Match Report - Thatcham Town v Salisbury FC
Thatcham Town 2 Salisbury FC 3
Emirates FA Cup Preliminary Round
Saturday, 7 September 2019
By Alec Hayter
When the draw was made, it revealed not the easiest of tasks for the Whites - against an unbeaten side already gunning for promotion and containing some experienced players, many of whom well known to Salisbury, and that's exactly how things panned out, so we should not underestimate the importance of going into the next round, and not least the financial rewards for doing so.
There is ample video evidence on the BBC, excellent Thatcham highlights on YouTube, and a comprehensive newspaper blog for those who didn't make it to game to see how things went, and the home side gave a good account of themselves on the day, but were not quite good enough to overturn their visitors.
Judge for yourself the main arguments, but do so in a full knowledge of the latest edicts on law changes and interpretation. You may not like it, and I don't, that the game is now less of a contact sport than before, but the fact remains and the sooner players and spectators realise that the better. The word "touch" springs to mind as these days you cannot expect to get away with touching players in the penalty area and, if you are a goalkeeper, you have become a protected species! That's the way the Laws are, for good or bad.
After George Jeacock saw a 5th minute effort easily gathered by Tom Smith (the keeper's only action for nearly an hour), a quick-fire move between Toby Holmes and Dan Fitchett gave for the latter a chance, denied by a fine save from home keeper Paul Strudley, and in the 7th minute Shaquille Hippolyte-Patrick, who, until having to withdraw with a knock later in the game, had given easily his best performance since joining the club, went past Michael Miller with ease, causing the defender to apply a touch which sent the wide man sprawling. George Colson did the business from the penalty spot to give his side a very welcome early lead.
Another good piece of combination play saw Shaq (HP – what a sauce calling him that!) backheel the ball into the path of Holmes who will have been disappointed to fire over the top from close in, and following a meek effort from Aaron Dawson, Darren Mullings' later half blocked attempt lost its sting.
Four minutes before the break, the Kingfishers had the ball in the net but the flag was raised for offside, and two minutes later salt was rubbed into the Thatcham wounds when the visitors extended their lead. Again it was the rampaging SHP who caused the trouble, getting to the byeline and crossing to the far post where Holmes rose to head against Thatcham defender Jordan Williams, the ball returning to the quick feet of the striker who did the rest. What a brilliant way to go in at the break.
The home side, who had steadily increased possession throughout the first half and were finishing as strongly as they had started it, were disappointed when a penalty appeal involving Joe Selman was waved away, but the Whites nearly had the last laugh in time added when a corner gave Fitchett a heading chance which was cleared off the line by ex-White (and almost everywhere else!) Adam Kelly. Sorry Adam if you’re reading this!
On 56 minutes Holmes suddenly found himself through but, as had been the case throughout much of the game, he seemed to have left his first touch at home, and the ball rolled to the relieved keeper. In spite of a lack of touch however, the striker still managed to add to his tally and, as many defences are yet to discover, his mere presence on the pitch can create space for others.
There was bound to be another response from Thatcham and it came in the shape of a Jeacock effort in front of goal which forced Smith into his first serious action, but the home side were gifted a lifeline seconds later when the normally reliable Nathaniel Oseni miscued a back pass, presenting it to just the wrong person in Felipe Barcelos who calmly slotted the ball under the keeper, giving his side fresh impetus.
An indication late in the first half that all was not well with the way crosses were being dealt with by the home defence, (something probably spotted by the mid week spies), was confirmed on 73 minutes when a Colson free kick was met well by Darren Mullings, but unfortunately directed at the keeper. It was though only 3 minutes before the tactic paid handsome dividends as another Colson free kick, this time with the vicious curl, saw Kevin Amankwaah make the ball his and his alone as he powered into the box and nearly broke the net for Whites' third.
And that really should have been that, but this is the FA Cup and nothing is ever certain. It took easily the best goal of the game from Thatcham to provide a tense last few minutes. After Barcelos had held the ball well he played it back to Scott Rees for the substitute to hit a superb finish into the top corner from the edge of the box and close up the scoreline.
The Salisbury response was immediate and this time a Josh Sommerton corner saw Oseni exploit the same space in the centre of the home defence, but he couldn't keep his header down. With second half chances missed, you just knew that Thatcham would get a further opportunity, if nothing else other than from their last frantic push, and 3 minutes into time added they thought they had garnered a draw when Williams challenged Smith to a cross but, in the referee's opinion, the challenge was more on the body than the ball. Of all the 661 managers surrounding the pitch referee Baker had the best view, on it, but by that time any goal should only have been a consolation in any event. Another example of what a touch now means in the game.
So it's the Whites who will be listening to the draw on Monday morning and, at this stage of the competition they would hope for an easier game (if there is such a thing) in the next round. This was a tremendous effort from Thatcham.however, and if they continue their progress in their division, I have no doubt that the sides will meet again in the league should Salisbury remain where they are. This was a good advert for the nonleague game and the FA Cup in particular - real football with nation-wide coverage.
Next up, another virtual cup tie with the visit of Metropolitan Police to the Ray Mac on Saturday. No one will need reminding that the last tussle between the clubs saw Met Police come out on top, although the league games home and away had both resulted in draws. Salisbury's travelling faithful attended Thatcham in numbers and were a credit to the club, so as a tough encounter is expected on Saturday, another large crowd will help continue the current successful run of results.
Thatcham Town: Strudley, Miller, Williams, Alexander (Rees 65), Angell, Day, Kelly (Barder 75), Willmoth, Jeacock, Barcelos, Selman.
Subs not used: Morton, Westlake, Frank, Carrington.
Salisbury FC: Smith, Colson, Sommerton, Dawson, Amankwaah, Oseni, Hippolyte-Patrick (Bancroft 60), Mullings, Holmes (Bentley 65), Fitchett, Young.
Subs not used: Betts, Knowles, Wellard, Rayfield.
Attendance: 661 Referee: Adam Baker