Winchester City FC, who play Merthyr Town in the Emirates FA Cup on Saturday, were one of the first football clubs reported on by Terry Phillips in his career. dai-sport journalist Terry worked for the Southern Sentinel in Hampshire during 1972-73, 46 years ago.
Manager Gavin Williams and his Martyrs are intent on enjoying a decent Emirates FA Cup run this season and Winchester City are the team standing in their way this Saturday.
The Citizens, from Hampshire, arrive at the MetCoaches Stadium in Merthyr Tydfil for a second qualifying round tie and the winners will earn £9,000 in prize money.
The Martyrs are joint top of the Southern League Premier, while Winchester stand third in the table one tier below.
Merthyr advanced to this stage of the competition thanks to a 4-1 win at Melksham Town in the last round, while Winchester have beaten Wessex League Bournemouth FC 1-0 and Frome Town 2-1 after a replay.
Manager Craig Davis says he has seven players either ruled out by injury or rated ‘touch and go’.
“We’re the walking wound, to be honest,” says player-boss Davis.
“This is a massive game for us. The prize money is important, but more so the prestige of the game.
“We haven’t been to this round for a while. One or two more rounds and you reach the promised land.
“Merthyr are joint top of their league, so we’d be the underdogs travelling with a full strength side, let alone with a threadbare squad.
“We’ve earned 10 points from 15 in the league and are still in the FA Cup. I’d have ripped your arm off for that at the start of the season.
“Merthyr is a famous old club.There will be a decent crowd and a good atmosphere.”
Jake Rawkins (shoulder), Liam Gilbert (ankle), Matt Benham (cup-tied) and George Short (groin) are ruled out, while there are major question marks over Oli Bailey (swollen ankle), Simba Mlambo (groin), Sam Roberts (groin).
Davis have a badly bruised thumb, a problem sustained in training, but is expected to play.
Terry Phillips, who has been a journalist in South Wales for almost 25 years, recalled his days reporting on the Citizens.
It was a time when Ted Bates, whose memorial statue stands outside St Mary’s Stadium, was manager of nearby Southampton FC and two of their best players were Welshman Ron Davies, from Holywell in Flintshire, and Mick Channon.
Terry says: “Winchester joined the Southern League in 1971 after winning the Russell Cotes Cup and finishing runners-up in Hampshire League football.
“They survived two seasons at the higher level, finishing 12th out of 16 and then 21st out of 22, before electing to return to the Hampshire League.”
Merthyr Town drew 3-3 against Ton Pentre in the FA Cup that season, winning 1-0 in the replay at Penydarren Park and then Minehead 1-0.
Their run ended against Barry Town, who edged to a 1-0 win.
Winchester, meanwhile, had a major FA Cup tussle with Basingstoke FC which took four matches to decide. The teams drew 1-1, 1-1 and 0-0 before Basingstoke emerged 3-0 winners in the third replay.
Now Winchester are preparing for their FA Cup trip to South Wales, a tie which means a lot to both clubs.
— The Martyrs (@MerthyrTownFC) September 20, 2018
Merthyr Town’s early results and fixtures 2018-19 (Southern League Premier unless stated)
Saturday 11 v Chesham United (away) Merthyr won 3-0
Tuesday 14 v Swindon Supermarine (home) 2-2
Saturday 18 v Gosport Borough (away) Merthyr won 4-2
Saturday 25 v Farnborough (away) won 1-0
Monday 27 Frome Town (home) lost 1-3
Saturday 1 v Walton Casuals (away) won 3-1
Saturday 8 Emirates FA Cup first qualifying round v Melksham Town 1, Merthyr Town 4
Saturday 15 Metropolitan Police 2-2
Saturday 22: Emirates FA Cup second qualifying round v Winchester City (home)
Saturday 29 Hartley Wintney (away)
PREMIER DIVISION SOUTH LEAGUE TABLE