City v Merthyr

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Saturday 30th November 2002
Meadow Park 

   CITY v Merthyr Tydfil

FA Trophy 2nd Round

City's Team

This match was a disappointing spectacle for those anticipating a fast slick match between two in-form sides. City will ultimately be disappointed not to have made more of an extra man advantage after an early sending off depleted the visitors. 

City played our now familiar line-up with Andy Hoskins returning for Lee Smith after a one match suspension. The Martyrs included former City forward Andy Mainwaring, but were without his strike partner and top scorer Cortez Belle.  

The visitors were the stronger of the two sides for the opening ten minutes, but despite exerting some pressure on the City defence they never looked like making a breakthrough. Both Griff and Steadman put in strong early tackles. The closest they got to goal was a long range shot that troubled the Merthyr fans behind the goal far more than Matt Bath.  

The opening few minutes were characterised more by a flurry of mistakes on both sides than the quality fans may have expected. The ball was skewed wide from clearances and long passes were over hit, making the game disjointed for a spell. Unsurprisingly it was Neil Mustoe who was able to bring a little more to the match and slowly his measured passing helped City find some rhythm and to begin to press the Welsh goal.

Adie Harris won a corner and the resulting Mustoe cross was cushioned down at the far post by Cox. Burns found himself in space eight yards out, but having found time to turn he scooped his shot high over the T-End. City were beginning to find some space and the Merthyr defence was rocking, particularly when Burns and Mustoe began threading passes through for Jimmy Cox to race on to. On the first occasion Cox snatched at his shot but on the second he did well to force a good stop from the keeper despite having been pushed wide by the defender.

The game then warmed up when the ongoing arguments between Hosky and Merthyr's Jason Price exploded. Andy Hoskins' heavy tackle bought a free kick but Price responded by angrily trying to head butt the City forward, missing but doing enough to enrage the fans in the main stand and for the ref to have no option but to show the red card.

With City now enjoying a man advantage and Merthyr forced to reorganise their defence City seized on the opportunity to go for the jugular. For ten minutes Merthyr were forced into some desperate defending, but City were finding it difficult to make the pressure count. Thompson enjoyed a strong run down the right and his pass found Cox and then Mustoe who had time to turn and shoot, but instead passed the ball back out of the area and the chance went. One Neil Griffiths throw saw Burns flick the ball on and Cox blaze over, but strangely the final pass proved easier to find when City fell back a little deeper into midfield.

City broke with speed when Dave Wilkinson broke up a Merthyr attack and fed Neil Mustoe who burst from midfield and scampered down the left. At the edge of the box he squared the ball to Hoskins who thumped his shot narrowly wide. Minutes later another lofted pass from Mustoe sent Chris Thompson beyond the Martyrs' defence and only smart work by keeper Neil Thomas saw him reach the ball before the stretching full-back.

The last 10 minutes of the half were disappointing as City seemed to lose momentum and allowed the visitors off the hook a little. Suddenly Will Steadman had to be alert to marshal Mainwaring away from goal and then a few minutes later the same player sent a snap shot wide of Bath's goal. City were largely defending competently, but suddenly were becoming bogged down in midfield and were glad of the half-time whistle and chance to regroup.

Despite looking full of purpose as the second half started City were not able to regain their hold on the match. Burns sent in a scorching shot from distance, but after a further ten minutes of frustration that looked an effort born of desperation not optimism. As the play stagnated there were more fouls as the game became patchy and the ref had to do well to step in and defuse a brawl.

Merthyr enjoyed the best spell of the game in this first part of the second half, even hitting the Gloucester woodwork from a whipped in corner kick. however there was little for the travelling fans to cheer and Matt Bath was only once required to move quickly, from another long distance drive.

City did not really manage to get going again until the introduction of the pacey duo of Tom Webb and Lee Smith from the subs bench. Suddenly City had more width and a couple of really good crosses had the Welsh defence struggling. One from Harris saw the ball flicked on and Andy Hoskins somehow contrive to put his header over the bar when it seemed easier to score. Cox was now fading from the game but the man-marking he was suffering left even more space for City to exploit.

As the game headed towards a conclusion City tried more desperately to snatch victory whilst their league rivals were a man down. Mustoe tried two efforts from distance, the first was a little tame but the second forced another smart save from the keeper. Thomas again had to be alert when a low skidding cross bounced across the six yard box and had to be palmed off the line. A further shot from the edge of the box by Lee Smith could have won it, with the final last minute effort from Hoskins prodded just the wrong side of the post.

At the final whistle the Merthyr side celebrated as if surviving this onslaught meant the tie was sure to be theirs when played again at Pennydarren Park. However City failed to produce their best form in this game and if the Tigers can rediscover their bite during the Tuesday replay there is still a chance we could reach the 3rd Round of the Trophy.

(HT: 0-0)





Wilkinson n/a

(for 7; 75)



(for 2; 67)

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