Wyvern Challenge Cup 3rd Round

Salisbury Development 1

(Nathan Connelly)

Team Solent Reserves 1

(Giovanni Landu)

*Salisbury win 3-0 on penalties

Attendance: 30 (rough guess)

The Raymond McEnhill Stadium

Another night, another Team Solent game, this time it was the reserves and this time I had ventured away from Test Park.

This week I had ambitious plans for a game a night, a plan that fell through when I didn’t bother with a game on Tuesday night. Wednesday I had watched Team Solent play a BUCs game and when it got to the evening I chose dinner with friends over a trip to Guildford in the COCO Cup.

So Thursday is here and in general, Thursday is a dead night for football (apart from the Europa League that is). Nothing really happens on a Thursday so when I saw Team Solent’s second string making the short trip to Salisbury for a Wyvern Challenge Cup game, I was pretty keen to make the journey.

This was to be my third visit to the Raymond McEnhill stadium, having first visited in January 2014 when the old Salisbury City played Dartford in a National League fixture.

I returned for a second time last season when the ground was used for the Wessex League Cup final when Team Solent beat Newport IoW to complete a cup double.

So tonight was a hat trick of visits and the first time I had see a Salisbury side there since the reincarnation in 2015.

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The Ground

The Ray Mac, as it is known to locals, is an impressive place. The ground has been used in the Conference, tier five of English football, when Salisbury City were flying high.

When City dissolved in 2014 and resurrected as Salisbury FC in 2015, the new side would use the Ray Mac in the Wessex Premier, making it one of the most impressive grounds that the league has had.

As many predicted, Salisbury gained promotion into the Southern League in their inaugural season, taking their 5,000 capacity ground with them as they start climbing the football pyramid once more.

Tonight wasn’t a usual well supported first team game, about 30 in attendance and 500 seats, I was spoilt for choice about where to sit. The majority of the standing areas are covered too which made it more difficult when picking my spot.

On entry to the ground, you are immediately greeted by the tea bar and some terracing up the corner, continuing behind the goal, the ground offers a good view from pretty much anywhere, it is quite enclosed and enough places to shelter from the rain.

Opened in 1997, the stadium is celebrating its 20th year and it is likely to be one of the more impressive grounds in the Southern League setup.

The main stand covers most of the length of the pitch with standing areas either side, it hosts the tunnel and changing rooms and oddly the players have to walk down a set of steps to enter the pitch. I believe the bar is situated at the above the dressing rooms too but I didn’t explore that area in much detail.

Over the far side just placed both sides of the halfway line are two symmetrical seated stands, which is the only covered area on the far side. Behind one goal (to the right of the main stand) is open to the weather and houses a scoreboard, I did feel spoilt as even my team Crewe Alexandra don’t have one of those.

One problem I did have with the evening was paying to get in, now I fully understand that they have to put the floodlights on etc but for a reserve match it seemed a bit steep, an adult paying £4, but what was I going to do, turn around and go home?

The entry fee was made a little easier when the kind steward came around handing out team sheets, this meant that I knew who I was watching and had something to remember the game by.

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The Game

Salisbury’s Tom Robinson was the penalty hero as he saved three spot kicks in the shootout to secure Salisbury’s place in the next round of the Wyvern Challenge Cup at the expense of Team Solent.

The hosts took a first half lead through Nathan Connelly before former Bradford City youth player Giovanni Landu pulled the scores level to force penalties.

It took 13 minutes for the first real chance of the game when Salisbury full back George Plank curled a testing free kick at goal for George Passingham to palm away.

Solent had the ball in the back of the net three minutes later when a strong run and cross from O’Shea McDonald found its way to Tom Bickley who put the ball into the box once more for Ethan Taylor whose shot was blocked by Robinson. Landu followed up and poked in the rebound, only for the goal to be ruled out for offside.

Salisbury then dominated the rest of the first half as home captain Adam Flins headed just wide from a corner.

The hosts had a great chance to take the lead when Oliver Davies nicked possession on the right wing before picking out Connelly in the box who couldn’t keep his shot down.

On 35 minutes, Connelly did put Salisbury ahead when he was fastest to react in the box to smash the ball in off the crossbar at the near post. As the ball bounced out, Solent tried to argue that it hadn’t crossed the line, however the linesman on the near side had flagged for a goal.

Solent started the second half brightly and it took just four minutes for the Sparks to find the equaliser. Some good passing around the area and Taylor threaded a lovely ball through for Landu to simply roll past the ‘keeper.

Connelly thought he had put his side ahead again on 51 minutes when Flins played a good ball into the box and the towering number ten hit the outside of the post with a hard shot from a tight angle.

Robinson then had to be alert at the other end on the hour mark when a quick throw worked in Solent’s advantage but Lewis Danquah could only fire his shot into the legs of the Salisbury ‘keeper.

Salisbury were having the better of the possession and should have scored the winner ten minutes from time when Connelly again struck the upright with a powerful effort, this time coming off the inside of the post and Davies was on hand to scuff the rebound.

With minutes left on the clock, Salisbury must have thought they had found a winner when Connelly sent in a perfect cross for substitute Sam Mills who directed his header at goal but Passingham made a world class point blank save to keep his team in the game.

From the clearance, Solent hit Salisbury on the break and Landu played a good ball into Danquah who shot and forced a good save from Robinson to take the game straight into a penalty shootout.

Solent’s Sam Hartley took the first penalty of the night and was denied superbly by Robinson who guessed the right way and managed to get a strong hand to the ball.

Flins then stepped up and led by captain’s example as he fired his spot kick into the top corner.

Robinson then made it two saves from two when he stopped Josh Brimacombe’s strike that was sent straight down the middle.

George Higgins made no mistakes as he sent Passingham the wrong way to side foot low into the bottom corner to give Salisbury a steady two-goal advantage.

Robinson made it a hat trick of penalty saves when Danquah tried a Panenka chip that went horribly wrong for the young student. Robinson had already dived and as he picked himself up, was able to catch the ball whilst sat on the floor as Solent crumbled under the penalty pressure.

Charlie Blake smashed his penalty straight down the middle to put the home side into the next round.

2016/17 Games: 95

2016/17 Grounds: 54 (9)

Total Grounds Visited: 150 (40)

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