Taunton Town v Merthyr Town
19 September 2023
Following the ankle injury to Frazer Thomas in the first game between the sides, the only enforced change to the line-up was Aneurin Livermore starting in midfield.
Most crucially, though, it was the overall sparkle of the players that struck a major chord. Once again the Martyrs played with absolute conviction. They played with heart. They played with sharpness. They played with expression and collective desire. This FA Cup tie came gift-wrapped to present them with the perfect set of circumstances to throw off some of the frustrations and doubts that the result against Chesham may have caused. They reset themselves and played up-tempo, bold football.
The inclusion of Livermore brought another interesting dynamic to the table. The Martyrs were able to use Livermore as a fulcrum in the mid-field area to maintain the tempo, and he did it really well.
The pace of the passing on a heavy surface after torrential rain in Somerset over the weekend, possibly surprised Taunton as we were able to keep possession and move the ball with ease around the pitch. It was controlled and an absolute joy to watch.
Ricardo Rees fired a fierce shot from the edge of the area narrowly wide of the post before we went ahead after 25 minutes. The ball was played out wide to Tom Handley, who struck a ball across the face of the goal that eluded a defender and found Olly Mehew, who had ghosted in unmarked at the far post to guide the ball into the roof of the net.
This helped the Martyrs to continue that first-half momentum from an attacking perspective, but again it was well controlled. Liam Angel had been booked in the first period that resulted in his withdrawal at half time to prevent any further opportunity for a second yellow card, which would have been a big blow.
Although this felt like it was going to be a tight game in terms of the scoreline, we put those doubts out of everyone’s mind when Olly Mehew scored an almost mirror image of the first goal. Rees skinned the left back wide on the right touchline, fizzed a ball into the penalty area where Mehew had arrived unmarked at the far post to take a touch to control the ball before stroking the ball confidently past a dis-paring Dan Lavercombe.
It was another scintillating team performance that had been greeted by the non-stop support of the Merthyr Town fans present. This was an open, hypnotic display which continued at great pace and if Paul Michael could have designed the ideal game for his team, this was it. A dynamic encounter against a team from Step 2.
The Martyrs were liberated. The fluency came flooding back through the system. It was as comprehensive as it could have been. It was the very opposite of a basketball match, one way traffic rather than end to end until the final fifteen minutes.
Taunton created pressure during that closing period but it was mainly an aerial bombardment that the defence coped with admirably, to show another side of our game. With Matthew Harris and Nick Rhodes in the final ten minutes of second half completing numerous blocks, as Jamie Cogman was also called on to make a number of saves.
It was utter delirium, and for the many who travelled down the M5 from Wales, it was the perfect moment as part of a masterclass in managerial tactics.
In added time Nick McCootie scored with a close range header for Taunton, but it was too little too late for the home side.
Even the late introduction of former Peacock, Gethyn Hill, who had missed last season with a long term injury, arriving onto the soaking wet turf with just a few minutes remaining, helped to raise the spirits even further. This was a band of battling brothers, fatigued to the bone, fighting for one another at the very highest level possible.