Northwood 3  Merstham 2

Saturday 8th October 2022


1 Andrew McCorkell    
2 Sam Jenkins    
3 Andy Lomas    
4 Riccardo Alexander-Greenaway    
5 Luke Tingey ©    
6 James Gurteen    
7 Jake Tabor    
8 Micah Jackson (78m)    
9 Juwon Akintunde (59m)    
10 Sydney Ibie (83m)    
11 Carl Stewart    
12 Ergys Pepaj    
14 Josh Helmore (59m)    
18 Ronan Hutchins (78m)    
16 Rahim Jude-Boyd (83m)    
17 Brandon Kalu    

Merstham: Mo Otuyo, Jordan Wilson (Alpha Diallo 71m), Michael Kamara, Malakai Hyman, Aziz Sankoh, Michael Aziaya, Peter Adeniyi, Charlie Greenwood, Bryan Zepo (Charlie Alexiou 76m), Lindell Stewart (Ore Bello 71m), Lorenzo Lewis


Northwood welcomed Merstham for the very first time on Saturday afternoon, in a game which saw league leaders take on the league's lowest. Top of the table Northwood were on fine form this season, winning six games on the trot but their previous two matches saw them suffer narrow defeats in each. On the other side of the spectrum, Merstham were winless this season but managed an impressive 0-0 draw last week with ten men, so confidence must’ve been high with the away side. Form of both teams meant the only prediction that could be made for certain was that the fans were in for a good game.

The Woods made a few changes after last week's disappointing loss to Ashford. Micah Jackson came in for Ergys Pepaj which saw Jake Tabor play in a more central role as Jackson had taken up right-wing. The second change saw Josh Helmore being given a rest as Juwon Akintunde came in up top to make his debut after signing from Uxbridge – he was hoping to add to the two goals he had already netted this season. Finally, Sam Jenkins had replaced Harry Gallagher due to the red card he received in the previous game. The rest of the team remained the same including top scorer Sydney Ibie, who came off with a hamstring issue last time out.

The visitors team included former Woods’ striker, Lindell Stewart, who moved to Merstham hoping for a more prolific period with his new team. In the centre of the park, Peter Adeniyi was picked to start for his second game in a row; however, this may have been a biased selection as Adeniyi is also Merstham’s manager!

The game started with both teams being cautious and only seeming to be able to string a few passes together in their own half whilst only using long balls to progress through the pitch. Despite Merstham having the first chance of the game with Stewart’s wide header, it was Northwood who were the team to take the lead. In the 12th minute, debutant Akintunde had nicked the ball off Malakai Hyman, a couple of passes were put together and the ball was played out wide to Ibie, which he set back to Lomas who swung a peach of cross in.

Merstham had dealt with the situation well for the time being, but it was at the sacrifice of a corner. Micah Jackson stepped up to take and his wand of a left foot wished up an excellent strike directly from the set piece into the top left of the goal. Northwood drew first blood, and the reds were 1-0 up. Away fans weren’t scared to voice their displeasure of that goal towards the linesman as they believed an offside should’ve been called in the build-up.

PHOTOS by James Brown

The goal had injected energy into the game and chances started to come thick and fast. Aziz Sankho skied one over Andrew McCorkell’s net, with Ibie and Jackson each emulating him on the other side of the pitch a few minutes later. In-between the two misses, Merstham had their first shot on target; Jordan Wilson saw his poke towards goal matched by the goalkeeper after he played a quick one-two down the channel.

Merstham soon saw their efforts rewarded in the 23rd minute when they managed to breakaway swiftly on the counterattack after a Northwood throw was hooked away. Lorenzo Lewis ran through and played a neat ball towards Charles Greenwood and with the help of a slight deflection, the ball travelled past an unfortunate McCorkell to make the game level.

A match which had been very stop start saw two penalty shouts not given in quick succession. In the 27th minute, Tabor had probed into the box and received a nice pass which he greeted with a lovely turn. The moment was soon shut down after Tabor dropped to the floor due to what appeared to be a push, but referee Jack Shepherd waved play on. Merstham then had a turn for a claim after Bryan Zepo cleverly let the ball run through to goal scorer Greenwood which led to a strong challenge on him by a Northwood defender. Screams were pelted by the away fans, but Shepherd was unfazed and once again let play continue.

Merstham were growing in confidence. Their defence looked compact and composed and the team just seemed to be clicking. This was evident in the 40th minute as captain Michael Kamara played a long ball out wide to Lorenzo Lewis, who expertly flicked the ball on with the outside of his boot. The number 10 continued to stride forward towards the keeper, where he emphatically finished into the far corner to make it 2-1. Merstham had taken the lead for only the second time of their season and Northwood seemed shellshocked.

The final five minutes saw Merstham play with a spring in their step, including their player manager Adeniyi who was really rolling back the years with the number of times he breezed past a challenge. Zepo also impressed with his close control and intelligence during the half. Jackson and Tabor were key for all the good the Woods had produced during the first 45. For Northwood, movement was minimal, and the passing patterns were predictable. As the referee blew for half time, the home side knew something needed to change.

And change it did! Northwood started the second half with high intensity and a lot of hunger. Shots were being let off, tackles were being committed and spirits were being lifted. Merstham wouldn’t go down without a fight though and decided to fight fire with fire, putting a couple of tackles in themselves. Ref Jack Shepherd had to call a lot of fouls as well as a few verbal warnings as he tried to play peacemaker between the sides. 

Unfortunately for Lindell Stewart and his team, it appeared he bit off more than he could chew whilst trying to defend against Ibie in his own box. In the 58th minute, the former Wood made a mark on his return to The Skyline Roofing Stadium by being drawn into a diving tackle and giving away a penalty after Ibie shimmied past him. The latter then stepped up and slotted it into the right corner to score his fourth spot kick in five games but more importantly, Northwood were back on level terms.

This home side were buzzing and almost instantaneously they got another chance. Sydney Ibie got down the left-hand side again, this time playing a looping ball towards the back post where Jake Tabor was waiting patiently to head the ball in off the bar for his first goal in a Northwood shirt. 3-2 to the home side!

The game was now open and had started to become end-to-end. The 64th minute saw a scramble in the Northwood box after the goalkeeper was beaten to the ball but luckily for him, several blocks were made, and Northwood survived. Josh Helmore, who had recently come on for Akintunde, saw his shot saved by Otuyo and the resulting rebound fell kindly to Jackson, but the central midfielder could only drag his shot off target. After Lorenzo Lewis had curled a free kick just wide, plenty of brilliant last-ditch tackles were made by each side, showing just how much this game meant to them. Northwood missed chances to put the game to bed with Otuyo spectacularly saving Tabor’s low shot with a strong hand and another direct corner hitting the crossbar.

From the 70th minute we saw many breaks in play, and it appeared Northwood’s best defender on the day was the linesman and his offside flag – much to the frustration of the Merstham players. The fans remained in full voice and created an amazing atmosphere which certainly contributed to Northwood’s willingness to keep hold of the lead. That stubbornness was nearly broken during stoppage time, however, as Sankoh raced down the left wing and zipped a good ball into the box and directly onto the head of Lewis. With the game he had, you would’ve bet money on him to bag another but in this instance, it just wasn’t meant to be as he smacked the bar from close range.

After another scare from a cross into the box it appeared as if Northwoods hard work had paid off. They had survived! The referee blew his whistle for the last time and Northwood had managed to grab the win meaning they extend their lead in the South Central Division to five points clear. Thank you to the 164 who attended and thank you Merstham for playing a great game!

REPORT by Sarim Ahmed

Highlights of the game by Adam Millership are on the club's You Tube channel.