Match Report - Salisbury FC v Swindon Town

swindonT©Roger Elliott

Salisbury FC 1 Swindon Town 6.

Pre-season friendly

Tuesday 16 July 2019

By Alec Hayter

If people learn by their mistakes then after last night's game against a strong Swindon Town who seemed to be taking the game very seriously, the Whites will have improved tremendously, and as was obvious to most, in certain areas a vast improvement is necessary, although of course it is unlikely (hopefully) that we will meet the quality of the opposition on display during this game.

There is always something to be learned from friendly matches and this game was of course the sternest test so far, but perhaps the most disconcerting thing about it was the ease with which the visitors were able to open up a disjointed defence.

It started well however, with Josh Sommerton's through ball finding Lewis Benson who rounded keeper Luke McCormick but could not keep the ball from going over the byeline, but this was the last we saw of any real attacking threat until just before the interval.

In the meantime, Town could have been out of sight with Brandon Thomas-Asante being wasteful in the 4th minute one-on-one and then 9 minutes later when trying an ambitious lob which went over the top. Both chances resulted from long balls which were not dealt with.

On 15 minutes Gerard Benfield, one of the few Salisbury players to come out of the game with much credit, blocked Rob Hunt when he got through on the right, the ball falling to Thomas-Asante who should really have done better from 12 yards.

Benfield actionGerard  "busy" Benfield - ©Roger Elliott

Swindon threatened again on 19 minutes but Benfield did his job in blocking a one-on-one attempt by Kane Woolery, and it was really no surprise when two minutes later the visitors took the lead through the same player, although the free header came as a direct result of a central vacant space about 2 yards out a gift that was a surprise of the unwelcome type!

As Swindon pressed forward at will, another long ball found Woolery, who this time was denied by a brilliant one-on-one block by Benfield, but the keeper could do nothing on 39 minutes when a simple move through acres of space ended with the ball moving quickly from Lawson D'Ath to Thomas-Asante, who couldn't miss. That occurred on 39 minutes and only seconds later two became three when Michael Doughty fired the ball across the box to Thomas-Asante for his second of the evening.

At last, on 44 minutes, the Whites had another sniff at goal when Lewis Benson's low cross to the near post gave Dan Fitchett a sharp chance which he could only volley over the top.

With Town 3-0 up at the break it would have been reasonable to expect them to ring the changes with the match won, but they didn't do so until 18 minutes from the end. Just before the hour Benfield was again in superb action, keeping out a point blank volley from the impressive Woolery. There was no respite however,as Swindon swiftly got a fourth goal which was very similar to one scored by Ollie Knowles recently, the ball coming low direct from a corner diagonally outside the box where Scott Twine let fly with a low shot past Benfield. To prove he is not perfect however, two minutes later he disappointingly dropped the ball from a cross it looked like Town had added another, but the assistant's flag came to his rescue with an offside decision.

The one-way traffic continued and Benfield redeemed himself with a good stop from Adam May, before the biggest cheer of the evening on 70 minutes when the Whites grabbed what is commonly known as a consolation goal (but certainly wasn't really so on this occasion!), Josh Harfield belting the ball in from close range after a very rare moment of chaos in the visitors' defence.

FansThe one moment of joy for the faithful - ©Roger Elliott

Retribution was swift as it became 5-1, with what was possibly the best goal of the evening, Tim Broadbent cleverly meeting a corner with a first-time volley which gave U18 substitute keeper Dan McCarthy little chance, as indeed was the case after substitute Jacob Bancroft, who had joined the action on 72 minutes with 5 other substitutes, turned his defender with consummate ease and sprinted away before planting a low shot into the corner to make it 6-1. McCarthy, though, will take one good memory from the experience, and that is his save on 83 minutes from Thomas-Asante's 12 yard strike. (well done young man!). In addition to the keeper, the Whites had a new trialist on display with 18-year-old midfielder Tom Lytchett, who hails from Darlington but now lives locally, having 65 minutes.

The scoreline is one which is extremely rare at the RayMac and one which no Salisbury supporter will be looking forward to being repeated. I'm sure it won't be, but on Saturday, life will again be difficult with the visit of Forest Green Rovers in what is a steady buildup to the serious action on 10 August. Even taking the quality of last night competition into account, there is some way to go, but probably no need to panic!


Salisbury FC: Benfield (McCarthy), Colson (Rayfield), Felix, Dawson (Cooper), Harfield, Lytchett (Burden), Benson (Young), Knowles (Gerrard), Fitchett (Bentley), Mullings (Mandson), Sommerton (Hopkins).

Unused sub: Hart.

Swindon Town: McCormick (Henry), Hunt (Cheshire), Curran, Broadbent, Romanski, D'Ath, May (Holland), Doughty (Wells), Twine, Woolery (Haynes), Thomas-Asante (Bancroft).

All subs used

Attendance: 439                   Referee: Roger East (Salisbury).


Match Report - Salisbury FC v Reading U23

reading u23

Salisbury FC 1 Reading U23 0

Pre-season friendly

Saturday, 6 July 2019.

By Alec Hayter

The first friendly match of the season achieved its aims and although results are never important in these games, it's always good to win, and the Whites duly obliged with a Danny Young goal 6 minutes from time.

Salisbury had 18 players on show, whereas the visitors brought a massive 25, and there were some interesting and notable performances from the home side, with ex-Frome Town Ollie Knowles looking to be a forceful (and often loud) midfielder, with ex-Weymouth Warren Bentley providing the assist for Young's strike having come off the bench alongside the scorer. In between the sticks Gerard Benfield stole the show at both ends of the match, making a good stop from Redding's Kian Leavy on 6 minutes, and then seconds before the final whistle, making a superb low save from Ethan Coleman's edge of the box freekick which he could only have seen very late because of the defensive wall. He looked composed in everything he did, which will breed confidence, although he had not a lot to do during most of the game!

I'm pretty sure that both sides would have settled for a draw, but Young had different ideas when he latched on to a Bentley flick to plant the ball in the net from close range, and provide a positive start.

Salisbury v Reading U23 6th July 2019 22Danny Young nabs the late winner, pouncing on Warren Bentley's flick - © Roger Elliott

There were several trialists on show, with Dave Gerrard (ex-Gosport Borough), Nuno Felix (who has had spells with Banbury United, Chippenham Town and Taunton Town, amongst others), giving a good account of themselves, as did Christian Rowe, Albie Hopkins and Owen Taylor, with Gerrard and Felix playing the full 90 minutes.

There are still some interesting players yet to see action in goalkeeper Marcus Beauchamp, new striker Tobi Holmes, and the returning Jake Wannell and Josh Sommerton, but, although it is really too early to judge, many in the crowd of over 300 will have been impressed with the potential that was shown in this game.

Next up is Tuesday's game at home to Lymington Town, kick-off 7:45 PM - a time which will avoid the sweltering temperature in which today's game was played and which the players appeared to handle very well.


Salisbury FC: Benfield, Rayfield, Felix, Dawson, Hart, Colson, Benson, Knowles, Fitchett, Mullings, Gerard. Subs: Young, Bentley, Cooper, Burden, Taylor, Rowe, Hopkins (all used).

Reading: there were 25 of them, so please forgive the omission of detail!

Attendance: 306                   Referee: D Lamport (Swindon)

The Whites miss out at the Met

Standard away 01

Metropolitan Police FC 3 Salisbury FC 2

Evo-stik South Premier South Play-off.

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

By Alec Hayter

"I got it right, but only Salisbury could lose a game like that" was Steve Claridge's accurate summation after the match. After a performance that was like chalk and cheese from that of the previous Saturday, it should be Salisbury who are preparing a programme for a game at home Monday against Poole Town, but a pivotal moment of stupidity at the wrong time, although not solely responsible for our demise, contributed massively to the final outcome, handing the home side the half-time boost which they needed after a first half of Salisbury ascendancy.

And talking about boosts, the home side could not have made a better start when Jack Mazzone scored a tenth minute goal of immense quality. He was given a yard of space some 25 yards out and, going slightly away from goal, unleashed a fierce cross shot which Jake Hallett did well to get a hand to, although he could not prevent the ball fizzing into the net. The slight error  may well have gone unpunished against a lesser striker, but no one could argue with the quality of the finish which brought back memories of a similar quality Mazzone goal against us earlier in the season.

This Salisbury side, however, was not prepared to lie down, and it only took three minutes before they were back on terms with Jack Sparkes' freekick finding Bay Downing in front of goal after a brilliantly timed run. Although keeper Bertie Schotter did his best to keep out the volley, there was no denying the popular defender.

From that point until the fateful 45th minute the Whites made their substantial following’s attendance worthwhile, with Aaron Dawson receiving the ball from Dan Fitchett's byeline incursion but seeing his effort at the near post blocked on 23 minutes, and seven minutes later Fitchett himself suffering the same fate after Lewis Benson had worked an identical opening.

Things were looking good with Salisbury having most of the play and containing the home side with comparative ease, but in a breakaway, Ethan Chislett got into the box and tumbled under a challenge from Matt Partridge. Referee Tom Danaher was not initially moved by penalty appeals, but was given no choice whatsoever when Partridge inexplicably kicked out at the Met player on the deck. A clear and obvious penalty was awarded which was dispatched by Mazzone, despite a gallant attempt by Hallett who guessed right but couldn’t keep the ball out. This sent the home side into the break on a high, and left manager Claridge scratching his head as to what had entered Partridge's mind.

Salisbury were therefore chasing the game from the interval, but were making inroads with some enterprising attacking play, with Sparkes trying an ambitious volley on 52 minutes which, although well struck, went straight at the none too competent keeper.

There was always a chance that the Whites would be caught pushing forward and on 53 minutes Hallett had to be at his best to deny Max Blackmore in a one-on-one, but eight minutes later the visitors suffered a double blow when Fitchett missed a golden opportunity to equalise, sending a close range header against the bar from Sparkes' delivery when the ball should really have broken the net. Seconds afterwards, the Met broke to the other end where Blackmore showed grit, determination, and not a little bravery to get his head on a through-ball to deflect it into the net despite the close attentions of two defenders and the keeper. His effort for his team's cause meant that he then had to leave the action with an injury.

Salisbury heads still didn't go down, even at 3-1, but instead a Benson special on 68 minutes kept their hopes alive. When I say "Benson special" I mean a freekick from distance and from a wide position near the sideline which curled into the danger area and fooled defenders and goalkeeper alike as it entered the net. Some have said to me that this is a question of luck, but Lewis has done this so many times that it's surely a question of skill.

Try as they might, and they really did try hard until the end, that was the only real threat that the Whites produced, the change to three at the back with the introduction of Luke Hopper, whom I cannot recall actually touching the ball, making little difference, and the Met hung on for victory after a hard-fought game.

The downside is of course that we lost, but the upside is that the performance level was somewhere near what we are used to, although, unfortunately, the defensive mistakes from experienced players were still there. In contrast, there were assured performances in that department from Downing and Sommerton, the latter having had to undergo a fitness test before the game, so hope springs eternal. Of course, having the experienced Chris Shephard available would have done no harm, but he was unable to start because of illness.

It will be an interesting close season, and, in my opinion, perhaps this defeat was a blessing in disguise as we all know to our cost what can happen when promotion quickly follows promotion. On this occasion most of the players did themselves proud without getting the reward they deserved, and it remains to be seen how many will be involved in the next campaign. There is no doubt that mistakes have been made in all areas this season but hopefully lessons will have been learned. I for one am very much looking forward to the next challenge, apart from, perhaps, the trip to Truro City (on a Tuesday night even?!)


Metropolitan Police FC: Schotter, Webb, Guinness-Walker, Arthur, Robinson, Birch, Knight, Chislett, Mazzone, Blackmore (Hippolyte 64), Robertson.

Subs not used: Gilbert, Nyama, Fisher, Williams.

Salisbury FC: Hallett, Downing, Sommerton (Hopper 84), Mullings, Partridge, Wheeler, Benson, Dawson, Fitchett, Whelan, Sparkes.

Subs not used: Herbert, Young, Haysham, Searle.

Attendance: 488                   Referee: T Dannaher

Match Report - Salisbury FC v Harrow Borough

 FB home size©Michael Berkeley

Salisbury FC 0 Harrow Borough 6

Evo-stik South Premier South

Saturday, 27 April 2019

By Alec Hayter

The omens are good! Now, in case you think I've gone completely off my rocker let me remind you that in February 2011 the Ray Mac crowd witnessed a 6 -0 home defeat in a game against Truro City, with ace marksman Barry Hayles grabbing a hat-trick. On a day when supporters' worst nightmares came true, and they had a taste of what Staines’ fans have been through this season, Harrow Borough achieved the same scoreline but improved with two hat-trick heroes. That was just over 8 years ago and no true Salisbury supporter will want to see a repeat for at least another 8 years. This was the last pure league game of the season which has seen the good, the bad, the ugly, and now a new category, the abysmal, the latter applying to the Frome trip as well.

So why are the omens good? The 2011/12 season resulted in promotion to.............guess where? The Conference South! The National League South, as it is now called, is that into which promoted teams from the Southern Premier go, but at this moment, realistically, that is something that will not trouble the Whites after this type of performance. I don’t give much credence to omens however, and we started the day in approximately the same position as we ended it. We are in the play-offs and we were in the play-offs before this game, the only difference being the venue, and at least we are playing a team who try to play good football and succeed at that. So, in my humble opinion we have every chance of making progress, with one proviso, and that is that we turn up.

There's not a lot to be said about today's game, except that after wasting two golden opportunities to put the game out of Harrow's reach in the first 20 minutes we paid the price, and they managed to score a goal against the run of play. Unfortunately they didn't look back, not because they were absolutely brilliant.

After ten minutes it should have been 1-0 when Chris Shephard's freekick found Claudio Herbert in front of goal in the 6 yard box, but, faced with the keeper he inexplicably put the ball over the bar, and to compound that error Dan Fitchett somehow contrived to miss an open goal 9 minutes later after Aaron Dawson had squared an inviting ball to him.

Over the top Herbert REDespairing Desperate Dan RE

Easier to score! - ©Roger Elliott

In fairness, Harrow had tested Jake Hallett two minutes previously the keeper doing well to keep out a well aimed effort from George Moore, but the visitors took the lead through the same player on 32 minutes when a great ball from Frank Keita split the right side of the Whites' defence for my Man of the Match hat-trick man to beat Hallett easily. The keeper had little chance, as with most of the Boro goals.

George Moore gets the first of more MBMoore gets the first of more - ©Michael Berkeley

Having constantly got behind the Harrow defence with consummate ease, there was not at this point any reason for Salisbury supporters to panic, but Tom Whelan should have done better when put in by Fitchett on 37 minutes, firing straight at the keeper, and Hafed Al-Droubi then denied Shephard when he attempted a cross shot two minutes before the break.

A single goal down at the interval seemed manageable after a first half when Salisbury had produced the majority of chances, but four minutes into the second period, Herbert was again in on goal in a one-on-one and chipped the keeper but saw the ball cleared off the line by a defender who really been given no chance with a more decisive attempt.

Just before the hour Hallett left his line to try and clear up the mess in front of him, but in doing so left his net unattended, and the ball eventually fell obligingly to Ryan Moss, who looped a header in for Boro's second.

With 20 minutes remaining, Fitchett actually got the ball in the net but the "goal" was correctly disallowed for handball, and on 73 minutes the game was put out of sight, if it wasn't already so, when Moore received a crossfield ball and was left one-on-one with Hallett to score Harrow's third.

Football not handball the name of the game MBFootball, not handball the name of the game - ©Michael Berkeley

Heads were almost subterranean by this time, and as if that was not enough, two minutes later the fourth goal arrived when a long ball found Moss, again in a one-on-one with Hallett and again with the same result.

With nine minutes left it was the Moore/Moss combination once again, with Moss being denied this time only by a very good stop from the Salisbury keeper, but the respite was short as seconds later the defence were fooled by a short corner and Moore hit the top corner for number 5, on a day when most things had gone for him. Those who sat it out to the bitter end then had to put up with the sound of "we want 6" from the gallant band of Harrow supporters, (who could blame them?), and Moss duly obliged to complete a harrowing experience.

Feelings MB Sums up the feelings of most of the large crowd - ©Michael Berkeley

Someone said to me after the game that they would much prefer to watch Songs of Praise than witness what they had seen earlier but if the side has anything about them, and I think they have, they will, as in the past, compensate for today's debacle with a much better showing on Wednesday. I'll be there, and if by any chance the Whites play to something like their normal standards then that could well set up an intriguing visit to Somerset as long as Taunton do what might be expected in their game against Poole Town. And for me, I am not too disappointed by having to play away from home as often that environment is more suited to our game.

"Ifs, buts, and maybes", but what changes? Nothing, because "ifs, buts and maybes" are what supporting a football team is all about. I can't hide my feelings at having to write about it at this moment so I console myself with the thought “come on you Whites, reward those of us who will follow you to Imber Court on Wednesday”. Remember, even if you don't succeed, it's not been a bad season as your first in the Southern Premier, although at times you might have flattered to deceive..


Salisbury FC: Hallett, Herbert (Wheeler 74), Sommerton, Whelan (Sparkes 80), Partridge, Downing, Benson, Dawson, Fitchett, Mullings, Shephard.

Subs not used: Young, Rayfield, Searle.

Harrow Borough: Al-Droubi, Andrew, Haugh, Preddie,(Pepera 45), Oseni, Moore, Keita, McLeod (Ireland 68), Moss, Bryan (O'Connor 80), Cole.

Subs not used: Holland, Muhemba..

Attendance: 750       Referee L. Sandoe (Catterick Garrison)