07 Apr 2018, Saturday
Merthyr made yet another long journey, this time the longest, to King’s Lynn, and produced an epic defensive and counter-attacking display, earning a deserved 0-0 draw against the second in the league. The match programme suggested that Merthyr’s need for the points was not as great as their hosts, but the visitors were superbly motivated and organised, and played with a huge amount of passion.
The Merthyr team (1-11):
Ed Hewitson; Adam Davies; Harry Franklin; Craig Reddy; Matthew Harris; Kyle Patten; Corey Jenkins; Jarrad Wright; Owain Jones; Kerry Morgan; Ian Traylor.
Subs: Miles John (for Morgan 45mins); Lee Price (for Jenkins 75 mins); Dan Dima (unused).
Ashley Evans, Ryan Prosser, Scott Tancock and Jaye Bowen were unavailable
The game started quietly, but it was apparent that the Linnets’ back line was big and intimidating, though not necessarily mobile. Ian Traylor had a shot saved by Alex Street, while Owain Jones and Corey Jenkins both had early runs stifled. At the other end, Ed Hewitson started confidently, off his line quickly to through balls and forcing a hasty effort from Cameron King which Jarrad Wright managed to clear off the line. A free kick from Lynn’s left was headed wide and another resulted in a rare free kick in Merthyr’s favour, for an unfair challenge on Hewitson. He was punching confidently anything that came his way, although Merthyr needed some luck when Michael Gash’s shot hit the top of the bar.
Merthyr were having to soak up pressure, but there is a growing cohesion about our defence on away territory, where often the ball is bobbling on difficult pitches and where opponents might be trying to size up our young keeper. King’s Lynn are a strong, experienced side, but our team is gelling well, and can adapt to different situations defensively. When Hewitson beat away a shot that he could not hold, it was a Merthyr man that was quickest to the loose ball. Other efforts by Lynn were high, wide and not so handsome, as Merthyr closed down quickly, often in the name of Matt Harris or Craig Reddy, starting his first game for a few weeks.
Kerry Morgan, having already been booked for a foul, was given a final warning by the referee Mr Sannerude in additional time for the first half, which lasted 49 minutes for no good reason. This prompted Gavin Williams to replace him immediately with Miles John, with a defensive re-shuffle following. Kerry had worked hard getting up and down the field in the first half, battling away defensively, but also offering in attack. Merthyr could only expect the second half to be even tougher, with Lynn more and more desperate to sustain their push for the automatic promotion spot.
Merthyr defended in depth in the early part of the second half. Adam Davies, Kyle Patten and Matt Harris were solid at the back, and it is easy to forget the latter two are both converted mid-fielders and both have suffered long spells out with injury. Merthyr were getting forward more in a slightly more open game, but were also defending from the front. Corey Jenkins and Miles John were now defending tightly on the left, and Owain Jones and Ian Traylor were running themselves silly in the cause.
Immediately after King’s Lynn had made a double substitute, Merthyr prised open their defence with the sheer pace of a breakaway. The versatile Harry Franklin was given more licence to roam in the second half, and he broke clear with Owain Jones, only for both of them to be thwarted by desperate saves from Alex Street. Martyrs fans behind the goal were still wondering why Lynn had not been penalised a few minutes earlier for a trip on Jones when he was clear on goal and outpacing the defence. This was Merthyr’s best spell of the game, but the clean sheet was still dependent on concentration and discipline in our own half. Ed Hewitson offended the ref by taking too long over a goal-kick and was booked, then saved a sharp shot from Michael Gash. In the last fifteen minutes, corners, free-kicks and long throws were resisted by Hewitson and his defence, including a headed clearance off the line by Kyle Patten.
Lee Price came on for Corey Jenkins and soon got in the action. Merthyr broke threateningly a few times, most notably when Owain Jones was obstructed on the left edge of the penalty area, only for the free-kick to come to nothing. Deep into added time, Hewitson made his best save of the game pushing away a goal-bound shot from just inside his left-hand post.
Not for the first time, every one of our lads was a hero, and the management must take great credit for making them play with such confidence. A battling performance like this one does not just happen.