ABOVE: Stuart Green tucks away the first goal of his hat-trick.
Evo-Stik South West
Saturday, 17th February 2018
By Alec Hayter
Sometimes it's good to be wrong, and I certainly was wrong when I wrote after the defeat at Didcot Town about a goal they scored, the like of which I thought I would be unlikely to see again at our level. How wrong can you be? Stuart Green's finish to a superb move on 62 minutes in today's game was as good, if not better, and crowned another ruthless hat-trick.
There were good points, and there were bad points about the game. On the plus side a 5-1 scoreline is always good, but in truth it should have been double. A second "plus" was an all-too-brief reappearance for magic man Chris Shephard when, in his 24 minutes or so on the pitch he showed what we have been missing. The bad news is that many of you will have seen him hobble from the pitch just before the final whistle and unfortunately he has a recurrence of his long-standing injury which may have deprived the Whites of his services for another lengthy period of time.
Add to that Salisbury's generosity in gifting Slimbridge a goal towards the end of the game and you will probably get the impression that although I was delighted with the result, Maybe an opportunity to improve the goal difference yet more was lost. Slimbridge, with all due respect, were not a good side, and against better opposition the performance would have had to have been much improved to succeed. Having said that, it’s maybe a bit harsh to knock what was a solid victory.
In the first 11 minutes, had the visitors had someone capable of finishing, they could have scored twice, when Shaun Lawson didn't really test Charlie Searle from 8 yards on 5 minutes and then, 6 minutes later when Jake Wannell lost the ball in front of goal and Max Harper-Emerson shot weakly at the keeper. Thank goodness Owen Howe had, before that, just given the Whites the lead when he benefited from good work by Lewis Benson and Tom Whelan to blast the ball in at close range.
With memories being revived of Bishops Cleeve getting their first point of the season at the Ray Mac, it needed a quick second goal to put the opposition in their place and this duly arrived on 16 minutes when Howe turned provider, playing a brilliant pin-point ball from his own half through the right channel for Green. There was only going to be one outcome and Green duly obliged with a low right foot shot across the keeper.
It was, as expected, all Salisbury and Benson's crossfield ball found Howe in space on 19 minutes. Howe tried the spectacular and after one “keepy-uppy” touch, space is where the ball ended up, well over the top! It was not until 10 minutes before the break that the home side threatened again and a great move saw Benson get to the bye-line before squaring the ball across the area where Green, with his usual awareness, realised that Howe was in the clear to his left and stepped over the ball. This should have resulted in Salisbury's third goal but somehow keeper Oliver Hall managed to keep out the blast from point-blank range.
However, it was not long before Hall was picking the ball out of the net when the Whites netted their third, George Colson meeting a Benson corner to send a delicate glancing header across the keeper and into the far corner. Hall had no time to feel the cold as, only seconds later, another great through ball from Benson found Green who this time stung the keeper's hands with a shot to his near post, and in time added at the end of the first half Hall was grateful when Howe's shot on the turn hit the side netting.
BELOW: George Colson glances home a header for Whites' third.
I am sure I was not alone in thinking that, with a very comfortable lead at the break, the Whites would go on and get a cricket score, as Slimbridge had shown little sign of being able to get out of their own half, let alone threaten the Salisbury goal.
On 55 minutes, the Swans had a let-off when Wannell could not get power on his header from Whelan's corner, and the game began to peter out. There may not have been the expected deluge of goals, but what there was, from the Whites, made up for that. Those of you who went to Didcot saw a superb goal following a crisp interchange of passing, and today the Whites proved that they could do the same when on 62 minutes Benson and Green conjured their own form of magic, with Green expertly and calmly placing his finish into the top corner after a rapid exchange of passes. That was worth anyone's admission money all its own!
For only the third time in the game Slimbridge then came forward, possibly as a result of Salisbury easing off at 4-0 up, and Marley Thomas was unlucky to see his effort go just wide from the edge of the box on 78 minutes, but the visitors only had to wait a further couple of minutes before they were gifted a scant reward for their toil.
Not for the first time this season a mix-up between goalkeeper and defender resulted in the ball conveniently squirming free into the path of an opposing player. This time Kai Mahon was the beneficiary who could hardly believe his luck and calmly slotted the ball in for a consolation goal.
It was as though Salisbury had been shocked into greater effort when a barrage of chances came their way in quick succession. It seemed inevitable that they would get their fifth goal after Danny Young and Chris Shephard were involved in a flurry of activity, and Howe clattered his attempt onto the bar, but after Young tried another shot, this time the ball rebounded to Green who easily completed a fine hat-trick to make it 5-1.
Just before the final whistle Searle made up for his previous misdemeanour with a superb stop at point-blank range from Edward Ward, to maintain the four-goal margin.
They say there are no easy games but it's also true to say that some are easier than others. After this comprehensive win the Whites have a clear week before they make the trip to Bishops Cleeve, another of the league's strugglers. Cleeve suffered a narrow 3-2 defeat away at Barnstaple Town and are sure to use any fighting qualities they may have given that they sit at the foot of the league and are now 10 points adrift of Barum. They will remember taking a point at the Ray Mac, and to ensure that there are no slip-ups, the Whites should also remember that occasion.
Today's game attracted another good sized crowd, and it would be great to see as many as possible travel to Bishops Cleeve to keep the momentum going. Today's other results were, for the most part, in the Whites' favour, but with some of the more difficult games (on paper) coming in March it is very important that maximum points are taken from next week's trip. Supporters, in their numbers, can help that happen.
Salisbury FC: Searle, Colson, Wheeler, Whelan, Baggridge (Shephard 66), Wannell, Benson (Herbert 66), Dawson, Howe, Green, Simpson (Young 60).
Subs not used: Perrett, S Roberts.
Slimbridge: Hall, Turl, Mace, Pring, Squires (Mahon 41), Hoyle, Ward, Stokes, Lawson, Harper-Emerson, Thomas.
Subs not used: Philp, Ponting.
Attendance: 631 Referee: S Graham (Totton)
BELOW: Stuart Green receives his Man of the Match Award. Matchball sponsors were A-One Insurance. PICTURES BY ROGER ELLIOTT.