Salisbury 2-1 Didcot
Report by Stewart Unsworth
Didcot’s promotion hopes took a serious hit when they were narrowly beaten by Salisbury at the Raymond McEnhill Stadium on Saturday, a result that confirmed the hosts’ promotion to the Southern League Premier Division. The Railwaymen competed well in a match between two good teams at this level, but a hotly disputed penalty awarded in the final 15 minutes proved to be the difference.
Neither Salisbury’s Stuart Green’s overhead bicycle kick nor Didcot’s Ollie Thomas’ glancing header missed the target by much as both teams strove for the early advantage. The Whites manufactured the next opportunity and it proved to be telling. Eddie Perrett’s long throw was flicked on by Kane O’Keefe and Green headed in from close range.
The Railwaymen refused to be knocked off track by the setback and within ten minutes had levelled the scores. Felipe Barcelos used his pace to force an error by centre-back Rhys Baggridge and from the ensuing one-on-one situation slotted the ball easily past keeper Charlie Searle.
Diddy keeper Leigh Bedwell denied both Eddie Perrett and Luke Hopper to preserve parity at the break, but Salisbury came out with intent after the restart and soon had their Oxfordshire counterparts pinned back. Thomas Whelan whistled a ball across goal that no-one in a white shirt could convert and Green was thwarted by firstly Bedwell and then the left-hand post as Salisbury racked up the goalscoring opportunities. The game was heading towards the last ten minutes when the Wiltshire side were given a gilt-edged chance to take the lead. Lewis Benson drove into the area whereupon he crashed to the ground after trying to evade a tackle. The referee adjudged a penalty should be awarded despite considerable grief from angry Didcot players that no foul had been committed. Defender George Coulson assumed responsibility and his spot-kick sent Bedwell the wrong way and nestled into the corner.
Callum McNish saw a shot from just outside the area parried behind by Searle and George Reid had the game’s final chance when he manoeuvred himself into a direct confrontation with the Salisbury shot-stopper, but the Whites keeper pulled off an excellent block to deflect the goal-bound effort over the crossbar.
The defeat leaves Didcot needing to win their last three matches to give themselves a fair chance of making the play-offs and even then they need favourable outcomes from other games. Ironically, Saturday’s conquerors are the team Didcot will be relying on the most, as Salisbury’s last two matches are against play-off rivals Bideford and Bristol Manor Farm. However, the Railwaymen have to do the business on the pitch before worrying about anything else and Tuesday’s home game with Larkhall Athletic is a must-win fixture.
Didcot: Bedwell; Jeacock; McNeill; Hayden; Cattell; Learoyd; Agyakwa (Reid 66); Barder; Barcelos; Thomas (McNish 56); Williams (Humphries 76).
Subs not used: Woodley; Joyce.