First-half goals earn Paulton Rovers vital victory over play-off rivals Merthyr Town
MATCH REPORT: Paulton Rovers 2 Merthyr Town 1
Paulton Rovers kept up their Evo-Stik League Southern Division 1 South & West play-off push by completing an excellent double over fourth-placed Merthyr.
After two below-par performances, Rovers responded well and should have been ahead in the tenth minute.
Visiting keeper Giles Cutlan completely missed a back-pass from central defende Gary Colbourne but Nick McCootie was forced to go wide to collect the ball and his shot from a narrow angle was saved by the custodian.
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However, the Martyrs’ reprieve was short-lived as two minutes later Brandon Barnes’ corner from the right was superbly collected by Stuart Pearson at full stretch and his shot on the turn was deflected in off McCootie through a crowded penalty area.
The visitors exerted some pressure but the closest they came to equalising was when a move down the left ended with Ian Traylor’s cross skimming off the head of Marcus Griffith for a goal-kick.
The hosts doubled their lead in the 24th minute when keeper Kyle Phillips sent a free-kick into the Merthyr box and James Billing won the header. The ball fell to McCootie, who was pulled down in the box by Cutlan, and Barnes beat the keeper’s dive to his right with the resulting spot-kick.
Colbourne went close from a right-wing corner, while at the other end McCootie beat Cutlan to a Ben Lacey cross at the near post but sent his header wide.
McCootie then shot high and wide after a great run from Lacey, who did likewise after deciding to go for goal himself five minutes before the break.
Lacey cut inside from the right before seeing a shot deflected narrowly wide of the far post two minutes into the second half before Colbourne headed over from Merthyr.
Pearson’s near-post header for Paulton was well saved by Cutlan and the ball broke to Scott Brice, whose shot was deflected out for a corner.
The visitors began to press and Jamie Rewbury’s free-kick went just wide before Marcus Griffiths had a volley blocked.
McCootie had a goal chalked off for offside and then sent a terrific 20-yarder just over the bar after more good work by Billing.
Ryan Prosser fired into the far corner of Phillips’ net with 13 minutes to go to halve the arrears but the Rovers defence, which included impressive debutant Mike Reaney, held firm to ensure a victory that leaves their side sixth in the table.
Rovers, who travel to Clevedon Town on Saturday (3pm), have been handed a home tie against Bath City in the semi-finals of the Somerset Premier Cup (7.30pm).