Merthyr Town v Winchester City
24 October 2023
Merthyr Town FC, Penydarren Park, Merthyr Tydfil, CF47 8RF
With defensive resources severely depleted because of injuries to Noah Smerdon, Matthew Harris and Callum Ryan-Phillips, it was necessary to redeploy Alex John into a fluid back three as Tom Handley was pushed further forward at every opportunity to support Jack Evans, Aneurin Livermore, Kieran Evans and Frazer Thomas who occupied the mid-field area.
The Martyrs were provided with an almost perfect start as Tom Handley scored his fifth goal of the season with a well placed header across goalkeeper Pryce, from a well flighted ball delivered from the right hand touchline.
Despite the visitors operating with a double defensive pivot immediately in front of their back four, it was one way traffic for the next half hour as the Martyrs expected goals (xG) was off the scale, creating chance after chance that all frustratingly went unconverted.
A vehement penalty claim went unheeded for what appeared to be a foul on Alex John, before the wasted chances came back to bite the Martyrs allowing Winchester a route back into the game that seemed extremely unlikely. After 31 minutes Joshua McCormick used his blistering pace to pick the pocket of Handley and intercept a slightly under hit pass, from just inside the Merthyr half he used the speed of his momentum to race to the edge of the penalty area before hitting a rocket into the top corner.
After dominating the attacking third for long periods it was disappointing that the sides were level at half time. The best opportunity of the second half presented itself to Ricardo Rees with only Pryce to beat, but his effort was saved by the ‘keeper. However, the closest the Martyrs came to regaining the lead came in the 64th minute when a Liam Angel free kick from 20 yards struck the crossbar. As the game wore on the home side ran out of ideas and with a desperate throw of the dice three attacking substitutions were introduced in an attempt to break the deadlock.
In the dying embers of the game after the constant attacking pressure exerted in the first half from the home side, it was Winchester captain Jamie Barron’s free kick from wide on the touchline that evaded Jamie Cogman in the 88th minute, to float under the crossbar and provide the visitors with an unlikely three points to record their fourth away victory of the season.