Ryman League Cup
Tuesday 13th December 2016
Match report Cameron Smith; Photo Stuart Tree
A marvellous Merstham dispatched five goals past valiant Corinthian Casuals on a
deflating Tuesday evening where James Bracken’s youthful side exited the Alan
Turvey Trophy at the quarter-finals.
Returning from The Battle Of Hastings victorious, Casuals secured their place in the playoffs
with a momentous 4-3 win. King George’s Field was occupied once more on a mild
Tuesday night. This time, it was a more authoritative opposition, Merstham FC, who were
mid-table in the Ryman Premier Division. Progressing into the third round via Leatherhead,
the Moatsiders have had a mixed season as they struggled to balance their league targets
with FA Cup dreams. Airing live on BT Sport, Merstham faced Oxford United in the
Emirates FA Cup at Redhill in November as a new club landmark was reached. After the
historic fixture (in which Merstham succumbed to a 5-0 loss), they found themselves in
seventeenth place in the league.
An experimental starting XI was fielded by James Bracken to face the powerful force of
Merstham. The exclusion of no.1 Danny Bracken dominated talk around the ground as
youngster Louis Dixon made his first appearance for Casuals. Besides adding Jack
Strange ahead of Terry Murray at the back, two debutants made their first starts in
chocolate and pink: Jasper Harlington and Callum McAllister playing in the centre of the
park. Obviously looking ahead to the crucial league game versus Greenwich Borough on
Saturday, Bracken named Murray and Gallagher on the bench.
A vocal Merstham were physically involved from the off. Dealing with the tricky Jordan
Clarke, the away side’s red shirts swarmed towards any hint of danger created by
Casuals. The rapid trio of Merstham provided an opening goal after eleven minutes. Xavier
Vidal, who has represented Welling and Dulwich Hamlet during his short but eventful
career, converted from close range after terrific build-up.
It only took seven minutes for Casuals to reply. With remarkable speed that the Casuals
contingent have grown accustomed to, Max Oldham was a blur as he beat multiple
defenders before reaching the by-line. Goalkeeper rounded, Oldham attempted to square
the ball towards the six yard box until it was met by the hands of defender Marc-Anthony
Okoye, who pushed the ball away. Pointing to the spot, the referee decided to let the
offender off with a bizarre warning as Clarke stepped up to take the spot-kick. Slotting past
Phil Wilson, Clarke equalised with confidence.
Dictating the field, the visitors took a firm grip on the game thanks to Henriques, who
sneakily edged away from his marker to head home and make it 2-1. Before Merstham’s
second, Casuals had nearly scored via Oldham, who failed to connect from a cross.
Fortunately for Casuals, the referee blew for half-time as both sides re-grouped.
A potentially exciting second-half was let down by the lack of chances from both teams.
Merstham gathered and distributed the ball brilliantly whilst Casuals blocked the ruthless
visitors. This cycle caused a frustrating goal-less encounter as Corinthians grew
desperate- Ben Cheklit hammering the ball just over the bar from around forty yards. A
similar effort was replicated by the intrepid McAllister but this time, he fired into the roof of
the net from thirty yards in spectacularly random fashion. Surprised at himself, the
youngster deservedly celebrated as the game was levelled.
From jubilance to despair, Casuals were dealt with a devastating blow as two quick-fire
goals from Merstham resulted in a 4-2 scoreline. Merstham’s Kershaney Samuels claimed
the vital third as another corner troubled the hosts. A clearance from Casuals deflected off
a team-mate for substitute Callum Willock to slot home. Then, Merstham added a fifth
thanks to Dan Hector- the no.15 sliding the ball home after Dixon overly-committed
following a dangerous, floating cross from the away side.
A fresh and exciting Casuals team left King George’s disappointed despite a plucky display
whilst Merstham advanced into the semi-finals. We wish Merstham the best of luck in the
next round. Focusing on the tough task of promotion-rivals Greenwich, James Bracken’s
pink and brown army marched onto a vital league match.