Mackey’s Merthyr moment is a huge lift

Ben Mackey wheels away in delight after scoring Leamington's match-winner against Merthyr. Picture: Morris Troughton
Ben Mackey wheels away in delight after scoring Leamington's match-winner against Merthyr. Picture: Morris Troughton
  • Brakes 1 Merthyr Tydfil 0

The match will not live long in the memory but the outcome certainly will as Leamington returned to the top of the Southern League Premier table, writes Paul Okey.

Ben Mackey produced the telling moment in the 86th minute, nodding home from close range after Jack Edwards had flicked on a Richard Taundry long throw.

It was just reward for the perseverance of the striker who was again left feeding on scraps as Brakes struggled to break down another visiting side with little attacking intent.

Merthyr did make a busy start with Ryan Prosser proving a handful for Brakes’ centre-back pairing of James Mace and Jamie Hood.

However, with Edwards proving a towering presence in the air, both in attack and defence for the hosts, Leamington slowly took a grip on the game.

It was Edwards who had the first sight of goal, with his drive deflected just past the far post and Mace unable to get good contact on his header from the resultant corner.

A Richard Taundry free-kick was tipped away for a corner by keeper Tom Bradley, while Lee Moore’s honesty cost Brakes a penalty, with the attacker staying on his feet after being clipped in the box when a tumble would surely have resulted in referee Shaun Barry pointing to the spot.

Tony Breeden was called on to make his only save of the game in the 29th minute, tipping Kyle Patten’s shot around the post after the striker had linked up neatly with Prosser on the edge of the box.

It was pretty turgid stuff in the main, but Brakes did produce a moment of quality just short of half-time, working the ball to the byline for Ben George to tee up Edwards. However, the midfielder swept his shot well over the bar from the edge of the area.

Referee Barry had seen enough, blowing early for the interval, no doubt hoping the half-time crossbar challenge, organised as part of Non League Day, would provide some much-needed entertainment for a bumper 623 crowd.

However, in keeping with the action thus far, none of the participants looked liked hitting the target. And, given what had been on show in the opening 45 minutes, it was a relief when the players returned to the pitch and the competition was abandoned.

The pattern of the first half repeated itself when play resumed, with Merthyr withdrawing even further into their own half as they encouraged Leamington to find a way through their massed ranks.

Moore should have done better with a header from a George cross from the right, while more good play down the same flank set up a chance for Chilton which he lashed high and wide.

A tame Connor Gudger shot did at least allow Bradley to get his hands dirty and manager Paul Holleran had seen enough, replacing Moore with Rob Ogleby.

However, it took until the injury-enforced introduction of James Fry for Gudger in the 76th minute for Leamington to find any urgency.

Fry was immediately into the action, whipping in a delicious cross to the far post which seemed to catch Mackey in two minds. With support in the six-yard box, the striker looked caught between laying the ball back and going for goal and saw his header slide inches past the far post.

Four minutes from the end of normal time, Mackey was again in the right place and this time he needed no second invitation, putting the hosts ahead with his ninth goal of the campaign.

As Brakes went for the jugular, it needed a fine interception from Chris Hugh to prevent Ogleby latching on to an incisive Chilton ball into the box.

There were a few hearts in mouths when Elliot Scotcher’s shot out of nothing zipped past Breeden’s far post and Jon Brown’s tumble in the box also caused a few anxious moments before the referee pointed to the corner flag.

However, Breeden’s confident claim from the resultant dead ball settled the nerves and meant all three points were well and truly pouched.

Pretty it was not, but there will be plenty more ugly wins like this if Leamington are to achieve their aim of an instant return to the Conference North.

Brakes: Tony Breeden, Ben George, Connor Gudger (James Fry, 74), Joe Magunda, Jamie Hood, James Mace, Lee Moore (Rob Ogleby, 68), Richard Taundry (Ross Oulton, 88), Ben Mackey, Jack Edwards, Lee Chilton. Subs not used: Will Green, Edward Caviezel-Cox.

Merthyr Town: Tom Bradley, Adam Davies, Chris Hugh, Ashley Evans, Jarrad Wright, James Bloom, Kerry Morgan, Elliot Scotcher, Ryan Prosser, Kyle Patten (Jake Bowen, 65), Jon Brown. Subs not used: Jordan Chappelle, Cameron Clarke.