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Hemel Hempstead Town (A)
Sat Apr 1

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Hemel Hempstead Town (A)
Sat Apr 1 15:00
The Vanarama National League South

Late mix up proves costly for the Rebels

| League
Att: 1081
Slough Town
Thompson (67)
1 - 2
Merthyr Tydfil
Sanderson (32), Rogers (75)
Phil Stacey
The burden of captaincy can never have felt heavier for Trevor How than on Saturday when he carried the can for Slough's 2-1 Vauxhall Conference defeat by Merthyr Tydfil at Wexham Park. Missing two key players — top marksman Neal Stanley and keeper Trevor Bunting — the enterprising Rebels had clawed their way back from a goal down at half time with a Steve Thompson leveller in the 67th minute.

But with 15 minutes to go the Welshmen were gifted the winner when How failed the clear his lines in a mix-up with keeper Sean Lahiff. "It was back to the beginning of the season," said Rebels' boss Alan Davies. "I have been drumming it in from the start — when in doubt, kick it out! "It is all the more annoying that we came out with nothing having matched Merthyr in the first half and been on top in the second. We deserved better than being beaten by a soft goal."

As it was the match turned recent form on its head as Slough recorded their third defeat in four matches while the Welsh side recovered from two reverses at home with a pair of away victories which also featured a Boxing Day win over Colchester.

Davies began the day under no illusions about the tenacity of the opposition who have just pledged themselves to the Conference despite enticements to join the proposed League of Wales. Up against the experience of half a dozen Welsh non league internationals, many of whom had seen European Cup Winners Cup action two seasons ago, Davies was forced to field a depleted side which also included out-of sorts striker Tommy Langley.

Langley reported in sick hours before the game but then decided he was fit enough to make the start. Maybe he wished he hadn't after turning in a pallid performance which left dumbfounded spectators waiting for a substitution which never came. In conditions which would have driven ducks indoors, Merthyr's mudlarks proved to have the better turn of foot, nimble as mountain goats on the flanks which they employed to great effect in preference to the midfield gluepot.

The quality of football was surprisingly good, though mistakes were inevitable. Rebels' jack-in-the-box Jon Sissons pounced on the first, a bad back pass from Chris Holvey which had his keeper in a flap to reach. Quick-thinking Merthyr skipper Kevin Rogers then caught the Rebels' coming forward, his defence-splitting through ball to Paul Sanderson placed badly wide when the striker had only Lahiff to beat.
Lahiff, feeling his way back after seven weeks out with injury, was well-positioned to parry a Paul Giles piledriver for a corner after half an hour.

But his confidence was rocked when he was laid out from the set-piece, Holvey booked for felling Lahiff as he tried to punch to ball to safety.
Merthyr were largely restricted to the counter attack, but made it tell in the 32nd when Sanderson broke clear on the right and beat Lahiff from a narrow angle with a superbly delivered strike.

Sissons, involved in most of the best Rebel moves, instantly created the chance to reply but neither Thompson or Tony Knight could quite manage to turn the ball onto the target. Sissons was then forced to try to curl a shot home himself for want of support and had the Welshmen panicking to dig the ball out after an error in the goalmouth.

The Rebels pitched everything into attack in the second half backed by a ferocious Phil Stacey who kept the fortifications watertight at the back. Stacey' s commitment earned him a booking in the 62nd minute, but for something said rather than done. He was otherwise impeccable.
When Sissons was fouled on the right five minutes later, the little winger forced a corner and then delivered a stunning outswinger which Thompson rose to glance into the far corner unopposed. But Sanderson, a former Manchester City and Cardiff player, was always a menace and he set up a swift move down the left which was moved in by Ceri Williams

With Mark Tucker frustrated in the act of shooting, the ball fell to Rogers who crossed to the far post where How and Lahiff both disclaimed the final responsibility. The ball plopped in and the Rebels saw their centenary year, their most successful ever, end with. Defeat. Davies was defiant, though, even if he did have to concede the game.

"We have nothing to be frightened of," he said. "Merthyr were a very good side, better than their league position suggests, but we showed that we can give as good as we get."

Merthyr Tydfil Line up

Wager, Tucker, Marsh, Boyle, Lewis, Rogers, Giles, Holvey, Sanderson, Lissaman, Williams. Subs: Green, Evans.

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