I am pleased to report that the 2019-20 season was a hugely successful one for the Ms Reserves football team. A highly competent crop of freshers from both colleges replaced those who graduated last year and improved the quality of the team as a whole. The final standing of the league remained undecided until the final whistle of the last game, with the Ms achieving a run of five victories in the last five matches to seal their second promotion in a row as league champions. Next season sees the team play in the top division of the college reserves leagues for the first time in many years.
The season also proved successful in Reserves Cuppers, with the Ms winning their way to the semi-final, missing out on a place in the final after a close-fought match with eventual champions Regent’s Park & St Benet's Hall. The team had beaten Balliol 10-1, Pembroke 3-2 and Somerville 2-0 in the quarter-final to reach this stage, and led 2-1 with 20 minutes remaining, but conceded two quick goals and missed a last-minute penalty to miss out on a place at the final at University Parks by the finest of margins.
The team started slowly in the league, losing two out of their first three games and looking set for a mid-table finish at the break in the season over Christmas. However, 4-0 and 10-0 victories early in Hilary meant that victory in all of the final three games would assure promotion, although these were against the three teams above us. A comfortable 7-1 win against St Anne’s maintained momentum going into the penultimate game against a St John’s side that was unbeaten all season. They were dispatched 4-1, setting up a final high-stakes game against newfound rivals Regent’s & Benet’s, also unbeaten in all competitions.
Going into the game, we knew that a win would guarantee promotion as champions, but a loss or a draw would see a third-place finish, with our opponents promoted instead. Keen to avenge our Cuppers defeat, the Ms all but sealed victory in the opening 30 minutes, racing to a 3-0 lead. A strong comeback from Regent’s and Benet’s in the second half left some nervousness with the score at 4-2 with 20 minutes remaining, only for Trajan Halvorsen (2019), the player who had missed the last-minute penalty in the semi-final, to seal victory with the fifth goal, prompting wild celebrations on the pitch and touchline.
Honourable mentions go to those other than myself who played every minute of all 11 games this season: freshers Ben Patterson and Harry Morrison (both Mansfield, 2019) and fifth-year striker Nick Ridpath (2015). Nick was the top scorer with 13 goals, followed by Harry on 7. A special thanks also goes to James, our groundsman, who kept the pitches in immaculate condition all season, and to Neal, the college barman, who supported us home and away along with a loyal group of Merton second years and Mansfield freshers.
With the core of the team next year now centred on an exciting group of soon-to-be second years, and several more experienced players – Nick entering his sixth season playing for the team – the Merton & Mansfield Reserves look forward to cementing their place in the top tier. It was a shame that we were not able to organise the annual Old Boys game in Trinity, nor the feistily contested Merton vs Mansfield match. This is something that we hope to play in Michaelmas. Throughout the year, I was ably assisted by my de facto Vice-Captains Ollie Bowling (2018) and Ed Spiers (2018), and am especially pleased to leave the captaincy in the capable hands of Will Barker (2019), a commanding presence and an exceptionally gifted player. I have every confidence that he will be a success.
Joe Hyland Deeson (2018)
MMAFC Reserves Captain 2019-20