Dr. Martens Southern Premier League

Merthyr Tydfil

Harries (28), Edwards (36), Hapgood (62)

Hednesford Town

Lake (82)

(2) 3

(0) 1



Current Form

Next Match


Mark Gayle



Weymouth (A) 23.3.02

The Pitmen are nervously looking over their shoulders once again as they turn in arguably their worst performance of the season to crash to a dreadfully poor defeat at fellow strugglers Merthyr Tydfil this afternoon


Back-to-back defeats to King's Lynn and Kettering Town had stunted the Pitmen's recent run of consistent form and left them sitting just three points above the drop zone heading into today's game at Pennydarren Park. Manager Kenny Hibbitt stuck with the same side that had started against league leaders Kettering in midweek and had given a good account of themselves until the Poppies grabbed a late winner


Merthyr had endured a miserable season to date, currently occupying one of the three relegation spots. A home defeat to Weymouth in midweek had left the Martyrs four points adrift of safety, with manager Leroy Rosenior making one change to his side from Tuesday night as Leon Hapgood replaced Ian Hedges on the left-hand side of midfield


The all-blue Pitmen's kit matched their early mood as Merthyr made a good start to the game and pushed their relegation rivals back into their own third in the opening exchanges. Paul Harries picked up a loose ball on the edge of the Hednesford penalty area in the third minute of the game and struck a long-range shot that looked goalbound until skipper Mark Haran produced a timely block to turn the ball behind for a corner kick


Mark Gayle was to once again earn his keep between the posts for the Pitmen with another fine performance for the visitors to keep Merthyr at bay time and again throughout the game; his first contribution came in the sixth minute as he made a fine save to block Hapgood's close-range effort before deflecting a follow-up shot from Harries behind for a corner kick


Chris Lima headed narrowly over for the hosts in the twelfth minute as Haines' cross from the left flank was narrowly diverted over the crossbar by the striker from eight yards out


The Hednesford supporters were in full voice behind Neil Thomas's goal, but could not get their side to muster a response in a laggy and uninterested opening quarter of the game. A neat passage of play through the centre from the Martyrs on eighteen minutes saw Wayne Savage play a quick one-two with Mark Dodds before playing Haines in on goal, only for Stuart Lake to intervene with a late, risky sliding tackle just inside his own penalty area


Haran was the first player to have his name taken in the twenty-third minute of a low-quality encounter as he was booked for an overly-aggressive tackle on Harries that riled Rosenior and his bench


The Pitmen could only conjure up a weak effort from Brown three minutes later as their best effort of the opening half-hour as Stewart Airdrie made a fine run down the right flank, cutting inside and past Haines' challenge before setting up Brown, whose scuffed effort lacked power and was easily dealt with by Thomas


It was perhaps unsurprising that the Pitmen found themselves a goal down two minutes later as Merthyr took a deserved lead; a corner kick from Hapgood was not cleared by a hesitant Hednesford defence and led to goalmouth scramble, with Harries eventually nodding the bouncing ball home from close range unchallenged from a yard out


It could have got a lot worse for the away side two minutes later as Hapgood's pass played Jamie Edwards clean through on goal after he broke through the flimsy Hednesford offside trap. Gayle did enough to put the youngster off as the two met on the edge of the Hednesford penalty area and forced the striker to drag his shot well wide of goal with only the Pitmen's keeper to beat


With thirty-two minutes on the clock, Edwards clipped a long ball forwards into the path of Harries, who had escaped the attentions of Lee Barrow to get himself goal side of the centre-back. The assistant on the main stand side raised his flag very late to deny the striker a shot at goal, a decision that was met with consternation from the home supporters who felt that Harries was onside when he received the ball


However, Merthyr finally grabbed their second goal of the afternoon just four minutes later to leave the Pitmen with a mountain to climb; the away side's defence had clearly not learned their lesson from a few minutes earlier as a through ball from Savage found Edwards in acres of space once again in behind them. On this occasion, the young striker got his angles just sight, slotting the ball beyond the reach of the advancing Gayle and into the net off the foot of the right-hand post


Wayne Simpson drilled a shot well wide for the Pitmen on thirty-nine minutes with a wild effort from the edge of the penalty area before Neil Davis's snap-shot on forty-three minutes was blocked at the near post by Lima


It had been an utterly dreadful showing from the Pitmen thus far, with an angry Hibbitt ringing the changes at half-time as he made a double change - Matt Gardiner coming on for Ashley Williams at centre-back and Wale-Kwik Ajet replacing the out-of-his-depth Brown up front


This shake-up seemed to have the desired effect on the side as they started the second period well. Davis fed Airdrie into space down the right-wing on fifty minutes, beating Haines once more with his pace before shooting into the side-netting from a tight angle. With the benefit of hindsight, a cross to the far post where Ajet was unmarked may have been a better option


Ajet's neat turn and through ball five minutes later played strike partner Davis in on goal, only for the presence of Lima to deny the Pitmen's top scorer a chance as he snuffed out the danger with a block tackle


The Pitmen's bright start to the half was extinguished however on sixty-one minutes as Merthyr essentially sealed the win with a killer third goal. Once again the Pitmen were the architects of their own downfall - as they had been for the majority of this season - as the usually dependable Lake weakly headed a corner kick straight into the path of Hapgood, who drove the ball home from twelve yards out to make it 3-0


Lake tried to make amends with a header at the other end four minutes later, glancing a cross from Airdrie just over Thomas's bar at the near post after Airdrie's initial corner kick had been headed back to him


Derek Rae had watched the game pass him by in midfield in an unusually quiet performance from the aggressive Scotsman. He tried his luck with a shot from just outside the Merthyr penalty area on sixty-nine minutes but lifted his shot over the bar and into the Hednesford contingent behind the goal


The Pitmen made their final change of the game with nineteen minutes of the game remaining as Simpson was replaced by Andy Brownrigg at the base of the Hednesford midfield


Brownrigg was straight into the action for the visitors on seventy-four minutes, drilling a shot wide of goal from fifteen yards out after Haran had headed an Airdrie cross into his path


Gayle was called upon once more on seventy-eight minutes as he palmed an Edwards shot away from goal and followed this up from the resultant corner by acrobatically tipping Lima's looping header over his bar for another Merthyr corner kick


The Pitmen managed to pull a goal back on eighty-two minutes as Airdrie's inswinging corner was firmly headed home by Lake, who finally got one of his near post headers on target to power the ball past Thomas at his front post and reduce the deficit


Merthyr substitute Peter Knox saw Gayle tip his low shot away from danger two minutes later before Richard Lucas completed the clearance and Barrow headed off his goal line with three minutes remaining to clear Savage's looping cross back into the danger zone


It had been a much-improved second-half performance from the Pitmen, but such a dreadful first-half display had given too much to do to get themselves back into the game in the second forty-five minutes Merthyr now move just a point behind the Pitmen in the league table as things start to tighten up at the foot of the table. Next weekend sees the Pitmen on their travels once more, this time visiting top ten side Weymouth with only eight games remaining after this and two of those against fellow strugglers Cambridge City and Newport (Isle of Wight), so a win is an absolute must for Hibbitt and his players if they are to escape danger


Merthyr Tydfil: Thomas, Clarke, Herrara, Lima, Savage, Dodds (Hedges 69), Hapgood, Mainwaring (Knox 76), Edwards, Harries, Haines      Subs Unused: Elliott


Hednesford Town: Gayle, Lake, Lucas, Haran ©  , Williams (Gardiner 45), Barrow, Simpson (Brownrigg 71), Rae, Davis, Brown (Ajet 45 ), Airdrie     Subs Unused: None