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Merthyr Town 0 Beaconsfield Town 0
Rams Man of the Match – Stefan Powell
Beaconsfield Town and Merthyr Town battled each other to a standstill in a gritty and engrossing encounter at a wind battered Penydarren Park but in truth the weather beat both of them and somewhat spoilt the game as a footballing spectacle whilst keeping the 368 in attendance on the edge of their seats as random gusts threatened to turn the outcome into a lottery.
In the absence of Luke Neville, still sidelined with a neck injury, Jordan Ajanlekoko captained the side and his first act was to win the toss and elect to kick with the wind in the first half. To be honest, ‘Wind’ doesn’t really do it justice. At times the gusts were gale force and made it as hard to play with the elements in your favour as against.
Whilst the home side struggled to get out of their own half, Beaconsfield were struggling just as much to keep the ball on the pitch as a succession of through passes ran out of play or blew harmlessly through to the keeper.
It quickly became apparent that the home side saw getting to half time on terms as being nearly as good as the win as ‘game management’ started as early as I’ve seen it this season.
In truth though when they got the ball down and played it was apparent that playing into the elements may not be the complete disadvantage it initially appeared. The front four, with Ian Traylor prominent and pacy on the left and Jack Williams leading the line with intelligence, were able to ask questions of their visitors in the opening quarter without seriously stretching Myles Bowman.
That said it was the visitors who almost grabbed the lead as Louis Stead picked up a clearance in the inside left channel, cut in and delivered a low drive from 25 yards which cannoned off the face of the far post with Alex Harris beaten.
The keeper then spilled a speculative Nathan Webb effort from distance but no one was close enough to capitalise and the keeper was able to fall on the loose ball.
Merthyr’s best chance came moments later as Traylor and Lewis Binns combined on the left, the full back cut inside and picked out Eliot Richards arriving late. The Strikers shaped left-foot drive cleared Bowman before crashing down off the underside of the bar and was cleared by a combination of AJ and Nathan Webb.
Half Time 0-0
Any suggestions that playing with the wind in the second half would allow the home side, used to the prevailing conditions, to roll to a comfortable victory were quickly dispelled by Beaconsfield’s start to the period. With the certainty that the forward ball would stay in play this half Nathan Webb and Stefan Powell, returning to The Rams midfield, were able to drive forward and apply an effective press. With Alex Cathline adding muscularity and a willing target the visitors started the better and carried the early threat.
Merthyr found playing with the wind just as challenging as The Rams had in the first period and the visitors defended with a high line. The back four maintained concentration and discipline and negotiated the opening 20 minutes with few alarms.
Both sides struggled to take control of the game with little in the way of incident.
Gary Meakin sent on Charlie Losasso in place of Cathline, who had worked himself to a standstill, just after an hour mark.
The mercurial play maker was into the action immediately and instrumental in The Rams two best chances of the half. First, wriggling free on the right he curled in a delicious low cross seeking James Ewington who was free at the far post but centre half Ismail Yakubu made up ground and on the stretch was able to turn the ball over his own bar.
From Losasso’s resulting corner Aaron Minhas spun off a group of players in the centre of the area to find space and James Taylor’s header on fell perfectly for him just beyond the far post. Minhas seemed likely to at the very least test Harris but dragged his shot wide of the post.
At the other end an intelligent diagonal free kick caused some difficulty for The Rams and they conceded a corner which they then struggled to clear creating an opportunity for Jarrad Wright to send in a firm header which seemed to be heading just under the bar before Bowman intervened with a spectacular tip over to keep the clean sheet intact.
Moments later at the other end Louis Stead popping up on the right in another consistent afternoon of excellent and disciplined effort, picked out the sliding Charlie Losasso beyond the far post. Charlie could not keep the effort on target and it rippled the side netting.
As time wore on the home side were playing with greater urgency but also greater frustration as they were still struggling to come to terms with the elements as if anything the wind and showers intensified.
Throughout, neither side showed a particular willingness to launch a speculative 40 yarder when playing with the 60 mile an hour breeze in their favour which was odd. Especially, as when Merthyr did try their luck in the final quarter of an hour they almost scooped the points.
First Bowman was sent scurrying back towards his goal as a 50 yard free kick almost caught him napping on the edge of his box. To his and The Rams great relief the cheeky effort skimmed just over the bar. I doubt very much if he could have done much about it if it had been two feet lower but you make your own luck.
Moments later the keeper redeemed himself as a seemingly innocuous through ball kicked up in the wind and he found himself back peddaling and stretching back towards his line. Fortunately he had the presence of mind to realise that a successful catch would see him fall across the line so he slapped the dropping ball away from goal from under his crossbar and was grateful to see the ever dependable James Taylor deliver a well timed lunging intervention at the expense of a corner preventing substitute Camden Duncan from diverting in the rebound.
The home side predictably demanded a penalty for the challenge but Mr Clench who, it should be noted had an excellent afternoon, almost unnoticed throughout, was unmoved.
The wind got stronger both teams played themselves to a near stand still and the game finished honours even. Merthyr with their late weather assisted efforts may feel they should have won and Beaconsfield will look at the Aaron Minhas chance and Louis Steads first half effort and think they could have nicked it but in the end a draw was probably about right.
Honours even at the final whistle, after an evenly contested, highly competitive game full of effort and endeavour, well managed by Mr Clench, who refereed with quiet authority and consequently didn’t need to explain anything to anyone and got the big decisions right all afternoon.
Perhaps fittingly in these times the only winner was Mother Nature.
Let’s hope for a calmer weather outlook as The Rams head home to entertain Tiverton Town at Holloways Park on Tuesday evening.
Merthyr Town Fc
1. Alex Harris
2. Adam Davies ©
3. Lewis Binns
4. Daniel Summerfield
5. Jarrad Wright
6. Ismail Yakubu
7. Owain Jones
8. Jamie Veale
9. Jack Williams [Sub Corey Jenkins 80]
10. Eliot Richards
11. Ian Traylor [Sub12 Camden Duncan 79]
Subs Not Used:
Manager: Gavin Williams
1. Myles Bowman
2. Callum Webb
3. Mayo Balogun
4. James Taylor
5. Jordan Ajanlekoko ©
6. Nathan Webb
7. Aaron Minhas
8. Stefan Powell
9. Alex Cathline [Sub16. Charlie Losasso 65]
10. James Ewington [Sub15.Ade Shokunbi91]
11. Louis Stead
Subs Not Used:
13. Hafed Al-Droubi
14. Cheyce Grant
Manager: Gary Meakin
Attendance : 368
Ref: Jack Clench - Assistants - Matthew Perry - Liam Beames