Merthyr Town v Sholing
26 August 2023
Merthyr Town FC, Penydarren Park, Merthyr Tydfil, CF47 8RF
Sholing manager Dave Diaper, taking charge of his 1,200th game as boss of the Boatmen, had Ryan Gosney in the Sholing goal to thank for keeping the scoreline respectable. An absolute masterclass with a series of point blank saves, including a ‘triple’ block from close range kept the score goalless at the break.
Rees was causing the visitors defence issues as he looked to wriggle his way through the backline and had an early effort cleared off the line by Flooks. Next came the incredible scramble as Gosney saved from Tom Handley, Frazer Thomas and Joe Keeping in quick succession to be denied by the agility of Gosney before the attack fizzles out.
And that, probably, was a fair reflection of the half. Plenty of chances but Gosney had been an unpenetrable brick wall. Rob Flooks was booked for a cynical late tackle on Alex John that was to prove crucial for the visitors in the second half.
Just before the hour mark the visitors were awarded a free kick in a dangerous position after Tom Handley appeared to be unfairly penalised for winning a defensive header. Jake Hesketh curled the free kick into the danger area where Dan Mason rose to open the scoring.
Paul Michael introduced Keiran Evans to replace Joe Keepin soon after going behind and within minutes the substitute had scored the equaliser. Freeing Ollie Mehew whose initial shot was blocked, the ball came to Evans just inside the box and he was finally able to beat Gosney who had no hope of saving his fierce shot into the roof of the net. In this moment the momentum had turned.
Our second goal came just a few minutes later as Noah Smerdon picked up a through ball and made his way to the bye line. He cut a low cross back into the six yard box and from one of those moments where its not always possible to comprehend what actually happened unless you were in the throng immediately behind the goal, it transpires that an errant leg had been stuck out by Byron Mason to divert it past the despairing dive of Gosney.
The visitors were reduced to ten men when Rob Flocks was shown a second yellow card and dismissed by referee Cain Collins.
After the sending off Sholing sat with 10 men behind the ball for the majority of the final twenty minutes. With both the one man and one goal advantage the Martyrs kept possession and denied Sholing a sight of the ball. They were firmly on the back foot and their plan was obvious. Deny any space, sit in that low block, and hope to counter – but you have to have the ball to do that. There was a diligence and intelligence about the way the team played the final stages.
Gosney made another fine save from a Keiran Evans freekick, pushing the ball onto the post.
This was the third consecutive home game that the Martyrs had come from behind to take all three points. It’s been knife-edge stuff and not good for the blood pressure, but once again it was the response from going a goal down that ultimately will please the coaching staff.