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Match Report - Merthyr Town v Salisbury FC

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Merthyr Town 1 Salisbury FC 2
Evo-Stik South Premier South
Saturday 5 January 2019

By Alec Hayter

There are 3 points, and there are 3 points, but this was a MASSIVE 3 points, gained after a great game between two sides intent on, and succeeding in playing football. There were thrills and spills but the game benefited from both, and also in no small measure from a very mature refereeing performance from Dan Flynn, who managed the game extremely well and also, in spite of the high stakes, only found it necessary to issue one caution (to a home player) during the whole game.

The omens were not that good before the match, with changes necessitated by the 3G surface, but the 14 players who took to the pitch played as a team, and got what they deserved at a difficult place to come. It wouldn't be fair to single out anyone, but having said that, Charlie Rayfield's first team 90 minute debut was especially pleasing as he was up against one of the Martyrs' most effective players, goalscorer Ian Traylor.

In an initial flurry, the home side had two attempts in the first 7 minutes, with Ashley Evans testing James Hillson in their first attack, forcing the keeper to touch the ball over the top at full stretch. The second effort from Traylor was easily gathered.

A wayward Lee Lucas effort followed, and the Whites had a major scare when Hillson, off his line, sliced his clearance, but Traylor, turning up on the right, missed the target.

It was then Salisbury's turn to threaten, and Chris Shephard's shot was blocked before Rayfield got round the back of the defence only to see the ball deflected for a corner. The Whites' best chance was made by and nearly finished by Lewis Benson, as on 37 minutes he cut back on to his right foot after raiding down the left, his well-struck rising shot being touched over by home keeper Lewis Webb, with some difficulty.

Scoreless at the break, it was not long into the second period before the Whites took the lead. On 49 minutes,Tom Whelan picked up the ball just inside the Martyrs' half, took a couple of strides forward and beating his man, before unleashing a brilliant strike into the corner. Two minutes later an inviting ball laid back to Aaron Dawson by hard-working Dan Fitchett might have produced a second but the midfielder's finish finished up well over from just outside the box.

Whelan3Merthyr Town 1 Salisbury FC 2 - Copyright Michael Berkeley

Back at the other end Connor Young's 58th minute free kick found Kieran Lewis but he sliced his header wide, and two minutes later Hillson had to be at his best to keep out a Traylor blast, acrobatically tipping it over. Salisbury were not done though, and Matt Partridge found himself in "nosebleed" territory just inside the home half, but, with keeper Webb off his line, unluckily saw his lob just clear the bar.

It took a Rayfield goal-line clearance on 72 minutes to keep the ball out after Hillson got well under a cross from the Merthyr right, but the response was absolutely ideal when, with 3 minutes remaining, Jack Sparkes, who gave a cultured performance at left back and later further forward, took a free kick on the edge of the box, and the ball was in the net before Webb could react. 2-0 with three minutes to go should have been enough, but in the 4th minute of time added Lucas grabbed a consolation with a powerful right foot finish.

SparkesJack Sparkes, who free kick sparked the three points - Copyright Michael Berkeley

It never pays to leave Salisbury games early, but on this occasion those of Wiltshire persuasion got the best possible reward for their efforts in making the long journey They'll have a shorter trip on Tuesday, when Braintree visit in the Buildbase FA Trophy.

If the Whites can prevail, the game against Taunton next Saturday will be postponed, as we'll be in the next round of the Trophy at Carshalton. I want to be at Carshalton, and a big crowd on Tuesday can help that happen.....PLEASE!

Teams
Merthyr Town: Webb, Young (C.Williams 82), Harris, Evans, Wright, Patten (Morgan 68), Meechan, Lucas, Prosser (Jones 22), Traylor.
Subs not used: G Williams, Reddy.

Salisbury FC: Hillson, Rayfield, Sparkes, Whelan, Partridge, Wheeler, Benson, Dawson, Fitchett (Kotwica 85), Shephard (Sommerton 77), Haysham (Young 80).
Subs not used: Hopper, Herbert.

Attendance: 501 Referee: D Flynn