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Hungerford Town v Merthyr Town

1 January 2024

Hungerford Town v Merthyr Town

Kick Off:




Hungerford Town v Merthyr Town

Bulpit Lane, Hungerford, UK

Match Report:

Despite the abysmal weather between Christmas and the New Year, the Bulpit Lane pitch was passed fit with further rain forecast to arrive during the late afternoon.

Playing down the slope in the first half the Martyrs started in a confident mood, against a team unbeaten in the previous 13 league fixtures, passing the ball with a distinct purpose in tricky conditions and on a very wet surface. After the early exchanges produced limited opportunities the best chance fell to Hungerford after 27 minutes, when the ball was turned over just inside the Martyrs half the pass found Conor McDonagh who for once saw space between the last line of defence. As he let fly from twenty yards Will Fuller had already advanced off his line outside the six yard box anticipating the shot, this gave the Crusaders leading goalscorer reduced options, allowing Fuller to dive full length to deflect the ball past the post for a corner.

Merthyr’s back line was robust, with the midfield in control, providing the visiting fans with a display of assurance as they easily handled the limited foray’s from the hosts in this battle of attrition on a difficult pitch.

Growing in prominence the Martyrs almost took the lead when Ricardo Rees, of course who else, flashed a ball wide of the post from a Kieran Evans inch perfect pass. Just before half time Ryan Clarke made a really important save from a Nick Rhodes header and on the stroke of half time the Martyrs edged in front. Evans picked up the ball in the final third and his slide rule pass found Rees, who was faced with the ‘A’ frame of Clarke and two defenders. There was only one thought on his mind as he quickly shifted the ball to his left avoiding Clarke’ despairing dive before feigning to pull the trigger as both defenders also flopped to the ground in front of him. The next thing everyone knew the ball was in the back of the net in an instant. This scenario would have been repeated over and over in his head as he visualised what to do in theory, but to see it manifested in practice was amazing and sparked utter delirium behind the goal as he ran away in celebration.

The driving rain returned on cue at the start of the second half, falling almost horizontally into the faces of the Crusaders. The coaching staff would probably have felt that the equaliser after 53 minutes, could have been prevented. From a Merthyr throw in on the right hand touchline slightly in front of the penalty area, Callum Ryan-Phillips slightly lost his footing before being hustled into conceding possession by Adulai Sambu, he quickly off loaded the ball to Elis Watts who carried it into the penalty area and placed the ball inside the far post. Will Fuller reacted furiously berating his defenders for allowing the space and not closing Watts down.

Monday afternoon was no defining moment for either side who currently occupy fourth and fifth position, but a moments lack of concentration saw a precious lead wiped out. Playing into the prevailing weather and down hill the hosts had the better of the exchanges as the game wore on searching for that elusive winning goal but the Martyrs defence remained firm.

After a 100% record in December the start of the New Year saw a creditable point earned away from home in difficult circumstances but with an indefatigable desire instilled in this band of brothers.

As the darkness rolled in the Martyrs had a few more tools in their box. Harris and Rhodes continued their effective partnership at the centre of the defence, while Ryan-Phillips and Smerdon added outlets on either flank; Thomas, John and Livermore offered energy in midfield. Rees and Hill were superb up front both putting in big shifts.

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