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MATCH REPORT: Salisbury FC 5 Slimbridge AFC 1

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.

MATCH REPORT: Didcot Town 3 Salisbury FC 1

Evo-Stik South West

Tuesday, 6th February 2018

By Alec Hayter 

The Whites were frozen out in the freezing conditions by an excellent Didcot side who deserved their win and did their play-off prospects no harm at all with a commanding performance on the evening.

It must be said that when Salisbury are good they are very very good but after the slowest start to any game I've seen them make in recent times it was more a question then of not being allowed to develop their play by a totally committed home side.

They could have been well behind within the first 5 minutes but for the profligacy of Sam Barder and Felipe Barcelos who both missed great opportunities to give their side an early lead, with Tom Whelan providing the only Salisbury threat on 8 minutes when he brought a fine save from Leigh Bedwell.

It was really no surprise when the hosts took the lead a minute later but that came as a result of a fairly soft penalty award by referee Edward Turner. The award ranked amongst those "I've seen them given" incidents but George Jeacock had little regard for the rights and wrongs by belting the ball past Tom Roberts' right hand for the first of three goals with which Roberts had no chance whatsoever.

Salisbury briefly flickered some 8 minutes later when Whelan’s cross found Stuart Green at the near post but Green put a sharp chance over the top and on 27 minutes the Railwaymen constructed a goal, the like of which I have rarely, if ever, seen at this level, to double their advantage. One touch quick-fire passing, almost impossible to defend against, saw Jeacock meet the final pass with a superb right foot curling drive into the top corner. That team goal would have graced any game at this level and perhaps two or three levels above.

Two goals down, the Whites began to show their qualities up to a point, that point being until they met some resolute defending from the home team. On the half hour Whelan got round the back of the defence and pulled the ball back to Green who disappointingly put his effort wide from 8 yards, and a couple of minutes later a low cross by Danny Young was just too far out of Green's reach.

The reward for the increased pressure, however, came on 35 minutes when Elliot Wheeler fired in a low cross from the right and Green (pictured above) was on hand to finish from close range to bring the Salisbury back into the game with his 15th league goal of the season and his 22nd in all competitions.

There were no arguments as to that goal but plenty were to follow when two minutes into time added on at the end of the first half Green went down in trying to get past keeper Bedwell. From where I was watching it appeared that the keeper had done his job and had the ball in his grasp, so it was surprising that referee Turner awarded the second soft penalty of the evening.

One could not help but feel that justice was done when Whelan stepped up to take the kick and Bedwell saved, his task made easier by Whelan’s attempt which was at an ideal height for the keeper. On such moments games can change and had that penalty succeeded just before the break, then I've no doubt it would have been a much different game in the second half with perhaps a more favourable outcome for the visitors, but as it was the dressing room mood could not have been great.

Little was seen of the Didcot attack at all in the second period and on 59 minutes Young had a great opportunity to level, but instead of taking on the finish himself decided instead to square the ball to Lewis Benson. Benson was quickly closed down and his effort deflected over the top.

We had already seen two soft penalty appeals given, so I suppose it was hardly surprising that an obvious and justified appeal would be turned down, and this duly happened as Whelan was impeded by Lewis Hayden in the box - the referee who was possibly poorly positioned, waving away the protests. Throughout the game the referee's positioning was questionable but he received little help from his assistants.

Didcot responded in the best possible way and on 63 minutes a through ball found Barcelos who outstripped leaden-footed defenders before calmly dispatching the ball past the stranded Roberts to effectively settle matters.

The Whites huffed and puffed but made little impact on the home defence although Rhys Baggridge might have done better with a header on 77 minutes from Benson's free-kick. Bedwell was only forced to make regulation saves until the 86th minute when substitute Kane O'Keefe was unlucky with a right foot shot from the edge of the box which the keeper did well to keep out.

To make the evening complete the red mist descended on O'Keefe who was shown a straight red for a reckless challenge at a time when the game has already slipped from the Whites' grip.

Didcot were well worth the three points on the night but I am sure that both sides would have appreciated a better performance from the match officials, who were made aware of the feelings of both sets of supporters as they left the pitch. They did not lose this game for Salisbury – it was more a case of a slow start, a doubtful penalty, a brilliant goal and confident performance from the Railwaymen, whilst from the Whites a penalty miss at a crucial moment and a lack of good service to the their front men.  In the bigger scheme of things another chance was missed with Taunton dropping points at Paulton Rovers.

New signing Cory Simpson showed some good touches after coming on for the last 24 minutes and looks to be a good addition to the squad, although Young, whom he replaced, had already worked extremely hard for the Whites.

Our loss at home to Barnstaple produced a great reaction and I would expect nothing less from the Whites when they make the short journey to Swindon Supermarine on Saturday. I hope that those who stayed away following the Barnstaple defeat will have learned that it's always wise to keep the faith, and that many will make the journey to support their team in North Wilts. Not as many as usual made the trip last evening, but in all honesty, who could blame then in the arctic conditions?

Didcot Town: Bedwell, Elkins, McNeil, Hayden, Cattell, Learoyd, Jeacock, Murphy (Thomas 52), Barcelos, Barder (Woodley 73), Agyakwa (Reid 66).

Subs not used: Pin, Joyce.

Salisbury FC: Roberts, Wheeler, Perrett (O'Keefe 80), Whelan, Baggridge, Wannell, Benson, Dawson (Herbert 70), Howe, Green, Young (Simpson 66).

Subs not used: Colson, Shephard.

 

Attendance: 160                  Referee: E Turner.

MATCH REPORT: Salisbury FC 6 Yate Town 2

ABOVE: Kane O'Keefe heads his first goal. 

Evo-Stik South West

Saturday, 3rd February 2018

By Alec Hayter

Yate Town can consider themselves lucky to get away with only a 6-2 thrashing at the Ray Mac as the Whites reacted to their disappointing showing against Barnstaple Town seven days earlier. The Bluebells arrived on the back of a seven-match unbeaten run during which they had defeated Bideford in Devon and Wimborne and Evesham on their own turf, and it had been expected that they would provide a tough test for the Whites.

However, Salisbury, boosted by the return of Lewis Benson, and with long-term absentee Chris Shephard making the bench, were much too good for their opponents all over the park and when they were three goals to the good they should really have led by twice as many. In the end, Yate could not really have complained if Salisbury had totted up a scoreline in double figures.

Some were still taking their seats when the first chance came with under a minute on the clock. Stuart Green got to the bye-line and gave Kane O'Keefe a sight of goal but his attempt was deflected to Danny Young just 3 yards or so in front of a gaping net. Somehow Young contrived to put the ball over the top, but the whirlwind Whites start produced a second opportunity when they were awarded a penalty for handball on 6 minutes. Green grabbed the ball but did not make it too difficult for Harvey Rivers to save the spot kick.

“Oh dear” (or much stronger and unprintable words to that effect!) crossed my mind as I thought, even at that early stage, that the waste of those chances and Yate’s good form could prove costly, but then, almost immediately, Tom Whelan jinked his way towards the bye-line and fired goalwards, beating Rivers, with a Yate defender unable to keep the ball out.

One up, Salisbury began cutting through Yate at will, but it was not until 20 minutes later that they doubled their advantage - and what a stunning strike it was that produced their second goal.

Whelan delivered a corner to the edge of the box where Aaron Dawson met the ball sweetly with a half volley that nestled into the corner before Rivers could move. I doubt whether Dawson will ever score a similar or a better goal with such a precise strike of the ball, but hopefully he will keep trying for a repeat. Oh... and by the way, his absence after the break was caused by a knee injury. He confirmed he was not suffering from shock!

At two up, the Whites should have been four up, and on 32 minutes came another golden opportunity to extend the lead. This time Benson and Green worked the chance between them, Green squaring the ball across the face of the goal to Kane O'Keefe who somehow managed to lift the ball over the top when just a touch would have sufficed.

O'Keefe soon put the matters right though when, on 35 minutes, Green crossed to the far post, and he made no mistake with a header.

Such was the Whites' dominance that when the teams came out after the break there was high expectation of a cricket score, and 6 minutes after half-time Salisbury were awarded a second penalty for handball with Whelan this time converting low to the keeper's left.

Four minutes after making it four, four became five with Green latching onto Claudio Herbert's ball before sending a delicate chip unerringly over the advancing Rivers. It would be difficult to see better finishes than this and Dawson's earlier goal anywhere at this level, and at 5-0 up maybe it was understandable that there may be a lull in the scoring, and so it was until, surprisingly, Yate pulled a goal back through Steve Davies on 68 minutes, the striker heading in Ross Langworthy's cross at the far post.

ABOVE: Tom Whelan was in top form, scoring two and setting up two more

It was even more surprising when, 10 minutes later Langworthy, swung his boot from the edge of the box and the ball nestled in the Salisbury net, as there had been no indication that Yate were capable of scoring. In fact my notes at the end of the game only showed two references to visitors at all – their two goals!

To restore some sense to the scoreline, with eight minutes remaining O'Keefe grabbed his second with a well directed header from Whelan's cross to maintain the Whites' lead in the goal difference league - with only Taunton Town anywhere near them.

Whilst the ease with which the Whites dismantled Yate was surprising, this was a far better all-round performance than against Barnstaple, and hopefully marks a return to normal service.

Having had a good run ended by Barnstaple seven days ago, the Whites have now started the next run, but continuing that will not be easy as the next two games, both away from home, are against stiff opposition. On Tuesday we make the trip to Didcot, who have only lost once in the last nine outings (that loss being at Taunton Town) and it was in fact Taunton who were the last team to beat them at home, as long ago as early November.

The Whites, boosted by the return of Owen Howe and a fit again Chris Shephard, should be capable of getting a result at Didcot, and can further improve their hold on second spot if next Saturday at Swindon Supermarine they can reproduce the type of performance shown there last season when they demolished their hosts 6-1.

A tough seven days is in prospect but, as manager Steve Claridge commented afterwards: "We're only going to get stronger now with players returning from injury, and today's result was the best form of preparation."

Salisbury FC: T Roberts, Wheeler, Perrett, Whelan, Baggridge, Wannell, Benson, Dawson (Herbert 45), O'Keefe, Green (Shephard 72), Young (Mehew 60).

Subs not used: Colson, S Roberts.

Yate Town: Rivers, Evans, Gregan, Peare (Ellington 65), Bolton, Hitchings, Price, Anderson (Tooze 53), Davies, Brooks (Llewellyn 53), Langworthy.

Subs not used: Blake, Tanner.

Attendance: 567                  Referee: C Hubbard (Poole)

 BELOW: Geoff Shilton of match sponsors Bartercard presents Lewis Benson with his Man of the Match award.      Pictures by ROGER ELLIOTT

MATCH REPORT: Salisbury FC 0 Barnstaple Town 1

Evo-Stik South West

Saturday, 27 January 2018

By Alec Hayter

We are nearing the end of January and I honestly thought that the traditional season of goodwill to all men had long since since passed, but no, the Whites contrived to go one worse than the last time they entertained a basement club, Bishops Cleeve. They lost  this low-key, watered down contest by a single goal on the hour, and that the result of a goalkeeping error.

Manager Steve Claridge had talked in pre-match comments about the good spell we were having, but it seemed today as though a not-so-good fairy had cast the spell over most of the Salisbury players. The match never really got going and was not helped by time-wasting tactics from the visitors. Who could blame them though in their perilous position?

Unfortunately, referee Martin Bloor seemed unmoved and I was as surprised as anyone when after all the delays and stoppages there were only four minutes extra at the end of the game. However, it might have taken another four weeks for Salisbury to score so it must be said that the referee did not lose the game for Salisbury. That is down fairly and squarely to the players – and of course a fighting performance from Barum. The Whites should have been able to overcome the absence of Owen Howe and Lewis Benson.

Steve confirmed afterwards: "We didn't deserve to win the game, nor did we deserve to lose it. I didn't really see that performance coming; it was flat and a bit 'after the Lord Mayor's show' with everyone including the players expecting us to win the game."

Only eight incidents in 94 minutes was not good entertainment, but as the Whites had four of their six chances in the first half, there was hope that after the break they would go on to win the match.

Everything had looked fairly straightforward in the early stages when Danny Young did well to get behind the Barum defence, pulling the ball back to Stuart Green. Green’s left foot shot went over the top, however.

Eight minutes later a Tom Whelan free kick found Rhys Baggridge isolated in front of goal, but he headed well over the bar when under no pressure. In the absence of Barum defenders he might have chested the ball down to make sure.

We then had to wait until 31 minutes before Green tested keeper Robert Holmes for the first time in the game, but Holmes came out on top, keeping out a 22-yard drive. Another eight minutes passed before Green was again in the action after Olly Mehew and Young combined in one of the rare probing passing moves of the game, but this time Holmes was able to touch the ball over the bar to safety.

TOP: Stuart Green tries to find space. CENTRE: Tom Whelan looks to get Whites going. Pictures by ROGER ELLIOTT

Half-time, no score, and 15 minutes into the second half the unthinkable happened with Billy Hopcroft taking a gamble as Tom Roberts had the ball in his sights to clear. Unfortunately the keeper’s swipe at the ball only succeeded in sending it back into Hopcroft's' path giving him the simplest of chances to roll the ball into an empty net.

A wake-up call? You would have thought so following recent performances, but Salisbury seemed hardly stirred and could not raise the tempo. It's often said that to get a result you have to be patient against sides who defend in numbers, but the trouble was that it was difficult to tell whether the Whites were being patient or just unable to up their game.

In spite of the lack of zest Salisbury created two further chances. On 76 minutes Kane O'Keefe could only glance a header past the upright from Whelan's corner, and seven minutes later Claudio Herbert failed to get enough on the ball with his header from another Whelan delivery.

With five minutes remaining Barum substitute Tallan Mitchell leathered a half volley from the edge of the box but misdirected it past the upright. Barum only created two chances throughout, and had Mitchell’s effort succeeded, a second goal would escalated what was already a larceny into daylight robbery – and that is not, in any way, to deny Barum merit in achieving a lot more than they could possibly have been expecting.

Steve added: "They were well organised and came to spoil the game. That's fine, because they're fighting for their lives. In matches like that we have to get the first goal to force them to come out and play, and then it’s a different game. If you don't get the first goal and the game is broken up, you become more nervous, see the clock running down, and have to chase the game.

"We were well short today and have gone from being very good to very bad in the space of seven days. That's very disappointing because I thought we had got that kind of performance out of our system. We lacked quality, we lacked movement, we lacked everything you need to break those sides down. Thankfully other results have gone our way, but with maximum points this game and the next one we could have been 12 or 13 points clear. We've got ourselves into a good position though and if we'd have been offered that a couple of months ago we'd have bitten your hand off."

Yate Town are next up, and their recent form has been very good, so another tough game is in prospect. I’ll forgive the Barnstaple blip bearing in mind the winning run, and hope that supporters will react in the same way and continue the level of vocal support given yesterday, although maybe their team’s performance as a whole didn’t deserve it.

Salisbury FC: T Roberts, Wheeler, Young, Whelan, Baggridge (Sommerton 73), Wannell, Herbert, Dawson, O’Keefe, Mehew (Perrett 64), Green.

Subs not used: Colson, Rayfield, S Roberts.

Barnstaple Town: Holmes, Haynes, Heeney, Gray (A. Booth 73), Cooper, Ibbeson, Booth (Mitchell 78), Radford, Hopcroft (Rickard 84), Nancekivell, Harper-Penman.

Attendance: 603                              Referee: M Bloor (Lymington)

BELOW: Owen Howe is presented with the Supporters Club Player of the Month for December by Stuart Cannell. Picture by ROGER ELLIOTT