Pitching In Southern League Premier Division South
Saturday 5th August 2023
Salisbury 1 Beaconsfield Town 0
The Raymond McEnhill Stadium
Ram of the match: Ben Van Aurich
Beaconsfield, perhaps with some justification, will point to an erratic refereeing performance as the reason they were denied all three points in their league opener at Salisbury on Saturday.
Whilst all but the most one-eyed can have some sympathy with that assessment, it's also fair to say that The Rams created enough opportunities to put the game beyond their hosts well before the late intervention of the officials.
Beaconsfield traveled to the Ray Mac stadium for the opener last season but whilst the fixture was the same much has changed at both clubs since last August. Very few familiar faces remain, on the field or in the dugout. Even the playing surface was altered, still grass but considerably narrower and shorter than The Ram's last visit.
The dimensions and the front edge of Storm Antoni, with its fifty-mile-an-hour gusts, made for a somewhat nondescript opening. Both teams maintained their shape and discipline and tried to come to terms with the gusty conditions. The hosts with the wind at their backs took a direct approach, working the ball across the back four before launching long diagonals for their wide players to fight for seeking to exploit second balls.
Their attack had no real focal point and The Rams defence was seldom troubled.
At the other end, the partnership of Elliott Buchanan and Asher Yearwood were busy and combative but well marshaled by the home defence.
James Dobson was lively on the left and involved in most things that were good about The Rams opening quarter. He and the outstanding Ben Van Aurich formed a good early partnership on the left with the young full-back giving every indication of taking to the game at this level.
Neither keeper was extended or very much involved until Beaconsfield registered the first shot on target in the 22nd minute.
Ram's Right back Ibrahim 'Ibby' Sankoh's overlapping burst was stopped by a foul and Dobson switched wings to whip in an inswinging effort from the touchline 30 yards out. His well-delivered ball evaded everyone, Including Josh Gould in the Salisbury goal on its path, skipping off the turf six yards out and bouncing high into the net.
At that point the Storm Antoni arrived with a vengeance, the heavens opened and already difficult conditions deteriorated for most of the remainder of the half during which the hosts mustered their first effort on target a routine effort straight at Sam Beasant in The Ram's goal who made a comfortable save.
As conditions abated Beaconsfield almost doubled the advantage. Elliott Buchanan picking out Asher Yearwood whose dipping header brought the best from Gould who fingertipped it onto his bar and away to safety.
Having weathered the storm the Rams made it to the calm of the dressing room with their lead intact.
Half Time 1-0
With the wind at their backs Beaconsfield started the second period quickly. Slick inter-passing set Dan Bradshaw free down the right but he was unable to pick out a team mate with his cross and the chance went begging.
The hosts reorganised at the break. Withdrawing their right back and Introducing more attacking width. Though without any physical width in terms of real estate to play on the pattern of the first half was largely repeated.
Salisbury dominated possession but The Rams retained their shape and discipline and were content to allow their hosts to play football in front of them, closing the door well, before any real threat on Beasant's goal developed, pressing with pace and energy from Bradshaw and the returning Sam Granville. Always carrying the threat to Salisbury on the counter.
The introduction of Jonathan Hippolyte and Jacob Gardiner Smith added to the pace up front and exposed the home defence.
When Granville drove through the back four and lifted an angled effort past the advancing Gould it seemed that The Rams had srengthened their grip on the game. It was not to be though as the midfielders effort fell agonisingly just wide of the far post.
It was the 70th minute before Beasant was tested. Ibby Sankoh was adjudged to have fouled Charlie Gunson on the wing and picked up a yellow card for his trouble.
The free kick was gathered by Beasant retreating towards his line as he held the ball in front of him to avoid carrying it in Dan Fitchett bundled the ball out of his hands and into the net his first significant contribution of the afternoon. Not a great one.
Moments later Theophile cut in from the right and rolled the ball across the six-yard box where Granville again met it on the stretch but could not hit the target. It looked a bad miss but in truth no one else on either side could live with Theophile's pace and with Seventy plus minutes in his legs Granville did well to even get there.
In the next counter the referee, Mr Walker, stuck his thumb firmly on the scale in favour of the home side.
Ibby Sankoh on the overlap stood his defender up, knocked the ball past him and set off in pursuit the defender stuck out a leg, there was contact and Sankoh went down. The defender then made the reflex involuntary gesture universally accepted as a distress signal, raising both hands in a gesture of claimed innocence.
Mr Walker took the view that Sankoh had dived,immediately issued a second yellow and the resulting Red.
The decision was harsh in normal circumstances but given the amount of very clear simulation on show in the home sides attacking third all afternoon, all of which went unchecked, It was at the very best an inconsistent application of the laws.
The Ram's now faced the final 10 minutes plus stoppage time down to 10 men but again for all Salisbury's huff and puff Beasant was not extended until the 97th minute. Ben Van Aurich appeared to have brought his opponent down on the edge of the box with momentum and extra effort carrying the player into the box.
In the view of the Beaconsfield defence and apparently the linesman contact was outside the area. Mr Walker thought different, overruled his assistant and pointed to the spot.
Justice seemed to have been done when Fitchett sent his penalty towards the middle of the goal and Beasant diving to his right stuck out his trailing left leg to deflect the ball to safety. Celebrations were short-lived though as the linesman deemed Beasant had left his line early.
Salisbury skipper Sido Jom Bati stepped up to send Beasant the wrong way.
In the final analysis Beaconsfield will be disappointed to only take a point from a game they had within their grasp and were managing comfortably until the late intervention of the man in Black. They had ample opportunity to render Mr Walkers influence inconsequential though. Salisbury were there for the taking on the counter attack in the second half but some poor decisions in possession and lack of composure saw them fail to kill the game off.
There is not much that Jon Underwood and his squad can do about the standard of officiating but time and more game experience together will surely bring about necessary improvements in the rest as relationships and understandings grow throughout the squad.
On a positive note they left the Ray Mac with one point more than they garnered from the corresponding fixture last season and now head back to Hollways Park for the home opener against Merthyr Town, next Saturday 12th August kick off 3pm.
Come on you Rams!
Images © Neale Blackburn Photography 2023