Saturday, November 17, 2012

Game 14: Wareham Rangers 2.4 Merley Cobham Sports (Dorset Premier) 17.11.12

I wasn't sure if this game would be on given the rain in the area but decided to take a gamble and drive down just in case. I arrived at the Sports Centre and found a big car park where I had a spot of lunch after checking first that the players were warming up for the game.

The pitch was accessed through the Sports Centre and I had a friendly welcome from a couple of ladies collecting the admission fee in exchange for a programme. They were expecting a couple of ground hoppers who had called ahead to reserve their programme and we had a quick chat about the team.

After photographing the small stand I wandered round past the dugouts and found a spot opposite the stand to watch the game. The sky was overcast when the game kicked off five minutes late and I hoped the next couple of hours would be dry. Merley have been struggling in the league this season and looked to be off to a bad start when Wareham tapped the ball in after the keeper spilt the ball but the referee disallowed it for offside.

Wareham took the lead in the 21st minute. The ball was kept in play on the farside and when the cross came in it looked as if a defender would slide into clear it. However the ball hit the post and rolled favourably for a Wareham player to tap in from close range. A minute later and it was almost two, another deep cross was met at the far post with a shot that bounced up off the bar and then into the keeper's arms.

Despite the Wareham pressure, Merley scored a good equaliser in the 38th minute, a long ball beat the offside trap and a Merley player beat the onrushing Wareham keeper to it. He lifted the ball over the keeper and in. There were some Merley subs warming up near me and one was called into action shortly after the equaliser - not to replace a player, just to swap shorts with one of the onfield players who had managed to rip his down one side.

Wareham had a decent shout for a penalty just before halftime but the referee ignored the protests of the home team. They retook the lead in the 48th minute from a corner that was headed down and booted in before the keeper could react. Six minutes later and it was almost 3.1 when a player cut in and attempted a shot, only to slice it and see the ball spin to a team mate whose shot was well saved.

The match turned on a late tackle as from the resulting freekick Merley pinched another equaliser. It was quickly taken and found a player running into the box unmarked. He smashed the ball past a stationary goalkeeper before the defence could react to the delight of his teammates. This set up a fascinating final ten minutes as Merley kept their discipline and shape and eventually took the lead in the 82nd minute, a great curving shot from the edge of the area squeezing in.

Wareham took the ball down the other end and were awarded a free kick in a dangerous position. It was wasted as the shot hit the wall and they lost possession. Suddenly Merley broke down the left and a great pass set out a player to tip the ball past the keeper before slotting the ball in from the narrowest of angles. This didn't stop Wareham from trying again to get a third goal and they came close on two occasions - the first effort was kept out by a great diving save, the second saw shot hit the bar before being deflected over by a defender on the line.

A surprise win for the visitors and a champagne moment as I completed the Dorset Premier League for this season at least.