Match Report – Salisbury FC vs Poole Town
No matter what your view on pre-season games, many will feel a sense of relief, combined with excitement that the ‘warm-up’ has now come to an end and the ‘real thing’ starts next weekend…
As far as this final pre-season opportunity to complete preparations for the season goes, the opposition, in the form of Poole Town, from the same division as the Whites, proved to be a decent reflection of what the side should expect come the time when points start to be dished out. Salisbury started with three players (Ricky Wellard, Shaquille Hippolyte-Patrick and Nathaniel Oseni) who, at kick-off, were not signed but the first two showed enough in the game to be offered contracts immediately following the conclusion of the match.
The rest of the starting line up bore a greater resemblance of what may be the starting line-up next weekend than in previous friendlies, with a back four of George Coulson, Kevin Amankwaah, Oseni and Josh Sommerton behind a midfield five with Lewis Benson wide on the right, Hippolyte-Patrick on the opposite flank and Aaron Dawson, Wellard and Darren Mullings in central roles. This left Dan Fitchett to start as a lone striker, though he was supported by Wellard in the attacks.
Early exchanges, and in fact much of the first half, produced little in terms of clear goalscoring chances, with both sides cancelling each other out. That said, these 45 minutes will have served as a more realistic work out than those experienced over previous weeks. The first opportunity of any note came on 14 minutes when Dawson started a move in the centre of the pitch and then after some neat interplay, picked the ball up again out on the wide right and delivered an accurate cross only for Fitchett to head well wide of the left-hand post.
While neither keeper nor defence was put under significant pressure, the returning Gerard Benfield in the Salisbury goal looked confident and assured when he did need to get involved and the back four seemed to have formed the basis of an understanding, with the 22-year-old Oseni, who has spent time in the academy setups at both Man City and Fulham, looking to have a touch of class and composure about him. Poole did produce one opening when, on 29 minutes, a long ball over the top found ex-White Marvin Brookes (fresh from his stint on ‘Love Island’), clear on the right wing but much to the enjoyment of the home crowd, he fired well wide.
Just after the half hour mark, another Salisbury chance came as Luke Cairney in the Poole goal came well out of the 18 yard box towards the left hand touchline to claim a ball; he failed, but this time Sommerton, who had won the ball well didn’t quite get a clear sight of the empty goal and chose to play the ball in-field giving the keeper a chance to regain his position, and for the attack to peter out. Benson did also test the keeper with one of his trademark free kicks on 41 minutes, but Cairney proved more than equal to the task and claimed the ball comfortably.
Half time provided a change in shape with Wellard, Fitchett and Mullings being replaced by Toby Holmes, Warren Bentley and Ollie Knowles. This appeared to give a better balance to the side, by adding Knowles’ creativity to the exciting attacking potential of Hippolyte-Patrick which helped Salisbury’s forwards to be less isolated than before the break.
Salisbury had a penalty shout waved away on 55 minutes when Benson appeared to have been pulled back just inside the area, but that was just the start of numerous chances at both ends in what was a far more entertaining second period. The best chance came on the hour when Bentley found Holmes with a through ball, only for the ex-Wimborne man to put his shot just wide to the right with the keeper beaten. This partnership certainly showed signs that the two front men are starting to form an understanding of each other’s game which is sure to give hope ahead of the season opener.
In the 61st minute, Jacob Bancroft came on for Dawson which prompted Hippolyte-Patrick to switch to the right flank. It wasn’t long before Bancroft tested the keeper when, on 69 minutes, his pace allowed him to create the space to fire a shot straight at Cairney – things were starting to come to life!
Poole ensured Benfield was called into action when they won a free kick in the 70th minute but as with most sights of goal up until this point there was never any real danger of the stopper being beaten and his handling proved more than adequate when attempting to keep his clean sheet.
Unfortunately, on 74 minutes, Holmes looked to have picked up a knock which hopefully won’t prove too serious but, with the Chesham game only seven days away, the sensible option of replacing him with Nuno Felix was taken. At this point, Coulson was withdrawn and Charlie Rayfield took his place. These changes saw Sommerton pushed forward into the left midfield role with Bancroft joining Bentley in the front two.
Sommerton scores the whites first - ©Michael Berkeley
On 76 minutes a Salisbury corner was met with a strong header by Sommerton which, after being blocked was very nearly bundled in for an opening goal. Further changes came in the 80th minute when Charlie Burden and Charlie Cooper replaced Benson and Amankwaah – the latter clearly gaining fitness after limited game time in recent years and four minutes later, finally the opening goal came. A long pass forward flew over the last man in the Poole defence and Sommerton reacted quickest, finding himself chasing to get to the ball just ahead of the Poole keeper and the desperate lunge of the stricken centre back to poke it between Cairney’s legs and into the net.
Bentley doubles the lead at the death - ©Michael Berkeley
Based on the limited chances throughout the game, many would have thought that 1-0 would be the final score but by now, Salisbury were looking more and more threatening and the tricky-looking Hippolyte-Patrick used his quick feet to create an opening on 87 minutes only to be unable to keep his shot below the bar. It was from the lively footwork of Hippolyte-Patrick that Salisbury’s second goal came after he found himself in a position to deliver a pinpoint cross from the right, which picked out the sliding Bentley who neatly applied the finish.
In summary, as with all pre-season games, the result although positive was less important than the performance, and this, on the whole, will go down as a decent final stepping stone before things get serious. Some may feel there are still question marks as to how the Whites will line up against Chesham next Saturday but all of those involved with team selection will doubtless have gained much from what they saw in this outing. All that remains to be said is hopefully those present at the RayMac as well as those who choose not to attend pre-season games will now be excited enough to make the journey to Buckinghamshire next week and support the team towards the first of many three point hauls between now and next May!