It was a good day all round as the Peacocks recorded their first ever win at the Raymond McEnhill Stadium. FA Cup meetings in 1997 and 2003 against predecessors Salisbury City had seen Town beaten which had been the same outcome in three of their four visits in the Southern League since 2016, with just a single point gained in 2018. However that hoodoo was finally put to rest as they battled to a crucial albeit ugly victory in the race for promotion to the National League South.
Jared Lewington returned to the starting line-up in place of Dan Sullivan, the only change from the previous game at Harrow which had signalled the end of the Peacocks’ superb run of twelve successive competitive victories. Getting back into the winning groove was therefore important to maintain hopes of Step 2 football next season although the early action on a chilly afternoon in Wiltshire was mundane with nothing much happening at all. A Calvin Brooks’ cross was met by Josh Fawole’s overhead attempt which Will Buse punched clear in the home side’s first real attack while it was 16 minutes before Town posted something at the other end, Lewington turning on the edge of the box, but his shot lacked power and was easily gathered by keeper Patrick O’Flaherty.
Opportunities remained scarce as the game plodded along. Ross Stearn found Toby Holmes out wide but the ball into the middle picked out no yellow shirt while the Whites were similarly restricted. Fawole lifted an effort forward which was collected by Buse and a tricky run from Antonio Diaz past a couple of men ended with a blocked shot before Devon Arnold was found in space on the right, his cross being safely held by Buse.
The Peacocks then provided the best two efforts of the first period as the interval beckoned. Stearn’s knockdown was curled agonizingly wide by Jay Foulston’s half-volley and then Lewington fired a shot against the post from 12 yards four minutes before the break after Nick Grimes’ driven cross had been cleared to him. Fawole headed wide from a Charlie Davis cross on a late Salisbury break to conclude a forgettable first half.
Stearn fired well wide from distance when the action resumed before Town grabbed the lead after 56 minutes. A Lloyd James free kick was delivered in from the left, Jake Wannell glanced his header off the post and the ball rebounded into the net off Fawole under pressure from Ben Adelsbury. A scrappy goal but they all count and just the tonic Town needed. However the celebrations were short lived when the Whites were awarded a dubious penalty just three minutes later. Diaz won a challenge with Zac Smith before falling down in the box akin to a ballet dancer being hit by a lettuce leaf. Referee Harris pointed to the spot and Davis rifled home down the middle to bring the sides level.
Backed by a vocal travelling support who outsang the home crowd, the Peacocks wasted no time in regaining the advantage. Appeals for a handball from Lewington’s header were ignored while Holmes’ effort was blocked before defensive rock Wannell became the hero at the other end with the winner from another set piece, a James corner from the left being buried by his header at the far post on 63 minutes.
Dan Sullivan immediately replaced Holmes as Town dug in to make sure there would be no more alarms. A spell of pressure from the hosts featured Darren Mullings whose shot was parried by Buse, then Mullings again made progress in the box, but his effort hit a body. The visitors were defending well though and might have added to their lead at the opposite end. One attack ended with a succession of efforts being blocked before Joe Budd, who had replaced Stearn, was brought down, Foulston striking the free kick over the top. James’ curling ball in from the right then found Lewington who knocked it past the defender but sliced the wrong side of the post. The Whites had one last throw of the dice in stoppage time when Sam Heal’s cross was cleared to Brooks whose strike was deflected over for a corner which the Peacocks’ dealt with to confirm the victory. It wasn’t pretty but results are king as the business end of the season well and truly starts to ramp up, and with both Hayes & Yeading and Metropolitan Police losing, it proved a satisfying start to the month.
Taunton: Will Buse, Jay Foulston, Ben Adelsbury, Nick Grimes (captain), Jake Wannell, Lloyd James, Toby Holmes (Dan Sullivan 65), Joe Guest, Ross Stearn (Joe Budd 76), Zac Smith, Jared Lewington. Unused subs: Ross Staley, Ioan Richards
Salisbury: Patrick O’Flaherty, Charlie Davis, Josh Sommerton, Josh Wakefield (Sam Heal 63), Calvin Brooks, Charlie Kennedy, Abdulai Baggie (Lewys Twamley 82), Darren Mullings (captain), Josh Fawole, Devon Arnold (Owen Taylor 90), Antonio Diaz. Unused subs: Alfie Hawke, Marcus Beauchamp
Referee: Adrian Harris (Chichester)
Referee’s Assistant 1: Richard Sargeant (Bognor Regis)
Referee’s Assistant 2: Nicholas Mason (Fareham)
“It was a massive win, we’ve just got to keep on doing what we’re doing…..” watch the Match Reaction of Rob Dray and Matt Villis on Peacocks TV HERE
Match highlights can be seen on Peacocks TV HERE
Albert Goodman MOM
Jake Wannell receives the Taunton Town Man Of The Match award from Phil Parsons, head coach of Tone Youth Wasps Under 12’s who were mascots for the Merthyr game