REPORT: Late drama as Scott Laird penalty earns Weston a point at Merthyr Town
PUBLISHED: 00:05 14 August 2019 | UPDATED: 15:24 14 August 2019
Scott Laird's late equaliser saw Weston complete their second stoppage-time rescue job in a week as the Seagulls drew 1-1 at Merthyr Town tonight (Tuesday).
The veteran left-back - Weston's flagship summer signing - was nerveless in dispatching a 96th-minute penalty at Penydarren Park to secure a second consecutive draw for Scott Bartlett's side.
Ian Traylor's opener in the 71st minute - profiting from Greg Tindle's missed clearance to slot past Luke Purnell - had the Martyrs on course for victory.
But Tindle somewhat atoned for his lapse by winning a penalty deep into added time. His left-footed strike on the turn struck the arm of desperately sliding Merthyr captain Ashley Evans, and referee Daniel Flynn wasted little time in pointing to the spot.
Rather than reward for the Seagulls' efforts, it was more punishment for Merthyr's antics which saw them try to con the referee's clock by any means necessary after taking the lead.
In the end, their time-wasting only bought Weston precious seconds to snare a point after a poor performance, as Laird bamboozled goalkeeper Alexander Harris with his stuttering run up to net from 12 yards before celebrating with the relieved travelling support.
The equaliser leaves the Seagulls unbeaten but without a win in their opening two games after Ben Whitehead's last-gasp goal earned a draw on the opening day against Hendon.
Weston started the game brightly and Whitehead had two chances to break the deadlock inside 20 minutes. First he ran onto Nick McCootie's flick-on but he skewed his effort wide, and minutes later after cutting out a limp back pass he struck the outside of the post from a tight angle.
Purnell was almost left red-faced for the second game in a row. After gifting a goal to Hendon on Saturday with a poor clearance, he repeated the mistake when well out of his area but the Martyrs failed to capitalise.
A moment of controversy came in the 33rd minute as the tricky Isaac Pearce was hacked down, but referee Flynn deemed the foul was outside the area to the dismay of the Seagulls. The resulting free kick was cleared without difficulty.
Weston enjoyed a good spell after the break, but twice Joel Randall's touch let him down when well placed to take fire.
The Seagulls' best move came 25 minutes from time when a swift counter attack saw Pearce tee up substitute Jarrad Welch on the edge of the area, but the Welshman's low drive was brilliantly blocked as it arrowed towards the bottom corner.
Merthyr made their wasteful opponents pay with 19 minutes to go as Tindle failed to clear a long ball, allowing Traylor to race in on goal and coolly stick the ball in the back of the net.
Bartlett's side huffed and puffed but only Pearce could come close to levelling the scores, seeing a curling effort brilliantly saved by Harris in the 78th minute.
But once again, the Seagulls mustered a miraculous escape as Laird sent Harris the wrong way from 12 yards.
The character of Weston's new-look squad cannot be questioned after the opening two games, but defensive concentration is sure to be on Bartlett's agenda after conceding three poor goals in the first week of the Southern League season.