RUNAWAY leaders and title favourites Merthyr Town ended Evesham United’s highly impressive 12-match unbeaten run in Southern League Division One South & West with a hard fought 1-0 victory in blustery conditions at the Spiers & Hartwell Jubilee Stadium on Saturday.
The game between two of the division’s in-form teams was decided by Corey Jenkins’ first half goal and sentenced Evesham to their first league defeat since November 15.
However, the Welsh outfit – now unbeaten in ten league matches since Evesham’s 1-0 win at the Cigg-e Stadium on December 9 – were made to battle all the way until the final whistle by the Robins, who are one of only two sides to defeat Town in 27 league matches this season.
United were forced to make changes to their relatively settled starting line-up, as in came goalkeeper Conor Thompson – recently signed from Southern League Premier Division outfit Chippenham Town – for previously ever-present Kevin Sawyer, who was beginning a two-match ban.
Jared Wilson made his first start since before Christmas, replacing the injured Liam Harding, and striker Adam Mann started his first game after agreeing a permanent move from Gloucester City to stay with the Robins until the end of the 2015/16 season.
Former Hereford United players Ryan Green and Gavin Williams were both named in the Martyrs’ starting 11.
Evesham, who are the only side to win in the league at Merthyr this season, started the brighter and with a strong wind behind them took the game to the table-toppers from the kick-off.
A succession of corners proved fruitless though and Sean Wood’s flighted free kick flew just over and then the tricky George Washbourne brought the best out of visiting keeper Tom Bradley, who acrobatically touched over the winger’s drive.
In their first real threat on goal and against the run of play Merthyr scored the game’s only goal when Jenkins swept in Ian Traylor’s low cross past Thompson with 24 minutes on the clock.
Cheered on by their biggest league crowd of the season – 437 – Evesham continued on the front foot but failed to find an equaliser before half time.
The second half contained a couple of bust-ups between both sets of players as tempers flared, but it was United who continued to play the more positive football.
Ashley Edenborough and substitute Ollie Knowles both went close for Paul Collicutt’s men, while at the opposite end Thompson bent backwards to brilliantly save from the dangerous Kerry Morgan.
The game exploded again five minutes from time when Merthyr’s Kyle Patten was sent off but, despite some late United pressure, Merthyr hung on by the skin of their teeth to end United’s red-hot run of form.
Collicutt’s side, who remain fourth, will bid to return to winning ways on Saturday when they visit bottom of the table Bashley before another away game on Tuesday when mid-table Cinderford Town provide the opposition.
PERSHORE Town’s Midland Football League Division One match at Uttoxeter Town on Saturday was postponed.
Top six outfit Studley are the visitors to 17th placed Pershore this Saturday.
Jared Wilson gets stuck in against Merthyr. Picture by Stuart Purfield. (www.stuartpurfield.co.uk).