Merthyr fell at their first hurdle in the 2017-18 FA Trophy with defeat at the home of the current Southern League South & West side Taunton Town although not without a bit of controversy along the way in what turned out to be a feisty game. After his heroics in midweek, Morgan started the game in place of Jenkins in an otherwise unchanged side.
Playing down the slope and with the strongish breeze at their backs, Taunton started well and their first effort on goal went over the Merthyr bar from about 25 yards. Merthyr’s early forays into the Taunton half were thwarted by the home defence which allowed the Martyrs little room in the final third. Just before the 10 minute mark, Taunton broke down the middle and Evans made what looked like a good tackle about 25 yards out from the Merthyr goal but the referee, Mr Burley, whistled for a free kick to the home side. Adelsbury sent in a low shot which Davies did well to get down to, going to his left but he could only parry it out and McDonald managed to scoop it away only for the ball to be picked up by Sullivan and his pinpoint cross was headed home by an unmarked Wright from about 7 yards and Taunton got the early lead they desired.
Merthyr tried to hit back and Irish did well to make a safe catch from a Davies cross from the right but Taunton resumed their attacking play and from a corner the ball was met by Richards in the centre of the Merthyr area but he only succeeded in heading it up in the air and the breeze took it towards the Merthyr goal and Davies did well to get a strong fist on it and after a scramble the ball fell to Buse but his cross was well cleared by Wright. A few minutes later, Sullivan tried a speculative lob from the left hand edge of the Merthyr area with Davies out of position but luckily for the Martyrs the ball went into the side netting, Mitchell had a 25 yarder blocked by a Merthyr defender which went for a corner and from that kick, Patten did really well to make a superb tackle to clear the danger. Brett then made a good run into the Merthyr half and his shot from about 25 yards was parried away by Davies going down to his left and it fell to Wright but Davies nipped in to make a good tackle and Richards completed the clearance. Taunton did get the ball in the Merthyr net again when Sullivan picked up a flick on from Wright to beat Davies but he was clearly in an offside position and the “goal” was disallowed. Merthyr gained a corner on their right but Taunton defended well and got the ball back downfield and Mitchell again managed to get a shot away which went wide of Davies’s left hand post. Morgan had the chance to get a shot on target after Fleetwood was fouled on the left hand edge of the Taunton area but his free kick went high over the Taunton bar and just before the break, Morgan did well on the right hand edge of the Taunton area and got a good low cross in towards Fleetwood but a Taunton defender nipped in and got his foot to the ball which came off the bar and was cleared. Almost immediately Mr Burley brought the half to an end.
Merthyr started the 2nd half with the slope and elements in their favour and started to have more of the game and after good play on the Merthyr left involving McDonald, Bowen and Fleetwood, White cleared the danger at the expense of a corner. It was taken short by Morgan to Bowen and Morgan ran around Bowen to pick up the latter’s pass and got into the Taunton area only to be upended by Brett for a clear penalty but Mr Burley adjudged that first contact was outside the area and merely awarded a free kick which was taken by Traylor and defended well by the Taunton defence. A few minutes later, Merthyr had another shout for a penalty turned down when McDonald broke forward and gave it to Bowen who found Traylor who got it inside to McDonald who had continued his run and he seemed to get a nudge in the area and went down but Mr Burley awarded a free kick to Taunton and McDonald received a yellow card for simulation. Eight minutes into the second half, Chamberlain did well to break through 3 Merthyr tackles just inside the Taunton half and he sent it wide right to Mitchell and his cross hit the hand of Morgan as he slipped on the pitch with his arm extended and Mr Burley had no hesitation in awarding the home side a penalty. Adelsbury’s kick was aimed towards the inside of Davies’s left hand post and despite the Merthyr keeper’s despairing dive the ball went into the back of the Merthyr net giving Taunton a 2 goal advantage.
Shortly afterwards, Merthyr made a double substitution with Touray and Jenkins replacing Bowen and Morgan and after Taunton almost made it 3 when a Wright lob just went wide of Merthyr’s goal but at the other end Touray and Fleetwood combined well just outside the Taunton area for the former to get a shot in which went wide of Irish’s left hand post and a few minutes later the Martyrs clawed their way back into the game when a Davies cross was only partially cleared by the Taunton defence and Richards came steaming in and chested the ball down and sent in a sublime right footed volley from about 18 yards which rocketed past Irish’s right hand and into the back of the net and the score was now 2-1 to Taunton.
Adelsbury did well to clear from both Touray and Davies as Merthyr now had the bit between their teeth and a Traylor cross from the right just eluded Touray and went out for a goal kick. Then the flashpoint came when Richards made a good run down the Merthyr left and was cynically brought down by Adelsbury and as Mr Burley was awarding a yellow card to the Taunton defender, manager Williams ran down towards the ball which Brett was hanging onto behind the Taunton by-line and the next I saw was Brett lying on the ground and Williams received a red card and a melee ensued and when that calmed down, Traylor took the free kick for the original foul which went into the area which was headed on by McDonald but the ball went just wide of the Taunton goal. A few minutes later, Davies sent the ball wide right to Touray who did well to cut inside and found Richards and his shot struck the hand of Buse leading to a free kick to the Martyrs in the D. Richards took the kick which beat the wall but not the hands of Irish who got down well to his left to push the ball behind for a corner. Traylor took it into the area and after the ball bobbed about a bit finally Trowbridge was grateful to get the ball away for another corner which was again taken by Traylor which was partially cleared a couple of times to Evans but finally the home defence got the ball out of play for a throw. Then after a Jenkins cross was cleared the ball fell to Wright but his shot was deflected behind for yet another corner to Merthyr. Traylor’s corner was cleared. Then from a throw taken on the left, Richards got the ball in towards Touray about 25 yards out and he was fouled. This time it was Traylor who took the kick and his effort just cleared the bar and away for a goal kick to Taunton.
In a last throw of the dice Merthyr replaced Davies with Tancock who joined Wright and Patten at the back with McDonald sent upfront. Both sides had a chance to increasing their score and Staley picked the ball up on the right, near the corner flag and he got it inside to Mitchell who gave it to Buse and his shot cannoned back up into the air of a defender and Buse could only head the rebound high and wide of the Merthyr goal. Down the other end, Merthyr gained another corner on the right which Touray took short to Traylor who crossed it high to the far post and Evans was beaten to it by a Taunton defender but got it only as far as Wright whose shot was charged down but he did well to retrieve the ball and sent in a really good cross which was partially cleared to Jenkins near the penalty spot and his shot was cleared off the line by a Taunton defender and a colleague completed the clearance. Taunton saw the game out largely near the corner flag and gained a 2-1 victory to progress to the next round of the Trophy.