Salisbury may have their problems off the pitch, having last week been placed into Administration and deducted 10 points, but on it they played with verve and penetration at the “Ray Mac” Stadium. This match highlighted the differences between the two sides; Salisbury played with a clear team pattern and an understanding forged by working as a unit for the last three months, Grays played as a team of individuals thrown together in three weeks. Without Glen Poole and Daniel Charge, it was always going to be difficult but after a bright opening in which they created two presentable chances, it was the home side who took almost complete control of the match. However, it came as something of a surprise when in the last ten minutes of the match Grays had three outstanding opportunities which, undeservedly could have earned them at least a draw.
Salisbury, with John Beck as coach, are noted for their direct approach but it seems the influence of Manager Tommy Widdrington has brought a more thoughtful approach to their play. With the fast-raiding of Robert Sinclair on the right and the goal-poaching of Matthew Tubbs, allied to a commendable team work ethic, Salisbury looked superior to the Blues in most areas of the pitch. Their opening goal came in the 25th minute after a flowing move which was finished of at the far post by Christopher Flood. Grays managed to get to the half-time without conceding any further score and soon after the restart Jamie Slabber had a chance to equalise when he was put through clear on goal but his delayed shot was blocked. Salisbury doubled their lead in the 62nd minute after Grays failed to clear their lines and the ball was crossed to Tubbs who smashed the ball past keeper Lee Butcher.
Salisbury now had their tails up and the elusive Tubbs could easily have had a hat-trick, first hitting the post and then screwing wide from in front of goal. Stuart Anderson thundered a header just wide before Butcher pulled off three remarkable saves to deny a rampant Salisbury. As a shot-stopper Butcher is something else! Debutants Bill Crowther and Jack Jeffrey were introduced ( replacing the hard-running Charlie Taylor and George Beavan and with “fresh legs” finally the Blues began to get at a home defence that perhaps were looking a little complacent. Jeffrey did well to turn his marker but his powerful shot was straight at the home custodian James Bittner, then a fine diagonal pass from Anwar Uddin found sub Richard Graham whose fine cross was headed inches wide by Crowther. Then after a run and cross by Crowther only two desperate blocks by the home defence kept out goal-bound efforts.
A hard night then for the Blues and looking at the stats they speak for themselves; Salisbury had 36 shots, 10 on target, 7 blocked the rest off kilter!
Report by Mike Jones
Thanks to Your Thurrock for the match report