The Peacocks were sent packing from this season’s FA Cup competition at the first hurdle by a Merthyr side who were far superior on the night. Any notion that the hard work had been done in the first tie on Friday to bring the Southern League side back to Wordsworth Drive for a replay was blown apart as the visitors taught Town a footballing lesson, their crisp possession game being easy on the eye in comparison to the disjointed offerings of a home side defending an eight match unbeaten run.
Town showed two changes from the draw at Penydarren Park four days earlier, Joe Guest slotting in for Lloyd James while Dave Sims-Burgess who was carrying a knock was replaced by Ross Stearn. After winning all four of their National League home fixtures this season, the Peacocks would generally have been regarded as favourites to advance to the next round but the 90 minutes that followed made that assumption meaningless. The visitors showed the early impetus before a wayward pass out from Martyrs’ keeper Jaimie Cogman went straight to Lee Lucas whose shot was blocked before a decent move down the right saw Austen Booth’s cross cleared.
A dangerous curling cross from Tom Handley was well claimed by home keeper Dan Lavercombe as Ricardo Rees waited to pounce but chances remained scarce until Jack Evans found Rees inside and he made space to drive a 25 yard strike inches wide after 20 minutes. Five minutes later though and Merthyr were ahead, Aneurin Livermore in space down the right to cross to Rees and his effort deflected onwards to the unmarked Olly Mehew who guided into the net at the back post.
A break down the left nearly produced a quickfire second as Mehew, with more than a hint of offside, fed Alex John whose shot was kept out by a great block from Booth to allow Lavercombe to collect before the Peacocks’ shotstopper palmed down Liam Angel’s free kick. The hosts finally began to offer some hope for their fans during the final ten minutes of the half as they made some inroads. Guest released Ollie Chamberlain who was unable to pick out a claret shirt with his pull back before Lucas saw his shot deflect for a corner off Jack Evans, with appeals that it had glanced his hand ignored by referee Martin. From the corner that followed, Town celebrated what they thought was an equaliser when Stearn controlled the ball in from Lucas and slotted past Cogman. A raised flag for offside meant the joy was short-lived.
Booth and Chamberlain combined down the flank and from the latter’s pass Lucas arced a shot over the bar before firing a free kick straight into the arms of Cogman. Stearn was then denied by a lunging block from Angel to conclude an uninspiring 45 minutes from a home perspective but hope that the late spell of intent promised better things.
Unfortunately this proved a false dawn. Mehew’s run was thwarted by Evans’ fine tackle as the Martyrs pressed to add daylight to their lead and they came close to doing so when Keiran Evans threaded a pass through to Rees whose first time shot missed the far post by a whisker. A Taunton counter involving Stearn and Dylan Morgan ended with Zac Smith’s cross going behind everyone with the hosts’ forward play crying out for some cohesion, something the visitors were not lacking in.
A double switch just before the hour saw James and Nick McCootie replace Guest and Stearn, with James soon participating with his free kick being met by Nick Grimes’ inbound header but Cameron Evans directed a follow-up header over from the angle. Merthyr responded by breaking down the right, Rees whipping the ball across the box and there was Mehew again at the far post to control and fire home for his second of the night after 66 minutes to leave Town with a Welsh mountain to climb.
A solitary positive note came when Jay Foulston, returning from a six month injury lay-off, took over from Grimes with 18 minutes to go as the Peacocks laboured for an opening to attempt to save their cup campaign. The incisive stuff was coming at the other end though, with Rees being denied by Lavercombe after being played in by Jack Evans.
Into the final five minutes or so and Morgan received a Lucas pass to see his effort punched away by Cogman for a corner which led to a flurry of activity in the box. Evans had his close range header well saved by Cogman who then punched away a follow-up, Chamberlain seized on the loose ball and went down under a trailing leg but no penalty given, with Foulston then having a go by embarking on a run across the box without getting a shot away and Morgan having his effort blocked before a Lucas attempt was charged down for another corner as Merthyr threw bodies on the line.
Foulston’s cross was steered home by the head of McCootie five minutes into added time to get the Peacocks on the scoresheet but all too late and to be brutally frank anything further would have been a steal of grandiose proportions. Merthyr were worthy winners on the night and their margin of victory flattered the Peacocks who will need to bounce back quickly from this major disappointment.
Taunton: Dan Lavercombe, Nick Grimes (captain) (Jay Foulston 72), Austen Booth, Ollie Chamberlain, Nat Jarvis, Joe Guest (Lloyd James 57), Ross Stearn (Nick McCootie 57), Zac Smith, Cameron Evans, Dylan Morgan, Lee Lucas. Unused subs: Rabby Tabu Minzamba, Marcus Day, Elliott Dugan, Lloyd Irish
Merthyr: Jaimie Cogman, Tom Handley, Aneurin Livermore, Liam Angel (Nick Rhodes 45), Jack Evans, Alex John, Olly Mehew, Ricardo Rees (Gethyn Hill 85), Noah Smerdon, Matthew Harris (captain), Keiran Evans (Tom Stokes 80). Unused subs: Joe Keeping, Ismail Yakubu, Will Fuller
Referee: Ross Martin (Weston-super-Mare)
Referee’s Assistant 1: Adam Wilson (Bristol)
Referee’s Assistant 2: Nat Wormleighton (Cheltenham)
“Too many weren’t at it and too many didn’t do the basics and fundamentals……” watch Rob Dray’s Match Reaction on Peacocks TV HERE
Match highlights on Peacocks TV can be seen HERE
Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance MOM
No Man Of The Match award was made