Salisbury FC 4 Hartley Wintney 2
EvoSstik South Premier South
Saturday, 17 November 2018
By Alec Hayter
The Whites moved back into second place in the table, one above Tuesday night’s opponents Weymouth, courtesy of another solid three points at the expense of the Row. In recent times Whites' supporters have been treated to high quality play, but although today's performance did not quite reach the heights we've become accustomed to, instead we had four quality goals, each of which would have graced Match of the Day and probably created a record four entries from one club in Goal of the Month! Today we had a mixture of individual skill and combined movement, although the final scoreline did not fully reflect the number of chances created.
Of course, the visitors had a say in the final scoreline and had their moments, showing great tenacity against a team described by joint manager Dan Turkington as "one of the best we've played", and at one stage when we had a short Whites' wobble the Row have got back on terms. Turkington added, "Before the game we would have taken a point, but to have taken three would have been a real achievement. We were beaten by a better team."
Apart from one 10/15 minute spell even one point for the visitors looked unlikely as, without perhaps some of their usual fluency, Salisbury got at their opponents from the start. After only five minutes Jake Wannell met a Lewis Benson cross but could only head at keeper Adam Desbois, and two minutes later Dan Fitchett fed Luke Hopper who turned his man brilliantly but then appeared to be hampered as his shot went over the top. Referee Robert Cockle waved away the appeals.
Desbois then may been relieved to be hardly tested by Tom Whelan’s right foot shot but he had to work harder on 15 minutes, blocking out Hopper who was trying to benefit from good work from Bay Downing and Benson, whose cross-shot eventually reached him after some desperate defending..
The attacking continued with Pablo Haysham feeding Aaron Dawson who narrowly missed the target from 25 yards, before, on 25 minutes, the Whites took the lead with Dawson being involved. A "regulation" pass to Benson saw the attacking midfielder take the ball right across the box, evading desperate lunges, before hitting a sweet, firm left foot finish low into the corner - a great individual effort.
Lewis shakes off the challenge - and leathers in Whites' first. Copyright Roger Elliott
Three minutes later an inviting Benson cross nearly found Hopper, stretching, but he was unable to connect, and then, the Row unexpectedly got back into it to level on 32 minutes after at least four chances were missed by the Salisbury defence to clear,. When they did, the ball fell to Rowan Vine who clobbered in a volley from the edge of the box to equalise.
That jolt encouraged one of the many good Salisbury moves during the game and on 34 minutes one such resulted in the home side’s regaining the lead. Bay Downing started it, playing the ball to Benson, who in turn sprayed it wide to Whelan. The next we saw was the ball crashing in off of the underside of the bar which, as I write, a few hours later, might still be shaking from the impact! Needless to say, the keeper stood no chance whatsoever. When Whelan scores, he really scores!
Lewis and Tom celebrate after Tom's rocket-shot. Copyright Roger Elliott
Hartley Wintney stirred themselves and a minute before the break a right foot effort from Nathan Smart forced James Hillson into his first serious action of the game, parrying the ball, and four minutes after the interval his second action saw him easily field another effort from the same player. The Row had made some changes after half-time and they were proving more effective, although had the referee seen an incident on 52 minutes, Salisbury may well have had a penalty when Wannell's header from a Whelan corner triggered appeals for handball.. In fairness to the official there were a good few bodies in his line of sight, so “hand to ball” or “ball to hand “– we’ll never know!.
At the other end, only seconds later, Hartley Wintney wasted a very good opportunity when Jack Ball put a free header over the top, but again this caused a Whites’ reaction and on 62 minutes their third goal arrived, again the result of a fine move this time involving Haysham, Downing and Benson, the one touch play giving Hopper the chance to prod home. It would not have been unreasonable to think that was "game over" especially when Fitchett had a good chance from 5 yards, but headed over, and that probably gave the visitors further hope. Again though they were wasteful as Smart was not so smart with a volleyed attempt which went over the top, when he should really have done better.
Hopper gets the third - "put on a plate, mate!" Copyright Roger Elliott
On 74 minutes the visitors did get within one goal of the Whites and Hillson can consider himself unlucky after getting to a fierce swerving drive from Ross Cook. However, he was only able to parry the ball and Vine was on hand to net from close range. I'm sure I was not alone in thinking "3-3?", but on 84 minutes came the fourth goal to settle matters, this time Darren Mullings sending in a superb, inviting, cross which allowed Fitchett to glance the ball into the far corner for 4-2.
Dan Fitchett wheels away after scoring Whites' fourth. - Copyright Roger Elliott
Fitchett was not finished, pulling back a great ball to Chris Shephard with three minutes remaining but unfortunately the ball ended up over instead of under the bar. Supporters were then treated to another great move just before the final whistle which, although not producing a fifth, was something which, with all of the other passing movements, will surely stay in the memory. Another quick-fire move saw Haysham and Shephard combine with Whelan seeing the final opportunity blocked.
It was always going to be a tough game at Weymouth on Tuesday, but their surprise defeat at Kings Langley, and the Whites going above them, will make it even tougher. The Whites deserve total support for a difficult game and if only half of today's attendance made the trip on Tuesday, that might give them more justification for their decision to segregate the supporters! Please try and get along because, whatever the outcome, Salisbury have now put themselves in a much better position to maintain their challenge, with table topping Taunton having a two-point advantage, having played one game more.
Salisbury FC: Hillson, Downing, Sommerton, Whelan, Wheeler (Partridge 85), Wannell, Benson, Dawson (Mullings 68), Hopper (Shephard 72), Fitchett, Haysham.
Subs not used Kotwica, Herbert.
Hartley Wintney: Desbois, Kpohomouh, Paget (King 81), Ball, Eagle, Smith, Webb, Vine, Smart, Ciardini (Cook 67), Hart.
Subs not used: Hutchings, French, Campbell.
Attendance: 689 Referee: R Cockle (Bristol)