Mernagh Makes His Mark

Slough Town

Slough Town

Mernagh (71)
Farnborough Town

Farnborough Town

Williams (66)
League Attendance: 975 Cliff Hercules
Gavin Mernagh staked his claim to be the player most likely to replace injured striker Mark West by securing a Conference point for the Rebels with his first goal for the club at senior level against Farnborough Town on Saturday.

The 19-year-old came into the game in the 70th minute after Slough had fallen behind to a Richard Williams goal four minutes earlier. Less than a minute later Mernagh was perfectly placed on the edge of the box to stab home Mark Fiore's punched cross which completed a jinking run down the left.

Rebels boss Brian McDermott has long cherished that idea he might have another West emerging from the midst of his squad. Even before the game, he was singing the youngster's praises to Boro' boss Alan Taylor who was commiserating over the fate of the crowd-favourite West who will miss the rest of the season.

"I pointed to Memagh and said he was the nearest we had got to another West," said McDermott. "It turned out rather well for the lad. He has many of Westy's qualities, though he is inclined to be a little impatient. But he will get over that in time."

Memagh's well-taken goal prevented Boro from taking points they would not have deserved, though both sides missed open goal chances before finding the net. Mike Murphy turned and fell between two defenders in the 56th minute, but managed to get in a shot which rolled just wide of the mark with Mackenzie, too, slithering helplessly to his knees.

Within a minute Pat Gavin also managed to turn the ball past the post after Phil Wingfield had got the ball round the back of the Slough defence from the left. The partially thawed pitch made mistakes inevitable, but Slough were more determined throughout and deserved better.

Stuart Cash, making a solid start after joining from Chertsey earlier in the week, almost found a winner minutes from the end. His curling free kick from 20 yards circumvented the assembled wall, but Boro' keeper Stuart Mackenzie flew low to his right to make a superb one handed save.

Cash's arrival coincided with the decision by McDermott to change to 4-4-2 formation. Slough's defence, which had leaked 10 goals in the previous three games, now looked more watertight and comfortable with Cash playing a conventional full back role.

But the four-man midfield fired on only three of its four cylinders. Gary Blackford made the most impact with his runs down the right to get on those all important crosses which lead so often to goals. And Fiore on the left showed some of his old confidence to take on players - and it paid off. Mark Pye is the cheeky chappie of the Rebels, combining arrogance and skill in equal measure to trick his way through.

But Simon Stapleton, around whom so many expectations were, perhaps unfairly, heaped at the start of the season, still has to fulfil that promise. The former Wycombe Wanderer is just months away from Division Two football, but some spark is lacking. He reported later that he felt happier with the new formation, but pulled out of several tackles which suggests something more serious is amiss. Stapleton faded into anonymity after a reasonable fast half which included the best shot from either side, a cracking volley from 18 yards aimed at the roof of the net.

He missed, as did Cliff Hercules who ran 30 yards to meet a comer with a header which was deflected off target. Fiore then got into two goal-scoring positions, trying first an ambitious overhead kick and then a positional header following good work by Abbott and Blackford down the touchline.

Another whipped cross from Blackford in injury time found Murphy six yards out, but with Dean Coney bearing down on him, a hurried shot found Mackenzie at floor level. Famborough, some of the players unhappy that the game was started at all, resorted to the sort long ball game on which Hercules and Rob Smith thrive.

Though the Rebels spread the ball around more fluently than in recent games, neither Abbott nor Murphy, for all their application, looked like scoring on the day. Instead it was left to another of Slough's bratpack to ensure all the energy did not go to waste. Mernagh's good luck in getting on at all resulted, in part, from the misfortune of teammate Lloyd Owusu.

Owusu, who made a sensational four-goal debut against Telford United in October, last week had a cartilage operation after being out of action for two months. But while McDermott's squad system is working efficiently, tactics are another matter. The boss owned up to the failure of the 5-3-2 formation with which he has been persevering. "We still feel it is the right way," he said, "but it has not been working for us. We decided to make the change after Stevenage, and Cash - an out-and-out full back - coming in made it more logical.”

"We will continue with the new formation while it works - and change it if it doesn't. I still say we are not far away - it's just confidence that has been lacking. When that comes back, so will the goals."

Farnborough Town Lineup

MacKenzie, Williams, Underwood, Coney, Day, Robson. Mintram, Harlow, Gavin. Baker, Wingfield. SUBS: Steadman, Denny, Jansen (63, for Mintram).


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