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Sunday, 08 November 2015 21:06

Martyrs Stumble at the Crossroads

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SATURDAY 7th NOVEMBER. Penydarren Park, wet.
MERTHYR TOWN 1 WEYMOUTH 3 (Evostik Southern League Premier Div.)
The wettest spell of the season so far means widespread postponements and only fixtures on 3G surfaces are a safe bet. What better excuse to catch up with the Martyrs for the first time this season - especially as pre-match comment has suggested they are at something of a 'crossroads'.

Merthyr found the early months of the season tough. Promotion to the higher level, then player losses and injuries, a limited playing budget, all combined to bring a worrying run of results through September and into October. But fortunes have improved recently and the question now (the one presumably behind the crossroads analogy) is whether Merthyr can build on this, and push on up the table.

It's only just over six months since my last visit here, but much is slightly unfamiliar as I approach up Park Terrace. Alongside the challenges on the field, supporters have to cope with building works as Penydarren Park is being redeveloped. The project - due to complete in the spring - has put part of the ground out of bounds, with all access round the back of the stand at The Walk end of the ground. Bars, offices and changing rooms are all relocated away from the main stand, and the players emerge from a temporary entrance in the corner rather than the traditional point under the grandstand. In the circumstances, the crowd (later confirmed as 474) is pretty healthy on a nasty, damp afternoon, though maybe the postponement of so many local games actually helped swell it. No doubt the recent upturn in results played a part too.

Initially, the match is poor quality: error-strewn, passes misplaced or aimless. Merthyr match the visitors, and have a couple of chances, but playing with just a lone striker is reducing their chances of capitalising. In fact, the man up front - former Swansea man Guillermo Bauza - looks dreadfully uncomfortable in this role: he seems forever stretching awkwardly to try to gain control of the ball. Weymouth (the Terras) are disappointing at this point, lacking shape and not looking like a promotion-chasing team at all. I'll also never forgive them for abandoning their historical terra-cotta colours, now re-branded as a far more common 'claret'; not that it matters today, as they're wearing yellow anyway.

But towards the end of the first half, the Terras begin to look more dangerous, and come close to taking the lead - a linesman's flag saves Merthyr when the visitors do bundle the ball into the net. The teams go in with the score still 0-0, and neither set of fans seeming too pleased with their team's performance.

A lively start to the second half from Weymouth is suddenly derailed, ten minutes in, when we see the first real flash of quality in the game: Merthyr's Ian Traylor accelerates down the left and floats a lovely cross to the far post, where Corey Jenkins heads down and goalwards; the ball ends up in the back of the net with Terras' keeper Matthews.

Sadly, that's the high point of the afternoon for the home supporters. A couple of minutes later a Weymouth free-kick is chipped over Merthyr's defensive wall and past a static Tom Bradley. Ten more minutes and Merthyr are behind, to a fine half-volley that flies into the net before Bradley can move - like the rest of us, he may have been expecting this ambitious effort to go into orbit. The Martyrs never really look like recovering after this, and when defensive dithering gifts Weymouth a third goal it's all over. Long before the end the fans are trickling off the terraces and heading home.

If Merthyr Town really were at a crossroads today, they've not taken the road their fans hoped for. In reality, all that's happened is that they've lost to a better (and higher-placed) side. I feel this is a season from which Town fans shouldn't expect too much - consolidation the best outcome. If his budget permits, Steve Jenkins probably does need to strengthen this squad to ensure they stay clear of trouble. Top of my list would be a recognised striker to lead the line. I plan to return later in the season - and I hope to see as much progress on the field as I will off it.

Read 3310 times Last modified on Sunday, 08 November 2015 21:13

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