There seems to be no such thing as a tame end-of-season game for the battling Martyrs. A trip to Banbury on Saturday ended in an exciting 3-3 draw, with the sides taking turns at holding the upper hand. It was a good point for Merthyr against another top-half opponent, who had been on a 12 match unbeaten run before defeat in their previous match.
Merthyr travelled without Adam Davies (injured) and Ryan Prosser, and named the following starting eleven:
Ed Hewitson, Harry Franklin, Scott Tancock, Ashley Evans, Matthew Harris ,Kyle Patten, Corey Jenkins, Jarrad Wright, Owain Jones, Kerry Morgan , Ian Traylor.
Subs: Craig Reddy (for Kyle Patten 30 mins); Lee Price (for Kerry Morgan 63 mins); Jaye Bowen (for Harry Franklin 81 mins). Not used: Miles John, Ashley Thomas.
The first half saw a controlled performance from Merthyr with few threats to Ed Hewitson’s goal. At the Banbury end the home side persisted in passing the ball around and encouraging Merthyr to press them. Our strike force was too quick, not only for the home defence but also for the linesman, until the referee ruled after 40 minutes that Owain Jones had been brought down while bearing in on goal from the left. Ian Traylor confidently planted the ball from the spot to the left of keeper Jack Harding to give Merthyr a 1-0 half-time lead.
Unfortunately, a few minutes previously, Kyle Patten, a key figure in Merthyr’s defence, had been forced off the field with a leg injury. This was to prove critical to events after half-time, along with the substitute appearance for Banbury of Leam Howard, whose pace caused problems throughout the second half.
Merthyr conceded a messy equaliser after 49 minutes and a second close-range shot from Howard after 69 minutes. Within five minutes of going 2-1 down, however, they hit back, Owain Jones outpacing Banbury’s defence and hitting a sharp cross from the right, which Corey Jenkins gleefully turned in at the far post for 2-2. Then, Banbury went 3-2 up within a minute, Elliot Sandy netting after 75 minutes.
All three goals conceded might be viewed as general defensive errors, rather than individual mistakes, the only common feature being the absence of the injured Kyle Patten. Courtesy of the excellent multi-media coverage by Banbury, however, all can be viewed and debated from the highlights package online. To state the obvious though, for 30 minutes or so Banbury were quicker to the ball in our penalty area.
To their great credit, though, to a man Merthyr battled for another equaliser. With Lee Price and Jaye Bowen both contributing as late subs, the Martyrs pressed by hitting the ball long on occasions, but also with neat passing. It was genuine pressure pushing forward from the back that produced the loose ball in the six-yard box that Owain Jones hit home via a post for a 3-3 draw.