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MATCH REPORT: Bristol Manor Farm 2 Salisbury FC 3

Evo-Stik South West

Saturday, 28th April 2018

By Alec Hayter

A Zack-trick (a phrase "borrowed" from my elated passengers , Peter Blake, Dave Goodman, and Gary Nunn) was enough to overcome a good Bristol Manor Farm side who had been for some the surprise team after their first season at this level following promotion from the Western League.

This match was not your typical end-of-season affair as the hosts had realistic hopes of creeping into the play-off positions, provided they took the three points and results elsewhere went their way, and although the Whites might have been forgiven for easing off having secured their own promotion, that was certainly not the case. It was a game which exemplified what manager Steve Claridge has been trying to do, and succeeded in doing, all the season – that is, to entertain. Both sides produced some exciting football throughout on a good playing surface, and of course the result was the perfect end to Salisbury's season.

Farm drew first blood when the lively Cory Simpson, who played like a man on a mission, tumbled in the box under a George Colson challenge and the spirits were temporarily dampened when Kyle Holly stroked in the seventh minute spot kick, giving Charlie Searle no chance. However the magnificent travelling fans, there in good numbers, were soon back on song when three minutes later Chris Shephard showed what he’s about with a great ball through the right channel for Zack Kotwica (picured above). The striker was delighted to see the ball go into the net under Ashley Clark to even things up, but no doubt the keeper will have been disappointed that he could not get down quickly enough.

Kotwica, with a spring in his step all through the game, put a dangerous ball across the home box on 15 minutes but keeper Clark was relieved when the ball ricocheted back off Aron Robbins into his grasp, and 6 minutes later a superb move involving Shephard, Lewis Ellington, and Luke Hopper was only spoiled by Sam Roberts' weak attempt.

On 23 minutes the home side took the lead once again, in "route one" style, after a clearance from keeper Clark sailed downfield with the only player getting a touch being Troy Simpson, who out-jumped Searle and headed into the net. The lead once more only lasted a matter of minutes, however, when more Shephard magic saw him swivel on a sixpence and then thread the ball through the eye of a needle to Kotwica, who was never going to miss from short range. For the second time the Whites had made a swift response to going behind, and that was the nature of the end-to-end game.

Salisbury came on strong towards the end of the half and nine minutes before the break, Hopper was unlucky to see his shot on the turn deflected onto the post. Just before the half-time whistle another piece of Shephard magic saw him play a lovely ball into the right channel but Kotwica was unable to make the most of it, and thus ended 45 minutes of scintillating football.

Would it be possible for the teams to continue in the same vein another 45 minutes? Well, yes it was, and they did. Four minutes in to the second half Tom Whelan surged through the middle but sent his 25 yard effort wide of the target, and two minutes later Lewis Benson, who had entered the action at the break, crossed to Kotwica who could not keep a difficult volley down.

The balance of play was swinging the Whites' way and on 56 minutes Colson could be seen with a wry smile on his face after Clark somehow kept out a blistering 25-yard right foot effort to continue the "ups and downs" of keepers' fortunes. Such was the nature of the game that it was unsurprising that both had made errors and great saves alike.

Just after the hour we saw the best of Searle who pulled off a tremendous save to deny Cory Simpson's effort from the edge of the box, but almost immediately afterwards at the other end Green was unlucky when his cross-shot hit the foot of the post. There was obviously something building from the visitors and Whelan and Lewis Ellington combined to create a chance for Hopper who couldn’t capitalise.

After further pressure, Benson found Green with a searching ball but the home defence blocked, and it was really no surprise when the Whites scored what turned out to be the winner on 73 minutes. This was the first time in the match that Salisbury had been ahead in goal terms and Benson freed Kotwica with a piercing ball, the striker completing his hat-trick with a clinical low finish into the corner.

Unsurprisingly, this brought another reaction from the home side and after the Whites' defence missed several chances to clear, Cory Simpson was left one-on-one with Searle who once again got in the way to deflect the ball over the bar to safety. This was a particularly good period for Searle and on 78 minutes he was again key, saving at point-blank range, again from Cory Simpson.

Farm's last effort of the game came on 84 minutes when Herbert, in attempting to head clear, could only direct the ball towards Jamie Adams who wasted the opportunity by sending the ball over the top. This only served to encourage Salisbury to finish the game on the front foot and on 89 minutes Green had another chance but screwed the ball wide after being flicked in by Kotwica. In time added the Kotwica/Green partnership showed again with Green being disappointed by the home keeper's brilliant stop.

This was an enterprising display to finish the Whites' season, and must also be put into context in that before the game, in front of a huge TV screen in the clubhouse, could be found almost half a whole team of injured players, among them Kane O'Keefe, Owen Howe, Aaron Dawson, Jake Wannell, and Danny Young? It didn't stop there as in the warm-up Rhys Baggridge, who was to have started, suffered a muscle injury. It is an example of the spirit within the camp that those who took the field just got on with it, coming back twice against a good side.

The season started with a win and ended with a win on the road and there has been much to please in between. I hope that these reports have enabled you to relive some of the best bits, but unfortunately of course they would also have reminded you of the rarer “not so best” bits. Maybe at times you've had a chuckle – and that was intended. Thank you for the many compliments I've received – they are very much appreciated.

One thing is for sure - we have all had good entertainment from the efforts of the team and team management during the season, so it goes without saying that surely none of us can wait for the next campaign at our new higher level.

How many days to go before the friendly matches?!

Bristol Manor Farm: Clark, Tovey, Robbins, Turner, Kingdon (Stamp 83), Mills (Mannings 68), Holly, Adams (Thomas 87), T Simpson, Metters, C. Simpson.

Subs not used: Groves, Harvey.

Salisbury FC: Searle, Colson, Perrett (Benson 45), Whelan, Wheeler, Herbert, Ellington, Roberts, Hopper (Sommerton 69), Kotwica, Shephard (Green 45).

Sub not used: Baggridge.

Attendance: 339                                                                               Referee: N Pratt.

MATCH REPORT: Salisbury FC 1 Bideford AFC 0

ABOVE: Kane O'Keefe is presented with the Evo-Stik South West runners-up trophy by Southern League Chairman Terry Barratt

Evo-Stik South West

Tuesday, 24th April 2018

By Alec Hayter

THE WHITES ended their home league campaign with a competent victory over play-off hopefuls Bideford – one which many would consider had already been achieved before the first match was abandoned!

A changed line up saw Lewis Ellington and Josh Sommerton make first starts, with Lewis Benson, George Colson and Chris Shephard coming off the bench in the later stages. This was not a game which fell into the "end of season" category and was a good test of the capabilities of Ellington and Sommerton, the latter putting in a performance with a maturity beyond his years which might have earned him the Man of the Match accolade – especially when consider that he had played a full 90+ minutes for the Development Squad at Dorchester only 24 hours previously. Maybe he's a little young for a bottle of bubbly!

The visitors were desperate to get something from the game to maintain their slender play-off hopes but could not prevent the Whites from adding to their points total. 

The first real action of the evening came on 15 minutes with the only goal of the game from ace predator Stuart Green. A good move involving Ellington, Sam Roberts and Zack Kotwica saw Green expertly divert a goal-bound effort, completely wrong-footing visiting keeper Steve Oliver before nestling in the bottom corner.

BELOW: Stuart Green celebrates his goal with Owen Howe

It took another six minutes before Bideford produced their first effort on goal, Ben Carter's fierce drive being deflected for a corner, but two minutes later a great Claudio Herbert through ball into the right channel saw Kotwica just unable to stretch far enough to make the important connection.

On 25 minutes Bideford's Carter arrowed a 25-yard free kick just over the top and eight minutes later Josh Key should really have done better when he had the goal at his mercy, but put his effort wide. To end what was possibly Bideford's best period of the game, another good chance was spurned by the visitors. Sean Downing tested Charlie Searle but the ball found its way out to Ryan Turner who again fired wide, although Sommerton probably had things covered on the line had the ball been going into the net.

It really should have been 2-0 at the break as the Whites manufactured a golden opportunity for Eddie Perrett who somehow put a free header over the top from close in after being found by Herbert's searching long cross to the far post.

On another day Salisbury could have been reduced to 10 men after referee Hillier-Smith somehow missed an Owen Howe offence shortly after having been cautioned on 40 minutes, but it remained 11 against 11 and just a one goal difference at the break.

The second period started fairly quietly until, just after the hour, Ellington rifled an inviting ball across the face of goal but unfortunately there were no white shirts in attendance, and as Salisbury continued to press, a Kotwica snapshot from 22 yards grazed the bar on 64 minutes.

The final efforts from a tiring Bideford side saw Will Hancox bring a great save from Searle on 73 minutes, and then shortly after, one-on-one with Sommerton, the Biddy player was muscled out to the extent that he could not keep his finish down and trouble Searle.

With 11 minutes remaining, Kotwica got forward and squared the ball to Shephard whose left foot shot from the edge of the box was kept out by keeper Oliver, and 10 minutes later, in the last meaningful goalmouth action, Shephard was again involved, feeding Lewis Benson who put Kotwica clear of the Bideford defence. We were waiting for the net to bulge but the ball was still rising as it whistled disappointingly over the top.

Our final game of the season at Bristol Manor Farm on Saturday is another chance to celebrate a great season and, in turn, it is likely that a highly competitive game will result. Looking at the scramble for play-off places, Farm have dropped out of the zone following their 2-0 defeat at Cinderford Town, having looked odds-on most of the season to at least extend their campaign.

They are in a group of no fewer than seven clubs who, depending on each other's results, may or may not grab play-off places, so it is imperative that they take the points from us. However, Steve Claridge's men may well have other ideas, and, having secured their own position, can now look on at other results with only a mild interest!

Get along if you possibly can for an exciting end to an exciting season. Whatever happens, it is sure to be a great day out.

Salisbury FC: Searle, Herbert, Sommerton, Green (Colson 75), Baggridge, Wheeler (Shephard 68), Ellington, Roberts, Howe (Benson 65), Kotwica, Perrett.

Subs: all used.

Bideford AFC: Oliver, Sampson, Wood, Downing, Allan, Mayne, Bye, Carter, Squire (Seymour 46), Turner, Key (Hancox 48).

Subs not used: Western, Reid, Harrison.

Attendance: 660                 Referee: R. Hillier-Smith (Southampton).

BELOW: Claudio Herbert receives his Man of the Match award from sponsors Value Cars. Pictures by ROGER ELLIOTT

MATCH REPORT: Salisbury FC 2 Didcot Town 1

PICTURES BY ROGER ELLIOTT

Evo-Stik South West

Saturday, 21st April 2018

BY ALEC HAYTER

W.A.G.U... yes, W.A.G.U. (*) - and anyone who needs interpretation of those letters could not have been anywhere near the Sarum Suite after the match!

As it happened, the deserved promotion to the Evo-Stik Southern Premier League was achieved maybe a little earlier than had been anticipated, and, as also had been anticipated Didcot Town provided stiff opposition in an entertaining, if nail-biting match, but that the Whites were able to overcome their opposition and go forward is indicative of the spirit which has been engendered in the side during the season.

In the first few seconds, when Luke Hopper was bundled over in the box but referee Lewis Sandoe waved away penalty appeals, and shortly afterwards when George Colson received what seemed an incorrect yellow card, one could have been forgiven for thinking that maybe it was not going to be Salisbury's day, but hope sprang eternal as did Stuart Green with an acrobatic overhead on four minutes which deserved a lot better than to frighten the angle of post and bar.

The visitors first threatened almost immediately afterwards but Sam Barder's effort was superbly blocked by Captain Kane O'Keefe, the first of many important contributions he made during the match. However, he will have been disappointed with his header on 17 minutes from a Lewis Benson free-kick, although he soon made up for that with an assist two minutes later which allowed the Whites to take the lead. Eddie Perrett took a long throw from the left, O'Keefe got a touch, and predator Green did the rest from close range. It was his 22nd league goal of the season, 29 in all competitions.

BELOW: Stuart Green glances home a header for the Whites' first goal

The lead lasted only nine minutes, however, as the visitors were allowed back into the game when the dangerous Felipe Barcelos found himself clear on goal after Rhys Baggridge had slipped and left a backpass to Charlie Searle well short. Barcelos made the most of his golden opportunity with a calm finish under Searle.

The response was immediate, with Hopper having a good attempt on the turn that found Leigh Bedwell in position to save, and the keeper did well again on 35 minutes when Tom Whelan fed Perrett whose 20-yard left foot shot was kept out with a good stop.

Three minutes later O'Keefe laid an inviting ball square into the path of Whelan but the midfielder made too good a contact from 25 yards, sending the ball well over, whilst just before the half-time whistle Hopper again tested Bedwell from the edge of the box causing the keeper to save at full stretch.

The Railwaymen might well have had a penalty shortly after the restart in an incident involving Ollie Thomas but, surprisingly, neither a penalty nor a caution for simulation was given.

On 51 minutes a teasing Whelan ball to the far post evaded everyone and 15 minutes later another chance went begging when Green did not make the most of a Benson cross. Bedwell was hardly tested shortly afterwards with Hopper's header from George Colson's cross, and Didcot had a further chance when a poor Whelan touch allowed Barder to get through on goal, only for the Didcot man's control to let him down.

On 69 minutes Green was unlucky to see his shot on the turn clatter the upright and again, thoughts of insufficient reward reared up in the mind. However these were banished when, on 76 minutes the ball entered the visitors net to give the Whites a precious, and ultimately winning lead.

In the build-up, Benson, in true centre forward position, appeared to be fouled twice around about the 12 yard mark, referee Sandoe pointing to the spot after the second offence. In spite of a considerable delay and some gamesmanship from the keeper, Colson kept his head and arrowed a low shot into the corner.

ABOVE: George Colson celebrates scoring the winning goal from the penalty spot

Diddy were not finished and five minutes from the end substitute Callum McNish brought a superb flying save from Searle after sending in a 25-yard rocket shot, and indeed, had one further chance with two minutes remaining when George Reid found himself one-on-one with the home keeper, who once more prevented a goal, deflecting Reid’s effort over the top.

Nothing is straightforward in football and the sense of relief at the final whistle was there for all to feel. The exhilaration of the three points was enhanced with results elsewhere which confirmed a well-earned promotion into the Evo-Stik Southern Premier League next season.

Let's make it carnival time in the remaining two matches in celebration of a great achievement, starting with the home match against Bideford AFC on Tuesday night.

Salisbury FC: Searle, Colson, Wheeler, Whelan, Baggridge (Shephard 62), O'Keefe, Benson, Roberts, Hopper (Howe 87), Green (Kotwica 75),Perrett.

Subs not used: Herbert, Sommerton.

Didcot Town: Bedwell, Jeacock, McNeill, Hayden, Cattell, Learoyd, Agyakwa (Reid 65), Barder, Barcelos, Thomas (McNish 55), Williams (Humphries 75).

Subs not used: Woodley, Joyce.

Attendance: 759                  Referee: L Sandoe (Christchurch)

(*) For those not in the Sarum Suite post-match, W.A.G.U. stands for We Are Going Up!

BELOW: Whites fans celebrate

MATCH REPORT: Swindon Supermarine 2 Salisbury 2

Evo-Stik South West

Tuesday, 17th April 2018

 By Alec Hayter

IT MIGHT seem that this was a good point against a team desperate to win and make the play-offs but for many of us who travelled to the game, it was two important points frittered away.

Yes, Supermarine are a decent side, and this season have had a fair amount of success against us, but having established a somewhat fortuitous early lead, the Whites carelessly allowed them back into the game, and then in the second half, in spite of a vastly improved performance compared to the first 45 minutes, could not hold on to a lead for 14 minutes of normal time remaining. Their cause was not helped by going down to 10 men late on just before the home side's final push.

The Whites made a dream start with Luke Hopper, on his return to a former club, possibly getting what looked like the slightest of touches to a Lewis Benson free kick in the ninth minute, the ball ending up in the back of the net and probably making home keeper Josh Hill very disappointed with his contribution.

The euphoria was dampened somewhat, however, when on 12 minutes Jake Wannell, who had taken a battering three days earlier at Kidlington, limped off, this time with perhaps a more serious injury, to his hamstring, and was replaced by Rhys Baggridge.

Seven minutes later Benson went on a mazy run from almost the halfway line but his attempt from just outside the box hardly troubled Hill, and on 18 minutes the Whites were made to pay for some sloppy defending when Joe Selman found himself in acres of space down the Supermarine right and arrowed a cross shot past Charlie Searle and in off the post, the defence having been pulled in one direction, giving the Supermarine man his opportunity, which he took well.

Although Salisbury were not performing to their best, Kane O'Keefe put a reasonable headed opportunity wide of the mark on 36 minutes and Hopper brought a good save from Hill seconds later with a difficult volley on the turn.

Straight after the restart, Benson's curling, dipping free kick found no-one in the right place to take advantage as it squirmed its way through the Supermarine defence, and again the Whites were nearly made to pay, when pressing forward, with ex-Salisbury's Bradley Gray making his way through the middle before sending his finish over the top on 50 minutes.

Supermarine were nearly the architects of their own downfall four minutes later when a poor clearance square found Owen Howe who, with a little more composure, might have taken a touch and done better, whereas his hurriedly taken snapshot went wide.

Searle's only real second half action came with 20 minutes remaining when Gray sent in a looping header which the keeper managed to keep out, but seven minutes later, after Hopper had been unlucky to see Hill deny his close range effort, the ball fell obligingly to Stuart Green (pictured, above) being on the spot and showing what had been lacking. He made no mistake to give his side a precious second goal, his 21st league goal of the season.

With only five minutes remaining, Hopper received a second caution and was dismissed for the inexcusable offence, having already been booked, of kicking the ball away.

The home side’s task was immediately made easier and It was no surprise therefore when on 88 minutes they grabbed the equaliser, though the manner in which the goal was conceded possibly had nothing to do with the dismissal. The home side's first corner of the match was fired into the box, flicked onto the bar, and back into the six yard area where, after an almighty scramble, Zak Westlake evened things up.

Referee Andrew Sheppard was the target of a good deal of abuse from the home crowd around me during the game, especially as on one particular occasion he waved away loud appeals for a penalty. On several others he was adjudged to have made incorrect decisions, but as he was much nearer the action than any of us, on balance he may well have got things right.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about many aspects of the Whites' performance, which did not come up to usual standards in the first half, although things improved in the second when they dominated proceedings. Supermarine had shown in the first 25 minutes or so how dangerous they can be with quickfire counter attack, and got their reward, but in the end their determination probably earned them a point.

The quest for automatic promotion has not become any easier, but taking maximum points from the remaining two home games is imperative. Please make the most of the remaining home games by getting behind the team on Saturday against Didcot and against Bideford three days later.

Swindon Supermarine: Hill, Else, Hopkins, Morris, Coupe, Westlake, Selman, Hooper, Gray (Gerrish 81), Parsons (Thompson 79), Campbell.

Subs not used: Alexander, Taylor, Shepherd.

Salisbury FC: Searle, Colson, Wheeler, Whelan, O'Keefe, Wannell (Baggridge 12), Benson, Roberts, Howe (Green 71), Hopper, Perrett (Herbert 79).

Sub not used: Ellington.

Attendance: 379                 Referee: A.Sheppard (Bristol)