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Closing the Gap
Salisbury edged themselves another point closer to the top in a battling match with Stourbridge that saw neither team able to break the deadlock.
A hard-fought point was made more rewarding on a day that saw both Truro and Cambridge lose. Salisbury are now just five points behind the league leaders, with four games in hand.
The teams kicked off on a very bobbly surface that would play it’s part in restricting play along the floor.
Having conceded the first goal in their last three matches, all in the first twenty minutes, Salisbury came out with greater purpose in the opening exchange. Jake Reid gave the home fans a scare when his pace from the wide area allowed him to beat his man and cut into the box, only to be forced off the ball from a strong but fair challenge.
Minutes later a neat passing move between Darrell Clarke and Adam Kelly allowed the winger to break free into the area after a chipped through ball from his manager. Kelly hit a composed lobbing effort over the keeper, but the ball fell just wide of the goal.
After a tentative opening from the home side, Stourbridge grew into the game and constantly displayed the solidity that has seen them lose just once at home all season. They came close themselves after a freekick was headed clear to the edge of the White’s box where a striped man chested and volleyed just wide of Tommy Smith’s goal.
The keeper had to be alert in the face of some good Stourbridge pressure. A whipped ball into the box was met by Brian Dutton’s head but the skipper could only make a glancing contact that threatened to beat his own keeper, but Smith reacted well to snuff the danger.
The match was evenly contested in a half that was very end to end, but saw little in the way of clean hits on goal. Charlie Knight showed good pace and footwork to beat two men and get a strike away, but his effort went high above the bar. Both teams were threatening on the counter attack and Smith was forced to tip a 30-yard effort over minutes later.
Reid was again showing the strength and hold up play that has won him many plaudits this season and the striker came close to taking the lead. Knight placed a deep cross toward the big man, who was unmarked at the back post and headed on target – only to be denied by a good diving save from the glassboy’s keeper.
The second half saw brought much of the same physical battling and lack of space seen in the opening half. The home side were increasing the pressure as the whites defended deep, but the introduction of Ben Joyce and a switch to 4-4-2 had the desired effect, with Salisbury able to gain a stronger foothold in the opposition half.
The red and white stripes had their best chance of the match when the ball landed at a glassboy foot who then turned inside the pen area to shoot hard, only to be foiled by a fantastic stop from Smith. It was a high tempo finish as both sides looked for a valued three points, both breaking away with quick counter attacks. Smith had to be on hand to make two more good stops, while at the other end, Jack Boyle came on and tested the keeper with a good low effort.
0-0 it finished and a fair result for two hard working teams. With Truro and Cambridge both losing, it was a day that demonstrated the difficulty of the league but one that saw Salisbury progress a step closer to their aims for the season. The Whites are next in action at Hemel Hempstead, this Tuesday evening.