(Merley win 5-4 on penalties)

BALTI Sports were left devastated as Merley Cobham Sports advanced to the DPL Supplementary Cup final with a 5-4 win on penalties.

Following an energy-sapping 0-0 draw after 120 minutes, experienced Balti midfielder Ryan Dovell blazed the Weymouth side’s third penalty over the bar.

It was then left to former Dorchester Town striker Matt Groves to score the winning spot-kick, setting up a delicious final with Hamworthy Rec after their 3-2 win over Gillingham.

Since the third national lockdown, Merley have now won all 14 of their games, also beating Blandford United 5-1 to retain the Dorset Senior Trophy.

With Merley scoring 46 goals in that time, Balti deserve huge credit for shutting them out in 120 minutes – especially after Merley inflicted a 10-3 hammering on them earlier this season.

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Joe Wickham wasted a good early chance for Merley but, after arriving late in the box, scooped his chance over.

Merley goalkeeper Andy Knights then pulled off a stunning save to tip a Dovell header from a corner onto the bar.

Balti were then agonisingly denied by a typically heroic block from ex-Dorchester centre-half Nathan Walker, who slid in to deflect Jack Drummond’s volley onto the post and wide.

Magnificent defending from Balti’s Liam O’Shaughnessy managed to keep Merley dangerman Asa Phillips quiet as the Weymouth team worked hard in warm conditions to defy their opponents.

Balti keeper Andy Nott was alert to push clear a deflected shot but the chances kept coming for Balti as Jack Drummond twice fired wide and Walker blocked a good opening for Matty Burrows.

However, late on Merley spurned the best chance of the game as Nathan Saxby wriggled through the Balti defence only to slash his effort over.

With the game heading into extra-time, both teams were clearly jaded by their efforts.

Merley consequently tried the aerial route with free-kicks and throw-ins but found the resolute Balti defence in no mood to concede.

In the second half of extra-time, Walker headed over after connecting with another long throw.

Penalties were required and Dovell’s miss proved crucial as Groves sent Merley into their second final this season.

Speaking to Echosport, Balti boss Marco Nott said: “It was absolutely gutting. The lads did so well, they left everything out there.

“It was a very even game and just a really good spectacle, there were a lot of people watching.

“I was almost a bit emotional at the end.

“To watch the lads work so hard and get such little reward, I was gutted.

“It was hard to pick them back up, but they’ve had an amazing tournament and have a lot to be proud of.

“It stands us in good stead for next season.

“To keep them to a clean sheet was an outstanding effort from the whole team.

“There were 11 man-of-the-matches out there.”

Balti: A Nott, O’Shaughnessy, Anderson, S Walker, Taylor, Dovell, McClements, Grace, Burrows, Drummond (Lane 80), Stavrianos.


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