Metropolitan Police FC 2 Salisbury FC 2
Evo-stik South Premier South
Saturday, 16 February 2019
By Alec Hayter
Take two good sides, some real grass, a generally good set of officials, and a competitive game of football played in the proper spirit, and you have the recipe for an entertaining 90+ minutes. Top that off with what was fair result, and you gain the satisfaction of a good day out and a hard earned point. In the context of the run in schedules of teams at the top of the league, this point was probably more significant than it might at first appear, in spite of both Weymouth and Taunton succeeding in picking up maximum points from their away trips.
The Whites started well, and on 14 minutes a short free-kick from Aaron Dawson set up Lewis Benson who surged forward from midfield before unleashing a 25 yard effort that shaved the upright, before, seconds later, Dan Fitchett turned his man but, being forced wide, dragged his cross shot wide of the far post.
It was not surprising, therefore, that the home side reacted and in terms of chances had the majority of the game up until the interval. On 18 minutes a long cross from Josh Webb gave Oliver Knight a headed opportunity but the ball went wide from 12 yards, and shortly afterwards Max Blackmore found himself in an alarming amount of space in front of goal but volleyed over the top. As both sides sparred in midfield, it was not until the 35th minute that either goal was threatened, Knight looping a 25 yarder over the top.
The Whites fell behind with 5 minutes remaining in the first period to an absolutely superb finish from the prolific Jack Mazzone. If the game had been settled by this strike then there would have been little argument that it was a worthy winner, and is difficult to do justice to the manner in which the striker launched himself at Webb's cross to send an absolute screamer past debutant Liam Driscoll from 15 yards. Such was the quality of the finish that, strangely, maybe it did not actually have the damaging effect on dressing room feelings as it might have done.
Salisbury came out with renewed vigour after the break and that soon showed when Charlie Rayfield crossed low into the box for Fitchett to see his near post attempt blocked. Four minutes in the Whites got back on terms from a Benson corner which reached Jack Sparkes at the far post on the right. The Exeter loanee showed his cool in cutting back onto his left peg and beating home keeper Sam Mason with a low shot to level things up.
Jack Sparkes' timely equaliser got the Whites back on terms - Copyright Michael Berkeley
On 52 minutes Salisbury were denied what might have been a justified penalty appeal (of the "seen them given" variety), but five minutes later they were again unlucky when Dawson and Fitchett combined well for Bouwe Bosma to put his finish just high.
Just after the hour a trademark Benson curling free-kick from distance evaded the whole of the home defence including the keeper but also, unfortunately, the upright, and the home side went straight to the other end forcing a goal-line clearance from Elliot Wheeler after a long throw had caused chaos in the visitors’ box.
On 66 minutes, following a lightning raid, Mazzone nearly wriggled clear for what would surely have been his second goal but Dawson had little alternative but to try and rob him from behind. Referee Begley pointed to the spot and Mazzone finished what he had started, calmly dispatching ball low to Driscoll's left. At the time, this seemed likely to be the killer blow, but to say that is to deny the spirit of this Salisbury side who might have got back on terms ten minutes later after a long cross found Bosma, who unfortunately couldn't keep his finish down.
More goal-line heroics were necessary on 77 minutes and with ten minutes remaining Driscoll was forced to make a good save from Knight’s effort from the edge of the box, but, as opposed to conceding a late goal, today it was the Whites' turn to score late on and take a precious point. A Sparkes corner went to the far post where the alert Dawson volleyed home, to add to his impressive goalscoring feats of late and get a deserved point with what could prove to be a very important goal.
Midfielder (turned striker?) Aaron Dawson who notched an important late equaliser - Copyright Roger Elliott
So after 90+ minutes of good football and honest endeavour, both sides appeared to come out of the game as they had started, but that is only on the surface and I'm sure that the performance and result will be a confidence boost to the Whites as we near the business end of the season.
In order to continue the push, Salisbury need to return from Kings Langley on Tuesday with some reward, and after Lango were soundly beaten by next Saturday’s opponents Basingstoke Town, this will undoubtedly make the task more difficult. When the going gets tough.........etc, etc....but a look at the table shows that there is everything to play for. COYW!!
Metropolitan Police FC: Mason, Webb, Guinness-Walker, Arthur, Robinson, Birch, Knight, Chislett, Mazzone (Hippolyte 72) , Blackmore, Robertson.
Subs not used: Murdoch, Bailey, King, Fisher.
Salisbury FC: Driscoll, Rayfield (Shephard 78), Sommerton, Whelan, O'Keefe (Herbert 90), Benson, Dawson, Fitchett, Bosma (Mullings 90+2), Sparkes.
Subs not used: Young, Skeen-Hamilton.
Attendance: 300 Referee: M Begley.