NORTHWOOD FC   Tuesday 8th March 2016   MERTHYR TOWN

Red Insure League Cup semi-final

  Northwood 0  Merthyr Town 0
(2-4 pens)  

Team line-up  
  Team line-up
1 Berkley Laurencin     1 Cameron Clarke
2 Georges Ehui     2 Scott Tancock
3 Andy Lomas     3 Adam Davies
4 Steve Brown ©     4 Ashley Evans ©
5 James Budden     5 Gethin Jones
6 George Nicholas     6 Rhys Baggridge
7 Joakim Ehui     7 Jon Brown (69m)
8 James Burgess     8 Jarrad Wright
9 Niko Muir     9 Ryan Prosser
10 Louis Stead     10 Keyon Reffell (86m)
11 Rob Hastings (86m)     11 Ian Traylor (69m)
Substitutes     Substitutes
12 Myles Stephenson     12 James Brown
14 Bayley Brown     14 Jordan Chappelle (86m)
15 Alex Nolan     15 Corey Jenkins (69m)
16 Jermaine Heron (86m)     16 Kayne McLaggon (69m)
17 Mark Burgess     17 -
      Referee: David Nicholson; Assistants: Philip Morris & Harry Moore      
  REPORT by Alan Evans   




Northwood failed at the final hurdle in their efforts to reach the final of the Red Insure Southern League Cup, losing in the lottery of a penalty shoot-out after missing the opportunity to turn their dominant performance over ninety minutes into goals. James Budden and James Burgess returned to the starting line-up having been rested at the weekend and after a slow, cagey start to the game, the Woods had the first effort on goal when a long kick from Berkley Laurencin found Joakim Ehui on the left and he cut in before firing high over the bar.

After 14 minutes Andy Lomas got forward well to send over a cross and Niko Muir volleyed a first-time shot which flew well wide of the target. Merthyr were showing some good movement up front with Ryan Prosser the focal point up front and when some poor communication between Steve Brown and Laurencin saw the striker steal in, he forced a corner but it came to nothing.

Northwood continued to press and a half-cleared corner gave George Nicholas a chance but again the ball flew too high to trouble goalkeeper Cameron Clarke. It was from set-pieces that the Woods looked most likely to cause a problem and a well-worked routine saw Lomas pick out Brown and his goalbound header was pushed across goal and wide by Clarke. The next corner picked out Budden and his powerful header was then tipped up and over by the young keeper.

The Welsh side began to settle more as the half began to draw to a close. A long-range effort brought Laurencin into action but he saved comfortably and then a free-kick was flicked wide by the head of Gethin Jones but an offside flag would have ruled it out anyway.

Northwood needed to up the tempo in the second half against their Premier Division opponents and another set-piece from Lomas saw Budden head back across goal but the ball was handled by a teammate on the edge of the six-yard box and the chance went begging. After 57 minutes, an otherwise quiet Louis Stead found space for a strike from distance and it wasn’t that far wide of the post and on the hour a good through-ball saw Muir try to get to a ball in front of Clarke and pick up a harsh booking for the faintest of contacts. The Martyrs also had Adam Davies booked for his over-the-top reaction as the referee took action at the first sign of any flashpoint.

The visitors had hardly recorded an effort on goal and made a double substitution on 69 minutes to try to freshen things up but in fact the Woods stepped up a gear and dominated completely in the final twenty minutes. After 73 minutes Muir robbed Jones out wide and raced towards goal before picking out Rob Hastings with a cut-back. It was a great chance but two attempts at trying to get a shot off failed to find the net.

A minute later an excellent ball from Nicholas put Hastings through a square-defence again and although he got his shot on target, it lacked the power required to beat Clarke, who saved comfortably. The pressure continued. Stead played a ball wide to Lomas and his cross found Muir whose low drive took a deflection and could have gone anywhere but flew just wide of the post with the keeper nowhere.

The Woods just weren’t getting any luck in front of goal. Hastings shot wide from outside the box once again before a free-kick again picked out Budden and when his shot was blocked by some solid defending, Muir was onto the rebound but Clarke was behind it once again. Nicholas fired over after latching onto a Muir touch but time was running out for the Woods and Merthyr were happy to cling on to the goalless draw with no extra-time and only success at penalty-kicks required to go through.

Northwood had won on penalties at Ware in the first round of the competition while Merthyr Town had got through two of their previous rounds which kicks from the spot. And with the Martyrs taking the first attempt, the Woods got off to a great start when Laurencin dived correctly and saved from Ashley Evans. But his efforts went unrewarded as Joakim Ehui drove Northwood’s first kick wide of the post. So, it was still goalless after the first set of penalties and when substitute Kayne McLaggon put Merthyr ahead, there was a further blow for the Woods because George Nicholas shot came back off the post.

The visitors went 2-0 up with a good strike from another substitute, Jordan Chappelle and although James Burgess buried his effort, having made his trademark run from the centre circle, Northwood were now playing catch-up.  Both sides netted their fourth attempts, with Lomas making no mistake for the Woods but Adam Davies had the chance to win it for Merthyr and although Laurencin guessed the right way he couldn’t get to it and the Welsh side secured the 4-2 success.

It was a missed opportunity for the Woods but they had enjoyed a good long run in the competition and also played well on the night against a side playing in a higher division, so much to admire even as they bowed out of the League Cup. Merthyr now play fellow Premier Division side Cambridge City in a two-legged final while Northwood can concentrate on one final push for the League play-off places in their final eleven matches. Only four of them are at home, though, and the first of those comes quickly on Saturday as one of the title-favourites Egham Town come to Northwood Park.