By Richard Foord
Mansfield/Merton pulled off a dramatic last-minute comeback against Exeter college, coming back from 3-1 down at the break to earn a deserved point in the last minute. The result is not ideal for either however, as they both drop dangerously close to the bottom of the premier league table.
Exeter enjoyed the best possible start to the match, converting in the first minute. The Mertsfield defence failing to deal with a cross from the right wing, Hunter’s header looping tamely to Exeter’s Platt who calming slotted past the goalkeeper into the far corner.
Rather than capitulating Mertsfield calmly began to play their way into the game, Captain Samuel Firman asserting himself with several strong direct runs into Exeter territory. However lone striker Adam Zimmerman cut an isolated figure up front as Mertsfield struggled to create any clear openings.
Nevertheless their perseverance paid off 20 minutes into the game. Right wing ho-joon kim whipping a viscous ball in from the right wing which cannoned around a host of legs before arriving Exeter full back Rob Ainsworth bundled the ball into his own net.
The game subsequently settled down for a spell before Mertsfield’s Hunter was caught in possession on half-way by the persistent Platt, who, in on the keeper, proceeded to slot his second of the match, reinstating Exeters lead as well as cementing his own position at the top of the premier league goal-scoring chart.
Mertsfield once again bounced back, some sharp skill from Kim on the right flank taking allowing him to cross to Zimmerman whose volley has smartly saved by Exeter’s keeper Rupert Therlowe.
However, Exeter ended the first half in the same manner that they began it. Exeter’s Brocklesby received the ball on the left side of the box, his first shot was blocked by Hunter’s arm, with the balling falling to him again only for his second attempt to be blocked by the keeper. The subsequent appeals for handball for the initial effort was rendered superfluous as the onrushing Charles Cooper converted the rebound, sending Exeter into the break 3-1 up.
The start of the second half was no less dramatic than the start of the first. As the ball swung in from a Mertsfield corner, Exeter keeper Therlowe exchanged some innocuous push and shove with Mertsfield’s Kim, prompting the referee to award perhaps the softest penalty ever conceded in the Jcr league. Both Exeter and Mertsfield players seemed a little confused by the decision, a particularly impassioned Chris Bennett receiving a stern rebuke from the referee for his trouble. However Mertsfield captain Sam Firman kept his head to coolly convert in the bottom corner.
Chances subsequently abounded for both teams, Mertsfield sensing they could get something out of the game and Exeter desperate to put the match to bed. Platt showed a rare lack of composure when he found himself in possession twelve yard from goal: when he elected to play a miscued pass beyond his onrushing team-mate rather than claim his hat-trick. Their was similar frustration in front of goal at the other end as Zimmerman was presented with a clear opening on the left side of the box, only to volley wide.
Eventually though, the perseverance with which Mertsfield had played with all game would pay dividends. Striker Zimmerman turned creator, whipping a ball in from the right flank, evading the Exeter defence and falling to an unmarked Ben Franz at the far post who emphatically fired the ball into the bottom corner, the referee blowing for full time a moment later.
Honours even was a fair result in a game in which both teams had their fair share of chances; Franz’s last minute equaliser giving Mertsfield the point that they deserved. Even if they got a helping hand from some absurd refereeing.