Blues 2 Tonbridge Angels 0
Blues finally end losing run with solid display
Two cool finishes from Niko Muir-Merchant gave Leiston their first win in eight Ryman Premier Division games on Tuesday night writes Will Ridgard. Niko Muir-Merchant scored two well-taken goals, with his right foot, in the second half, to give the Suffolk side a welcome and important victory in a MATCH SPONSORED BY JET PROJECTS.
This game didn't kick-off until 8.30pm as Kent-based opponents Tonbridge Angels were delayed on their travels into Suffolk. But that didn't stop both sides from getting off to a fast start. Inside 90 seconds, Joe Francis was released by Niko Muir-Merchant on the left, and after his flashing cross evaded Matt Blake, the Tonbridge defence hacked clear. Tonbridge then threatened, without testing Jacob Marsden in the Leiston goal, before the Blues hit the crossbar in the 19th minute, albeit via a cross from Niko Muir-Merchant. Leiston, who were missing key midfielder Byron Lawrence, serving the first of a two-suspension for 10 yellow cards, were grateful to a fine piece of defending from Tom Bullard a minute before half time. Andre McCollin worked a bit of magic in the Leiston box, and just as the striker looked to pull the trigger, Bullard intervened with a last-gasp tackle. Joe Francis had Leiston's first shot on target, on the stroke of half time, with a fizzing free-kick that Jonathan Henly comfortably held. Joe Francis was just off target moments after the break when he cut in from the right and fired over, with Niko Muir-Merchant also seeing a shot blocked by Henly. Niko Muir-Merchant's first moment came in the 62nd minute. After quickly turning his marker, the striker fired into the bottom corner before celebrating passionately with his team-mates. Three minutes later, Niko Muir-Merchant scored his second. After Gareth Heath rolled him through on goal, the talisman ignored the offside appeals before coolly finishing inside Henly's front post. Tonbridge nearly responded when Luke Blewden fired over from close-range and then Tom Phipp's wicked shot, via a deflection, struck the inside of the post before rolling across the goal-line to safety. Niko Muir-Merchant came off to a warm applause in the 90th minute, when young striker Adam Blades replaced him for his Ryman League home debut, as Leiston claimed a massive three points.
Blues boss Glenn Driver was a relieved man when the referee blew the full-time whistle last night as the Blues ended a seven-game winless streak thanks to Niko Muir-Merchant’s super brace. After the match, Driver said: "That win has been coming! It's been the longest five weeks of my football career. To finally get a win after seven games without one is a relief. I've never known a run like it in - as a player or as a manager." "Tonbridge are one of our rivals for the play-offs so to beat them 2-0 is very pleasing," continued Driver, whose side remain in sixth spot, five points short of the play-offs. It was massively important for us to beat them and to get a win - something we've been saying for the last three or four games! We're five points behind Tonbridge now, with four games in hand, and I'm just really pleased for the boys in the changing room." Driver continued: "I thought everyone was outstanding.
FT - Blues 2 Tonbridge Angels 0
Blues – Marsden, Brown, Dunbar, Cole (Hubble 72 mins), Jefford, Bullard, Ainsley, Heath, Blake, Muir-Merchant (Blades 89 mins), Francis (Brothers 68 mins). Subs not used – Hutchings and Lay-Fulcher.
Tonbridge Angels – Henly, Folkes, Parter (Whitnell 71 mins), Parkinson, Nelson, Phipp, Blewden, Scannell, Elder, McCollin (Thompson 67 mins), Wheeler. Subs not used – Akrofi and Copeland.
Match Sponsors JET PROJECTS Man of the Match – Niko Muir-Merchant
Attendance - 183