Match Report: Merthyr Town 1 – 1 Basingstoke Town Tuesday 19th December 2017

Merthyr Town 1 – 1 Basingstoke Town Attendance 302?
Tuesday 19th December 2017
Please note I have tempered my comments on here after a few hours of sleep/coughing.

Well that was a 136 mile trip each way, the Merthyr four (yes just the four of us hardy souls), don’t want to do this again on a Tuesday night. The original fixture was set for a Tuesday night and then replaying it a week before Christmas wasn’t the best decision and that was proven in the crowd that turned up on a night that was “Pay what you want” on the gate.

Anyway, to the game as Terry started with the same team as Saturday, with McAdden in goal, the back four of Wohlfiel, Demuria, Hollamby & Bayliss. In midfield Atkinson, McKnight, Deadfield & Bennett. Upfront was the Sam’s Argent & Smart.

On the bench was Bunting, Wright & Goater.

The Merthyr team, not only was the smallest overall team I have seen us play against, also included a 15-year old back-up keeper, who was the smallest keeper at this level I have seen, and at least two other players, who clearly hadn’t left school.

Anyway, the game got underway on their decent 3G pitch, with Basingstoke winning the first corner in the 3rd minute, which was easily cleared.

Merthyr’s first attack was in the 6th minute when a break down our right, resulted in a cross which flashed past everyone and went out for a goal kick.

Very little skill or control by either team at the moment, until the 11th minute when from a free-kick in Merthyr’s half, the ball bounces around the box and a shot from Bennett flies 10yds over the bar.

Basingstoke are now starting to control the game, but with very little threat at the moment. Then we break down the left and nice one-two pass allows Bennett to cross the ball, Argent wins the ball in the air and heads it back across the goal mouth, but it’s cleared only to McKnight whose shot flies five yards wide.

21 mins in and we win back-to-back corners. The second one is punched clear by the little goalkeeper, but we win it back on the left and Bayliss crosses it to the far post. The ball bounces up and Hollamby tries to fly-kick it, the ball loops up slowly and wide of the goal harmlessly.

24 mins in and when we lose the ball in midfield and the Merthyr player strides forward but chooses to shoot from 35yds and it goes woefully wide.

26 mins in and our first clear chance as Argent is put clean through, but the keeper comes out blocks Argents shot with his leg and the ball is cleared upfield.

28 mins in and Wohlfiel makes a run down the right, his long deep cross is met by an Argent head, but with little power, it doesn’t trouble the keeper.

32 mins in and another mess in midfield, gives them the ball, but McAdden is out to the edge of the box and makes a diving tackle with his feet, the Basingstoke player (sorry not sure who it was), then gives it back to the Merthyr forward, whose shot is held on by McAdden.

Very little goal threats by either team over the next 5 minutes, but we are the team that’s pressing more.

Then on 43 mins a deep cross from Bennett into the 6-yard box, is met by the keeper who flies four feet of the ground into the challenging Demuria and two defenders and punches the ball clear but lands heavily on the ground and the keeper is down injured. The ref has to sort out a melee of Merthyr players pushing and shoving Demuria. The ref takes no action whilst the game is stopped for four minutes. The keeper seems ok and as he takes the free-kick, the ref blows for half-time.

Merthyr Town 0 – 0 Basingstoke Town

The restart sees Stoke make two changes as Hollamby and Deadfield are replaced by Bunting & Wright. I assume Hollamby is injured, because this proves to be a tactical cock-up. Bayliss moves into middle with Bennett at left back. Merthyr’s back-up keeper is also replaced by a taller midfield player, this must be our chance now.

Like Saturday at Dunstable, we are slow to get going again and we seem all over the place at the back as Merthyr seem able to waltz through our defence, but a last minute challenge by Wohlfiel and we scrape the ball away.

On 54 mins we attack down the left the cross from Argent is tipped by the make-shift keeper to Smart who hits it back across the goal, but no-one can get a touch.

58 mins in and we win a corner down the right after Smart is able to chase down the ball, but his cross is blocked. The corner finds a Bunting head, which flashes 2-yards wide of the goal.

62 mins in and we are starting to look disorganized at the back, a Merthyr forward breaks clear but the shot is half saved by McAdden, the rebound is then half blocked again and the ball bounces around the box, somehow we clear it off the line and the clearance by Bayliss is hit straight at the Merthyr forward and it ricochets back into the crowd, where a further shot is blocked and is finally hacked clear.

We have further attacks, but with very little pressure on the keeper. It’s the same old story we are frightened to shoot at the goal.

Then on 67 mins, we win a corner on the right. The kick flies into the 6-yd line where Bunting out jumps everyone and heads the ball down and past the keeper and into the net. Stoke finally take the lead.

You would think that this would be enough for this Merthyr mis-match of players, but they can sense we are open at the back and the next five minutes there are sortees by the home team and we are struggling to put a tackle in here. Shots on 70, 71 & 73 minutes are thankfully put wide. More last ditch tackling, made worse by being unable to hoof the ball clear, gets the small Merthyr crowd behind them.

We break clear and Bunting who is initially fouled carries on, but the ref blows the whistle for the free-kick. Merthyr don’t seem to want to make a wall and Wrights free-kick has the keeper beaten, but there is so much bend on it, it is inches wide.

Another attack by Merthyr causes more chaos at our back and yet somehow Merthyr seem to mess it up.

Then on 81 mins, with Bennett replacing Bayliss at left back, the ball is over his head, he chases the ball down then takes an age to decide what he wants to do with the ball. You want him to hoof the ball upfield, but he’s half-tackled and he puts it out for a throw-in. The quick throw-in seems to have caught us unaware and the ball breaks the cross is put over the back, where a Merthyr forward who appears to be offside, is given all the time to control, then half-turn and swing a cross come shot across our goal into the net.

There are further attacks by Merthyr, who look more likely to score. These are inter-mingled by the odd attack by Stoke, but yet again we fail to test the keeper.

After what seems an age of injury-time the blows for the final whistle.

Full-time score; Merthyr Town 1 – 1 Basingstoke Town

Final comments; we showed little fight in the second half and was generally poor on a surface we train all-week on supposedly. Not a great sign for Winklebury. This was a Merthyr team with no keeper of note, yet we failed to pressure either of them. Simple fact Bennett can not be put at left back. I left the ground pretty demoralised by a performance against a team which would only possibly beat Dunstable or Gosport. Where was Charlie Kennedy or Dan Collier tonight? The Merthyr fans were the most-friendly I’ve come across at this level and I wish them all the best for the huge financial struggle they have facing them.

Match-report by Martin French