullen

A hugely disappointing display from the Moatsiders saw them dumped out of the FA Trophy. Merstham produced one of their poorest performances of the season and a good Salisbury side took full advantage.Neither Ollie Cook nor Fabio Saraiva were fit enough to start the game having picked up injuries last time out and with Tayshan Haden-Smith cup-tied, manager Hayden Bird had to reshuffle his side, with Harry Osbourne, Gus Sow and Tom Bird all coming into the starting eleven. 

 

On a very wet day in Wiltshire, the Moatsiders actually started the game well, moving the ball crisply across the slick surface. But in the seventh minute, Salisbury took the lead. Salisbury had already threatened down the left flank, when left back Josh Sommerton found himself in acres of space and fired a low cross/shot into the Merstham box. Keeper Amadou Tangara could only push the ball out towards the penalty spot where Lewis Benson was waiting to hammer the ball home from ten yards. The goal lifted the home side and they looked increasingly dangerous as the half developed. The Moatsiders by contrast, lost their way. The midfield was being overrun and ball retention began to fall away, with far too many simple passes misplaced and forward passes largely non-existent. Walter Figueira, playing as the lone striker, rarely saw the ball and as a result, Merstham really didn’t offer any threat at all in the first half. The one bright spark was Jake Hutchings, who made a number of key tackles and interceptions as Salisbury continued to threaten. Ironically, it was a slip by Hutchings on the greasy surface that presented Benson with a good chance to add a second in the 23rd minute, but fortunately his shot was straight at Tangara. However, a second goal looked increasingly likely and it duly arrived in the 32nd minute following a Salisbury free kick. The ball was floated into the box and cleared as far as Salisbury’s Tom Whelen, who had a superb match. The Salisbury man collected the loose ball and seeing no-one was coming out to close him down, drove forward and hit a piledriver from 30 yards. The ball skimmed off the surface and found the bottom corner to make it 2-0 and already there was a sense it was game over. It could have been worse before half-time. Salisbury’s Zach Kotwica had a good chance which he dragged wide of the right-hand upright and then Amadou Tangara had to be quick off his line to save at Kotwica’s feet, after the striker had been put clear of the Moatsider’s back four. 

 

With Michael Abnett struggling with a knock, Hayden Bird re-jigged his side, bringing on Calum Davies up front, new signing Ciao Guimaraes in midfield and switched to a 4-4-2. For a short time, it looked as though the new formation would offer more threat and certainly Guimaraes showed some nice touches. But the second half soon became a carbon copy of the first, with Salisbury dominating in midfield and looking dangerous going forward. Merstham were poor in possession and rarely looked capable of getting back in the game. Jake Hutchings and Harry Osbourne did well to limit the number of goal-scoring opportunities, but Salisbury wasted several promising positions and could easily have added to their two goals. For the last 20 minutes, Merstham threw caution to the wind and went to a 4-3-3, but even then, they failed to get a shot on target in the whole 90 minutes. In added time, with Merstham’s players all forward for a free kick, the ball was cleared to Salisbury’s Kotwica who, with no defender in sight, ran from inside his own half with just Tangara to beat. But the Salisbury forward slid the ball past the post, keeping the margin of victory at two goals, which in all honesty rather flattered the visitors, having been comprehensively outplayed on the day.  

 

Merstham: Amadou Tangara, Michael Abnett (Caio Guimaraes 45) , Ben Harrison, Tom Kavanagh, Harry Osborne, Jake Hutchings, Gus Sow, Kenny Beaney, Walter Figuira, Kershaney Samuels, Tom Bird (Calum Davies 45).

Unused subs: Tutu Henriques, Ollie Cook, Eoin Kirwan

Man of the Match : Jake Hutchings

 

Saturday 3rd November 2018

Bostik League Premier Division

Harlow Town 1 v 4 Merstham

Report by Chris Pullen

 

Two goals in the last five minutes added a gloss to the final score, but make no mistake, the Moatsiders had to work hard to secure the three points. But the victory was achieved at some cost with both Ollie Cook and Fabio Saraiva limping off in the first half and both must be doubts for the FA Trophy game next week.

 

With Michael Abnett replacing the injured Simon Cooper at right back and Walter Figueira back to lead the line, the Moatsiders arrived at the McCullochs Arena unbeaten in the League since mid September. But the game could not have got off to a worse start as Merstham found themselves a goal down in 56 seconds. It really was a poor goal to concede. Town’s Matt Foy virtually walked through a couple of challenges on the edge of the Merstham box and poked a shot goalwards. The ball hit the inside of the post and rolled out to where Tom Hitchcock was lurking to fire home from a tight angle. But the Moatsiders gradually settled into the game and before long they were level. A lovely flighted cross from Kershaney Samuels found the head of Tayshan Hayden-Smith and the winger could hardly miss from a few yards out to make it 1-1 after 12 minutes. However, a minute later, Ollie Cook was forced to limp off with a thigh strain and was replaced by Harry Osborne, who had a fine match.

 

After an incident-packed first quarter of an hour, the game went rapidly downhill. Harlow spent the entire match knocking long, high balls forward, mainly from their goalkeeper, who may well have had more touches than any of their outfield players. The Merstham defence must have had a sense of déjà vu, as Tuesday’s game at AFC Hornchurch was very similar, with route one football the order of the day. As a spectacle, it was fairly dire, though credit the Moatsiders defence who dealt with the high ball very well on the whole. But the visitors didn’t do enough with the ball on the rare occasions it was on the ground and rather got sucked into playing too many long and hopeful passes, rather than focusing on ball retention. In added time at the end of the first half, Merstham breathed a sigh of relief when Hitchcock had a great chance to grab his second but fired wide from 10 yards.

 

Gus Sow replaced Fabio Saraiva at the break, who appeared to have an ankle injury and certainly brought some much-needed energy to the Merstham midfield. Sow made an instant impact when he combined well with Samuels on the edge of the Harlow box and as he was half-tackled, the ball ran loose to Walter Figueira, who finished well to give the Moatsiders the lead in the 50th minute. At last, the team in amber began to play their football and, on several occasions, Town players looked bewildered as the ball zipped around them. Michael Abnett was marauding down the right flank and Samuels, Sow, Kavanagh and Beaney were moving the ball around nicely in midfield. But for all their fine football, the Moatsiders didn’t create anything of note and there was always the risk that the aerial bombardment at the other end might lead to a chance and so it proved. A Town corner was not dealt with and the ball dropped kindly for Fabion Simms, but the defender fortunately dragged his shot wide. In the final minute of the ninety, Merstham at last made the game safe. A clever interchange between Tom Bird and Figueira on the right freed the Merstham forward who crossed into the feet of Kershaney Samuels. Samuels cleverly got his body between ball and defender and Town’s Harold Joseph tugged at the Merstham midfielder, who went down in the box. Referee Hancock immediately pointed to the spot and Tom Kavanagh stepped up to drill the penalty home. Joseph also received a second yellow for his rash challenge on Samuels. In the fourth minute of stoppage time, Tom Bird sprinted forward and just managed to get on the end of a through ball. He cleverly chipped the ball over the onrushing keeper to add a fourth and add a final gloss to the scoreline.

 

 

Merstham: Amadou Tangara, Michael Abnett , Ben Harrison, Tom Kavanagh, Ollie Cook (Harry Osborne 13) Jake Hutchings, Kershaney Samuels, Kenny Beaney, Walter Figuira, Fabio Saraiva (Gus Sow 45), Tayshan Hayden-Smith(Tom Bird 73).

 

Unused subs: Tutu Henriques, Calum Davies.

 

Man of the Match : Kershaney Samuels

Tuesday 30th October 2018

Bostik League Premier Division

AFC Hornchurch 1 v 1 Merstham

Report by Chris Pullen

Having totally outplayed Hornchurch for the majority of the game, Merstham almost paid the price when the home side took the lead ten minutes from the end, totally against the run of play. But the Moatsiders dug deep and earned a well-deserved point with an 88th minute equaliser. 

The team showed three changes from the weekend, with Kenny Beaney returning from suspension, Ben Harrison coming in at left back and Tayshan Hayden-Smith on the left flank. It was certainly a vastly improved performance, compared to the workmanlike performance against East Grinstead. From the first minute, the visitors looked by far the better side. Quicker in thought and movement, the Moatsiders were composed on the ball and put together a number of slick passing moves. The only criticism you could level at the visitors was there was no end product, but some of the football was delightful. Tayshan Hayden-Smith offered width, and his pace and trickery gave the Urchins defence problems all night. In the 22nd minute, he whipped a cross in to the near post and a diving header from Fabio Saraiva went narrowly wide. The Moatsiders had three or four shots on target, but all of them lacked the venom to seriously test the Hornchurch keeper. The closest was when a Kenny Beaney free kick from 25 yards was tipped over the bar, though again a save you’d expect the keeper to make. At the other end, the Merstham back four dealt with Hornchurch’s rudimentary route one style very comfortably, with centre backs Ollie Cook and Jake Hutchings outstanding in their positioning and decision-making. The Moatsiders almost opened their account  five minutes before the break, when Cooper went marauding down the right flank and drilled a low, hard cross along the line of the six yard box. Calum Davies tried to bundle the ball home but was denied by a last ditch tackle by a Hornchurch defender. Nil-nil at the break.

The second half was no different from the first, with the Moatsiders playing some excellent stuff and Hornchurch hoofing long balls towards their front runners at every opportunity. Kershaney Samuels, who was excellent all night, had a good chance to break the deadlock in the 51st minute, following more good work by Hayden-Smith, but couldn’t get any power behind his shot. A minute later, Hayden-Smith cut inside and hit a fierce shot which Chafer did well to turn over the bar. Hayden Bird showed his attacking intent by bringing on Walter Figueira in the 54’. On the hour, a beautiful, curling effort from the edge of the box by Samuels was narrowly off target. With 15 minutes left, Tom Bird replaced the excellent Ben Harrison. A minute later, a Merstham corner caused mayhem in the Urchins defence and the ball ran loose in the six yard box. Bodies flew in to try and force the ball home or block it, and in the ensuing melee, both Chafer and Cooper were left in a heap on the ground. It soon became clear that the injury to Simon Cooper was serious and he had to be stretchered off. Merstham were still reorganising their revamped back four when Hornchurch took the lead, with George Purcell firing home in the 79’, after cutting inside from the left flank. But the Moatsiders refused to throw in the towel and piled forward in search of an equaliser. It came two minutes from time. Ollie Cook broke up a Hornchurch attack, played the ball out to Figueira and then sprinted 70 yards to get into the opponent's box. Figueira drove down the right wing before hammering a low, hard cross into the danger area, where Cook was arriving quickly. Whether the Merstham centre-back would have got there is uncertain, but it created enough panic in the Urchins defence for Leon Smith to turn the ball into his own net. A point was the very least the Moatsiders deserved from their fine, all-round team performance.  

 

Merstham: Amadou Tangara, Simon Cooper (c) (Harry Osborne 77), Ben Harrison (Tom Bird 74), Tom Kavanagh, Ollie Cook, Jake Hutchings, Kershaney Samuels, Kenny Beaney, Calum Davies (Walter Figuira 54), Fabio Saraiva, Tayshan Hayden-Smith.

 

Unused subs: Tutu Henriques, Gus Sow

 

Man of the Match : Ollie Cook

 

Saturday 27th October 2018

Buildbase FA Trophy

Merstham 2 v 0 East Grinstead Town

Report by Chris Pullen

Merstham had goalkeeper Amadou Tangara to thank for securing safe passage through this Buildbase FA Trophy First Round Qualifying encounter after a distinctly sub-par performance.

 

Manager Hayden Bird was forced to reshuffle his side again, with Walter Figueira cup-tied, Kenny Beaney suspended and Michael Abnett out injured. The Moatsiders began the game brightly and looked threatening early on and even had the ball in the net in the fifth minute, only for the goal to be disallowed for offside. Wasps keeper Ben Nouse had to be alert to push away a glancing header from Simon Cooper following a Merstham corner a few minutes later. But gradually the visitors settled and after their encouraging start, the Moatsiders faded badly. East Grinstead almost opened the 16th minute, when a George Landais floated free kick was touched onto the far post by Tangara. Wasps Nico Cotton was the next to test Tangara with a fiercely struck shot from 25 yards, that the Merstham keeper did well to push away. At this point, it was the visitors who looked the better side as the Moatsiders struggled to retain possession and put any passing sequences together. A well-worked corner by East Grinstead led to Jordan Johnson getting a strike at goal from the edge of the box, but fortunately straight at Tangara, who saved comfortably. At the other end, Reece Hall, almost produced something out of nothing, when his snap shot from 18 yards caught Nouse by surprise and the keeper only just managed to get a hand to the ball, which clipped the inside of the post and bounced to safety. Hall then combined with Cooper to get another shot on target, but Nouse saved comfortably. Then, in first half added time, a Wasps free kick was swung into the Merstham box. East Grinstead’s Leo Massone went down and the referee pointed to the spot, indicating the Wasps player had been pulled to the ground. Up stepped Landais to take the spot kick. He placed the ball low towards the bottom right corner, but Tangara had guessed correctly and plunged to his left to push the ball away. It was to prove a costly miss for the visitors. Nil-nil at the break.

 

 

A first half injury to Reece Hall meant another re-shuffle with Ben Harrison coming on at left back and Tom Bird pushed into left midfield to fill the hole left by Hall’s departure. East Grinstead had a chance a few minutes after the re-start, when Tangara made a rare mis-judgment and came rushing out of goal to clear, only to be beaten to the ball by Cotton. Fortunately, no contact was made and the defence was able to recover and smother the danger. But in the 64th minute, the Moatsiders were sliced apart by a ball through to Massone, who had a clear run at goal. Once again, Tangara came to the rescue as he stood up and was able to block Massone’s shot with his legs. But it wasn’t by any means one-way traffic and the Moatsiders looked more threatening as the half went on. Bird volleyed over from a Saraiva chip and a few minutes later, they forced another corner. Kershaney Samuels hit a long ball to the far post and there was defender Jake Hutchings arriving late to head home from close range with 15 minutes left. As the Wasps pushed forward, gaps began to appear and with six minutes remaining, Merstham added a second to secure their place in the next round. Samuels played the ball into Calum Davies on the right flank. The Merstham forward got clattered from behind, but with the referee playing a good advantage, Davies managed to lay the ball into the path of the sprinting Samuels. The midfielder drove forward and then hit an unstoppable shot into the top corner from 20 yards to notch his third goal of the season. The final score was a little harsh on the visitors, but the Moatsiders will simply be grateful to be in the draw for the next round.

 

 

 

Merstham: Amadou Tangara, Simon Cooper (c), Tom Bird (Tutu Henriques 78), Tom Kavanagh, Ollie Cook, Jake Hutchings, Kershaney Samuels, Gus Sow, Calum Davies (Josh Antonio 87) Fabio Saraiva, Reece Hall (Ben Harrison 45).

 

Unused subs: Harry Osborne, Eoin Kirwan

 

Man of the Match : Amadou Tangara

 

Saturday 13th October 2018

Bostik League Premier Division

Merstham 1 v 1 Bishop's Stortford

Report by Chris Pullen

The Moatsiders will consider this result points dropped, rather than a point gained, after they conceded an 80th minute equalizer to side reduced to ten men. 

 

Manager Hayden Bird was forced into changes, with both Harry Osborne and Gus Sow picking up injuries last time out. On the plus side, he was able to welcome back Ollie Cook from suspension and Tom Kavanagh from injury, both of whom went into the starting eleven.

 

It was the visitors who started the game the better, pressing the Moatsiders back and keeping them pinned in their own half for the opening ten minutes. Merstham didn't help themselves by frequently giving the ball away when they did have possession and simple passes were all too frequently mis-placed. It was a fairly scrappy affair for the opening 25 minutes, with Bishop's Stortford looking the more likely to open the scoring. They very nearly did in the 18th minute. Player-manager Jamie Cureton was desperately unlucky when he saw his curling free kick from just outside the box, smack against the Merstham upright. Although Stortford had more possession, Merstham keeper Amadou Tangara really didn't have a save to make, although he had to be quick off his line on one occasion to pluck the ball off the feet of Ryan Charles. On two or three occasions, the Moatsiders presented the ball to their opponents in very dangerous parts of the pitch, but fortunately Stortford didn't take advantage of the gifts. Walter Figueira was proving a handful for the visitors however, with his pace and close ball control. His well-timed runs were like a flashing neon sign for the pin-point passing of Kavanagh and Saraiva, who were frequently trying to slide balls through to their striker. On the half hour, a lovely ball from Kavanagh split the high defensive line and left Figueira bearing down on goal with just the keeper to beat. Figueira's side-footed finish beat the keeper, but unfortunately also beat the right-hand post. But if that was a warning to Bishop's Stortford, they failed to heed it because two minutes before the break, the Merstham man once again timed his run perfectly to find himself with a clear run at goal. This time, his initial shot was blocked at close range by the keeper, but Figueira was quickly back on his feet and coolly found the net from a tight angle to give the Moatsiders a 1-0 lead at the break.

 

The second half got off to a dramatic start. In the 47th minute, Saraiva and Figueira combined nicely on the edge of the Stortford area and a beautifully weighted chip from Saraiva put Figueira in on goal, only for the Merstham man to be pulled back by the Stortford right back, Jordan Wescott. Referee Harris had no doubt the Stortford man was denying a clear goal- scoring opportunity and produced a red card from his pocket. A goal up and with their opponents down to ten men for over 40 minutes, the three points looked a formality. Saraiva tested Stortford keeper Pat Ohman with a stinging free kick from 25 yards that the keeper did well to push away. Ollie Cook came close with a header from a Saraiva free kick. But the second goal which would have killed off the game just wouldn't come. In the 75th minute, Tom Kavanagh produced a glorious cross-field pass to release the overlapping Tom Bird on the left wing. Bird delivered a superb, low cross, cutting out keeper and defenders to where Fabio Saraiva was waiting to tap the ball into an empty net. What happened next had players and spectators holding their heads in their hands, as the Merstham midfield maestro managed to lift the ball over the bar from four yards. As often happens, Merstham were punished five minutes later. Tom Bird was penalized for a foul throw. Stortford threw all their big men forward for Robbin's long throw. For once, Merstham failed to deal with the ball and it dropped dangerously in the box and after an initial blocked effort, the ball ran loose to Stortford defender Isaac Nkosi who couldn't miss from two yards. A disappointing result, but Merstham will know that their performance over the full ninety minutes was below the standard set in recent weeks.

 

 

Merstham: Amadou Tangara, Michael Abnett, Tom Bird, Jake Hutchings, Ollie Cook, Simon Cooper (c), Kershaney Samuels, Tom Kavanagh (Reece Hall 79),  Walter Figueira, Fabio Saraiva, Calum Davies.

 

Unused subs: Tutu Henriques, Gus Sow, Ben Harrison, Josh Antonio.

 

Man of the Match : Walter Figueira

Saturday 6th October 2018

Bostik League Premier Division

Enfield Town 0 v 0 Merstham

Report by Chris Pullen

The Moatsiders produced a solid team performance, to hold free-scoring Enfield Town to a goalless draw in difficult conditions. The game wasn't one that will live in the memory, but it was a highly credible result against an in-form Enfield. 

 

Manager Hayden Bird was finally able to welcome back Jake Hutchings and every Merstham fan will be pleased to see the popular defender return to the side after the best part of a year out with an ACL injury. Slightly more surprisingly, the Merstham boss reverted to a 3-5-2 formation, which he'd been experimenting with earlier in the season. The decision was fully vindicated, as the Moatsiders looked solid at the back all afternoon, with Hutchings looking as though he'd never been away.

 

The game was played in pouring rain and a blustery wind and it was the home side that settled first and began to put the visitors under pressure, especially from the left flank. Amadou Tangara did well to block a close range effort in the 8th minute following a corner. Enfield's Brandon Adams went close a few minutes later, when he shot narrowly wide and then Billy Bricknell dragged a shot wide from a good position after the ball was deflected into his path. But after weathering the first 20 minutes, the visitors gradually settled into the game and began to get their foot on the ball and play. Walter Figueira came closest for the Moatsiders, when his shot from the edge of the box flew narrowly wide. But with both defences on top, it began to look like one of those games where a single goal either way would be enough to snatch all three points. If anything, the Moatsiders finished the first half on top, but both goalkeepers were having comfortable afternoons, with neither side able to register any shots on target.

 

The second half started much the same way, with Town taking the game to the Moatsiders and having the greater share of possession. But with Cooper, Hutchings and Osborne in imperious form, they rarely threatened Tangara's goal. The exception to that was when they had the opportunity to load their big defenders into the box at set pieces, and they were one or two goalmouth scrambles as the Moatsiders threw bodies in the way to block half-chances. At the other end, Figueira worked tirelessly to hold the ball up and give his side the chance to move up the pitch. He did come close with a half volley on 66', but it curled wide. Adams had one good chance for the home side, but fired wide when he only had Tangara to beat. As the game entered the last 10 minutes, the Moatsiders had a few promising counter attacks, but failed to find the killer pass when required. Merstham's best chance came in the 88'. Kershaney Samuels tackled superbly and released wing-back Tom Bird. Bird galloped forward, cut inside two defenders and unleashed a stinging shot low to Enfield keeper Matt Nolan's right. But the Town did well to palm the ball away for a corner with a strong right hand. Honours even at the final whistle and certainly a fair result and a good one for the visitors.

 

 

Merstham: Amadou Tangara, Michael Abnett, Tom Bird, Jake Hutchings,  Harry Osborne, Simon Cooper, Kershaney Samuels (Tutu Henriques 90), Gus Sow, Walter Figueira, Fabio Saraiva, Calum Davies (Reece Hall 71).

Unused subs: Jalen Jones, Ben Harrison, Josh Antonio.

 

Man of the Match : Jake Hutchings

 

Saturday 29th September 2018

Bostik League Premier Division

Merstham 2 v 0 Carshalton Athletic

Report by Chris Pullen

 

Despite playing for more than an hour with ten men, after the harsh dismissal of Kenny Beaney, Merstham stunned the Robins with two goals in the last five minutes to grab all three points. It was a gutsy performance by the Moatsiders, who had to withstand long spells of Carshalton pressure in the second half.

 

 

Boss Hayden Bird stuck with the side that performed well at Thamesmead in the Velocity Trophy the previous Saturday. But neither side performed particularly well in a fairly drab opening 20 minutes. Merstham had the lion's share of possession, but played largely in front of the Carshalton defensive lines and rarely looked like breaking through them. Carshalton seemed happy to sit back and allow the Moatsiders the ball. As a result, there was very little of note happening in the final third at either end of the pitch. The only thing that did happen was Merstham being forced into an early change, with Simon Cooper twisting his ankle and being replaced by Josh Antonio after 16 minutes. 

 

Merstham have been on the wrong end of several refereeing decisions in recent weeks, most notably the scandalous sending off of Ollie Cook at Wingate. But that run continued, when in the 26th minute, Kenny Beaney flew into a full-blooded tackle and won the ball. To the surprise of most people, referee Robson blew his whistle and awarded a free kick. Surprise turned to disbelief when he then reached into his back pocket and produced a straight red card. Teams reduced to ten men either cave in, or roll up their sleeves and work even harder, and to their credit, the remaining Merstham players showed great character and put in a real shift. Merstham managed to get to half time without any real alarms. During the interval, Hayden Bird changed to a 4-3-2, replacing Reece Hall with Calum Davies and playing two up front.

 

The second half was far more entertaining than the opening 45 minutes and Fabio Saraiva soon tested the Robins keeper with a trademark curling free kick that Bishop did well to push away. On the hour, Carshalton finally created an opening and Robins' Michael Dixon missed a gilt-edged chance, when put through by Ricky Corboa. But it wasn't all one-way traffic and Merstham's Harry Osborne had a great chance when Saraiva's chip found him unmarked right in front of goal. But Osborne's header lacked power and Bishop was able to make a relatively comfortable save. With just five minutes remaining, Robin's Tommy Bradford missed a sitter when from six yards he inexplicably glanced his header wide. He was immediately made to pay for his glaring miss. Merstham's Walter Figueira who had a find match, once again chased a ball played into the right channel. Instead of holding the ball, he cleverly back-heeled into the path of sub Calum Davies. Davies worked his way across the box, looking to work a shooting opportunity on his left foot. But a Robins defender needlessly bundled into him from behind and the referee immediately pointed to the spot. Up stepped Fabio Saraiva and cooly slotted the ball home to give the Moatsiders the lead in the 86th minute. Three minutes later it was 2-0. Gus Sow, who had run his socks off, chipped a speculative ball forward. The Robins defender was favourite to get to it first, but Figueira out-muscled the defender, brought the ball down, swiveled and fired unerringly home into into the bottom left corner to give the Moatsiders an unlikely, but well-deserved victory; a victory earned through sheer hard work and determination all over the pitch.

 

Merstham: Amadou Tangara, Michael Abnett, Ben Harrison, Kenny Beaney, Harry Osborne, Simon Cooper (Josh Antonio 16), Kershaney Samuels (Tutu Henriques 86), Gus Sow, Walter Figueira, Fabio Saraiva, Reece Hall (Calum Davies 45).

Unused subs: Jalen Jones, Tom Bird

 

Man of the Match : Kershaney Samuels

Saturday 22nd September 2018

Velocity Trophy

Thamesmead Town 2 v 4 Merstham

Report by Chris Pullen

It's very much a football cliche; a game of two halves. But that cliche perfectly sums up a match in which Merstham raced to a 3-0 half time lead and then very nearly let their opponents snatch an unlikely draw, after a jittery display in the second half. 

 

After last week's disappointing result at Wingate & Finchley, Hayden Bird rang the changes and the side that lined up against Thamesmead for this Velocity Trophy second round clash, showed no less than six changes from the previous outing. Ben Harrison, Gus Sow, Kenny Beaney and Simon Cooper all returned to the side, and new signings Amadou Tangara in goal and Walter Figueira up front, were both given their debuts.

 

In front of a spare crowd, Merstham got off to a dream start and were two up inside 12 minutes. After only two minutes, some swift, incisive passing bypassed the Thamesmead midfield. The ball was played into the feet of Figueira who laid it into the path of Kenny Beaney. Beaney, no doubt surprised at the lack of a meaningful challenge, went through the home defence like a knife through butter and calmly slotted home. In the 12th minute, the Moatsiders worked a short corner and Reece Hall cut inside and hit a low shot that skidded off the greasy surface. Beaney was standing in front of the goalkeeper inside the six yard box. Only he will know how much of a touch he got, but his attempted flick bamboozled the Mead keeper and the ball sneaked in at the near post to make it 2-0 With confidence flowing through the side, some of the Merstham passing was delightful and the Mead players were often chasing shadows as the ball zipped around the slick surface. With Figueira proving a real handful up front, the Moatsiders also had the option of hitting the channels. Figueira nearly opened his account when he was first to a near post corner in the 25th minute, but his header went just the wrong side of the post. But Thamesmead hadn't given up by any means and twice in as many minutes, Mead's Matt Bodkin came close and probably should have scored from 8 yards, but his shot lacked power allowing Merstham keeper Tangara to kick the shot away. At the other end, the lively Figueira intercepted a wayward back pass, beat his man and was only denied by a good block by the Mead keeper. Then, on the stroke of half time, Merstham looked to have put the game to bed by adding a third. Kershaney Samuels hit a long ball into the right-hand channel for Figueira to chase. The Merstham striker did exceptionally well to first win the ball, hold it up and then lay it into the path of the fast-arriving Samuels, who hit a low shot into the far corner from the edge of the box to give the visitors a seemingly unassailable 3-0 lead at the interval.

 

With the game under control, the last thing you want to do is to give the other side a glimmer of hope, but that's exactly what the Moatsiders did at the start of the second half. In the 59th minute, Amadou Tangara did well to block a shot from Williams but barely a minute later, the Merstham keeper committed himself by coming out for a through ball that Mead's Ossai was always favourite to get to first. Tangara clattered into Ossai and there was not a hint of a protest when the referee pointed to the spot. Nassim Dukali comfortably converted the spot kick. At 3-1 you would expect the visitors to still be in control, but Thamesmead grew in confidence and suddenly the Moatsiders began to give the ball away cheaply and also looked less than comfortable at the back. A few minutes after the goal, it took a superb block from Michael Abnett to prevent Mead adding a second. Suddenly it was all hands to the pump, as Merstham were pressed back by the home side. Thamesmead looked increasingly dangerous and the Moatsiders couldn't get enough possession to take the sting out of the game. On a rare counter attack, a superb through ball by Samuels released Dan Bennet, but his flick went agonizingly wide. The second goal that Thamesmead had been threatening duly arrived in the 71st minute. A goalmouth scramble saw the ball eventually drop to the feet of Trey Williams, who made no mistake from 8 yards out. Now the Moatsiders were really in a scrap, and the home side saw the chance to take the game to penalties. As the pressure built, some of the Moatsiders defending became a little desperate, though there was always the chance that they could catch Mead on the break. So it proved, but the Moatsiders had to wait until added time to seal the victory. Figueira timed his run perfectly to beat the offside trap and then finished coolly with a sublime chip over the Mead keeper to finally assure the Moatsiders of a place in Round Two.

 

 

Merstham: Amadou Tangara, Michael Abnett (Tom Kavanagh 80), Ben Harrison, Kenny Beaney, Harry Osborne, Simon Cooper, Kershaney Samuels, Gus Sow, Walter Figueira, Fabio Saraiva, Reece Hall (Dan Bennett 61).

Unused subs: Calum Davies, Jalen Jones, Tom Bird

 

Man of the Match : Walter Figueira

 

Saturday 16th September 2018

Bostik League Premier Division

Wingate & Finchley 2 v 0 Merstham

Report by Chris Pullen

Two defensive mistakes cost Merstham dear, on an afternoon that went from bad to worse, ending with the farcical sending offs of both Ollie Cook and Josh Antonio in added time. It was not a good performance by the Moatsiders by any stretch of the imagination, but it is the manner of the goals conceded that will most frustrate the Merstham manager Hayden Bird.

 

Merstham took a long time to find their feet during a very scrappy first half. Wingate & Finchley made it hard for the visitors, by pressing them high up the pitch and making it difficult to play out from the back. Merstham players rarely had time on the ball and even when they did, played too slowly though the phases to discomfort the home side. That was not helped by some poor passing and poor decision-making from time to time. The home side weren't that much better and there were few highlights in a generally disappointing half. The Moatsiders did have the ball in the net five minutes before the break, but their best move of the first half was sadly curtailed by the assistant's flag for offside. Just as it looked as though the half would end scoreless, keeper Chris Haigh tried to chip a goal kick to Dan Bennett, but it was intercepted by Wingate's Lewis Putman who drove into the Merstham box. A combination of Ollie Cook and Dan Bennett attempted to stop the Wingate man, but their challenge ended up with him going to ground and referee Alex Rayment, correctly in this instance, pointing to the spot. Wingate skipper Sean Cronin successfully converted the spot kick, sending Haigh the wrong way. 

 

Merstham began the second half far better and a Fabio Saraiva free kick from the edge of the box was deflected narrowly wide. Moments later, Saraiva led a Merstham counter attack and his rasping drive from 25 yards was turned round the post Wingate keeper Shane Gore. Merstham were looking like they might force an equalizer and Merstham boss Hayden Bird thought so too. He sent on Josh Antonio and Gus Sow in the 68th minute and changed to a 3-5-2 formation. But just four minutes later, Merstham conceded a disastrous second goal. A Wingate free kick from just outside the right corner of the box was curled in and there was Wingate's Marc Weatherstone, completely unmarked, to score with a free header from 6 yards. That goal knocked the stuffing out of the Moatsiders and they were fortunate not to concede again when Putman, in acres of space, blazed over the bar from 8 yards with just Haigh to beat. Then Beckles-Richards was denied by a good Haigh save when clean through. Merstham did carve out a glorious chance to pull one back with five minutes left, when a sublime Saraiva pass put Calum Davies clean through, but he rather telegraphed his finish and Gore blocked the close-range effort. Then, just as the game was meandering to a close, a flashpoint involving Ollie Cook and Putman lit the fuse for a general melee, with players from both sides become involved unnecessarily. Frankly, the officiating team handled it very poorly and allowed it to escalate into a free for all. However, once the players had been separated, referee Rayment astounded everyone by first showing Ollie Cook a straight red card and then producing a second yellow, followed by a red for Josh Antonio. Oh, he did book two of the home players too, even though the primary antagonists were Wingate players. Even more bizarrely though, Mr Rayment told Merstham officials after the game that he sent off Ollie Cook for 'throwing a punch.... although he hadn't seen it'! The reason he 'didn't see it' was quite simple - the Merstham man did not throw a punch, although Mr Rayment claimed that one of the two assistants had 'seen' Cook throw a punch. It must have been a remarkably quick punch, because no-one else in the ground saw it either. In which case, there has to be a lucrative boxing career awaiting Ollie Cook, since he can obviously throw punches faster than Muhammad Ali in his prime, and only one lineman with extraordinary vision was somehow able to see. But perhaps we should congratulate the officials. We often criticize referees for not penalising things they've seen happen. This week we had a group of officials that penalised something they didn't see happen/didn't happen.  A different approach to refereeing in North London clearly. 

 

Merstham: Chris Haigh, Michael Abnett, Tom Bird, Tom Kavanagh (Kenny Beaney 70), Ollie Cook, Harry Osborne, Kershaney Samuels (Gus Sow 64), Dan Bennett, Calum Davies, Fabio Saraiva, Reece Hall (Josh Antonio 64).

Unused subs: Alberto Lubango, Ben Harrison

 

Saturday 8th September 2018

The Emirates FA Cup First Qualifying Round

Merstham 0 v 0 Cray Valley PM

Report by Chris Pullen

A disappointing performance by the Moatsiders, allowed Cray Valley to leave The Specsavers Stadium with a well-deserved draw in this FA Cup First Qualifying Round tie. The underdogs, from The Southern Counties East Premier Division, rarely looked in difficulties and probably had the two best chances over the 90 minutes.

 

Merstham boss Hayden Bird was forced to make changes to his starting line-up, with Reece Hall suspended and Fabio Sariva not allowed to play during his loan spell. In came RJ Pingling up front and Alberto Lubango on the left flank. 

 

Both sides began the game nervously, frequently giving the ball away as the tackles flew in. Gradually, the Moatsiders settled and began to dominate possession, but without looking terribly threatening. Dan Bennett did force Millers' keeper Andy Walker into a sharp save in the 18th minute, when he stuck out a leg to deflect the ball away for a corner. But a minute later, Cray Valley had a golden chance to take the lead. The Millers Joe N'Guessan went through a couple of tackles on the edge of the Merstham box and suddenly found himself clean through with just Chris Haigh to beat. But having done the hard work, the forward seemed to panic and scuffed his shot wide from just 8 yards. There was little else of note in the final third at either end, with both defences dominating. Cray Valley looking increasingly comfortable against a largely invisible Merstham forward line, and Ollie Cook was in imperious form at the back for the Moatsiders. In added time at the end of the first half, Merstham keeper Chris Haigh did well to spring to his right and claw away a goal-bound header form Kevin Lisbie following a corner.

 

If the Moatsiders supporters were hoping for an improved second half from the home side, they were soon disappointed. If anything it was the visitors who looked more threatening at the start of the second period. High balls into the Merstham box, particularly from set pieces, set alarm bells ringing on more than one occasion, as knock-downs bounced around dangerously in the area. At the other end, the Moatsiders passed the ball nicely enough until the final third, but either gave the ball away or resorted to crosses into the box, which were meat and drink to Cray Valley's towering centre backs. Only rarely did the trickery of Bennett threaten to unlock the visitors defence. The Millers Francis Babalolo did have a chance in the 65th minute when he got in front of Gus Sow, but glanced his header past the post. Merstham did put together one incisive move, three minutes from time, when a pass from Kershaney Samuels gave Tom Bird a good shooting chance from inside the box. But the Merstham full back was unable to repeat his heroics of the previous week and blazed his shot over the bar, leaving the Moatsiders to navigate a tricky replay on Wednesday evening in Eltham.

 

 

Merstham: Chris Haigh, Gus Sow, Tom Bird, Tom Kavanagh, Ollie Cook, Simon Cooper, Kershaney Samuels, Kenny Beaney, RJ Pingling (Calum Davies 64), Dan Bennett, Alberto Lubango (Sean Bonnett Johnson 80).

Unused subs: Tutu Henriques,Harry Osborne, Josue Antonio, Ben Harrison

 

Man of the Match : Ollie Cook

 

Saturday 1st September 2018

Bostik League Premier Division

Merstham 3 v 1 Potters Bar Town

Report by Chris Pullen

 

A spectacular strike by Tom Kavanagh sparked a second half fightback by the Moatsiders, after being a goal down at half time. It really was an early candidate for goal of the season, but Kavanagh's goal was followed by two more superb late goals to clinch a well-deserved victory.

 

With Michael Abnett out after picking up an injury at Dorking, Manager Hayden Bird brought in Gus Sow at full back, but otherwise it was the same side that had picked up four points from the previous two outings.

 

Merstham began the game well and inside 5 minutes, Reece Hall looked like he wanted to try and repeat his goal at Dorking as he cut inside from the left wing and fired in a right-foot which went narrowly wide. But it was Potters Bar that almost opened the scoring in the 14th minute. A long, raking, diagonal ball found Kegan Cole in loads of space. Seeing Chris Haigh had come off his line, the Town striker hit a deft chip, which looked like it had beaten the Merstham keeper. But Haigh moved his feet quickly and arched backward to brilliantly tip the ball over the bar. In fact the Merstham back line looked strangely vulnerable to long balls in the opening 25 minutes, and Town's Bradley Sach was not far away when another long diagonal caused more problems. On the half hour mark, Merstham almost took the lead when a well-struck Fabio Saraiva free kick from just outside the box,  flicked off the wall and Town keeper Berkley Laurencin did well to adjust and save with his legs. Ten minutes before the break however, Merstham found themselves a goal down. A slide-rule pass inside Gus Sow found Derwell Wynter, who curled his finish wide of Haigh's left hand to open the scoring. From that point on, Potters Bar seemed content to shut up shop and began to waste time, which referee Ryan Head did little to stop. Merstham went into the break a goal down, having not played badly, but not having played especially well either.

 

Boss Hayden Bird also felt his side could do better and his team talk at the interval certainly put some renewed vigoury into the Moatsiders at the start of the second period, though it was still hard to see where a goal might come from. Then on the hour mark, a slick Merstham move found Reece Hall, who laid the ball off to Tom Kavanagh. It really was a trademark Kavanagh strike and the ball screamed into the top corner from all of 35 yards. The bar was still rising as it hit the net with the Town keeper rooted to the spot. The goal transformed the game. Suddenly it was all Merstham and Potters Bar were pushed back into defending with 10 men behind the ball. Some cynical fouls and persistent time-wasting won them few friends at the Specsavers Stadium. Beaney and Hall made way for Davies and Lubango, as Merstham shuffled their pack. But for all their possession and clever passes, the Moatsiders couldn't fashion a clear-cut opening. That is until three minutes from time. Left back Tom Bird collected the ball wide on the left and with the defenders backing off, he did what most defenders are inclined to do and had a pop from distance. But what a strike it was. It flew into the Town net from a similar distance to the Kavanagh effort, glancing off the left-hand upright, with the Town keeper once again a spectator. Strangely, the visitors were now in a hurry to get the game re-started. But two minutes into added time, Kershaney Samuels put the icing on the cake with a third. Picking the ball up half way inside his own half, and with Town having committed plenty of players forward, Samuels began running at the remaining, retreating defenders. On and on he went, until he got to the edge of the Potters Bar box. It's fair to say his effort wasn't quite as sweetly struck as those by Bird and Kavanagh, but no-one cared as the ball bobbled into the far corner to secure Merstham all three points.

 

 

Merstham: Chris Haigh, Gus Sow, Tom Bird, Kenny Beaney (Calum Davies 59), Ollie Cook, Simon Cooper, Kershaney Samuels,  Tom Kavanagh, Dan Bennett, Fabio Saraiva, Reece Hall (Alberto Lubango 59).

Unused subs: Tutu Henriques, Michael Abnett, Ben Harrison

 

Man of the Match : Tom Bird

Tuesday 27th August 2018

Bostik League Premier Division

Dorking Wanderers 2 v 2 Merstham

Report by Chris Pullen

Merstham were cruelly denied their first away win of the season by a penalty deep in stoppage time, despite playing the final 30 minutes with only ten men, after Reece Hall received his marching orders for a second bookable offence. It was a dramatic end to an entertaining encounter, in front of a large Bank Holiday crowd.

 

Manager Hayden Bird unsurprisingly stuck with the same starting line-up that had secured all three points on Saturday. But unlike Saturday's game, where both sides were unable to create anything of note in either box, this encounter was an end-to-end game from the first minute. Early Merstham pressure forced a corner on the left - from which Dorking scored! A training ground corner routine didn't work as planned, and a pass intended for Fabio Saraiva was intercepted on the edge of the Dorking box. Ten seconds later,  the ball was in the back of Merstham's net. Dorking's Jason Prior intercepted the pass and ran half the length of the pitch unopposed, as the Merstham defenders back-pedaled frantically. His perfectly weighted pass found Tom Richards on the left, who fired low and hard past Chris Haigh's left hand into the far corner.  Just eight minutes gone and the Moatsiders were one down. But they responded almost instantly. Michael Abnett drove forward and found Kershaney Samuels on the right flank. Samuels fired the ball in low and hard across the six-yard box to where Fabio Saraiva was waiting to turn it in and make it 1-1 after just 12 minutes. Merstham looked dangerous every time they went forward and Reece Hall brought a good save from Dorking keeper Huk, after he cut in from the left wing and hit a right-foot shot from the edge of the area in the 16th minute. A minute later and Hall picked up his first yellow card for a tackle from behind as Wanderers threatened to counter attack. Dorking's Jason Prior was proving a handful for the Merstham back four, but it was from a Dorking attack that Mertsham sprang forward to score their second. Ollie Cook beat Prior to the ball and his header was picked up by Tom Kavanagh, who produced one of his trademark, raking, 40 yard passes to find Hall on the left wing. The Merstham wide man collected the ball and started running at the retreating Wanderers defence. He cut across the box and cracked one with his right foot, which flew past Huk from 20 yards. Thirty-three minutes on the clock and the visitors were now 2-1 up. Dan Bennett had a good chance to make it three a few minutes later, when the Dorking defence made a meal of trying to deal with a long punt upfield from Haigh, but Bennett scuffed his shot and the chance was gone. At the other end, Prior also had a good opportunity,  but he also scuffed his effort from inside the box. An entertaining first half ended, with both sides looking to go forward and the Moatsiders good value for their interval lead. 

 

Both teams struggled to reproduce the fluent football of the first period as the second half unfolded. Prior has a good chance on the hour mark but blazed over. At the other end, Hall did exceptionally well to win the ball back just outside the Dorking box and slipped a nice ball inside to Bennett, who had a great chance to extend the Merstham lead. But the front man barely made contact with his left foot and the opportunity was gone. Then, in the 63rd minute, came the moment that changed the game. A free kick was given to Dorking just inside the Merstham half.  Dorking tried to take it quickly and, Reece Hall, who was only a few feet away, stuck out his leg and, according to the referee, prevented the free kick being taken. Referee Scott Rudd reached into his pocket and produced first yellow and then red, as the Merstham man collected his second booking of the afternoon. Technically, it was correct, but how many times do you see players do exactly that at all levels of the game these days and simply get a warning from the referee? One wonders whether Mr Rudd will do that consistently all season. So, the Moatsiders were down to ten men, with still the best part of 30 minutes to hold out. It became a real 'backs to the wall' affair, with the whole Merstham side digging deep and making it as hard as possible for Dorking. The pressure slowly began to build however, and Merstham found it difficult to hold the ball when it was cleared upfield. There were plenty of scrambles in the Merstham area as Dorking repeatedly threw in high balls, seeking to capitalise upon Prior's aerial ability. Calum Davies came on for a limping Bennett and almost scored with his first touch, when his near-post header was saved by Huk. With ten minutes left, Haigh could only half clear a cross and then flung up an arm to deflect the ball wide, as the loose ball was almost turned in by McShane. The board went up to indicate six minutes of added time. With three of the additional minutes already gone, another high ball into the box caused chaos. Prior headed the ball down and Matt Briggs touched the ball past the onrushing Haigh, who clipped the Dorking forward and the referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot. Up stepped Prior to fire the ball home and give the home side a share of the points. Tough indeed on the valiant Moatsiders, who gave everything for the cause.

 

 

Merstham: Chris Haigh, Michael Abnett, Tom Bird, Kenny Beaney, Ollie Cook, Simon Cooper, Kershaney Samuels (Gus Sow 80) Tom Kavanagh, Dan Bennett (Calum Davies 75) Fabio Saraiva, Reece Hall.

Unused subs: Tutu Henriques, Alberto Lubongo, Ben Harrison

 

Man of the Match : Ollie Cook

 

Saturday 25th August 2018

Bostik League Premier Division

Merstham 1 v 1 Brightlingsea Regent

Report by Chris Pullen

Merstham secured their first three points of the new season with a hard fought, but well-deserved victory. A superb Michael Abnett goal was the difference between the two sides in a game of few chances.

 

Merstham boss Hayden Bird made six changes to the side that had started the game against Corinthian Casuals the previous weekend. Interestingly, he also reverted to his tried and trusted 4-2-3-1 formation. When asked about the change from playing three at the back, he replied, " I wanted to make it simple for the players and to make us a bit more solid at the back. If we could keep a clean sheet, I was always confident we could create a chance or two and win the game." So it proved. The first clean sheet of the season and the first win.

 

The first half was not the most memorable half of football seen at the Specsavers Stadium. Merstham started well enough, moving the ball crisply from the back and playing some nice football up to the final third, when all too often the moves just petered out. It was a similar situation at the other end too, with the Moatsiders back four coping comfortably with the Brightlingsea attack. As a result, most of the game was played  in the 25 yards either side of the half way line. The spectators had to wait until the 26th minute for the first shot on target when Regent's Billy Hunt burst past a couple of Merstham defenders, but hit his shot straight at Chris Haigh. It was in the 37th minute that the Moatsiders carved out the only real opportunity for either side, but what a chance it was. Kershaney Samuels playing in an unusual  right midfield role, did really well to take a ball down, drive into the box and then lay it back perfectly for an unmarked Fabio Saraiva ten yards from goal. Uncharacteristically, the Merstham midfielder rather snatched at the chance and his shot went high and wide. Unsurprisingly, the first half ended goalless.

 

Merstham began the second half in a more determined manner and in the 50th minute won a free kick 25 yards out on the left. Reece Hall whipped in a cross/come shot, which the Regent keeper pushed away for a corner. Merstham took a short corner in a move off the training ground, releasing left back Tom Bird who drove into the box. A Brightlingsea defender clearly tripped Bird as he went past him, but Bird to his credit tried to stay on his feet, but stumbled and the chance was gone. Referee Bonnick waved away the appeals despite being chased by a posses of irate Merstham players.  A classic case of 'should he have gone down?'. Talking to the match officials afterwards, the answer was 'yes'!  But a few minutes later, the Moatsiders got their all-important breakthrough with a quite brilliant goal. A nice interchange of passing ended with a ball chipped in towards Dan Bennett just inside the opposition box. Instead of trying to bring the ball down, Bennett impudently back-heeled it first time. He's spotted Michael Abnett cutting in from the right flank. The ball dropped perfectly for the Merstham full-back and, without breaking stride, he met it first-time with the outside of his right foot from just inside the area. The ball flew low and hard, curling just inside the far post, giving the keeper no chance and more importantly, giving Merstham the lead. Brightlingsea tried for an equalizer, but with the back four looking solid and composed, marshaled by the outstanding Simon Cooper, the visitors didn't really look like scoring. In fairness, neither did the Moatsiders look like adding to their lead. There was one moment of alarm in the 85th minute, when a Regent free kick for once wasn't dealt with and the ball was scrambled over the goal line, but to the relief of most in the ground, the linesman had his flag up for an offside. Merstham comfortably saw out the remaining minutes, but there a palpable sense of relief around the ground as the final whistle blew to signal the first win of the season.

 

 

Merstham: Chris Haigh, Michael Abnett, Tom Bird, Kenny Beaney, Ollie Cook, Simon Cooper, Kershaney Samuels (Gus Sow 80) Tom Kavanagh, Dan Bennett (Calum Davies 85) Fabio Saraiva, Reece Hall.

Unused subs: Tutu Henriques, Alberto Lubongo, Ben Harrison

 

Man of the Match : Michael Abnett

 

Saturday 18th August 2018

Bostik League Premier Division

Corinthian Casuals 1 v 1 Merstham

Report by Chris Pullen

Despite picking up their first point of the season, the Moatsiders will feel it was definitely a case of two points dropped rather than a point won. Having completely dominated the opening 45 minutes and a goal to the good, Merstham allowed Casuals back into the game to grab a point with a poor second half display.

 

With both sides having lost their opening two fixtures, there was a certain amount of nervousness in possession in the opening exchanges and neither side created anything of note. Gradually however, the Moatsiders began to gain the upper hand and the return of Fabio Saraiva, added both quality and experience to the midfield. Merstham opened the scoring in the 18th minute and what a goal it was. Merstham broke up a Casuals attack and played the ball into RJ Pingling's feet just inside the Casuals half. Pingling turned and slid a delightful through ball into the path of Reece Hall, who had timed his run perfectly to beat the high line being held by the Casuals defence. Running onto the ball, Hall looked up and saw the keeper well off his line. Without breaking stride, Hall chipped the ball superbly over the stranded goalkeeper from just outside the box into the net. A goal up and very much in charge of the game, Merstham should really and gone on and made their dominance count, but for all their tidy possession and slick passing, there was little end product, and Bradley Comins in the Corinthian Casuals goal, had few alarms, although a dipping Saraiva shot from 25 yards wasn't far off the mark. At the other end, Chris Haigh was a virtual spectator, as the Merstham back line dealt with the home side's forays forward with considerable ease. At the interval, it was hard to see anything other than a fairly comfortable victory for the visitors.

 

Corinthian Casuals certainly came out with greater purpose at the start of the second half, but there was a puzzling lethargy about the Moatsiders. They didn't close down the home side with the same intensity and allowed Casuals more time and space on the ball. For the first time in the game, Merstham began to get pushed back, although they did manufacture the first opening of the second half with Pingling turned and shot narrowly wide in the 56th minute. But barely a minute later, Casuals were back in the game when they were awarded a penalty for a foul by Reece Hall on the overlapping full back, Juevan Spencer. It's unlikely that the Merstham man realised he was there until the last second, but the untidy tangle of legs left the Casuals man on the ground in the box and there were few protests when the referee pointed to the spot. Up stepped Casuals sub Danny Cunningham to fire the spot kick past Haigh and level the game. Manager Hayden Bird could see the momentum had shifted and responded by sending on Tom Kavanagh and Dan Bennett to bolster the midfield. But it was a far more evenly balanced game by now and it took a spectacular save by Haigh, flinging himself to his left to palm away a fierce drive by Maan, to keep the Moatsiders on level terms. With 12 minutes left, Alberto Lubango replaced Gus Sow and the Moatsiders switched to a back four and played 4-2-3-1 for the remainder. Lubango certainly added some much-needed pace and offensive threat and within minutes of coming on, he played a lovely through ball to Pingling, but the Casuals keeper was quickly off his line to block Pringling's effort. The match became an end to end affair, with both sides searching for the winner. Merstham came closest to winning in with three minutes left when a deft through ball from Saraiva put Dan Bennett through on goal, but Bennett opted for power with the finish and hit it straight at the Casuals keeper who beat it away. A disappointing result in the end, after the early promise of the opening 45 minutes.

 

Merstham: Chris Haigh, Gus Sow (Alberto Lubongo 78), Ben Harrison, Harry Osborne, Ollie Cook, Simon Cooper, Kenny Beaney, Tom Howard (Tom Kavanagh 62), RJ Pingling, Fabio Saraiva, Reece Hall (Dan Bennett 62).

 

Man of the Match : Kenny Beaney

 

Saturday 11th August 2018

Bostik League Premier Division

Merstham 0 v 3 Tonbridge Angels

Report by Chris Pullen

There's an old cliche in sport that says you learn more from a defeat than you do from a victory. Hopefully that's true, as Merstham will need to learn quickly from this comprehensive defeat. They were thoroughly outplayed by a very good Tonbridge side and 3-0 by no means flattered the visitors. 

 

The game started at a fairly frenetic pace, with both sides struggling to put a sequence of passes together. The home side began to find some space of the left flank with Tom Bird making some early inroads. The Angels looked dangerous on the left flank and Gus Sow had his work cut out to keep the visitors at bay. Neither side were creating anything of note in the final third, so it was something of a surprise when the Angels made the breakthrough after 15 minutes. It was something of a gift however, as a complete misunderstanding between goalkeeper and defenders allowed Jared Small a free header, which looped over a stranded Chris Haigh to put the visitors one up. The goal certainly lifted the Angels and had the reverse effect on the Moatsiders. What was probably most disappointing was that Merstham seemed to forget their normal short passing game and for some reason kept hitting long, high balls towards the two front runners, which rarely troubled the big Angels defenders. Tonbridge took control and it was no real surprise when they extended their lead eight minutes before the break. Once again, Angel's Jared Small was involved. Collecting the ball out on the right flank he went past Bird and hit the ball low and hard towards the near post where Jalen Jones tried to clear, but only succeeded in diverting it past Haigh to put Angels two up. Merstham walked off at the break without having a shot at goal in the entire first 45 minutes.

 

Any hope of a second-half Merstham fightback ended quickly, as The Angels made in 3-0 in the 47th minute with a very well-worked goal. Some neat interchanges on the right flank opened up the Merstham defence and the ball was slipped through to Alex Reid, who finished superbly with the outside of his right foot into the far corner. In the 50th minute, the Moatsiders finally conjured up an effort on goal by RJ Pingling, but even that was off target. Tonbridge's Joe Turner very nearly made it four, but was denied by a last-ditch goal line clearance by Harry Osborne. In the 62nd minute, Hayden Bird made a triple substitution with Hall, Harrison and Lubango replacing Pingling, Samuels and Bird. A bad afternoon became worse as shortly afterwards, Calum Davies was caught by a flying foot in the face and after extensive treatment, had to leave field, leaving the Moatsiders to play out the final 20 odd minutes with just 10 men. Tonbridge seemed happy to take their foot off the gas, although Sonny Miles did hit the bar with a header and Haigh produced an excellent save to keep the final score respectable. Early days, but the Moatsiders will need to bounce back quickly from a disappointing performance.

 

Merstham: Chris Haigh, Gus Sow, Tom Bird (Ben Harrison 62), Harry Osborne, Ollie Cook, Jalen Jones, Tom Howard, Kershaney Samuels (Reece Hall 62), RJ Pingling (Alberto Lubongo 62), Kenny Beany, Calum Davies.

 

Man of the Match : Ollie Cook

 

Saturday 4th August 2018

Pre-Season Friendly

South Park 1 v 2 Merstham

Report by Chris Pullen

Merstham cruised to a victory in their final pre-season game that was a good deal more comfortable than the scoreline might suggest. In conditions more suited to cricket than football, both teams certainly got a good workout in the blazing sun.

Perhaps it was a result of the heat, but the Moatsiders rarely got out of second gear in a fairly lack-luster first half.  South Park arguably shaded the first 20 minutes and almost opened the scoring in the 6th minute, when a free kick was allowed to bounce in the Merstham box and only just went over the bar. A few minutes later, keeper Chris Haigh was forced to block with his legs after collective hesitation at the back. But Merstham also threatened and RJ Pingling was only denied by the outstretched leg of the Park keeper. A chipped ball over the top by Kershaney Samuels led to the breakthrough. Calum Davies was first to the ball and clearly inside the box when a panicking defender bundled him over. Up stepped Samuels to coolly slot home the resulting penalty and give the visitors the lead on 22 minutes. After the penalty, Merstham picked up their game and began to dominate in the midfield, with Kenny Beaney outstanding. Reece Hall almost added a second just before half time,  but the Park keeper did well to spread himself at his near post and smother the chance.

The second half was barely a minute and a half old when Merstham did add a second, as defender Jalen Jones finished with aplomb after South Park failed to clear their lines from a set piece. From that point on, it was really a case of how many the visitors might score as the home side rarely threatened. Pingling had a curling effort pushed away by the Park keeper and Tom Kavanagh rattled the frame of the goal when his screamer from 35 yards smacked against the angle of post and bar. Tom Bird also went close when he cut inside and fired narrowly wide. But just as it looked as though the Moatsiders would collect their third clean sheet in a row, a wickedly deflected shot in added time gave Haigh no chance, but was no more than a consolation for the home side.  

Merstham (starting line up): Chris Haigh, Gus Sow, Ben Harrison, Harry Osborne, Ollie Cook, Jalen Jones, Kenny Beaney, Reece Hall, RJ Pingling, Calum Davies, Kershaney Samuels

Man of the Match : Kenny Beaney

 

Tuesday 31st July 2018

Pre-Season Friendly

Merstham 1 v 0 AFC Wimbledon XI

Report by Chris Pullen

A goal just over a minute into the game was enough to give Merstham their second 1-0 win in 4 days against a professional side. Having beaten Crystal Palace’s U23 side on Saturday, a similar result against a Dons side, which was a mix of U23’s and a sprinkling of first team squad players, was very satisfying, especially for the two ex-Dons in the Merstham side; Ben Harrison and RJ Pingling. Again, Merstham were well worth the victory, having largely dominated the first half. The Dons fought back, especially in the last 20 minutes, but Merstham keeper Chris Haigh really didn’t have a save to make, so well was he protected by his defence.  

It was from a Merstham set piece that the winning goal came about. Just a minute into the game, a free kick some 30 yards out on the right was swung in by Kershaney Samuels. The Dons defence made a real mess of clearing it and the ball dropped to the feet of Merstham defender Ollie Cook, who only had to hit the target from 8 yards, which he did, to put the Moatsiders one up. For a game that produced some high quality football and some excellent interchanges by both sides, it is odd that that was the only real shot on target by either side until the stroke of half time. What was really impressive was how Merstham continually played the ball out from back, despite the Dons trying to press them and prevent them doing so. With Kershaney Samuels providing a perfect screen for the back three, as well as instigating play from the back, Kenny Beaney and Tom Howard had the freedom to link with the wing backs and the front men, constantly probing and asking questions of the AFC back line. In fairness, the Dons defended just as well as their Merstham counterparts, which meant that promising attacking moves by both sides often floundered, mainly due to quality defending rather than poor play. Neither goalkeeper was seriously tested and so the Moatsiders went in with their deserved lead at the break. 

The Dons carved out their first decent chance at the start of the second period when Ossama Ashley headed over after good work by Tommy Wood. By sides were still playing their football, and the second half was a repeat of the first, with plenty of good football on offer, but nothing really by way of goal-scoring opportunities. Ben Harrison did get on the end of a Gus Sow cross in 65th minute, but his first-time shot was comfortably saved by the Dons keeper. In the 68th minute, manager Hayden Bird made the first of a number of changes, when Reece Hall, Tom Kavanagh, Dan Bennett and Mitchal Gough entered the fray. AFC Wimbledon also made changes and as result, the pattern and flow of the game was disrupted. It seemed to suit the Dons more, as they began to get on top. But although they dominated possession in the final 20 minutes, AFC Wimbledon only carved out one real chance to equalise, but what a chance it was. Dons sub Reece Weekes, did well on the left wing and swung in a beautiful cross, which for once eluded all the Merstham defenders. It found the head of Wood six yards out and unmarked, but somehow he managed to steer his head beyond the far post, ensuring another notable pre-season scalp for the Moatsiders.    

Merstham: Chris Haigh, Gus Sow, Ben Harrison, Harry Osborne (Mitchal Gough 68), Ollie Cook, Jalen Jones, Kenny Beaney (Dan Bennett 68), Tom Howard (Reece Hall 68), RJ Pingling (Alberto Lubango 78), Calum Davies (Michael Abnett 84) Kershaney Samuels (Tom Kavanagh 68).  

Man of the Match : Jalen Jones 

 

Saturday 28th July 2018

Pre-Season Friendly

Merstham 1 v 0 Crystal Palace XI

Report by Chris Pullen

As pre-season friendlies go, this was a highly competitive, entertaining encounter, and Merstham needing to produce an excellent all-round display to secure a fine win against a young and talented Crystal Palace side. With the pitch at The SpecSavers Stadium not quite ready due to the exceptionally dry summer, the match was switched to Dorking Wanderer's new home and was only made possible thanks to the hard work of a number of people behind the scenes, at both Dorking and Merstham. A big thank you to all concerned.

The Moatsiders began the game very much on the front foot and quickly forced an early corner. The ball was half cleared to Kershaney Samuels on the edge of the box whose well-struck effort flew just over the Palace bar. The Merstham midfield, led by Tom Howard, were quick to close Palace down and, when in possession, passed the ball quickly and accurately to keep the Palace rearguard on their toes. In the 18th minute, a quick interchange between Howard and RJ Pingling opened up the Palace defence, only for Reece Hall to drag his shot wide from 18 yards. But it was an open game and Palace also looked dangerous, especially from set pieces and Palace skipper Ollie O'Dwyer might have done better with a free header from a corner in the 22nd minute. At the other end Palace keeper Dion Henry had to be quick off his line to save at the feet of Pingling after a deft chip from Simon Cooper. In the 31st minute, Merstham made the breakthrough. It was a goal out of nothing, as RJ Pingling's scuffed shot from just inside the area wrong-footed Henry and bobbled into the net. But they all count and the Moatsiders deserved it on the balance of play. Pingling should have added a second two minutes later. A dreadful goal kick from Henry went straight to the feet of the Merstham forward on the edge of the area, but Pingling blasted over with just Henry to beat. But Merstham were good value for their 1-0 lead at the break.

Presumably at half time the Palace players were told that their first half performance wasn't good enough, because they began the second half in determined mood, pushing the Moatsiders back. Palace began to play at a much quicker tempo than they had in the first half and substitute Francis Baptiste in particular started to ask questions of the Merstham defence, that had looked very comfortable in the first half. Baptiste called Merstham keeper Chris Haigh into serious action for the first time in the 48th minute, when he produced a good save to palm away a Baptiste header. Merstham defenders Ollie Short and Jalen Jones had looked very solid throughout, but a rare mistake by Jones almost gifted Palace an equalizer. Losing possession, he allowed Baptiste a clear run on goal and but for an excellent save by Haigh, Palace would have been on level terms. In the 69th minute manager Hayden Bird made changes and the fresh legs of Kavanagh and Bennett in the middle of the park gave Merstham more control, preventing Palace from carving out any more clear-cut opportunities. Merstham began to look dangerous again going forward and both sides had promising situations that might have led to something had the final ball been better. But the Moatsiders were able to see out the remainder of the game and secure a hard-fought victory. 

Merstham : Chris Haigh, Gus Sow, Ben Harrison, Simon Cooper (Tutu Henriques 87), Ollie Short (Josh Antonio 69), Jalen Jones, Kershaney Samuels (Tom Kavanagh 69), Tom Howard, RJ Pingling, Calum Davies (Dan Bennett 69), Reece Hall.

Man of the Match : Tom Howard

Attendance : 380

 

Tuesday 24th July 2018

Pre-Season Friendly

Whyteleafe 3 v 1 Merstham

Report by Chris Pullen 

There's something about coming to Church Road for a pre-season game that just doesn't seem to work for Merstham. In last year's pre-season encounter, The 'Leafe put four past the Moatsiders without reply. At half-time last night, with the visitors 3-0 down, there was a concern that it might end up more than four. But Merstham rallied and played a good deal better in the second half, as indeed they needed to. That said, it was a pre-season friendly and results are less important than getting game-time in legs and preparing for the 9 month slog ahead.  

On a balmy summer evening, the game started in a very open fashion, with both sides looking to attack from the outset. Gradually however, the home side began to get on top with Gus Lukini on the left flank asking serious questions of the Moatsiders back three. Whyteleafe were exploiting an alarming amount of space that was appearing between the back three and the midfield and it was no real surprise when they took the lead after 15 minutes. Lukini lured Mitchel Gough into a tackle in the box and there was no need for VAR as it was a stonewall penalty. Oliver Milton's initial spot kick was parried by Merstham keeper Chris Haigh, but Milton was quickest to react and slotted home the rebound. Merstham almost replied immediately when a lovely through ball from Dan Bennett found Greg Cundle just inside the box, but his shot was well saved by the Leafe keeper. However, that was destined to be the Moatsiders' only shot on target in the first half. Lukini made it 2-0 after 28 minutes when his shot flicked off a defender,with Chris Haigh going the other way. On the stroke of half time another deflected shot from close range made it 3-0 and it was hard to argue with the scoreline, with Whyteleafe having dominated the opening 45 minutes. 

But Merstham improved considerably after the break and it was a much more even contest. The visitors had brought a big squad with them, so there was a raft of changes both before and after the interval, with most of the squad of 19 getting at least 30 minutes game time. Merstham did pull one back in the 74th minute when RJ Pingling scored from the spot. He might have added a second five minutes later when clean though, but the forward opened his body too much and blazed the chance well wide.

With Crystal Palace and AFC Wimbledon lying in wait for our next two pre-season games, the Moatsiders will be looking for improved performances as the new season draws ever closer. 

 

Tuesday 17th July 2018 
Pre-Season Friendly
Tooting & Mitcham 1 v 3 Merstham 
Report by Chris Pullen

Pre-season results rarely mean much once the real action begins, but there's nothing wrong with developing a winning habit and this friendly win made it two wins out of two for the Moatsiders. Both sides fielded relatively strong starting elevens, and for the Merstham supporters, it was interesting seeing new signings like Calum Davies and Luke Beeney in action. The match got off to an inauspicious start for the Moatsiders however, when they gifted Tooting the opening goal after 16 minutes, when a misplaced square pass just outside their own box was intercepted and fired past Chris Haigh. Things went from bad to worse as Charlie Penny limped off soon after. Given his recent injury woes, one can only hope it was nothing serious. On the plus side though, the visitors soon got into their stride and began to dominate exchanges in the middle of the park. They were soon level when Dan Bennett's lob flicked off a defender and into the net to make it 1-1. Mitchal Gough may be better known as a defender, but his screamer from 30 plus yards to put the Moatsiders 2-1 up just before the break, would have made any midfielder proud. It was a goal from the moment it left his foot. The second half was more of an even contest and as both managers made a number of changes, the flow of the game rather disappeared, although one or two heavy tackles, especially on Calum Davies, made it an occasionally feisty affair for a pre-season game. Davies had the last laugh however, when mid-way through the second half, he latched on to a woefully short back pass from a Tooting defender, rounded the keeper and tapped it into an empty net to make it 3-1.   

.

.