The Hawks progressed to the third qualifying round of the FA Cup as goals from James Hayter and Jason Prior saw the Hawks come from behind to qualify for the next stage of the World’s oldest club competition. Lee Bradbury used the opportunity of the cup to give players such as Alfie Rutherford and George Barker who have been unlucky with starts recently a chance to shine whilst Jordan Rose went straight back into the line-up as his loan spell at Weymouth expired.
The Hawks started the first half in front of a sunny Westleigh Park but the cup of dreams for the Hawks had a nightmare start as just 3 minutes in the visitors took the lead as a ball from Kyle Patten found Ian Traylor and Traylor fired the ball home from 18 yards to give the visitors the advantage and to stun Westleigh Park.
But the Hawks were not going to sit back and let the Southern League side have it their own as before the ten minute mark the Hawks would have two opportunities to try and level the game. Bradley Tarbuck would be the instigator of this as he first played a cross into the penalty area which was met by the goalkeeper. Then a minute later he played a dangerous looking ball into the penalty area but Alfie Rutherford couldn’t connect to the effort and was held by Oliver Davies in the Marters goal.
On the quarter hour mark Merthyr Town had an opportunity of their own as Joey Bowen played the ball in towards Mo Touray but his effort much to the relief of the Hawks players and fans alike went wide of the target. 6 minutes later the Hawks would have another chance as a ball pinballed into the penalty area falls to George Barker, he turns and has a go at goal but would have his effort saved by the goalkeeper Davies.
Seconds after the previous opportunity, the Hawks would have another chance as they win a free kick which was taken by skipper Brian Stock into the penalty and was cleared by the Merthyr defence only as far as Ed Harris who had his effort blocked by the visitors. 5 minutes later the Hawks would come calling again as George Barker would have another chance in the penalty area but Merthyr stood resolute and got the ball away and out of trouble.
After the half hour mark Merthyr would come calling again as Traylor from just inside the penalty area had a decent shot saved by Ryan Young in the Havant and Waterlooville goal. Within the space of 120 seconds the ball went from one end to the other with Jason Prior looking to go for goal but is brought to ground by Kyle Patten, the referee blew up and the Merthyr man was cautioned.
In the minutes before half-time the Hawks would have a couple of opportunities to try and level. The first of these was when Bradley Tarbuck who throughout the first half was setting up opportunities decided to have a crack of his own from the best part of 25 yards out but his effort would only find the top of the ‘Car Park end’. Then 3 minutes later Alfie Rutherford on the edge of the penalty area but the chance was blocked by Cameron Pring.
The Hawks players came out before the start of the second half with a point to prove and looking to save their FA Cup dream for another season. A switch at half-time was forced by manager Lee Bradbury as George Barker had some ligament damage and was seen leaving the ground in a ankle brace and would be replaced by Wes Fogden who would himself was not at the peak of his fitness following an injury layoff.
The Hawks would have the first opportunity of the second half three minutes after the resumption as Alfie Rutherford again would have a crack but his effort from what was a tight angle but would go over. Then a couple of minutes later as Rutherford played a ball but would elude everyone in that penalty area and was put away by the Merthyr defence but only to Rory Williams who from the best part of 25 yards saw his effort go over.
On 52 minutes and after opportunity after opportunity the Hawks would get their just deserts and level the game as Alfie Rutherford on the edge of the penalty area played the ball into towards Jason Prior who controlled the ball and the coolly slotted the ball home from 12 yards out to put the Hawks on level terms.
The rain, a familiar friend of the Hawks in recent games continued to come down with the slippery conditions seeing changes to footwear with Rory Williams having troubles with laces and Jason Prior going as far as having shoes taken onto the pitch for him from Kitman Rich who gave him his spare pair from the kitroom.
On the hour mark the Hawks would have another opportunity as the wet weather saw a slip by the Merthyr defence let Theo Lewis in but the 26 year old was in an offside position. Merthyr within 60 seconds of that effort had the ball at the other end of the field as Richards’ effort go well over the car park end, leaving Leigh Park residence with a ball in their garden.
The Hawks would once more try and hit the front as first Wes Fogden had an effort blocked by the visitors. Then a few minutes later Rory Williams would come close as he had a decent curling effort from 20 yards out going just a yard wide from goal. Then a minute later Williams would come close again, even if there was a question as to whether he meant it or not as his cross come shot hit the crossbar much to the surprise of everyone inside Westleigh Park.
73 minutes in and the Hawks would win a free kick when Williams is brought down on the edge of the penalty area with the referee awarding the Hawks a free kick and Lloyd Wood would put Adam Davies into the book. The incoming free kick would go out for a corner following a rare miss kick by Rory Williams. The in swinging corner would elude the returning Jordan Rose and go out for a throw in for the opposition.
A minute later after missing his head from the corner Jordan Rose has the ball played back to him and from the best part of 35 yards would have a crack at goal but his effort would be matched by that of goalkeeper Oliver Davies. A minute later Jason Prior would have his effort deflected with the last touch coming from Ashley Evans before hitting the side netting and a corner ball being called.
But before the corner Lee Bradbury shuffled the pack as he took of Alfie Rutherford and bring on veteran striker James Hayter. And within 10 seconds of coming on the field the corner came into him and he would notch the ball home from close range into the top right hand corner to give the Hawks a 2-1 lead and turn around this FA Cup tie.
Despite leading the tie, the Hawks would not rest on their laurels as they tried to extend their advantage as on 80 Minutes Rory Williams would see his effort go wide of the goal. Within a matter of minutes they would try and break the door yet again as James Hayter who seemingly looked like he was 1 on 1 with the goalkeeper in the penalty had his effort blocked after Cameron Pring sprinted back spectacularly to keep the visitors in it. On minute 85 Hayter would be in the midst of the action once more as Hayter looked to be in on goal once more but unselfishly gave the ball to Wes Fogden who was deemed to be offside by the linesman.
But Merthyr would not lie down and wilt amongst the Hawks onslaught as they would have a couple of chances before time. On 89 minutes Merthyr’s free kick into the penalty area eluded everyone bar Scott Tancock with the goal seemingly gaping at his mercy could only see his effort go wide giving the Hawks a huge sigh of relief. But the Hawks did not want to become a victim of a late goal for a third time in 4 games and stood resolute as a ball from the visitors is played across the goal parried by Ryan Young with Traylor’s rebound hitting the side netting.