But after racking up a healthy 3-0 half time lead, the second half was a very different story, with the Rebels suffering three injuries in a short space of time which totally changed their game plan and saw them having to defend deep in the face of an onslaught from the Martyrs.
Already stretched due to injuries, Slough brought in debutants James Jepson, the former Kettering Town and Bedworth United midfielder, and Nathan Fox, a left back probably best known to Rebels fans from his time at Rugby Town.
Due to travel difficulties faced by the visitors, kick off was delayed until after 8pm, and the Rebels wasted little time in moving on from the heavy defeat at Weymouth.
Slough started positively and took the lead on 13 minutes. Mpi won a battle near the by-line with Adam Davies, with the Merthyr man arguing he had been fouled by Slough’s top scorer. Mpi touched it back to Lewis Putman, whose superb curling cross was headed powerfully by Warren Harris into the opposite bottom corner, giving Tom Bradley no chance.
Harris won another header against Chris Hugh five minutes later, but his effort was easily saved.
Slough doubled their lead on 25 minutes with a well-worked goal. Putman, a constant threat on the left, linked up with Eddie Smith, with the latter playing the ball around a defender for Putman to run on to. The Slough left winger smashed the ball across Bradley and in, with the keeper unable to get sufficient contact on the wet ball to turn it aside.
Slough were enjoying the lion’s share of possession and Merthyr, who were forced into two substitutions inside the opening 35 minutes, were struggling to get the ball into an attacking position. Jon Brown blazed well over from outside the box, and Mark Scott made two important saves in the final minutes of the half.
Merthyr worked the ball well around the box, and Chris Hugh’s cross was partially cleared by the Slough defence but only as far as the onrushing Ashley Evans, whose fierce shot from 20 yards was palmed out by Scott, with the Slough stopper there again to save Brown’s follow up effort.
Deep into first half stoppage time, Slough won a disputed penalty as Smith fell to the ground under a push from Jasrad Wright, leaving Smith to step up and fire the spot kick into the roof of the net for a 3-0 lead.
As the half time whistle sounded, Guy Hollis stayed down with a knee injury and was replaced at the start of the second half by Justin Clayton who, along with the other members of the Slough back four, would go on to have a busy second half.
The Martyrs piled on the pressure and won a series of corners, penning the Rebels back into their own penalty area. Wright headed over the bar from one of these corners and Slough defended desperately at times.
With 56 minutes on the clock, Warren Harris needed to come off after feeling the effects of a late challenge early in the game, and was replaced by Ryan Hope. Just a minute later, Eddie Smith limped away with another reoccurrence of his troublesome hamstring injury, and faces another 4-5 weeks on the sidelines. He was replaced by Adrian Sear, leaving the Rebels to reshuffle, with Charlie Mpi left as the lone striker.
These changes clearly had a huge impact on Slough’s shape and tactics, with the Rebels forced to sit back and soak up almost relentless Merthyr pressure as they looked to take advantage. The visitors went close in the space of two minutes, Mark Scott making a superb reaction save from Brown’s attempt, which came off a Slough defender. He pushed it behind for another corner which was scrambled away by Slough.
Soon after, Ian Traylor’s low cross found McLaggon, who got in a shot, but Scott went down well to his right and superbly palmed the ball out, with Sean Fraser completing the clearance. Moments later, a header from Prosser dropped just wide of the post.
The Martyrs deservedly pulled one back on 65 minutes. A free kick from Brown was played into the danger area and looked to have got a slight touch off McLaggon, which took it past the unsighted Mark Scott and into the net.
Two minutes later, Ryan Hope headed off the line from Cortez Belle’s header as Merthyr poured forward, and defended well again after Gethin Jones slipped in the dangerous McLaggon down the left side.
Slough survived again as Prosser fired off target after a strong run at the heart of the defence by Wright, but despite the Welsh side’s best efforts, the Rebels held firm and cleared the ball up field, with Merthyr unable to find a second goal which would have made the final minutes interesting.
In a rare break away, Ryan Hope brought the ball into a shooting position but saw his effort harmlessly deflected into the arms of Bradley, and Merthyr’s time ultimately ran out.
Merthyr Town Line up
Tom Bradley, Adam Davies, Chris Hugh, Ashley Evans (c), Cortez Belle, Gethin Jones, Corey Jenkins, Jasrad Wright, Ryan Prosser, Jon Brown, Kane McLaggon. Subs: James Bloom, Chad Bond, Jay Bowen, Ian Traylor, Cameron Clarke.