Following their win at Holyport in the previous round all Yate fans were hoping for a favourable draw in the First Qualifying Round of the FA Cup but they will be facing the highest ranked club in the draw, away from home, following Step 3 clubs entering the competition at this stage, with Merthyr Town top of the Southern League Premier Division South and having won all of their opening 6 League fixtures, scoring 19 goals in the process.
Last season Yate played Merthyr in League games, drawing 2-2 at Lodge Road on Boxing Day with goals from Toby Raison and Zac Drew in front of a crowd of 429. The game at Merthyr, on Easter Monday, saw Yate gained a rare win, 2-1, with goals from Lucas Tomlinson and Calvin Dinsley with a good crowd of 773 at Penydarren Park but this couldn’t prevent the Bluebells from being relegated.
There are a number of close connections between the 2 clubs with former Yate Town manager Paul Michael now in charge of this famous Welsh club and number of former players now at Penydarren Park.
It must be remembered that in the 1980’s Merthyr Tydfil FC (as they were then) hosted Italian club Atalanta in the UEFA European Cup Winners Cup in September 1987. When the draw was made, money was raised to get the ground up to a 10,000 capacity for the game for this first round tie. With English clubs banned from Europe because of Heysel, all eyes were on the Martyrs, with the national press making their presence felt. Tickets were like gold dust and, officially, there were 8,000 fans packed inside the ground – but it looked like many more. Merthyr won 2-1 on the night but lost 2-3 on aggregate having qualified for the European football by beating Newport County in the Welsh Cup Final the previous season.
After being a top non-league club for many seasons Merthyr Tydfil FC fell on hard times and reformed as Merthyr Town and have progressed up the football pyramid as a community owned club and are looking to head further upwards this season with promotion to the National League South.
Merthyr Town started this season with a 3-2 home with against Dorchester Town in front of 707 fans with ex-Yate player Ricardo Rees scoring twice. The following Saturday it as a 5-0 win at Beaconsfield with Rees scoring twice again and Fraser Thomas getting a hattrick. A mid-week crowd of 914 saw a 2-1 win against Tiverton with Rees getting a 96th minute winner and they further showed their credentials with a 4-1 win at Hanwell Town with Rees getting two more goals and another former Yate player, Ollie Mehew also getting on the score sheet. Last Saturday beat Sholing 2-1 at home with another good crowd of 844 and finished their Bank Holiday fixtures with a 3-0 win at Swindon Supermarine, with Rees and Mehew on the scoresheet again, making it six wins out of six.
Yate manager, John Rendell hopes to choose from a full squad after the Bank Holiday fixtures, that yielded their first point of the season, with a creditable 1-1 draw on Monday at Bristol Manor Farm.
If you are travelling:
Merthyr have played at Penydarren Park since 1909 and the journey from Yate is 63 miles and takes about 1 hour 20 minutes along the M4 and A470. The postcode of the ground is CF47 8RF and the ground is situated in the centre of the town, not far from the railway station. This game should be played in front of a large crowd and has all the ingredients of an FA Cup shock and the players would love to see a good turn out from Bluebells fans to cheer them on.