Bideford AFC 0 Salisbury FC 1
Evo-stik Southern League South and West Division
Saturday, 22 April 2017
By Alec Hayter
The Whites cemented their runners-up position, ending up with a one point advantage and a superior goal difference over third placed Tiverton Town, a four-point advantage over Taunton Town and a massive 9 points better than Semi-Final opponents Evesham United.
Even forgetting statistics about winning runs, those above alone demonstrate the enormity of a superb achievement, and the Whites are fully deserving of a finishing position which earlier in the season probably would not seemed possible. From the early stages it was almost a "given" that Hereford would gain promotion and it therefore became a dogfight between the sides in the division whoarguably appeared to be the strongest. The records will show that Salisbury FC finished second after their first season at Southern League level wherea,s normally, expectations can be limited to just consolidating in a new league.
I'm sure that the many who travelled to Devon, and especially those who made a great effort in cycling there for charity, realised that at this, the sharpest end of the scheduled season, results are everything, and the Whites did not let them down, doing the job supremely well in difficult playing conditions, and without two main squad members Justin Bennett and Eddie Perrett.
The pitch was brown in places. The pitch was rock hard and bumpy everywhere. However, what football was played came mainly from Salisbury, with the only threats on their goal sometimes as a result of their own errors, but as they say, it was "all Wright on the night" as the prolific striker increased his lead at the top of the top scorers' chart and gave his side a precious lead with what turned out to be the winner.
After 12 minutes he might have opened the scoring but scuffed a very difficult chance in front of goal, and it took a further 10 minutes before the home side threatened, ex-White Chris McPhee volleying narrowly over the top from just outside the box.
In response, Taurean Roberts, for whom ball control seemed hardly a problem on the awful surface, exchanged passes with Wright before delivering an inviting ball into the danger area, just where Bennett would have been, but which was uninhabited on this occasion.
Shortly after this, the home side started to get forward more and had probably their best spell of the match in the six minutes before half-time. On 40 minutes a long throw by Ben Wood found its way to Ian Sampson whose finish was well over the top from 25 yards, and a minute before the break Salisbury were nearly caught out when Brian Dutton delayed a clearance and Wood charged it down before bearing down on goal.
It took Elliot Wheeler, effective throughout the game, to save the day with a tremendous interception at a very important time.
Bideford’s style indicated that in the second half, with the advantage of the wind in their backs, their direct play may have caused problems, and this was confirmed straight from the restart when goal kick by home keeper Joe Moore reared up off of the surface and nearly went over keeper Alex Bass. McPhee got a contact but put the ball wide.
After a very slow start, second-half jitters were settled fourminutes in when Roberts again crossed and Jesse Waller Lassen was involved before the ball found its way to Lewis Benson. A quick cross, back into the danger area, saw Wright expertly dispatch a right foot shot across a stunned keeper, with his customary sharpness and skill.
In spite of loud appeals from the home side on 53 minutes, referee Daniel Glynn and his assistant were unmoved after Bass had expertly gathered the ball to end a home thrust, keeping it inside his area, although most of his body was outside the box, and although Bideford huffedand puffed it was the visitors who carried the more serious threat.
On 65 minutes the industrious Wright robbed Sampson of the ball and passed wide to Roberts who really should have done better than put the ball outside of the upright from about 8 yards, but although that to some extent blotted his copybook for me, perhaps I really ought to give him the benefit of the effects of the playing “surface” - or maybe I should say “surfaces”!
With 8 minutes remaining Roberts might have done better than to try and dribble his way out of defence. He lost the ball, and a snapshot from Dan Weston luckily whistled over the bar, but as is nearly always the case, the Whites kept going until the final whistle and after Wright had held the ball up well three minutes into time added George Colson saw a good effort blocked.
The fourth minute of time added, (yes, the collective will of SFC fans to hear the whistle was in evidence long before that!), produced a great chance to make the scoreline look more like it should have when Wright got a touch to a Benson cross and Kane O'Keefe had a very presentable chance in front of goal. As, shortly afterwards, the referee blew, it mattered not that O'Keefe headed the ball over the top from close in!
So the Whites' campaign continues, and it now only boils down to a maximum of two games to reward anotherbrilliant season, putting the icing on the cake - promotion to the Southern Premier Division. If ever there was a time for Salisbury supporters to come out in force, then surely we are now at that point with one, and hopefully two games remaining.
I was not alone in being slightly disappointed that the Bank Holiday crowd against Wimborne Town did not break through the four figure mark, and hope that supporters will take whatever chances remain to seriously challenge our highest league attendance of the season. Your team deserves that, at the very least!
All teams left in at this stage will provide stern competition, and your support will be invaluable. Be loud, be proud (with apologies for using an Eastleigh FC slogan!).
Bideford AFC: Moore, Sampson, Reid, Downing, McGrath, Harrison, Bye, McPhee (Squire 82), Watson (Western 43), Wood (Tucker 56), Andrew.
Subs not used: Richards, Barker.
Salisbury FC: Bass, Colson, Hart (Mundy 45), Whelan (Onoufriou 59), Dutton, Wheeler, Benson, O'Keefe, Wright, Waller Lassen (Clarke 69), T Roberts.
Subs not used: Herbert, S Roberts.
Attendance: 386 Referee: D Glynn