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MATCH REPORT: Salisbury 5 Wimborne Town 2


Salisbury 5 Wimborne Town 2
Evo-stik Southern League South and West Division
Monday, 17 April 2017

By Alec Hayter

As has been proved before it is never a good idea to leave a game at the Ray Mac before the referee blows the final whistle! Today however it was a question of "all's well that ends well", but in order to guarantee a home game against Evesham United in the Semi-final of the play-offs, 3 points will be required from the visit to Bideford AFC this coming Saturday, unless other results go completely our way, which seems unlikely looking at the fixtures.

At least in playoff matches there is no chance of any team setting out to do what Wimborne did so well, for so long, today, and after the game Steve Claridge confirmed: "We didn't play well, they came to stop us playing, and that's exactly what they did. They were very well organised and made it very difficult. On the other hand we were a little bit lacking in intensity, and played for a long time in the comfort zone waiting for things to happen rather than making them happen."

The Whites often met a solid defensive wall but still might have broken through as early as five minutes in when an exchange of passes between Justin Bennett and Lewis Benson saw the midfielder one-on-one with keeper Gerard Benfield, but delayed reaction gave the keeper the chance to block. A few seconds later Elliot Wheeler fired well over the top from the edge of the box and on 14 minutes Jesse Waller Lassen forced Benfield to parry his effort into the danger area but no one had gambled to be able to pick up the loose ball in front of an open goal.

Whilst the visitors were very disciplined, the Whites appeared lacklustre and it also seemed that some of the team were still in Mangotsfield after Saturday's brilliant performance, and on 25 minutes some sloppy play presented Matt Neal with the ball in space, and centrally about 15 yards out. He pulled his shot well wide to the relief of most in the crowd before Salisbury briefly flickered once more with a Taurean Roberts cross finding Kane O'Keefe, who could not unfortunately direct his header on target.

Wimborne had successfully repelled Salisbury's efforts and then took the lead on 32 minutes when a long crossfield ball was not dealt with and Alex Bass crucially hesitated before coming off his line. The dangerous and sought after Toby Holmes nipped in and expertly placed his finish in the net from a narrow angle to give his side the lead.

The response was to apply more attacking pressure and the formation was changed to three at the back.

Eight minutes before the break a Benson 25 yard free kick tested Benfield who was forced to claw the ball away from the top corner, and a couple of minutes later George Colson, now in a more forward role, dribbled along the edge of the box before sending a left foot shot over the top.

For the remainder of the half it was even more so a question of eleven men trying to keep out the Whites, and before the half-time whistle two further opportunities were created, firstly when Tom Whelan pulled an inviting ball back to Waller Lassen just inside the box, whose measured right foot effort sailed just wide of the angle of crossbar and upright, and then in time added on when a Benson free kick, touched on by Brian Dutton, caused mayhem in the Wimborne goal area before the ball was cleared away by a sea of flailing boots.

I'm sure that I was not alone in thinking at the break that the Whites had gone from being heroes to zero's in the space of 48 hours, and after Claudio Herbert fired in a speculative 30-yard effort which reared up alarmingly in the face of keeper Benfield, the sinking feeling was to some extent relieved when Tommy Wright, introduced after 55 minutes, got on the scoresheet to level things up. Following involvement of Roberts and Perrett the striker found himself in virtually the same position as he had been in at Mangotsfield and produced an identical result to make the score 1-1.

Now, were the Whites going to get away from this tenacious Wimborne side? Well the answer took no more than three minutes and it was a negative as the Magpies went ahead once more, Louise Kellaway sprinting clear of a leaden footed defence to score, again from a narrow angle. By this time several Wimborne players appeared to be out on their feet and I'm sure many supporters were out of their comfort zone, but faith was restored on 83 minutes when an Eddie Perrett throw found Wright in front of goal. The natural instinct of a striker is to turn and try and put the ball in the net but on this occasion, it was Wright the provider, as with great presence of mind he knocked the ball back to Benson who did the rest to tie up the scores at two each.

Again, would the Whites now stride away? Answer, yes they would, and only seconds later, Dutton got a touch on a long ball and O'Keefe, at the second attempt, squeezed it into the net at Benfield's near post.

It was shades of Shortwood United all over again as Herbert surged forward on 89 minutes and went down under a challenge from James Stokoe just inside the area. Although referee Scott Williams had no hesitation in pointing to the spot some might have said that it was a fairly soft penalty. Soft or not, it was very welcome and Wright stepped up to calmly convert the spot kick to give the Whites a two-goal cushion for the first time in the match.

They were not finished however as, shortly after being named Man of the Match, Benson provided the icing on the cake as a clearance found him on the edge of the box. Without hesitation drove a right foot shot through a forest of defenders to give Benfield no chance, and also a final score which will have been devastating to the few Wimborne Town supporters who made the trip, annoying drum and all! (Please leave it in Dorset in future....please!) Three goals in ten minutes, what a finish! (regrettably there are no refunds available for the other 82 minutes!)

After the final whistle Claridge added: "Who would have thought that three months ago we would have been in second position today? Three months ago, we would have settled for being in the play-offs, two months ago we would have settled for fifth, a month ago we would certainly have settled for third and now we are in second, and in the box seat. We were 16 points behind at Christmas, although it feels like we've been 16 points behind a lot longer than that. We've got a very difficult game at Bideford next Saturday, who held Taunton to a goalless draw in Somerset today, but it's ours to lose now as far as home advantage in the play-offs is concerned”.

Regarding team changes, he added: “I wanted to give Jesse a full 90 minutes today, as he has done so well since joining us, and play Justin and Tommy for half a game each to keep them fresh, but it didn't work out like that. I feel very sorry that Jesse didn't get the minutes I had hoped, but the substitutions worked."

Salisbury FC: Bass, Colson (Herbert 73), Hart (Perrett 57), Whelan, Dutton, Wheeler, Benson, O'Keefe, Waller Lassen (Wright 55), Bennett, Roberts
Subs not used: Onoufriou, Clarke.

Wimborne Town: Benfield, Walker, Penny, Maybury, Oldring, Kellaway, Stokoe, Prior (Bayston 70), T Holmes, Neal, Lovell.
Subs not used: Collins, Traynor, D Holmes.

Attendance: 914                               Referee: S Williams (London)

Photo: Roger Elliott