Salisbury City 0 Harriers 1
Venue: Raymond McEnhill Stadium
away fans: 115
Harriers defend well to get a well earned win
The Harriers plugged their leaky defence at Salisbury today with a much tougher, cohesive display all round. The much criticised loan keeper, Chris MacKenzie, played his full part too with just one mistake all game.
If MacKenzie was playing then there was obviously no return to the side for Scott Bevan. Also missing was Jeff Kenna after he failed to recover from an injury picked up last week against Torquay. Simon Russell was also missing from the squad entirely after seemingly on his way back from injury in recent games but he must have had a setback to miss this game.
Paul Bignot stepped into Sir Jeff's boots and Jon Munday made his first appearance on the bench for some time.
Salisbury came into this game on the back of a defeat at Oxford on Tuesday but also having the benefit of being un-beaten at home this season. They are probably one of the two surprise teams in the League this season with their great start and sixth place in the table. The other surprise being York City with their dismal start.
For the opening period the game was played out evenly with both sides testing the keeper from range without ever really going close. City were first out of the blocks when Michael Fowler struck a shot that MacKenzie held well followed soon after by Michael Blackwood for us creating a similar chance with a similar end result.
The Harriers were well in command of the game with our pacey forwards breaking through the City rearguard with ease. City themselves weren't looking too impressive and were relying on balls pumped in from the wings towards Matthew Tubbs who then invariably missed.
Six minutes before the break and we took a well deserved lead, a lead that we never relinquished.
Michael Blackwood started the move on the halfway line by passing the ball to Andy Ferrell. Ferrell then played in Justin Richards who then took the ball into the area to wait the arrival of Blackwood in the box. When Blackie arrived the big number nine slipped the ball to him and he made no mistake in burying the ball beyond the reach of the City keeper, the former Harrier Ryan Clarke.
This goal spurred on the home team slightly but so were the visitors who were equally determined to increase the lead further but without any further addition to the scoreline the Harriers went into the break with a well deserved lead.
HT: 0 - 1
It was obvious to everyone that the Salisbury manager, Nick Holmes, had been 'having words' during the break and City came out with a more determined look in their eyes. Again Tubbs seemed to be the target man for everything and maybe that's where they fall down having to rely on one man for all their goals.
The first chance for them to get back in the game fell to him when he tried a shot come pass across the face of the goal but there was no-one available to poke it into the net.
The only booking of the game came soon after that when Andy Ferrell stupidly rushed in to knock Luke Prince off the ball even though Russell Penn was doing a good job of containing him. Amazingly that was only his second booking of the season even though we expected more by now.
Tubbs should really have scored just minutes later when MacKenzie suffered a lapse in concentration and committed goalkeeping Hari Kiri for the second game running. Macca rushed out of his box to clear the ball even though there was no real danger and the defence had got it covered. He lost possession of the ball and it ran free for Robert Matthews to send over a quick cross to Tubbs who then headed the ball onto the top of the bar with an invitingly open goal at his mercy.
Salisbury are now well on top of the game and a goal for them looks like it won't be long coming. Tubbs is still the catalyst for everything they do and luckily for us he isn't the sharpest of strikers. He volleys wide after being set up by a Russ Penn mistake on the edge of the area and then he misses yet another simple header from a Matthews cross.
Eventually the Harriers regained the upperhand with Jimmy Constable, who was having a quiet second half after picking up a slight knock in the first, putting the ball through for Blackwood who then saw his shot blocked by Tim Bond just in front of MacKenzie.
Dean Bennett then went on a good run from midfield after robbing Matt Robinson of the ball but then ran into a dead end just inside the box after running out of options to pass the ball to.
City then bought on Marvin Brown in an effort to get back into the game and he did look dangerous at times. Very similar to our Justin Richards he almost scored within minutes of coming on when he found himself in acres of space in front of goal with just the keeper to beat. Thankfully he seemed to panic at the last second and instead of slipping the ball past or under the keeper he sent it well wide of the post instead.
With almost the end in sight the game then took a controversial twist through an abject piece of decision making by the minger of a referee.
Matthews and Jonny Harkness had gone up for a ball together just feet from the goal line and Harkness came off the worst with an obvious head injury. With no foul having occurred the ref stopped play for Harkness to be treated.
Once he had been seen to the ref then amazingly gave a contested drop ball when all it really needed was for a Salisbury player to tap the ball either back to MacKenzie or to put the ball out of play for a goal kick. Instead both teams were told to battle for the drop ball with the obvious chance of City being able to score so close to the Harriers goal. Un-sportingly the City players accepted this ruling and the Harriers players made their feelings known by protesting to the ref.
Thankfully the dropped ball was won by a Harriers player and booted away from the area. If City had scored from that in the dying seconds then the draw would have been totally un-justified and an unfair reflection on a sterling Harriers performance in gaining another away win and another three points.