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.