Eddie Merry Cup Final: Merlins Bridge 1-1 Monkton Swifts (Merlins Bridge win 5-3 on penalties)

Merlins Bridge sealed the first silverware of the Pembrokeshre football summer as they won the Eddie Merry Memorial Cup after a tense penalty shoot-out against Monkton Swifts.

The Senior and West Wales Cup winners played out a tight contest against the league champions, but after it finished 1-1 in 90 minutes their keeper Ben Henton saved The Swifts’ third spot-kick whilst all The Wizards penalty takers were on target. He flung himself to his left to push Ben Nicholas’s effort around the post – after Nicholas had played well at the back for the Swifts.

Watchable match in dire conditions

It was easy to see why these two were the top sides last season as they somehow produced a watchable match in abject weather at Tregroes, despite pouring rain alongside strong cross winds. Indeed, the game was in some doubt until two hours before kick-off and then Fishguard Sports’ organisers Owen Duggan and Nigel Davies rightly decided that the 35th playing of this competition should go ahead.

Action from the outset

There was action from the kick-off as Monkton striker James Russell did well to rise above The Wizards’ defence in the first minute but his header was saved by Ben Henton – and when play swung to the other end Nathan Greene missed a clear headed chance from a long throw-in by Andrew John.

There were appeals for a penalty when The Wizards thought Will Haworth had been bundled over in the box but after ref O’Connor had waved play on The Swifts had another chance via Russell but his mishit volley was tipped over the bar by Henton.

Nathan Greene headed another chance off target from Luke Hayward’s corner and The Wizards lost Gethin Roberts through injury as the first half ended scoreless.

Thomas puts Wizards ahead but Davies hauls Swifts level

The third quarter was very much cat and mouse but play inevitably opened up as tiredness crept in and chances came thick and fast, especially after Merlins Bridge had taken the lead when Will Haworth latched on to a partial clearance from a corner and flighted in the perfect left-foot cross for Peter Thomas to plant his header wide of Stuart James’ outstretched right arm.

The Swifts responded immediately as good work by Russell and Martin Carroll saw the latter in space near the far post but placing his shot just the wrong side of the upright – but deservedly drew level when an excellent left-flank cross by Ryan Griffiths saw Dylan Davies get the final touch past Henton before both teams had other missed chances to snatch the verdict, before taking the game into extra time.

Penalty Shoot Out

1-0: Peter Thomas thundered the ball in for Merlins Bridge

1-1: Ben Steele calmly slotted home

2-1: Simon Gilderdale sent Stuart James the wrong way

2-2: James Russell – no nonsense straight down the middle 

3-2: Luke Hayward – another calm, wrong-footing penalty

3-2: Ben Nicholas - into the corner but Henton judged the right side to go and saved

4-2: Will Haworth – perfectly judged as he rolled it in

4-3: Dylan Davies – sent keeper the wrong way

5-3: Lee Hudgell - planted it low to the right, game over!

‘Ormy’ raises the Merry Cup aloft

The presentation was undertaken by Owen Duggan, who has done so much to keep the competition alive, and Sports’ president Nigel Davies presented the medals to very cold and wet players and match officials, with Merlins Bridge skipper Chris Ormond raising the trophy aloft after a big indivdual performance at the back for the delighted winners.

As usual, all the money raised at the three games will be donated to the Abergwaun Gateway Club.

Merlins Bridge: Ben Henton, Andrew John, Chris Ormond, Simon Gilderdale, Lee Hudgell, Gethin Roberts, Peter Thomas, Luke Hayward, Jordan Williams, Nathan Greene, Will Haworth. Subs: Dai Davies, Nathan Thomas, Ben Davies.

Monkton Swifts: Stuart James, Ben Nicholas, Shaun Jones, Ben Steele, Rhodri Davies, Martyn Carroll, Thomas Powell, Blake James, Chris Richards, James Russell, Dylan Davies. Subs: Jamie Wilkes, Ryan Griffiths.

Referee: Sean O’Connor.

Assistants: Bernie Armstrong & Andrew Davies.