8:00am Monday 6th January 2014
North Leigh looked like ending their losing run when they took an early 2-0 lead in their Calor League Division 1 South & West match away to high-flying Merthyr on Saturday.
But the Welsh hosts hit back to win 3-2 with a hat-trick from Kerry Morgan – completed with a disputed penalty – to go top of the table.
The result also condemned the Millers to their fifth successive defeat on a day when every other fixture in the division was postponed due to the weather.
However, Merthyr’s 3G pitch was in perfect shape and seemed to suit North Leigh’s smooth passing game early on.
With former player Michael Hopkins newly signed from Hungerford Town in the starting line-up, the visitors started well.
The large home crowd were shocked after nine minutes when the Millers took the lead.
A long ball out of defence flew over Merthyr defender Marcus Griffiths, and found Morgan Williams.
Merthyr keeper Giles Cutlan came out to narrow the angle, but Williams beat him with a sweet left-foot shot.
The visitors goal came under constant pressure, but keeper Adam McHugh – another new face in the line- up having been signed on loan from Forest Green Rovers – stopped everything coming his way Indeed on 25 minutes, Merthyr were stunned again as Williams put in a deep cross from the right, and Aaron Woodley slipped in behind the home defence to make it 2-0 This two-goal lead lasted only seven minutes as Merthyr striker Morgan headed past McHugh from a corner.
Before half-time, the scores were level as Morgan scored again with a shot from 12 yards.
North Leigh were on the back foot from the start of the second half.
Gavin Williams, the Welsh international and former West Ham, Ipswich Town, Bristol City and Yeovil Town midfielder, pulled the strings for his home town club, who dominated play.
However, with Andy Gunn and Zak Westlake in central defence, the Millers coped well, and managed the occasional foray upfield with Conor McDonagh leading the line.
It needed a controversial penalty decision by referee Kevin Morris for Merthyr to take the lead.
The official adjudged that home striker Ryan Charles had been pushed in the back as a long high cross was floated into the box.
After strong protests led by North Leigh skipper Stuart Hole, Morgan hammered the penalty past McHugh in the 63rd minute to complete his hat-trick The visitors responded well with substitutes Wayne Turk, James Dobson and Jacob Walcott putting the Merthyr goal under pressure.
Their best chance came five minutes from time when McDonagh’s long-range shot was fumbled by Cutlan, and Turk headed just wide from the rebound.
North Leigh: McHugh, Hole, Hopkins, Osborne-Ricketts (Turk 72), Gunn, Westlake, Else (Walcott 80), Bowles, McDonagh, Woodley (Dobson 72), Williams. Subs not used: Organ, Caton.
Banbury United’s Premier Division game away to Cambridge City and Didcot Town’s Division 1 South & West match at home to Shortwood United were both called off on Saturday morning due to waterlogged pitches.
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