Salisbury FC 2 Swindon Town 3 (AET).
Wilts Premier Shield Semi Final
Wednesday, 5 February 2020
By Alec Hayter
When Swindon football secretary Ray Murphy confirmed to me before the game that Swindon were fielding a strong side, and subsequently told me that ten of the starting eleven were all first-team squad members, I feared the worst, especially after the pre-season drubbing handed out to the Whites at the Ray Mac. Salisbury thus faced a competent young Swindon outfit who were intent on playing football, and this suited Salisbury down to a tee as of course they like to do the same. The result was what was for me, the most pleasurable visit to Melksham Town FC, and perhaps the first in which the quality of the play kept the crowd absorbed for all of the 120 minutes.
Because of the length of play, describing all of the action would use up all of our web but suffice to say that either side could have won the game, which was played in a great spirit and gave referee Matthew Rushton hardly any concerns as he was not called upon to show any colour card.
Given the strength of Towns team It was fairly surprising when Salisbury took the lead on 10 minutes. There seemed little danger as Owen Howe found himself with the ball just outside the box but he turned and hit a low shot into the corner past a stunned Luke McCormick.
Seven minutes later the Whites conceded from a corner when Harry Parsons, the only exception to the first team squad on show, was given too much space at the near post and nodded the equaliser. Only 4 minutes later Swindon were ahead, and some magical feet by Lloyd Isgrove left defenders in his wake before he aimed a right foot shot low past Marcus Beauchamp.
In the first period of the game it had rained goals and the deluge was completed when Dan Fitchett swept in a right foot effort on 24 minutes to square things up, but at that point the deluge ceased, and was replaced by chances at each end. Firstly Bay Downing had a freekick saved and then seconds after, on 27 minutes, Zimbabwe under 23 international, Admiral Muskwe betrayed his reputation of scoring goals for fun when Beauchamp did well to deny him in a one-on-one.
Just before the break, Town had three golden opportunities to take a commanding and possibly match-winning lead, and it was Muskwe who had them. On 39 minutes is growth threaded a great ball through to him but all he could do was hit the side netting and seconds later he returned the favour putting in is growth to be thwarted by Beauchamp’s brilliance.
The most disappointing Muskwe attempt came on 42 minutes when, again in a one-on-one, he completely missed the target. Just before the half-time whistle Howe lost the ball to Taylor Curran who went clear, but blasted over the top.
All square at the break therefore, but just before the hour, Howe was unlucky to see a snapshot tipped over the top by McCormick, and as Salisbury had their tails up McCormick brilliantly stopped Alex Lafleur’s left foot effort.
Back at the other end Kevin Amankwaah did well to block Muskwe with a last-ditch tackle, and another one-on-one incident occurred when Jake Wannell lost the ball to Parsons whose effort was deflected wide.
Salisbury then had a strong period and in fact that lasted until the end of normal time, with Wannell sending a header on top of the net from Lafleur’s corner and then on 79 minutes Nathanial Oseni’s defence splitting pass put in Warren Bentley, but Bentley’s heavy touch let him down and keeper McCormack gratefully picked up.
By this time Swindon had used all their substitutes and went down to ten men when Matthew Palmer was forced to limp off, but that setback did not affect things as much as it might, although in the after-shock Salisbury might themselves have put the game to bed. On 81 minutes Bentley and Toby Holmes ping is the ball backwards and forwards before Holmes tried a right foot rising effort which brought a superb save from McCormick and right on the end of normal time, Downing’s left foot effort was just wide of the mark. In time added Holmes got clear and unselfishly squared the ball to Bentley, who will not have good memories of his attempt to control the ball and the chance went begging.
The dreaded whistle for full-time was heard followed by exclamations of ” Oh no” from one of the technical areas and so battle recommenced with yet another one-on-one situation where Parsons thrashed his effort wide of the mark. The last of Salisbury’s threats came 7 minutes into extra time when McCormick again saved well, this time from Holmes’ shot on the turn, but it was Town who finished the stronger with Downing clearing header off the line before Swindon grabbed the winner on 113 minutes stop, rather like how’s opening goal for the Whites, Muskwe, just outside the Salisbury area, tried his luck which was in as the ball took a vicious deflection, completely wrong footing Beauchamp. A cruel way to settle the tie, but for some a relief that the lottery of penalties was avoided, although it took another one-on-one save from the Salisbury keeper to deny Toby Holland at the last.
The Whites can take heart from this performance and, for me, one player had an exceptional game. Had I had the task of naming a man of the match then it would undoubtedly have been Charlie Cooper who at no stage looked out of place amongst those around him.
And now we return to the more serious business of the Southern Premier League with a trip to Met police on Saturday, and I am sure that the Whites would have preferred not to be involved in an extra time scenario, as their opponents are always very difficult, especially on their own ground. There did not seem to be many Swindon supporters at last night’s game, so by inference, Salisbury supporters again did their bit by making the trip. Stop. That would be most welcome were it to be repeated at Imber Court on Saturday.
Salisbury FC: Beauchamp, Wannell, Downing, Jefferies (Bentley 68), Amankwaah, Oseni, Cooper, Dawson, Fitchett (Knowles 70), Howe (Holmes 68), Lafleur.
Sub not used: Hippolyte-Patrick.
Swindon Town: McCormick, Reid, McGilp, Rose, Broadbent, Curran (Cheshire 45), Isrove (Holland 64), Palmer, Muskwe, Parsons, Lyden (Suter 64).
Subs not used: Smith, Wells.
Attendance: 269 Referee: M Rushton