We fell to another defeat as our hosts survived a first-half red card to take a late victory, writes James Barrett-Sterling.
Match stats Merstham 2 - 0 Carshalton Athletic Bostik Premier League Saturday 29th September 2018 Attendance: 251 Last five results: DDLLL Current league position: 15th (with nine points)
Team news Tommy Bradford, Michael Aziaya and Kalvin Morath-Gibbs all returned to the starting line-up, with Raheem Sterling-Parker, Daniel Pappoe and Paris Hamilton-Downes dropping to the bench. Ex-Robins Reece Hall and Tom Bird were in the home side's squad.
Kick-off The tone of the game was set within the first 60 seconds as Ben Harrison was booked for deliberately blocking off Ricky Korboa as our man went to set off down the right flank.
And both sides showed a lot of energy and discipline to restrict each other during the opening exchanges, so much so that the first real shot on goal came on 18 minutes, but Amarlou Tangara easily claimed Mike Dixon's weak effort.
But the returning Bradford did create some space on 21 minutes, as his run beyond the home defence was found by Jacob Mendy, but the ball took an age to come down and our man stabbed a shot wildly over the crossbar from 15 yards.
Merstham were dominating possession however, but couldn't find a way through our backline as Billy Bishop was well protected by his teammates.
The big talking point of the game arrived on 29 minutes as Aziaya took the full brunt of a challenge by Kenny Beaney, who left the ground and whose studs were showing, midway inside our host's half. Despite getting some of the ball, the referee had no hesitation in producing a straight red as Aziaya received treatment. Once play restarted, Jordan Cheadle bent the resultant free kick neither on target nor so could his teammates could attack it.
But, instead of inspiring us to go onto the front foot, the next chance fell to Merstham and the lively Walter Figueira - he worked some space on the edge of our box but shot weakly at Bishop.
Aziaya and Michael Abnett then picked up bookings as both sides continued to shut each other down and we found it difficult to impose our extra man - Mendy and Cheadle both hitting efforts from distance wide or at Tangara respectively.
HALF-TIME: 0 - 0
We begun the second-half confidently and captain Bobby Price tested Tangara early on, while a lunging challenge by Harry Osborn sparked a few handbags that eventually saw Onovwigun booked.
Bishop's first save of the afternoon came on 56 minutes as Merstham won a free kick on the far side of our box and he had to parry away Fabio Saraiva's angled drive.
Tangara then produced a similar save two minutes later to deny Cheadle who whipped an inswinging shot in from the right.
We were, in all honesty, still not taking advantage of our extra man as Merstham continued to frustrate us but a golden chance to take the lead arrived just after the hour.
Korboa did well to turn on the left and he threaded a perfect through ball for Dixon to race onto. Tangara came out to narrow the angle but, just as our man went to shoot, the ball took a vicious bobble off the surface and Dixon was taken completely by surprise - he managed to guide the pass beyond the keeper, but the ball rolled agonisingly wide of the far post.
That opportunity spurred us on for the next few minutes and Cheadle was again denied by Tangara, who just managed to pull the ball back into his hands as Bradford came sniffing for a potential tap in, while Jerson dos Santos was introduced for Onovwigun.
Into the last 10 minutes, Korboa saw a strike deflected wide and Sterling-Parker come on for Dixon but we had another great chance to break the deadlock on 83 minutes.
Korboa was the man to unlock the Merstham defence again as, on the right this time, he curled in a cross that the unmarked Bradford rose to meet. Tangara could only watch as the header flew towards the far post but it frustratingly dropped the wrong side of it.
It seemed as though the match was destined to end goalless but then Merstham broke forward on 86 minutes as Figueira found sub Calum Davies who travelled along our box before going down under the close attention of Aziaya.
The referee pointed to the spot and Saraiva tucked the ball away from 12 yards.
We tried to rally and get forward from the restart but our hosts rubbed further salt into the wounds as, on the stroke of full-time, Morath-Gibbs failed to deal with a long ball and Figueira, who had put our man under pressure, managed to lash a low shot home from just inside our area.
Match highlights (with commentary) and post-match interviews available via robins.tv
Next up We host Margate on Monday 1st October (kick-off 7.45pm).
Carshalton Athletic: Bishop; Price (c), Dudley, Morath-Gibbs, Cheadle; Onovwigun (dos Santos - 75), Aziaya, Bradford; Korboa, Dixon (Sterling-Parker - 81), Mendy Unused subs: Hamilton-Downes, Pappoe Booked: Aziaya, Onovwigun
Merstham: Tangara, Abnett, Harrison, Beaney, Osborn, Cooper (c) (Antonio - 17), Samuels (Henriques - 87), Sow, Figueira, Saraiva, Hall (Davies - 46) Unused subs: Jones, Bird Goals: Saraiva (87 pen), Figueira (90) Booked: Harrison, Abnett, Figueira Sent off: Beaney