Merlins Bridge 2-1 Goodwick United
A second half penalty from Peter Thomas helped Merlins Bridge seal a narrow win over Goodwick United on an incident packed night at the Racecourse.
Indeed, the scoreline doesn’t even begin to tell the story of 90 minutes that yielded two disputed spot kicks and three red cards, with The Wizards forced to hang on with nine men in the closing stages.
The game began at a ferocious pace and it was the home side who drew first blood just two minutes in.
Goodwick midfielder Kieran O’Brien brought down Scott Crawford 20 yards out, and Bridge skipper Steve McNabney curled the resultant free kick into the net, leaving keeper James Gwilt rooted to the spot.
Just moments later, Rob Morgans nearly levelled for the visitors in similar fashion, but Bridge keeper Chris Thomas tipped his dipping free kick around the post.
Lewis Banks headed an O’Brien cross straight at Thomas, who then did well to keep out Johnny Horgan’s first time volley – before Nigel Delaney’s men did level matters in dubious circumstances.
On 42 minutes, Horgan’s left foot cross was blocked in the box by Peter Thomas, who was adjudged to have handled the ball by referee Gareth Elliott.
Morgans made no mistake from the spot as he fired low into the bottom corner to ensure the sides went in 1-1 at the break
And it was Goodwick who had the first real chance of the second half, as Karl Hedley ‘s cross was met by Horgan, but the midfielder saw his effort palmed away by Thomas.
But on the hour mark The Wizards regained the lead. A frantcis scramble in the area saw both Peter Thomas and McNabney go to ground, and it was the latter incident which prompted Elliott to point to the spot.
Thomas stepped up and sent Gwilt the wrong way for what proved to be the winner.
But there was still drama aplenty to come as Bridge right back Andrew John nearly headed into his own net, before a Horgan cross evaded everyone and drifted pass the far post.
And with seven minutes remaining, both sides went down to 10 men.
Referee Elliott had kept his cards in his pocket in the first half, but Nathan and Peter Thomas, Gethin Roberts, and Banks all saw yellow in the second before Goodwick striker Rhys Dalling and Bridge substitute Chris Ormond were shown straight red cards after clashing off the ball.
The decision angered both sets of players, and moments later The Wizards went down to nine when Roberts received a second yellow card for a late tackle.
It all made for a frantic finale which saw the visitors surge forward, and they came close to an equaliser in injury time when a Gwilt ball forward was headed narrowly over by Horgan.
However, it was Bridge who should have had the final word when Crawford went clean through but blasted over from close range.
But it mattered little as the home side held on to ensure they bounced back from their opening day defeat to get off the mark for the season.
Merlins Bridge: Chris Thomas, Andrew John, Lee Hudgell (Dai Davies), Peter Thomas, Johnny Sable (Chris Ormond), Gethin Roberts, Nathan Thomas, Nathan Green (Steve Dockerty), Simon Thomas, Scott Crawford, Steve McNabney.
Goodwick United: James Gwilt, Karl Hedley, Scott Delaney, Nigel Delaney, Anthony Couzens, Kieran O’Brien, Lewis Banks (Steffan Hayes), Ryan Howells (Darren Devonald), Jonny Horgan, Rob Morgans, Rhys Dalling. Sub not used: Steve Evans.
Referee: Gareth Elliott.