Saturday, July 30, 2011

Game 2: Salisbury City 2.1 Hayes & Yeading United (Friendly) 30.07.11


After last weekend's mix-up on kickoff times,I had considered going to Melksham v Amesbury for a new ground tick but decided to play safe and take the short trip up to the Ray Mac for a confirmed 3pm start. It turned out to be a good choice, partly as it later transpired that Amesbury pulled out an hour before kickoff and partly as this was a really entertaining match.

I wasn't expecting many at the ground and was able to park fairly close to the turnstile for a change. I decided to watch from the sideline rather than an end and this put me in a good position to get a teamsheet when they appeared before kickoff. The Salisbury team was made up of a couple of trialists alongside the first team. I recognised a few of the names of the Hayes & Yeading team and it appeared that they had brought down a strong team.

The first half was the most entertaining no goal half of football I've seen in a long time as both teams came as close as you can get to scoring without the ball crossing the line. Hayes almost scored in the first minute when Salisbury lost possession in the area but the shot was blasted into Puddy, the trialist keeper. In the 7th minute the ball was chipped over Puddy but a defender got back in time to clear - a similar story two minutes later when the ball looked to be in but was hooked off the line by the other trialist, right back Pattison.

Salisbury had the next effort in the 10th minute, Wright getting a header on target that the Hayes keeper had to stretch to tip onto the crossbar. After these initial efforts, the game settled down with the next clear chance in the 32nd minute when an unmarked Hayes player put a header wide of the goal. The game was played in a good spirit apart from the Hayes number 3 who was pulled up for late tackles and on one occasion for leaving his knee in Kelly's face when he moved away. Just before halftime Hayes were again unfortunate not to score. A shot in the area was deflected by a defender's leg and rolled onto the post before the Whites defence cleared it. Moments later Puddy missed his attempt to catch the ball from a corner and another header had to be cleared off the line.

I was hoping that the second half would bring a goal and it wasn't long in coming. In the 55th minute Hayes made a number of substitutions and before they had time to settle they were a goal down. Kelly received the ball on the left side, cut in past one defender and from outside the box hit a quick shot before the next defender could get a tackle in. The ball flew into the goal before the keeper's dive could reach it to give Salisbury an unexpected lead.

Hayes continued to press and were denied a penalty when the referee ignored their shouts of handball as the ball was crossed into the box at the far end. It was too far away for me to see but the bench were indicating that the ball had hit the Salisbury player on the arm when it was deflected out for a corner. Salisbury had a couple of half chances, Clarke almost getting onto a through ball after coming on as a sub, but the team was defending more and more. Smith had replaced Puddy in goal and was forced into several smart saves before Hayes hit the post again in the 65th minute.

The equaliser finally came in the 77th minute when substitute Agyemang picked up the ball on the left side, span round his marker and fired home from close range. I thought that Hayes would press on to win the game and it was only a fine reflex save from Smith that kept the ball out of the net from a close range header in the 86th minute. The ball went for a corner which Smith gathered before sending the ball upfield for Reid. He took the ball down the left wing and won a throw near the corner flag. Before the Hayes defence could get organised he played a quick throw to Fitchett who passed back to the centre of the D where Clarke hit a belter into the top left corner. Somehow Salisbury were in the lead again!

There was still time for Smith to thwart Hayes with another diving save before the referee brought the game to a conclusion. The crowd of 294 had certainly witnessed an exciting game but perhaps not the expected outcome as Salisbury got their first pre-season win.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Game 1: Downton 0.0 Amesbury (Friendly) 19.07.11


For the first game of the season I decided to take the short drive down to Downton for a local fixture against Amesbury Town. My record at Downton wasn't great last season - while the team won 27 home games on their way to the Wessex 1 title, I managed to see both their defeats in the FA Cup competitions and the best league performance I witnessed was a draw. It was a nice surprise to bump into Mike Turner on the gate and discover he's been appointed as Downton's secretary for the forthcoming season.

While I've seen some high scoring friendlies in the past at this ground, this match went the way of the last competitive game I saw here and finished in a 0.0 draw. Both teams looked a little rusty with passes going astray and heavy first touches giving the ball away. When there were chances, neither team had the killer instinct from close in and efforts from distance were either well saved or well over the bar.

The best chance of the first half fell to Amesbury when a Downton player hit a backpass too short without considering the players around him. The Downton keeper rushed out but wasn't able to beat the onrushing Amesbury player to the ball. However his race out of the box led to the Amesbury player pushing the ball too far ahead and wide, allowing the Downton defender to get back and put a tackle in. This was enough pressure to see the Amesbury player hit the ball wide of the far post. Downton for the most part were in control of the game but their shots were mostly daisy cutters that the Amesbury keeper dealt with easily.

The second half was similar fare, enjoyable to watch as both teams created chances and kept the keeper's busy. After a multitude of substitutions while the sun set, it was Downton who controlled play and came close with a Gain shot that flashed wide. Amesbury had the best chance to win the match midway through the half with a stunning shot that the Downton keeper did well to get a hand to.