Match Report: Winchester City 2-0 Merthyr Town

WINCHESTER City crushed Merthyr Town’s play-off hopes to send them within touching distance of the top half of the table.

The Citizens defeated an unfamiliar looking Merthyr Town — forced to wear Winchester’s blue and black striped away kit due to mistakenly leaving their kit back in Wales — with goals from Dan Jones and Sam Ashton.

The result leaves Winchester in 11th place, tied level on 54 points with Hendon Town following their 2-2 draw with Sholing with only a goal difference of four halting the Citizens from entering the top half of the table.

The visitors had the chance to close the gap on AFC Totton in fourth with what would have been a reassuring and vital three points, before the two sides meet on Saturday in a tense play-off clash.

Merthyr remain in fifth place on 64 points occupying the last play-off position, but Bracknell Town are breathing down the necks of the Martyrs, while Walton & Hersham three points behind in seventh.

Both sides starting strongly, intent on breaking the deadlock early on but Winchester drew first blood when a poor clearance from goalkeeper Jamie Cogman fell to Dan Jones whose half volley gave the home side the lead.

The visitors responded well to going a goal down, and upped the gears as the first half drew to a close. Luke Cairney was forced into a good instinctive save with his legs from Merthyr forward Gethyn Hill.

Unable to break down a resolute Winchester defence, Merthyr later conceded into the depths of the first-half, with Sam Ashton tapping home inside the six-yard box to double their lead.

Merthyr conjured up an almighty second-half onslaught, pressuring Winchester back into their own half and dominating possession, but the Citizens centre-back partnership of Jordan Rose and Stuart Mott proved too difficult to beat, as the Martyrs failed to mount a comeback.

Winchester manager Craig Davis was delighted with his side’s performance.

“I thought we were excellent and it was a really good performance. It was an onslaught in the second half but we dealt with it well, and we were dangerous on the counterattack. It was a good win.

I’m proud, really proud. It took a lot of exertion today and I’m not surprised, but of course I’m very proud.

We haven’t kept enough clean sheets to be honest but when you look at the league, we’re not conceding loads of goals. I was really pleased with the backline for keeping a clean sheet, but the midfield and forwards also worked their socks off today. It was a clean sheet for the whole team.”

Looking ahead at Tiverton Town on Thursday, Davis said:

“We’ve got to recover from this somehow, it’s just less than 48 hours before we’re starting again, and then the same on Saturday. We’re going to have to manage that and perhaps rotate a little bit as we’re walking wounded.

It’ll be a long journey for us, so we’ll have to see what we can do. Whichever lads we put out there will put in a proper performance so fingers crossed we can get a similar result to what we got today!”

Dan Jones — scorer of the first goal — was pleased with how the group bounced back following successive defeats.

“Results haven’t gone our way recently. weve put in a lot of work recently, good performance against Bracknell but didn’t get the result we fully deserved so it’s brilliant to get a win today.

Bit of a weird one really [the goal], the keeper has just come out and slightly mishit the ball and it fell to me and I just hit it without looking at where the goal was and it just managed to creep in before he’s got back, so I’ll take it.”

Giving his thoughts ahead of Tiverton Town on Thursday, Jones said:

“We feel fully confident, it’ll be a long drive down there but I’m sure we can get a good result there as well.”