Match Data 2000/2001


Merthyr Tydfil 2
Havant & Waterlooville 1

Southern League Premier Division - Sat Jan 13, 2001

HawksMerthyr Tydfil
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2
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5
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7
8
9
10
11
Paul Nicholls
Craig Anstey
Aaron Cook
Gary MacDonald
Shaun Gale (Taylor, 87)
Liam Daish
Paul Wood
Tim Hambley
Jamie O'Rourke
David Leworthy
Neil Champion (Blake, 78)

Substitutes
James Taylor
Dean Blake  

Goals


Hawks
Leworthy (24)

Merthyr Tydfil

Att: 463
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2
3
4
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7
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9
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11

If anything the tense atmosphere at Penydarren Park this afternoon was brought about by Merthyrís league position, just a single point above the relegation zone. Having won only three of eleven home games, and the last of those coming way back on October 8th, their appetite to improve matters and climb further above the bottom four was in evidence for the full 90 minutes. We of course were seeking a confidence boost after our two recent defeats. Our aspirations for league cup glory may now be dust, but my personal hope for a top ten finish this season is still very much a possibility. I thought things were looking up before kick off, Merthyrís pitch was as dry as a bone and extremely firm. Perfectly suited to our usual style of short pass play.

It was long overhead balls though we initially sought to push past Merthyr, the back line taking any opportunity to launch shots from right across the width of the pitch into the home teamís penalty box. One bid from Gary MacDonald just eluded Paul Wood almost at the off, foiled only by Neil Thomas in goal. The Martyrs though quickly adapted to the ploy and after a trouble free opening for us their offside trap started to catch us with annoying regularity.

Neil Champion showed that heís been taking lessons from the Matt Jones book of long throws with the first of many examples in the 13th minute, providing Dave Leworthy with a chance for an ultimately soft shot. The action though remained balanced and the Martyrs took the lead as Daish uncharacteristically lost the ball in a tussle near the half way line, allowing Justin Perry to run the ball to the by-line. Gale could only clear his cross as far as Darren Carter who volleyed a shot into the roof of the net. Nicholls stood no chance it has to be said, as was the case several minutes later when Gareth Abrahams broke and provided Lee Baddley with an open goal that he managed to miss with some flair, launching the ball into the heavens.

From the resulting goal kick though Jamie took the ball forward and lobbed the ball into the area creating a mirror of the situation that lead to Merthyrís goal. This time the bad clearance fell directly to Dave Leworthy who blasted the ball into the goal off the underside of the crossbar. Back level our game picked up a little, Woody unlucky when a free kick deflected through the wall straight into Neil Thomasís arms. Daish made a good save with a fortunately placed boot, but just as things were starting to look up provider turned scorer as Perry jinked past Gale to go one on one with Nicholls. Paul near saved the difficult shot, getting a hand to it at full stretch, but his efforts werenít enough to push it wide of the goal.

The game continued into the second half much as the first had ended with near chances for both sides. In a heart stopping moment Woody bounced a shot off the post and Craig Anstey jossled Darren Ryan off the ball in the goalmouth at the other end to prevent a near certain goal. Frustrations built and nerves frayed, especially after a nasty but purely accidental incident in which Neil Champion was probably lucky only to be yellow carded for a powerful kick on a Merthyr player.

Our chance to pull a point from the game came and went in the 71st minute straight after a MacDonald clearance on the line. A quick forward push saw three of our strike force in Merthyrís six yard box taking shots that wouldnít go in, including the final attempt from Tim Hambley that managed somehow to scream over the goal. Flashbacks to that cold afternoon at Ilkeston all round I think! Dean Blake took a good shot just after his arrival and Nicholls pushed another from persistent menace Justin Perry wide, but not even the arrival of James Taylor to create a triple strike threat could salvage the equaliser we needed.

It was a great shame we couldnít capitalise on some of our second half chances as Merthyr, like Stafford last week, showed us a great deal of respect. Teams these days are obviously wary of us and its great to be recognised as more than the relegation fodder we seemed to be seen as last year. I canít help but feel though that at the moment weíre not making the most of what we have. Week after week we play opponents who score through not having any qualms about running the ball forward at speed when the chance arises. For some reason we deny ourselves those opportunities by holding the ball up on the half way line every time it comes forward. Our passing play and use of channels at times is superb, and unmatched in the league, but it would be great to see us seize the moment when itís there. Woody shows us repeatedly that running at a defence yields results, itís not necessary for everyone to assume training ground positions before putting a cross in. Would a little more adventurousness have seen some of the defeats weíve suffered this season turn into draws, or even wins?