Southern League Premier Division
ST NEOTS TOWN 2 MERTHYR TOWN 3
St Neots suffered their tenth home defeat of the season as they were searching for points to ensure their survival at Step Three. However, it should have been a totally different outcome after they had led 2-1 with just eight minutes remaining. Clearly Merthyr, looking to preserve their play-off bid, did not know when they were beaten and they broke home hearts with two goals in six minutes at the death. Manager Matt Clements admitted to being ‘gutted’ by the result and agreed that had his side taken a reasonable percentage of the chances they created all three points were there for the taking. There was just a single team change with Fernando Bell-Toxtle coming in for Shane Hill who reported sick on the day and he performed extremely well adding pace and determination to St Neots’ midfield. There was also a birthday goal for Declan Rogers who last league goal was scored on 19th December. Now a trip to likely League champions Chippenham Town next Saturday is looking a very tall order.
St Neots began in generous mode gifting their visitors with a second minute opener when Taylor Parr stretching to reach an Ian Traylor cross only succeeded in turning the ball past his own goalkeeper. To their credit, St Neots refused to be fazed by this setback and they set about retrieving the damage in some fashion. It took just 14 minutes for them to be back on terms as Jevani Brown spotted Fernando Toxtle’s late run into the area and picked him out for him to find Declan Rogers who finished well. Merthyr looked stunned and were relieved when Jarred Wright cleared a Taylor Parr header off the goal line with his goalkeeper well beaten. Skipper Micky Hyem then looped in a narrow-angled shot which Oliver Davies stretched to tip on to the bar whilst at the other end two long range efforts by Corey Jenkins were both off target. The Referee then missed a clear handball in the Merthyr penalty area to St Neots dismay but the home side kept up their pressure and were rewarded after 33 minutes when Lee Clarke met a lengthy Jonny Herd throw to head past Davies for his first goal of the season. St Neots were now well in control with Lewis Wilson bringing a save from Davies and Jevani Brown just failing to reach a long Herd cross.
St Neots’ half time instructions were clearly ‘more of the same’ but they failed to find the rhythm that had made them so dominant prior to the break. However, they still created chances with Rogers sending a snap shot just the wrong side of a post, and Jevani Brown being cynically brought down by the keeper when he looked like adding to the lead. To the surprise of most, the Referee only brandished a yellow card at the lucky custodian and the free kick was cleared. After an hour Merthyr decided they needed to regenerate their attack sending on all three permitted substitutes and adopting a positive attacking approach. To some extent this paid off as St Neots were forced back on the defensive and St Neots only real chance of increasing their lead fell to Rogers whose volley was brilliantly turned away by Davies at full stretch. With just eight minutes remaining Merthyr won two successive corners and from the second floated in by Scott Barrow, defender Jarred Wright got the vital touch from close range to level the scores. Now the initiative was firmly with the visiting side and they set up further late attacks with both Keyon Reffell and substitute Kyle Copp bringing saves from Alex Archer. However, with two minutes left Merthyr poached the winning goal as a long throw by Barrow was only cleared as far as Ian Traylor on the edge of the penalty area and he fired a low shot through a crowd of players for the winning goal.
St Neots: Archer, Norman, Herd, Clarke, Wood, Parr, Rogers, Bell-Toxtle, Wilson, Hyem, Brown
Subs: Knowles (for Wilson 86 mins), Partridge Williams and Butler
Cards: Parr (Y – 72)
Goals: Rogers (14 mins), Clarke (33 mins)
Merthyr: Davies (O), Davies (A), Barrow, Evans, Wright, Tancock, Jenkins, Richards, Prosser, Reffells, Traylor
Subs: Patton (for Prosser 60 mins), Copp (for Jenkins 60 mins), Bull (for Tancock 60 mins), Harris and Bowen
Cards: Davies (O) (Y – 59)
Goals: Taylor Parr OG (2 minutes), Jarred Wright (82 mins), Ian Traylor (88 mins)
Referee: Paul Forrester (Luton)