By Liam Moakes 29/08 Updated: 29/08 11:35
LEIGH DOWNING'S last-gasp penalty rescued a point for Evesham United at home to Merthyr Town on Monday and maintained the Robins' unbeaten start to the Evo-Stik Southern League Division One South & West season.
Having won their opening two league matches, Matt Clarke's side looked to be heading for their first league loss of the season when they trailed to Ian Traylor's 58th minute thunderbolt strike from the edge of the area following the hosts' failure to fully clear Luke Jones' corner.
Late pressure from United appeared to be going unrewarded until the final move of the game when substitute Nathan Hicks got the better of Jon Newall in the area, only to be hauled down by the Merthyr man.
Downing then kept his cool to tuck away the penalty to Giles Cutlan's right before referee Mr Roskelly blew for full time immediately afterwards.
Wet and windy conditions made life difficult for both sides and resulted in few clearcut chances being created, although in the first half Jones did get behind the United defence only to shoot over and Jared Wilson made a crucial block on Joe Leahy as The Martyrs enjoyed a purple patch midway through the period.
The real drama arrived in the closing stages as the visitors' Andrew Thomas was sent off in the 86th minute for bringing down Marcus Palmer after the Evesham striker had got clean through.
Then Merthyr were forced to play the closing minutes with nine men when Matthew Harris departed through injury and Evesham took advantage of their numerical superiority to salvage a welcome point.
Tom Warmer, Lee Osborne and Palmer all had efforts blocked before Downing took centre stage to level matters at 1-1.
EVESHAM'S FA Cup ambitions were ended at the first hurdle on Saturday when they lost 2-1 at Northern League Division One South outfit Leek Town in the preliminary round.
Heavy traffic on the M6 delayed Evesham's arrival and forced the kick-off to be put back 15 minutes but the rigours of the journey did not effect the visitors' performance and they were ahead in the third minute when Roland Agbor worked an opening for Luke Corbett and the striker netted with a fine finish from the edge of the box.
Leek rallied and deservedly levelled in the 15th minute when Tom Urwin took advantage of poor defending to plant a delicate finish over United keeper Dean Coleman.
Corbett was then denied by the legs of Leek keeper Danny Roberts before Leek bagged the winner in the 32nd minute when a misunderstanding at the back between Coleman and Henry Eze presented Tim Grice with a tap in.
Skipper Matt Haddrell then missed a sitter for the hosts when he fired over from just a yard out at the end of the first half.
Evesham did not bow out without a fight and Roberts made two exceptional saves late on to keep the hosts' lead intact and ensure it is they who will host Bewdley Town in the first qualifying round.
The Town stopper somehow got a hand to Warmer's drive to push the ball wide and then saved at full stretch to keep out Neil Mackenzie's free kick which looked destined for the bottom corner.
United return to league action tomorrow with a visit to Abingdon United before hosting Clevedon Town on Tuesday.
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