Saturday, August 09, 2008

Game 5: Salisbury City 0.1 Burton Albion (Blue Square Premier) 09.08.08

Normally the opening game of the season is a day for tshirts and sun tan lotion but today's weather saw raincoats the order of the day. Pete and I wandered over from the industrial estate in pouring rain and strong winds to join the queue to get into the ground. The weather seemed to match the mood of the supporters during the game - no real buzz of excitement about the start of the second season in the Blue Square Premier.

Before kickoff there was a one minute silence in the memory of Ernie Cooksey, a Grays Athletic player who passed away from cancer during the summer.

Burton started well and scored after 2 minutes. The Salisbury defence conceded a sloppy corner and failed to defend it - the ball came in from the left side to the far corner where it was headed back to Greg Pearson to hit the ball home unchallenged from 3 yards.

After 12 minutes it was almost 2.0, Matt Robinson putting the ball just past his own post when clearing a ball - heart in the mouth stuff! Burton's veteran keeper Kevin Poole had a couple of saves to make but nothing too testing. Most of the time the ball was being crossed into the area with the hope that the wind might take it into the net. Salisbury had a shout for a penalty turned down - from the distance we were at it was hard to tell whether it had hit a hand or not but the referee waved play on.

Jody Banim then missed a glorious chance to make the game 2.0 to Burton. Cook messed up a back header towards Bittner and the ball didn't have enough pace on it to make it back to the keeper. Banim tried to chip Bittner but the keeper was able to push the ball back out - Banim then tried a low shot which Bittner was able to save. Burton continued to put the pressure on Salisbury - from a corner Bittner spilt the ball but was able to shepherd Banim to the side of the box, allowing the defence to cover behind him. Salisbury's best chance came on 40 minutes from a Feeney cross to Clarke, whose header Poole saved with ease.

Salisbury were attacking towards the In-Excess Stand in the second half and almost equalised within the first minute. Feeney put a shot wide and a minute later crept onto a cross at close range - the shot was heading towards the goal until Poole pushed it over the bar. The game seemed to drag after that - Salisbury weren't producing a killer touch and Tubbs was very quiet - apart from a late penalty shout for a barge on the edge of the box he didn't really trouble the Burton defence. The weather conditions didn't help either team as passes and crosses zipped off the wet surface or got carried wide by the wind. Burton were able to waste a lot of time by the strange decision not to use ballboys around the pitch to get the ball back into play sooner. The referee added on 5 minutes injury time but the majority of the 1,122 spectators were resigned to an opening day Salisbury defeat.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Game 4: Salisbury City 3.1 Bristol Rovers (Friendly) 05.08.08

Alan took the train up from Portsmouth (eventually, after some signalling problems) to join me at this game - almost a year since we went up to Droylesden for the opening game of the 2007-8 season.

We arrived in plenty of time and were treated to an early goal from Matt Tubbs after 2 minutes. He ran through the Rovers defence but appeared to have overhit the ball towards the keeper. Luckily the keeper didn't react in time and Tubbs controlled it and placed a low shot into the back of the net. Salisbury continued to put some pressure on the visitors goal and on 10 minutes Andy Sandell almost doubled the lead. He took the ball around the keeper on the edge of the six yard box but was forced wide and his cross was cleared for a corner.

It took 32 minutes for Rovers to create a decent chance - a shot that was deflected wide for a corner. The next 5 minutes was all Rovers - Bittner made a save at the near post from a chest high shot on 34 mins, watched a shot go across the goal and wide from the right hand side on 37 minutes and saw another shot just over the post on 38 minutes.

Despite this spell of pressure, Salisbury added a second goal just before half time. A cross came in from the left hand side and Sandell poked it into the net from close range. It was a well deserved goal even if it came against the run of play as Salisbury had made the best chances throughout the half.

The second half also began with a Salisbury chance but it wasn't taken, much to the annoyance of the majority of the 641 crowd. Robbie Matthews was one of four halftime subs and took the ball towards the goal, only to check back onto his right foot and hit a shot over the bar. The Salisbury team showed some individual moments of skill - Feeney nutmegged a defender at pace along the right hand touchline while Davis succeeded with an overhead kick in the penalty area from a deep cross.
Matthews was getting more into this game then others - balls were being played through the channels to allow him to run on, rather than to his head to try and hold up. After 62 minutes he ran through the defence to the bye-line and put a cross along the 6 yard line but no-one was able to add the final touch and score.

Bristol Rovers made a couple of chances and won a penalty on 75 minutes. Bittner went the right way but the shot was too well struck and ended up curling into the right side of the side netting. Salisbury were determined not to let them equalise - Feeney and Davis worked well to get a cross into the box but Dutton put his shot wide. Most of the play was in the half in front of us and it was no surprise when Salisbury added a third goal on 87 minutes. Sandell turned provider and put a cross in for Matthews to smash in from 3 yards out.

An entertaining game with lots of chances for the home team - hopefully a good sign for the start of the season on Saturday.