Walton & Hersham v Merthyr Town
25 November 2023
Elmbridge Xcel Sports Hub, Waterside Drive, Walton-on-Thames, Surrey KT12 2JP, UK
On a clear but bitterly cold November day, spirits would be lifted by this classic encounter, after being reduced to ten men but performing a classic smash and grab raid over 90 minutes.
After Lewis Powell gave the Martyrs a goal advantage after just four minutes with a clinical close range header the game develop the flow of a basketball match with both sides playing positive football. The Swans were handed a distinct advantage when Alex John was dismissed for his second yellow card late in the first half, but it was the Martyrs who were first to further move the needle as Olly Mehew broke clear from half way and was fouled by Mills in the penalty area, this allowed Ricardo Rees to add a second from the resulting spot kick.
The two goal advantage didn’t last until half time as Eddie Simon reduced the arrears at the far post for Walton in added time of the first half. So with 45 minutes to protect the one goal advantage it would be a backs against the wall rear guard action in the second half.
But Frazer Thomas, a first half substitute for the injured Aneurin Livermore, had other ideas after 78 minutes as his geometrical pass sent Olly Mehew away, effortlessly gliding across the artificial surface like a downhill skier. Out running the defenders he scored a third goal with the sweetest of sweet spots, Liam Allen stuck out a foot but was unable to make the save as it nestled into the side netting. A really well taken goal which at that stage of the game was against the run of play but well deserved. A fine example of hitting the opposition on the counter attack and the two goal lead is restored once more.
Walton tried everything to find a way through the Martyrs defence but whatever they did was repelled superbly. There had been a few mutterings about results in recent weeks but this completely changed the dynamic. What pleased Paul Michael the most was the way that his players managed the game. Immaculate in execution the Swans were stymied at every turn. Everything that they attempted hit a blue and black wall, plus Jamie Cogman who all helped to suppress the threat.
For large swathes of the battle it was the ten men who playing as a unit forcing the hosts wide at every opportunity and defended the balls that were crossed in hope more then anything. The Swans are a side of genuine quality, but on this occasion they don’t seem to know how to use it to their advantage.
But as time was running out a far post header from centre back Mitchell Gough found the back of the net to allow a glimmer of light and the possibility of the completion of the comeback, but they were still to be denied by the crossbar and some heroic defending during the final few minutes, as the Martyrs survived to enhance their fine away record.