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MATCH REPORT: Salisbury FC 1 Highworth Town 2

Wiltshire Senior Cup Semi Final

Tuesday, 20th March 2018

By Alec Hayter

Tuesday, 21st March 2017 - Salisbury play Highworth in the semi-final of the Wilts Senior Cup at the Oakfield Stadium, Melksham and exit the competition by 4 goals to 3. Almost exactly a year to the day, all you have to change from that sentence is the date and scoreline.

I can't remember the detail of last year's match, but I'm sure some of the features were the same – for example that for one side this was their cup final. On this occasion the Whites were poor for most of the first 20 minutes of the match but then completely dominant for the remaining 70, the latter counting for nothing because of no end result.

In almost their first attack Salisbury took the lead, Danny Young outstripping his defender and delivering a cross to the near post which was headed firmly home by Kane O'Keefe (pictured above) in the first minute, and that's about as good as it got in what turned out to be the most crucial period of the game. On 9 minutes Tom Whelan tried a long-range effort which flew just wide with Gary Aulsberry beaten, but things turned sour two minutes later when a clumsy challenge by Rhys Baggridge on Ryan Stanners left referee Phil Staynings with no alternative other than to point to the spot, Ashley Edenborough taking full advantage to equalise.

Highworth threatened again shortly afterwards when a ball in from the right saw Edenborough put in a first-time cross-shot which appeared to scrape the upright, and on 20 minutes Highworth worked the ball forward where Connor Waldon again took full advantage to give Charlie Searle no chance to give his side the lead.

With only 20 minutes gone there was plenty of time for Salisbury to recover and apart from one further chance on the stroke of full-time the Hellenic League side were hardly in the game. On 29 minutes Zack Kotwica fed Tom Whelan with the ball through the channel but Whelan's half-hit effort went straight to the keeper, and barely 2 more minutes had elapsed before Claudio Herbert went just wide with an effort from 18 yards. On 49 minutes the Highworth keeper did well to keep out another Whelan effort as Salisbury continued where they had left off at the end of the first half.

Baggridge was the first to really suffer from keeper Aulsberry's increasing input when a ball from Josh Sommerton found him on the Highworth penalty spot, the stopper making a point-blank save to keep the ball out. Seven minutes later Whelan got to the byeline and pulled the ball back for O'Keefe to blast the ball well over the top when he should have done better, and on 65 minutes Highworth survived a penalty appeal when Whelan appeared to be impeded.

On 68 minutes the Whites must have begun to realise it was not going to be their day as the Highworth keeper denied them twice in quick succession, firstly when he did well to get down and parry an O'Keefe drive, before quickly getting up to make a superb block from Stuart Green's close range attempt.

A minute before the end a Whelan free kick whistled past the post before, at the other end, Waldon was denied by a great one-on-one block by Charlie Searle. Highworth keeper Aulsberry cemented his position as man of the match, in my opinion, with a brilliant stop to deny Green one minute into time added.

Highworth deserved to go through to the final. Their success was due to the first period of the match and then later on as a result of some resolute defending, with keeper Aulsberry excelling. As far as the Whites are concerned, no amount of possession and dominance counted without an end product.

Is it the opposition, is it the ground, or is it the competition? Who knows? A strong Salisbury side should have been good enough to get into the final at the County Ground against Chippenham Town, but for the second time in two seasons they failed at the last hurdle. Manager Steve Claridge said ruefully "That would have been a good game.”

Salisbury FC: Searle, Rayfield, Sommerton, Whelan, Baggridge, Wheeler (Green 64), Herbert, Roberts, Kotwica (Perrett 85), O'Keefe, Young.

Subs not used: Colson, Benson.

Highworth Town: Aulsberry, Stanners, Williamson, Adams, Ode,Turk, Ferns, Roberts, Waldon, Edenborough, Millhench. (Clark 69)

Subs not used: Jones, Drewitt, Stanley.

Attendance: 164                              Referee: P Staynings.