You know how much us Brits love talking about the weather. It was lovely in Kent today, bright sunshine, nudging 15 degrees with a hint of Spring. Deceptive of course, as it was still bloody chilly when you were in the shade of a tin roofed stand. But not as cold as twelve months ago, to the weekend, when the Beast from the East was howling in, freezing everything in sight for a few weeks of midwinter misery. You see, you’re already thinking of talking about it, and wondering what it will be like tomorrow. It’s the change, the variety, the uncertainty that we love.
But what’s it like when your football team behaves in exactly the same way? Not quite knowing whether to believe the forecast, hoping it will turn out fine but being prepared for it to be gloomy. It’s just the same as the weather, but do we love it like the weather when it happens – no we don’t!
Welcome to my Saturday.
Tonbridge Angels v Merstham was never going to be easy for either team; a repeat of the opening day 3-0 stroll for the Angels was unlikely, as both teams were in strong positions in the League. However, the Angels were unbeaten this year, including handling tough games against teams around them, and scoring a lot more goals, so it was reasonable to assume we were set fair for a bright and breezy affair.
Tonbridge duly dominated possession for long stages of the first half. Both teams seemed intent on playing a short passing game, with Merstham in particular playing out from the back. However, this was probably due to the comedy kicking of their keeper, who could barely clear his own 18 yard box from dead ball situations.
However, although dominating possession, Tonbridge could only fashion half chances, mostly through the direct running of Joe Turner. Meanwhile, Merstham’s Figueira was clearly the best player on the pitch, with his pace and control causing problems every time he was on the ball. This paid off on 39 minutes, when he neatly slotted in a cross from the right to give Merstham the lead against the run of play, which they held to half time.
The mystery of the half time team talk is the stuff of legends, when managers somehow turn base metal into gold. But there are also those days when the alchemy doesn’t seem to work, and the process somehow goes into reverse.
Today’s second half was an odd display from Tonbridge, who slowly abandoned the style of play which had brought them such success for the last two months, in favour of hopeful (hopeless) long balls on to the heads of the Merstham centre backs, instead of the crisp passing and crosses to feet. The height disparity meant it would never work, but still they rained down. At one point the Angels goalkeeper charged upfield into Merstham’s penalty area for a free kick, leaving a bemused right back frantically waving his arms about in his own half wondering what was going on. It was all too manic.
Credit was due to Merstham for their disciplined, organised defence, which slowly drained the Tonbridge team of ideas. When a header by Sonny Miles from a corner 10 minutes from the end was well cleared off the line, it was obviously not going to be the Angels day, and Merstham held on to win comfortably 1-0. The only sour note around their win was the puerile effort by Hutchins to goad Miles into a fight after the final whistle. He failed, as he as failed in trying to do the same to Lee during the match. Pathetic.
The climate had cooled for the Angels with their first defeat of the year. However, this does not take the shine off an excellent run since the turn of the year, and the midweek trip to Lewes will allow the team to reset and regroup. For Merstham this will be up there as one of their best results of the season, and they earned it.
Finally, if anyone does have a car with the registration number NE14 ABJ which was read out from the media tower at the start of the second half, Katie Price would like to meet them.