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MATCH REPORT: Salisbury 3 Winchester City 1

Salisbury FC 3 Winchester City 1
Evo-Stik Southern League South and West Division
Tuesday, 14 March 2017

By Alec Hayter

The Whites made it two wins out of three meetings with their near neighbours, but the 3 points came at a price with an injury to Justin Bennett, who scored his 41st goal of the campaign (a personal record), and captain Kane O'Keefe obviously struggling with his knee problem and having to leave the action late on.

The injury curse continues therefore and to some extent would probably explain the difference in the two halves of tonight's game. The home side went three goals up in 25 minutes, once more showing the kind of football which we all crave and which leaves opponents floundering. Winchester could hardly live with the high tempo set by a Salisbury side who, although having won their last game against Larkhall Athletic, had struggled, relatively speaking, in the first half of that game.

The best possible start was served up within the first minute when the impressive young Adam Flint pinged the ball forward down the touchline to Eddie Perrett, who took a touch before delivering a cross to Justin Bennett to power a header which keeper Lewis Noice could not keep out. This was disappointing for the keeper in the context of his later efforts as without his fine performance the score line could have been much more damaging.

After three minutes Claudio Herbert, enjoying his first start for a time, showed his lively intent, getting to the byeline and crossing for Eddie Perrett to put an effort wide, before Winchester showed that they too could threaten. Ex-White Sam Wilson found himself in on goal and got to the ball before the on-rushing Alex Bass but after flicking it over the keeper a second touch was denied by a superb O'Keefe interception.

Salisbury replied straight away with George Colson sending a delightful crossfield ball to Perrett who squared for for Tommy Wright but the striker's effort was blocked, and at the other end Winchester's Jamie Barron, another ex-White youth player, committed a second foul on Herbert on 9 minutes, having committed similar offence three minutes earlier. Referee James Durkin chose not to issue a second yellow card much to the dismay of Salisbury players. There seemed little difference in the two offences, which were the result of the lightning pace shown by Herbert. A different interpretation was seen in the Chelsea/Man U game on Monday!

On 13 minutes Bennett turned provider as he put in Wright who disappointingly fired his finish wide of the target when he probably should have doubled the Whites’ score, but it was only 5 minutes later when he made amends, being in the right place at the right time to meet a Colson cross and easily net from close range.

Halfway through the first half Tom Whelan lobbed the ball over a Winchester defender and Bennett met it with a sweet volley but Noice produced a great save to deny him. Salisbury were having a purple patch and on 24 minutes it was 3-0. Winchester must have wondered how many other players had the same step-overs in their lockers as Herbert when Whelan magiced his way to the byeline before delivering a pinpoint cross finished in style with Perrett's diving header.

Just before the half-hour, in what was becoming a rare visit near the Salisbury penalty box, Barron put a shot wide from 18 yards but in fairness he was under tremendous pressure from O'Keefe, but on 33 minutes the Citizens pulled one back through Sam Wilson after being set up by Craig Feeney. I heard the description "a lifeline" near me but at that time there seemed little chance that it was that because of the quality of the Whites' football until then. A real lifeline would have been gained had the normally dangerous Feeney capitalized  on a chance five minutes before the break. Feeney found himself in on goal but Bass was equal to his left foot attempt.

As if stung by the goal and the Feeney chance, Salisbury finished the half with another raid on goal, but Bennett screwed his shot wide. Just before the halftime whistle Barron again escaped the attentions of the referee when there was a third coming together with Herbert, but in spite of of Winchester's always looking to have the ability to inflict damage on the break, the Whites were fairly comfortable going in with a two-goal cushion.

It was probably unrealistic to expect the same high tempo in the second half and although chances were created it was against the backdrop of players probably beginning to suffer with injuries being carried. In spite of that however, the visitors did not record a single chance in the whole of the 45 minutes and some would say it was " job done".

Changes had to be made and Taurean Roberts' first meaningful action came on 59 minutes when Herbert sent in a deep cross from the right. Roberts got on the end of it but was unable to put enough power into his header to trouble Noice.

On 73 minutes Herbert was unlucky when a fierce drive was pushed over the top by Noice and the keeper saved his side once again two minutes later. Wright got through from almost as far back as the halfway line but was foiled by the keeper's block.

Inside the last quarter of an hour Perrett dribbled along the edge of the box before hitting a firm shot well over the top and in time added on Noice brilliantly pushed aside Benson's 20-yard free kick to once more prevent the Whites making the scoreline more realistic.

Salisbury had had to reorganise following Bennett's departure on 56 minutes and in doing so replaced Adam Flint with Brandon Mundy in a different shape, and this did the job of getting three more precious points, but any supporters’ delight at another win must surely be dulled by the injury situation, coming just before the very important game at Tiverton on Saturday.

After the game, Steve Claridge bemoaned the latest injuries saying "I think there must be a curse on us as we cannot seem to get through a game without picking up more injuries."

Salisbury FC: Bass, Colson, Flint (Mundy 57), Whelan, Wheeler, O'Keefe (Blake 84), Benson, Herbert, Wright, Bennett (Roberts 56), Perrett.
Subs not used: Higgins, Ball

Winchester City: Noice, Searle, Ford, Barron (Hill 86), Hyde, Hayward (Darling 81), Wilson, Green, Feeney, Neighbour, Hannan (Griggs 71).
Subs not used Roberts, King.

Attendance: 599                                           Referee: J Durkin (Portland)

MAN OF THE MATCH - Claudio Herbert
Chosen by Match Sponsor 'Charlies Cycling Circus' and presented by Stuart Cannell