Steve Claridge has seen most things in football in a playing career that stretches back more than 30 years.
But the Salisbury manager has probably not seen a chairman’s dog hold up play following his very own contribution on the pitch – until now.
This ‘only in non-league football’ incident aside, Claridge got to see several youth-team players, trialists and players from the first team squad put through their paces against spirited opposition from Chichester City at Oaklands Park in a game that finished 3-3.
One trialist for the Wiltshire side, Flavio Tavares, who bagged a classy hat-trick, would have certainly caught Claridge’s eye. Tavares’ first free-kick was something else and footage of this and the dog’s pitch invasion towards the end of the game have been attracting views on social media, although it’s the bulldog that seems to be stealing the show.
It was the home side who took the lead in the third minute. Scott Jones, starting his first game after missing the last six weeks of the previous season, controlled a Ruben French pass with a deft first touch and tucked the ball away calmly.
The No9 looked sharp during his run-out for an hour or so and posed a constant threat, especially in the air, getting on to crosses regularly in the first 15 minutes. It wasn’t all Jones – centre-back Ellis Martin flashed an effort from outside the box narrowly over the bar.
City keeper Ant Ender had to be on his toes a couple of times.
Despite missing Josh Clack, Max Thoms and Kieran Hartley, City looked much the better side and carved out three chances for Jones in five minutes. First Jones was played in but couldn’t beat the keeper from an awkward angle. Then a minute later a neat exchange between Jones and Dave Herbert opened up the visitors’ defence, only for Jones to fire over. Next George Way, returning for another spell at Oaklands, set up Jones but the City marksman, who bagged more than 30 goals last campaign, dragged his shot wide.
After constant Chi pressure Salisbury equalised in the 29th minute. Tavares picked himself up after being fouled just outside the box and curled an outstanding free kick round the wall and just out of reach of Ender.
At the interval Chichester manager Miles Rutherford made several changes. Dan Hegarty and the impressive Rob Hutchings, a signing from Wick, had chances and debutant Hutchings put City ahead again in the 52nd minute with a nice finish after a fine flowing move down the right and some smart thinking and a step-over from Jones.
In fact Hutchings could have had another a minute later but his shot drifted away.
The home side’s lead lasted barely five minutes when a left-footed cracker from Tavares fizzed through the air and past Alex Hards, who had replaced Ender.
Jones rattled the Salisbury bar and latched on to the rebound, only to be denied by the keeper this time. Then the visitors forged a couple of opportunities with Hards pushing a bullet header round his post and having to get down to a fierce drive.
Salisbury’s third was another direct free-kick from Tavares that somehow crept under the City keeper.
Harry Williams deservedly levelled for the City with two minutes to go with a well-taken set-piece.
Chichester first team coach Danny Potter said: “The result wasn’t the most important thing for us. We’re most interested in the players’ performances.
“For the senior players, it’s all about where their fitness levels are. For new signings, it’s all about how they fit in with the system and the current squad. For trialists, it’s all about their own performance at this level. And for younger players, it’s about stepping up and getting used to senior football.
“That said, we are pleased with the 3-3 draw with Salisbury. It was great to welcome back Scott Jones. Rob Hutchings impressed on his debut and Harry Williams took his goal well. A draw was a fair result.
“We’ve been fortunate in having so many good sides in our pre-season fixtures. We look forward to welcoming Bognor to Oaklands in what will be our toughest pre-season friendly.”
Chichester host Brockenhurst tomorrow (Fri 14).
City: Ender, Sharp, Smith, Way, French, Martin, Hegarty, Jones, Herbert, Hutchings. Subs: Hards, Hooker, Lee, Ndlovu, Pashley, Barry.
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