Leaders are given tough test before Cheddar fall just short
Cheddar 0 Hengrove Athletic 1
Cheddar will feel aggrieved that they were unable to take anything from last Wednesday's match at home to runaway Toolstation Division leaders Hengrove Athletic.
The Cheesemen were excellent in defeat and, despite the fact they are a young and inexperienced side, they are fast becoming more confident and are also coping well with sides that attempt to bully their opponents.
The early exchanges were dominated by the defences and, with the midfield area becoming quite congested, chances were kept to a minimum.
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The first opportunity came midway through the opening period when a deep Hengrove corner from Joe Brimble was headed back across goal by Ricky Briggs to Luke Crewe but his close-range effort was brilliantly held under pressure by Sam Talbot.
Cheddar had a purple patch leading up to the break and Joe Ellis went close with a header from a Joel Butcher cross, while Jamie Howson sent a right-foot shot inches wide.
Howson again went close in the opening 90 seconds of the second half but Hengrove almost broke the deadlock when Luke Crewe hit the post with a stunning 30-yard strike.
Liam MacFarlane in the Hengrove goal did well to deny Howson again as the game began to open up but it was Talbot, Cheddar's young starlet between the posts, who kept his side on level terms with a breathtaking double save to deny Mark Fear and Ben Bament.
Cheddar were dealt a blow when Butcher was carried off following a strong Sam Williams challenge but the home side continued to frustrate their opponents as the tackles flew in.
However, it all came good for Hengrove on 75 minutes with a goal of great quality. Craig White found space 30 yards out and unleashed a superb shot that flew into the top corner of the net before Talbot could move.
Cheddar deserved to take something from the game and pressed Hengrove back into their own penalty area in the final moments, with both Howson and Mike Kay going close, but the visitors held on.
Merv's merit marks: S Talbot 8, D Griffiths 7, A Brandrick 8, A Davies 7, J Underhill 8, S KING 9, J Butcher 8, J Ellis 7, J Howson 8, W Scorse 9, B Manning 7, Subs M Kay 7, M Connick 6.
Referee: Christian Gould 8.
Entertainment value: 8.