Merstham match report
match report by James Maw
Kingstonian were left frustrated by a resilient Merstham as the two teams drew 0-0 at the newly renamed (but not yet re-signed) worldflow Stadium.
Hayden Bird returned to his former club aiming for a second away win in five days, but his side were unable to break down the Moatsiders, managed by former K's No 2 Frank Wilson.
K's moved the ball well in the early stages but with Merstham sat deep and well organised, the visitors were unable to quite find the kind of penetrative passes in the final third that have been something of a trademark in 2021-22. This meant that despite enjoying plenty of possession, chances were at a premium, and it seemed as though set-pieces could well prove decisive.
Sure enough, Kingstonian were controversially denied a goal on the half-hour when Merstham keeper Toby Bull dropped Kenny Beaney's inswinger corner into the back of his own net, only for the referee to quickly blow for a foul. This was despite no K's player being within touching distance of the 18-year-old Brighton loanee, who was seemingly sent tumbling to the deck by one of his team-mates.
The only other time Bull was really tested in the first half was from another dead-ball, with Fabio Saraiva's 25-yard free-kick bringing a smart but comfortable save from the Moatsiders No.1.
K's frustration continued into the second half when Ollie Cook saw his shot hit the post, and Dan Ajakaiye was denied by Bull from close range.
The visitors continued to push for a winner right into the latter stages, and Jason Banton nearly forced one when his drilled cross was turned towards goal by Merstham defender James Richmond, but Bull made the save.
"It was very frustrating," reflected Hayden Bird after the game. "Some of the boxes were ticked - clearly defensively we were much better (...) but I don't think we did enough in the final third today to actually go on and win all three points.
"Let's not blame the referee today. Merstham worked really hard for their point and defended very well. This is always a difficult fixture but I think we're entitled to feel a bit disappointed.
"The team today was set up to attack, but we had one or two issues in selection. For example Gus (Sow) moving to right back was not ideal. I think he's probably the best central midfield player in the league but Nyren (Clunis) rolled his ankle in training on Thursday. The team we put out are all good players and they're a good side but I don't think in the final third to affect the game.
"We haven't been at our best today, but there's a rule in football - when you aren't at your best, make sure you don't lose. It feels like two points dropped but I don't think we ever looked like we were going to lose."
Merstham: Toby Bull, Jack Haire, Jude Mason, Ayman Gharbaoui, James Richmond, Bertie Lloyd, Chace Jacquart, Charlie Greenwood, Korrey Henry, Tahjae Anderson, Dylan Adjei-Hersey.
Subs: Craig McGee, Serge Makofo (for Korrey Henry, 80m), Barry Hayles, Luke Cook (for Tahjae Anderson, 70m).
Kingstonian: Rob Tolfrey, Gus Sow, Fabio Saraiva, Simon Cooper, Ollie Cook, Kenny Beaney, Daniel Ajakaiye, Kershaney Samuels, Elliott Buchanan, Jason Banton, Rhys Murrell-Williamson.
Subs: Jonathon Gjoshe, Calvin Ekpiteta (for Rhys Murrell-Williamson, 76m), Jay Barton (for Simon Cooper, 86m), Frazer Shaw (for Kershaney Samuels, 76m), Olly Allen.