Merthyr Town captain Ashley Evans celebrates scoring. Pic: Peter Harman.

Martyrs Manager Gavin Williams Knows All About Play-Off Pressures

Former West Ham and Wales midfield player Gavin Williams is under no illusions about the task his Merthyr Town team face in the Southern League play-offs.

The Martyrs have already qualified and will ensure they have a home tie in the semi-final if they beat Hayes and Yeading in their final Premier Division match at Penydarren Park on Saturday (3pm).

Manager Williams knows all about the pressures of play-off occasions, having earned promotion to the Championship with Yeovil Town and the Premier League with West Ham via the same route.

He was also promoted twice by helping Yeovil win titles and says: “There is going to be tension whether we are at home or away in the semi-finals.

“It would be great for the club to have a home fixture, but I’ve been involved in play-offs and it’s who performs on the day wins.”

Williams is hoping that he will have a fully fit squad available for the play-offs. The Martyrs currently have Scott Tancock, Curtis McDonald, Ian Traylor, Jack Compton and Williams himself in the treatment room and most of those have a chance of being ready.

Merthyr won 1-0 at Redditch United on Bank Holiday Monday when captain Ashley Evans netted their second half winner.

“We had a lot of possession and just needed a goal,” said Merthyr Tydfil-born Williams. “The longer the game goes without a goal fans get nervous and players feel that tension.

“We had to be patient and when we did score it was a good goal both in the way it was created and taken.

“Overall, though, I felt it was a comfortable win for us and we should have scored another goal or two.”

Merthyr are battling with Leamington, Hitchin and Slough for the right to earn promotion via the play-offs.

The four have all qualified, but it’s not clear yet in exactly which order they will finish.

Leamington will have a home tie in the play-off semi-finals, having clinched runners-up spot, while the other three could yet finish in any order.

They each have one fixture left to play with Merthyr at home against Hayes and Yeading United, who are second from bottom in the Premier Division.

A Martyrs win would ensure they have a home semi-final against Hitchin or Slough. The format is second v fifth and third v fourth.

Southern League officials have set Wednesday, April 26 as the date for both semi-finals (7.45pm).

The winners will play each other in the final on Monday, May 1 (3pm). The final will take place at the ground of the club who finished highest out of the two clubs.

Southern League

Premier Division – all teams play 46 fixtures

Top six only

Champions promoted automatically, next four qualify for play-offs.

Format for play-offs: 2nd v 5th, 3rd v 4th.

Pl GD Pts

1 Chippenham Town 45 +45 100

2 Leamington 45 +46 92

3 Merthyr Town 45 +46 86

4 Hitchin Town 45 +34 85

5 Slough Town 45 +28 84

6 Banbury United 45 +28 80

Southern League Premier Division fixtures on Saturday: Banbury United v Kettering Town; Basingstoke Town v Hitchin Town; Biggleswade Town v Frome Town; Cambridge City v St. Neots Town; Chippenham Town v St. Ives Town; Dunstable Town v Cinderford Town; King’s Lynn Town v Chesham United; Kings Langley v Cirencester Town; Merthyr Town v Hayes & Yeading United; Slough Town v Redditch United; Stratford Town v Dorchester Town; Weymouth v Leamington.

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