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The Whites miss out at the Met

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Metropolitan Police FC 3 Salisbury FC 2

Evo-stik South Premier South Play-off.

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

By Alec Hayter

"I got it right, but only Salisbury could lose a game like that" was Steve Claridge's accurate summation after the match. After a performance that was like chalk and cheese from that of the previous Saturday, it should be Salisbury who are preparing a programme for a game at home Monday against Poole Town, but a pivotal moment of stupidity at the wrong time, although not solely responsible for our demise, contributed massively to the final outcome, handing the home side the half-time boost which they needed after a first half of Salisbury ascendancy.

And talking about boosts, the home side could not have made a better start when Jack Mazzone scored a tenth minute goal of immense quality. He was given a yard of space some 25 yards out and, going slightly away from goal, unleashed a fierce cross shot which Jake Hallett did well to get a hand to, although he could not prevent the ball fizzing into the net. The slight error  may well have gone unpunished against a lesser striker, but no one could argue with the quality of the finish which brought back memories of a similar quality Mazzone goal against us earlier in the season.

This Salisbury side, however, was not prepared to lie down, and it only took three minutes before they were back on terms with Jack Sparkes' freekick finding Bay Downing in front of goal after a brilliantly timed run. Although keeper Bertie Schotter did his best to keep out the volley, there was no denying the popular defender.

From that point until the fateful 45th minute the Whites made their substantial following’s attendance worthwhile, with Aaron Dawson receiving the ball from Dan Fitchett's byeline incursion but seeing his effort at the near post blocked on 23 minutes, and seven minutes later Fitchett himself suffering the same fate after Lewis Benson had worked an identical opening.

Things were looking good with Salisbury having most of the play and containing the home side with comparative ease, but in a breakaway, Ethan Chislett got into the box and tumbled under a challenge from Matt Partridge. Referee Tom Danaher was not initially moved by penalty appeals, but was given no choice whatsoever when Partridge inexplicably kicked out at the Met player on the deck. A clear and obvious penalty was awarded which was dispatched by Mazzone, despite a gallant attempt by Hallett who guessed right but couldn’t keep the ball out. This sent the home side into the break on a high, and left manager Claridge scratching his head as to what had entered Partridge's mind.

Salisbury were therefore chasing the game from the interval, but were making inroads with some enterprising attacking play, with Sparkes trying an ambitious volley on 52 minutes which, although well struck, went straight at the none too competent keeper.

There was always a chance that the Whites would be caught pushing forward and on 53 minutes Hallett had to be at his best to deny Max Blackmore in a one-on-one, but eight minutes later the visitors suffered a double blow when Fitchett missed a golden opportunity to equalise, sending a close range header against the bar from Sparkes' delivery when the ball should really have broken the net. Seconds afterwards, the Met broke to the other end where Blackmore showed grit, determination, and not a little bravery to get his head on a through-ball to deflect it into the net despite the close attentions of two defenders and the keeper. His effort for his team's cause meant that he then had to leave the action with an injury.

Salisbury heads still didn't go down, even at 3-1, but instead a Benson special on 68 minutes kept their hopes alive. When I say "Benson special" I mean a freekick from distance and from a wide position near the sideline which curled into the danger area and fooled defenders and goalkeeper alike as it entered the net. Some have said to me that this is a question of luck, but Lewis has done this so many times that it's surely a question of skill.

Try as they might, and they really did try hard until the end, that was the only real threat that the Whites produced, the change to three at the back with the introduction of Luke Hopper, whom I cannot recall actually touching the ball, making little difference, and the Met hung on for victory after a hard-fought game.

The downside is of course that we lost, but the upside is that the performance level was somewhere near what we are used to, although, unfortunately, the defensive mistakes from experienced players were still there. In contrast, there were assured performances in that department from Downing and Sommerton, the latter having had to undergo a fitness test before the game, so hope springs eternal. Of course, having the experienced Chris Shephard available would have done no harm, but he was unable to start because of illness.

It will be an interesting close season, and, in my opinion, perhaps this defeat was a blessing in disguise as we all know to our cost what can happen when promotion quickly follows promotion. On this occasion most of the players did themselves proud without getting the reward they deserved, and it remains to be seen how many will be involved in the next campaign. There is no doubt that mistakes have been made in all areas this season but hopefully lessons will have been learned. I for one am very much looking forward to the next challenge, apart from, perhaps, the trip to Truro City (on a Tuesday night even?!)


Metropolitan Police FC: Schotter, Webb, Guinness-Walker, Arthur, Robinson, Birch, Knight, Chislett, Mazzone, Blackmore (Hippolyte 64), Robertson.

Subs not used: Gilbert, Nyama, Fisher, Williams.

Salisbury FC: Hallett, Downing, Sommerton (Hopper 84), Mullings, Partridge, Wheeler, Benson, Dawson, Fitchett, Whelan, Sparkes.

Subs not used: Herbert, Young, Haysham, Searle.

Attendance: 488                   Referee: T Dannaher

Match Report - Salisbury FC v Harrow Borough

 FB home size©Michael Berkeley

Salisbury FC 0 Harrow Borough 6

Evo-stik South Premier South

Saturday, 27 April 2019

By Alec Hayter

The omens are good! Now, in case you think I've gone completely off my rocker let me remind you that in February 2011 the Ray Mac crowd witnessed a 6 -0 home defeat in a game against Truro City, with ace marksman Barry Hayles grabbing a hat-trick. On a day when supporters' worst nightmares came true, and they had a taste of what Staines’ fans have been through this season, Harrow Borough achieved the same scoreline but improved with two hat-trick heroes. That was just over 8 years ago and no true Salisbury supporter will want to see a repeat for at least another 8 years. This was the last pure league game of the season which has seen the good, the bad, the ugly, and now a new category, the abysmal, the latter applying to the Frome trip as well.

So why are the omens good? The 2011/12 season resulted in promotion to.............guess where? The Conference South! The National League South, as it is now called, is that into which promoted teams from the Southern Premier go, but at this moment, realistically, that is something that will not trouble the Whites after this type of performance. I don’t give much credence to omens however, and we started the day in approximately the same position as we ended it. We are in the play-offs and we were in the play-offs before this game, the only difference being the venue, and at least we are playing a team who try to play good football and succeed at that. So, in my humble opinion we have every chance of making progress, with one proviso, and that is that we turn up.

There's not a lot to be said about today's game, except that after wasting two golden opportunities to put the game out of Harrow's reach in the first 20 minutes we paid the price, and they managed to score a goal against the run of play. Unfortunately they didn't look back, not because they were absolutely brilliant.

After ten minutes it should have been 1-0 when Chris Shephard's freekick found Claudio Herbert in front of goal in the 6 yard box, but, faced with the keeper he inexplicably put the ball over the bar, and to compound that error Dan Fitchett somehow contrived to miss an open goal 9 minutes later after Aaron Dawson had squared an inviting ball to him.

Over the top Herbert REDespairing Desperate Dan RE

Easier to score! - ©Roger Elliott

In fairness, Harrow had tested Jake Hallett two minutes previously the keeper doing well to keep out a well aimed effort from George Moore, but the visitors took the lead through the same player on 32 minutes when a great ball from Frank Keita split the right side of the Whites' defence for my Man of the Match hat-trick man to beat Hallett easily. The keeper had little chance, as with most of the Boro goals.

George Moore gets the first of more MBMoore gets the first of more - ©Michael Berkeley

Having constantly got behind the Harrow defence with consummate ease, there was not at this point any reason for Salisbury supporters to panic, but Tom Whelan should have done better when put in by Fitchett on 37 minutes, firing straight at the keeper, and Hafed Al-Droubi then denied Shephard when he attempted a cross shot two minutes before the break.

A single goal down at the interval seemed manageable after a first half when Salisbury had produced the majority of chances, but four minutes into the second period, Herbert was again in on goal in a one-on-one and chipped the keeper but saw the ball cleared off the line by a defender who really been given no chance with a more decisive attempt.

Just before the hour Hallett left his line to try and clear up the mess in front of him, but in doing so left his net unattended, and the ball eventually fell obligingly to Ryan Moss, who looped a header in for Boro's second.

With 20 minutes remaining, Fitchett actually got the ball in the net but the "goal" was correctly disallowed for handball, and on 73 minutes the game was put out of sight, if it wasn't already so, when Moore received a crossfield ball and was left one-on-one with Hallett to score Harrow's third.

Football not handball the name of the game MBFootball, not handball the name of the game - ©Michael Berkeley

Heads were almost subterranean by this time, and as if that was not enough, two minutes later the fourth goal arrived when a long ball found Moss, again in a one-on-one with Hallett and again with the same result.

With nine minutes left it was the Moore/Moss combination once again, with Moss being denied this time only by a very good stop from the Salisbury keeper, but the respite was short as seconds later the defence were fooled by a short corner and Moore hit the top corner for number 5, on a day when most things had gone for him. Those who sat it out to the bitter end then had to put up with the sound of "we want 6" from the gallant band of Harrow supporters, (who could blame them?), and Moss duly obliged to complete a harrowing experience.

Feelings MB Sums up the feelings of most of the large crowd - ©Michael Berkeley

Someone said to me after the game that they would much prefer to watch Songs of Praise than witness what they had seen earlier but if the side has anything about them, and I think they have, they will, as in the past, compensate for today's debacle with a much better showing on Wednesday. I'll be there, and if by any chance the Whites play to something like their normal standards then that could well set up an intriguing visit to Somerset as long as Taunton do what might be expected in their game against Poole Town. And for me, I am not too disappointed by having to play away from home as often that environment is more suited to our game.

"Ifs, buts, and maybes", but what changes? Nothing, because "ifs, buts and maybes" are what supporting a football team is all about. I can't hide my feelings at having to write about it at this moment so I console myself with the thought “come on you Whites, reward those of us who will follow you to Imber Court on Wednesday”. Remember, even if you don't succeed, it's not been a bad season as your first in the Southern Premier, although at times you might have flattered to deceive..


Salisbury FC: Hallett, Herbert (Wheeler 74), Sommerton, Whelan (Sparkes 80), Partridge, Downing, Benson, Dawson, Fitchett, Mullings, Shephard.

Subs not used: Young, Rayfield, Searle.

Harrow Borough: Al-Droubi, Andrew, Haugh, Preddie,(Pepera 45), Oseni, Moore, Keita, McLeod (Ireland 68), Moss, Bryan (O'Connor 80), Cole.

Subs not used: Holland, Muhemba..

Attendance: 750       Referee L. Sandoe (Catterick Garrison)

Match Report - Frome Town v Salisbury FC

BLOCK©Michael Berkeley

Frome Town 0 Salisbury FC 0

Evo-stik South Premier South

Monday, 22 April 2019

By Alec Hayter

It was easy to see why Frome have been relegated, although they could have won this game had it not been for Jake Hallett. Conversely, it was difficult to see why Salisbury are in the play-offs, although they should have won this game too had it not been for the home keeper! The Salisbury seesaw swings again between bad performance to good, then bad, and, judging by yesterday's level at Badgers Hill, we are due a very good one on Saturday. I'll be happy with that, but even happier if the on-off form sequence finishes after that game.

There was lots of “huff and puff" whilst at the same time little urgency or intensity in what was overall a flat performance. Admittedly, the pitch could never be likened to that performance description, and it was a warm day, but neither factor could be held wholly responsible for the reduction of a potential three points to one.

It was Frome who first showed on 10 minutes, if that's how you can describe a shot from distance that went well wide, before Hallett saved early embarrassment on 22 minutes when blocking Rick Davies in a one-on-one. That scare temporarily goaded the lethargic Whites into action, of sorts, for the remainder of the half, and that was when they should have secured the points. Home keeper Rob Brown came off his line to deny Claudio Herbert, and then had to thank his fellow defenders for getting in the way of Dan Fitchett, and Herbert again, after Jack Sparkes' corner caused box chaos.

On 27 minutes Lewis Benson clipped a delightful diagonal ball forward which produced a glancing header from Sparkes, but also a good save from Brown, but Salisbury's best chance by far came on 31 minutes direct from a Benson corner which found Matt Partridge at the far post. The surface could not have had any effect on a tame volley over from 8 yards.

Brown came to Frome's rescue on 39 minutes with a good stop low to his right from Sparkes' freekick, and the first half ended with Darren Mullings heading past the far post from a Sparkes corner. So the first half drew to an end with the Whites having missed some presentable chances, and with hardly any threat from the home side.

Would the half-time talk have any beneficial effect? Answer – no, not really, as in the second period Salisbury could only manage two attempts on goal, and to describe Dan Fitchett's volley on 59 minutes as such would be optimistic, as he ballooned the ball over the bar from the edge of the box. Before that, however, Hallett had to rescue his side once more, this time having been one-on-one with Josh Morgan Williams.

Another Josh, our own defender, who amongst few others in Herbert, Wheeler, and Hallett who emerged with any credit, then got forward and forced a defender to concede a corner in a last-ditch tackle.

pairClaudio and Josh do themselves justice. - ©Michael Berkeley

On 89 minutes the Robins nearly prospered from a free kick, with Davies fully demonstrating their season's woes in wasting a good chance high over the top, but in the first minute of added time, the Whites nearly snatched it when Danny Young, who had been a benched spectator for all but a minute of normal time, got to the byeline and squared where Mullings was just beaten to the ball by defender. It was probably not fair to expect any more of Young in the short time afforded to him.

Obviously, the home side wanted to treat their fans in their last home game in this league, but in the seventh minute of time added Davies again only reminded them of their shortcomings, skying another effort from a good position.

Next Saturday, the Whites will have the chance to show their fans that they are much better than that on a Ray Mac pitch, although not perfect, therefore preventing what was a partly plausible reason for today's performance being used again. Maybe the availability of those shown below will help. They were busy producing banana skins before the match which appeared during it. They didn't start today, and neither did many of those on the pitch.

BananasSome of the off-pitch banana skins - hopefully, the contents will speed recoveries. - ©Michael Berkeley

Next Saturday, as long as we match the Metropolitan Police result and therefore maintain our superior goal difference (currently better by 7), we can look forward to a home play-off with them on Wednesday 1st May. It's unlikely that will be a problem, but not impossible given the Whites' mood swings, and especially as our opponents Harrow Borough limbered up with nine goals today.

We do seem to like to keep things exciting, but not always in a good way.


Frome Town: Brown, Dawley, O'Loughlin, Withey, Mehew, Roberts, Allen (Low 78), Knowles, Davies, Morgan-Williams (Towler 55), Mannings.

Subs not used: Crabtree, Crossman, Seviour.

Salisbury FC: Hallett, Herbert, Sommerton, Whelan, Partridge, Wheeler, Benson, Mullings, Fitchett, Downing, Sparkes (Young 89).

Subs not used: Dawson, Burden, Evans.

Attendance: 467 (one short of double Frome's season average).

Referee: S Rothwell (Plymouth) – which would explain the late bank holiday start!


Match Report - Salisbury FC v Walton Casuals

FB home size©Michael Berkeley

Salisbury FC 4 Walton Casuals 2
Evo-stik South Premier South
Saturday, 20 April 2019

By Alec Hayter

Told you so! After disaster, Whites become masters and, although not without the customary wobble, but with a point to prove, produced the goods against Walton Casuals, condemning them to the relegation places and a dogfight with Gosport Borough.

This was a game in which the award of Man of the Match to hat-trick hero Chris Shephard was the easiest decision of the Match Sponsor Chairman's season, as the Whites' wizard made life extremely comfortable for his side with three goals in the first 45 minutes, but much less so for Walton.

First cutChris Shephard makes the first incision - ©Michael Berkeley

The first goal, on 5 minutes, was the result of Dan Fitchett's finish being blocked out to the lurking Shephard who belted the ball in from close range. Some 8 minutes later, Fitchett himself netted, but the assistant's flag ruled offside.

On 16 minutes Bay Downing's accurate ball found Fitchett who put in Shephard, who hit a firmly struck half volley into the far corner - a sublime first time effort which had us shouting "goal!" the moment the ball left his boot.

Shephard secondShep's superb first time second. - ©Roger Elliot/Michael Berkeley

Two nil up after only 16 minutes was great, but on 19 minutes Walton had a sniff when Isaac Sarpong screwed his effort well wide from 25 yards. Two minutes later, a resolute, crunching, but fair Lewis Benson challenge just inside his own half won him the ball, which he pinged to Fitchett who unfortunately miscued wide of the target, and shortly afterwards Benson himself went close too when his deflected effort just about shaved the upright.

The second, and last first half glimpse of the Walton attack came just before the half-hour when Kyron Farrell's cross gave Cole Brown a sharp chance at the near post, but he was wide with a stooping header.

Shephard thirdGift from Casuals' keeper causes a Crouch-robot Reaction - the shortened version! - ©Roger Elliot/Michael Berkeley

Enough was enough, and Shephard completed his hat-trick in bizarre fashion on 44 minutes when an over-casual Casuals keeper, Denzel Gerrar, cleared the ball only as far as the lively midfielder. (Gerrar must have been cross!).There was only going to be one outcome and Salisbury took a three-goal lead. As if that were not enough, in time added Josh Sommerton passed inside to Tom Whelan whose rising top corner-bound shot forced Gerrar to desperately deflect the ball over.

The three-goal lead became four shortly after the restart when Aaron Dawson surged forward unchallenged towards the Casuals box and let fly with a right foot shot that nestled low into the corner.

DawsonI wish I could fly........but Aaron didn't have to take off to get Whites' fourth. - ©Michael Berkeley/Roger Elliot

All good, that is until the 69th minute when Taurean Roberts, who throughout had only shown flashes of his undoubted talent, (but that’s him to a T!), got to the byeline and pulled the ball back for the impressive Yousouff Bamba to open Walton's account.

At 4-1, still no real worries, until the 72nd minute when Danny Young's misplaced pass to Matt Partridge left Bamba in the clear and in a good position, but the lively striker, who had tormented the Whites in the away defeat at Walton, lost his footing, and the chance was gone.

Salisbury went straight back onto the attack but Downing could not direct his header on goal from Benson's corner, before there was nearly a large unwelcome sting in the tail when Bamba got a second for the visitors on 74 minutes. A long ball out of defence was guided back into the danger area by Jake Gasson, under no pressure, for Bamba to score. Thus it was temporarily back to sloppy Salisbury as Walton had a further chance when Roberts cut in from the left and brought a great save from Jake Hallett low to his right just before Referee Martin Underhay blew time. For Salisbury, normal service had been restored.

Happy daysHappy days! - ©Roger Elliot

Just for once, overall the Whites made short work of a team at the opposite end of the table, the scoreline being hardly reflective of their dominance throughout the game. They must now continue the performance level at already-relegated Frome Town on Monday to take maximum points from the Easter programme. With other results being, let's say, "interesting", there is every chance of improving upon their current third place in the table obtained after today's games and cementing a home playoff place, or, in this form - playoffs.

It says a lot for Salisbury supporters that on a sun-drenched Bank Holiday Saturday, with the beach beckoning, they came out to support their team after the midweek Melksham mess in the Wilts Senior Cup. They have defined themselves as true Salisbury supporters, and I've no doubt that they will appear in their numbers at Frome on Monday, Laverstock on Wednesday for the Salisbury Hospitals Cup, and for the final game of the normal season against Harrow Borough next Saturday. It will not be until then that we know whether the first play-off game will mean a trip to the Ray Mac on 1 May, or elsewhere, when no doubt they will all be seen again!.

Salisbury FC: Hallett, Herbert, Sommerton (Young 45), Whelan, Partridge, Downing, Benson, Mullings, Fitchett (O'Keefe 63), Dawson (Rayfield 70), Shephard.
All subs used.

Walton Casuals: Gerrar, Mills, Farrell, Gogonas (Kelly 63), Brewer (Bamber 45), Beckles, Sarpong, Gasson, Roberts, Milenge, Brown.
Subs not used: Burnham, Robins.

Attendance: 670 Referee: M Underhay (Weymouth)


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