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MATCH REPORT: Salisbury 2 Paulton Rovers 2

Salisbury FC 2 Paulton Rovers 2
Evo-stik South, West
Tuesday, 15 August 2017

By Alec Hayter 

In direct contrast to my normal habit of either producing a report on the evening of a match, or early the next morning, I'm sure you understand why, today, I'm running late! 

To say the game was a disappointment is a vast understatement but putting things into perspective and trying to find some positives has produced the following consolations. Firstly, history shows that we have always come through as, in the 3 years of SFC's existence, we have started the campaigns without a win in the second matches and have lost two of those second games, once at home. We have now drawn a game which on paper should have produced 3 points. We have gained three points from six in Wessex days, the same last season, but four in the current season. Straws....clutching...maybe but necessary facts to remember at what is a very early stage. Another positive from last evening was the quality of Tom Whelan's equalising goal, which was completely different class and out of character with much of what had gone before.

So the message is, disappointing as the evening was, "Don't panic Mr Mannering", as leagues were never won nor lost after the second game, although our next home league challenge against AFC Totton, who to some people's surprise sit at the top of the league, will be a very important game. I had said in Mangotsfield report that the result was a good start, but only that. Steve Claridge had craved and expected consistency in order to achieve the season's goals but it is difficult for me and obviously moreso for him to fathom how in the space of 36 hours we have had Jekyll and Hyde performances. It would of course help if more of our strong squad was available rather than on the injured list, and after having had 3 of our regulars sitting in front of me in the press box last evening and seeing another player come off during the course of the game, I think it must be said that the fates are not exactly with us at present. We are well used to weathering injury crises, but at the same time players who started last night's game should have been capable of taking the points, albeit against a side who were well organised and set out their stall after they had equalised with a fortuitous goal. 

So, for the record, the starting eleven was exactly the same as at Mangotsfield, but the mindset was not, apart from a bright opening. On 7 minutes it looked likely that the outcome would be the same as at Magotsfield when Kane O'Keefe opened the scoring with a well-placed header from Whelan's cross. 8 minutes later O'Keefe's right foot effort whistled into the side netting and only seconds later a good move involving Danny Young and Mark Francis saw the latter square the ball to Whelan whose effort was denied by a good save from Kieran Hodges.

All appeared to be well, but on 25 minutes disaster struck as the first and hopefully the last "after you Claude" event of the season surfaced between the normally reliable pair Charlie Searle and Jake Wannell, with a surprised Joe Hillard unsure as to whether he had even got a touch to the ball as trickled over the line following the confusion. 

There was no expected response from the Whites, but instead reaction from the visitors when ex-trialist Kailan Gould started to make one of many points in the game when he robbed Elliot Wheeler on the byeline before pulling the ball back to Hillard who forced a good save from Searle on the half-hour. Searle was again immediately in action once more, keeping out an effort from Sam Hedges, and it was not until the 36th minute when Salisbury threatened, when a clearing header reached Whelan who blazed over the top from the edge of the box. 

Three minutes later it was Young's turn to do the same from an even better chance after Francis had for once held up the ball and provided him with the ball in front of goal. Four minutes before the break Whelan again beat his man before trying his luck from 15 yards only to see Hodges make another fine save and with two minutes remaining I am sure that neither referee Daniel Lamport nor his assistant missed an attempt by a defender to pull back Claudio Herbert when in on goal, although the referee obviously saw an offence worthy of a yellow card, by Herbert, in the same incident. I'm going to do an Arsene Wenger here as I was writing what I considered to be a missed penalty award and did not see the incident which caused the yellow card, but can only imagine it was for perhaps kicking the ball away in possibly warranted frustration. 

Salisbury had had the better of things in the first half and eight minutes into the second might have gone ahead when Young's cross from the left found a good headed contact from O'Keefe, but again Hodges managed prevent a goal, this time touching the ball over the top. On 55 minutes Francis made his way across the edge of the box before just missing the target with a right foot finish, and the Whites were made to pay for their misses shortly afterwards, going behind after a delightful Omar Simpson chip over the last defender gave Gould the chance to thump a volley past Searle, making a further point in what was a good overall performance from the diminutive midfielder. 

The immediate reaction was to introduce Chris Shephard who had been so effective at Mangotsfield, and he started to look the same before, after only 19 minutes, the injury jinx struck and he had to leave the action with a calf injury, being replaced by Stuart Green who is still I believe not fully fit. If needs be...... 

It was thus all to do and Lewis Benson disappointed with a 60th minute free kick that almost cleared the electronic scoreboard, and although Paulton had virtually shut up shop after their equaliser, and further tightened things up after going ahead, they were still able to cause trouble when, in their penultimate effort of the game Jack Ball brought a good save from Searle following a piercing ball from Gould. 

It seemed as though, in spite of all their possession, Salisbury were going to be denied anything from the game until up stepped Whelan who, in a moment of individual brilliance, latched onto a clearance, threaded his way past two defenders and then calmly placed a left foot effort low to the keeper's left to gain a point. 

The reaction to the goal again came from Paulton and on 77 minutes Gould and Ball swapped passes with Gould firing just wide of the target. 

Referee Lamport correctly indicated 5 minutes of added time and 3 minutes into that period the Whites had a superb opportunity to snatch all 3 points, the ball somehow staying out from near the line despite the close attentions of two Salisbury players. That incident rather summed up the evening. 

It is difficult to see an instant solution, bearing in mind the injury situation, for the FA Cup game in 3 days time, and it will be down to the avalable players and their conscience to ensure that the Whites progress into the next round of the competition. They will need all the support you can offer so please come along, in spite of any remaining feelings about Paulton game, and be loud. 

Bad second game results have happened before, but look what happened subsequently in the relative seasons – we went on to win the Wessex league, and we went on to narrowly miss out on promotion from the Southern League S&W.

Keep supporting, you know it makes sense! 

Salisbury FC: Searle, Colson (Shephard 56, Green for Shephard 75), Hart, Whelan, Wheeler, Wannell, Herbert, Benson, O'Keefe, Francis (Claridge 78), Young.
Subs not used: Ball 

Paulton Rovers: Hodges, Harvey (Sims 73), Cann, Hedges, Chandler, Guest, Byrne, Evans, Simpson (Ball 64), Hillard (Elcock 84), Gould.
Subs not used: Radford, Taylor. 

Attendance: 588 Referee: Daniel Lamport (Swindon)

Photo: Roger Elliott