MATCH REPORT: Salisbury 0 Bristol Rovers 2
Salisbury FC 0 Bristol Rovers 2
Saturday, 15 July 2017
By Alec Hayter
The 1 PM kick-off nearly caught me out, and also confused my digestion, but I made a good start by visiting the tea hut where Shannon kindly served me with a giant sausage roll and a Mars bar (the latter of course these days only about half the size and double the price of those in years gone by). I have to say that the sausage roll was very good value and very tasty, but the Mars bar neither and the price (not the Club’s fault) will do my figure, and my pocket, a lot of good. That episode was not the best bit of the afternoon as at times during the game the Whites began to show what they could do.
Once more, they were not expected to win against League opposition, but often played some very good passing football and competed well with their illustrious visitors. As to the desire to achieve suitable fitness levels, I am pretty sure that most of the players are now not far off.
The start of the game was fairly familiar with Salisbury going behind early, and that of course is not an ideal thing to do with opposition of your own standard let alone against teams from a much higher level, but both goals scored by our visitors were nothing that would excite Rovers' Manager Darrell Clarke, the first being something of a gift, and the second a little fortuitous.
Nathan Ball was given his chance in this game, but before he saw his first action it was Salisbury who nearly took the lead. After only two minutes Marvin Brooks found himself through one-on-one with Rovers' keeper, new signing Adam Smith, but could not finish the job before hitting the luscious turf amongst muted appeals for a penalty when Smith came off his line to intercept. I've seen them given, but I've seen more waved away, and this of course was a pre-season friendly.
Rovers quickly surged forward and full-back Lee Brown, who during the game was frequently well upfield troubling George Colson, delivered a cross from the left to Cameron Ebbutt whose looping header was directed sufficiently to beat Ball from 8 yards. Whilst the header was well directed, perhaps, had he had more recent playing time, the young keeper could have kept it out, but that of course is a matter of conjecture. Ball's reaction however showed his disappointment.
Salisbury were well in the game in spite of this and after 10 minutes Mark Francis curled in a cross towards the near post but Danny Young could not guide an awkward chance into the net. You will have heard of a half volley, well, the ball came to Young at a very strange angle giving him what was a bit like a half volley header, and he could do nothing other than send the ball wide of the upright. That could have been recorded as a half chance but just after the half-hour the Whites manufactured a much better opportunity when Lewis Benson's free kick from way out on the Salisbury left found Brooks at the far post, but his header from only a couple of yards out was blocked. On another occasion it might well have hit the back of the net. Rovers will probably say “great defending!”
A single goal deficit at the break seemed a reasonable scoreline, reflecting the work put in by the home side and if the first half chances were ignored, and for 15 minutes or so after the interval Salisbury to show what they could do, moving the ball slickly and more quickly than before, but as is often the case a good spell was "rewarded" when Rovers got to the other end where a very fortunate ricochet put Rory Gaffney not only onside but also one-on-one with Ball. Gaffney dithered and delayed and made his task much more difficult by creating the narrowest of angles as he tried to round Ball, but having done so he then did the difficult bit to give his side a second goal. Football can be a cruel game and sometimes there seems to be little justice – this was one of those times.
With 10 minutes remaining Ball did well to keep out a 12 yard right foot effort from Ollie Clarke, but once again the Whites reacted well and following some changes Flavio Tavares and Lawrence Larbi joined the action, both being lively up front in the company of the irrepressible Stuart Green (who later had a half chance). The additional movement caused problems for the Rovers defence for a short time and on 85 minutes more pressure resulted in a free kick just outside the box with a 20 yard Tavares free kick curling narrowly over the bar.
Three minutes before the end another Tavares set piece curled into the far post where Larbi somehow got round the back to the byeline but could not force the ball home through a forest of defenders’ legs, and that was quickly followed with another Tavares assist when his corner found Kane O'Keefe whose looping header forced Smith to touch the ball over the bar, with some difficulty. That ended the goalmouth action but must have left supporters with memories of some good moments which, again on another day, could have produced a better result and one that was deserved in return for the Whites' efforts.
On Monday evening the last of the League Sides involved in our friendlies, Swindon Town, are the opponents, (note kick-off 7 PM), and whilst more league opposition is always good, the following game on Saturday at home to Gosport Borough may serve a different purpose in restoring players' confidence, if that is indeed needed.
Just in case you thought that was all the football on offer, there is a friendly at Andover on Tuesday 18th July, and just two days later our Youth Team entertain Poole Town at the Ray Mac in the FA Youth Cup - and the season doesn't really start until 12 August!
Salisbury: Ball, Colson, Mundy, Whelan, Wheeler, Wannell, Benson, Roberts, Brooks, Francis, Young, Herbert, O'Keefe, Green, Flint, Tavares, Bola, Larbi, Gould.
Bristol Rovers: Smith, Leadbitter, Brown, Lockyer, Menayese, Hall, Sinclair, Clark, Gaffney, Ebbutt, Hassane, Jones, Morgan, Ellington, Armstrong (GK).
Att: 570 Referee: I Parsons (for the 3rd time in succession – 4th time on Monday)