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Salisbury City 3 Hitchin Town 2

Saturday, August 5 2006

Salisbury City lifted the Southern League Challenge Cup after an entertaining 3 - 2 win over Hitchin Town at The Raymond McEnhill Stadium.

The Canaries received an early boost when Chris Dillon passed a fitness test and was declared fit, along with Gavin Jaggard and Neil Pugh, both of whom had been doubtful for the game.

Hitchin started brightly but it was the home team who took an early lead after 8 minutes. Following a Hitchin attack, Salisbury quickly countered with an excellent passing movement. Paul Sales cut into the penalty area from the left, got to the bye line, cut back round Liam Folds and fired into the far corner.

Hitchin's reply was swift and just two minutes later Charlie Williams on the right wing hit a cross shot which caught Salisbury keeper, Ryan Clarke, off his line and dropped into the far corner of the net.

Both sides had chances to take the lead. Paul Taylor made an excellent save at Paul Sales feet as the forward ran in on goal whilst Hitchin had two free-kicks just outside the Salisbury area. Firstly Clarke saved easily from Mark Duckett's effort whilst Williams saw his free-kick fly just wide.

On 25 minutes the 2005/06 Southern League Champions regained their lead. Some good work on the right wing by Scott Bartlett resulted in a pin point cross for Matthew Tubbs to head past Taylor from six yards.

Hitchin though were in resilient mood and again their reply was swift. On 31 minutes a flowing passing move saw the in form David Deeney round Jon Beswetherick and slot the ball under Clarke for the second equaliser.

On 38 minutes Darren Salton's men found themselves behind for the third time when the dangerous Matthew Tubbs cut in from the left again and fired a rocket into the far corner of Taylor's goal.

Half time saw Tommy Hayes replace Gavin Jaggard.

Hitchin started the second half with some good passing movements but it was The Whites who looked most likely to score with the Hitchin defence being put under a considerable amount of pressure. Paul Taylor found himself the busier of the two keepers being forced into a full length diving save and regularly having to collect crosses under pressure. He also collected the first yellow card of the game when fouling a Salisbury player having rushed out of his goal to clear a Salisbury attack.

On 60 minutes Scott Cretton replaced Charlie Williams. This resulted in Neil Pugh moving from right back to right side midfield and Cretton slotting in at right back. Three minutes later Mark Bridge replaced Chris Dillon.

As the game entered the final 20 minutes Hitchin started to pressure the Salisbury goal and appeared to have scored a fortuitous equaliser as an under pressure Salisbury defender tried to head the ball back to Clarke, only to find the Salisbury keeper off his line. Clarke managed to grab the ball diving full length but his momentum took him and the ball over the line and into the back off the net.

The visiting players and fans joy was short lived as the linesman adjudged Mark Bridge offside and the 'goal' was disallowed.

Hitchin though we not ready to concede defeat to the Conference South new boys and for the last period of the game fought hard to find a third equaliser. Neil Pugh saw his 18 yard chip clear the bar whilst Tommy Hayes had a powerful volley blocked for a corner.

With time running out Mark Bridge beat the offside trap and ran towards goal down the right. Keeper Clarke raced off his line and clipped Bridge's foot just outside of the penalty area. This resulted in the Salisbury keeper receiving a yellow card.

The resulting free-kick saw a Salisbury defender force the ball into the side netting under pressure from Stuart Hammonds and with it Hitchin's chance of a late equaliser disappeared.

Although Darren Salton will have been disappointed not to have lifted the Southern League Challenge Cup, he will have taken many positives from the game and be pleased that his team will not be facing forwards of the quality of Paul Sales and Matthew Tubbs every week.

Hitchin Town: P. Taylor, Pugh, Duckett, Hammonds, Folds, Deeney, Williams (Cretton 60), Ross, Dillon (Bridge 63), Jaggard (Hayes 45), French





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