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Havant & Waterlooville 2-2 Salisbury City
Blue Square Bet South (23.2.13)
Havant & Waterlooville 2
Whites’ team: Puddy, Wilson, Clarke, Dutton (c), Hart, Lewis, Wellard, Brett, R. Sinclair (Matthews, 91), Fitchett, White.
Subs not used: M. Clark and Udoji.
Scorer: Fitchett (47, 59).
SALISBURY City remain chasing a first away victory of the year after chucking away a two-goal lead at Westleigh Park.
A brace from Dan Fitchett just before the hour mark pulled Salisbury clear of Havant & Waterlooville.
The stinging strikes from the frontman deserved the three points themselves, but it didn’t pan out that way.
Substitute Perry Ryan bundled home a goalmouth scramble from Christian Nanetti to halve the deficit.
And as the 69th minute approached, Ryan sneaked behind the static Salisbury defence again and looped home an equaliser from the same supplier.
In the ten minutes of injury time added on, due to Scott Jones being knocked unconscious following a collision with Will Puddy, Salisbury continued to flurry forward in hope of restoring their advantage.
But ultimately a gritty performance didn’t reap rewards and the setback could prove detrimental to the sole promotion place they’ve been striving towards since the opening day of the season.
Once again Darrell Clarke had a threadbare squad, missing Chris McPhee (hamstring), Elliott Frear, Stuart Sinclair to injury and Rhys Baggridge was suspended.
Dan Fitchett and Ryan Brett were placed back in the starting XI and due to the circumstances Clarke could only name three substitutes.
In a meek start on the south coast, the visitors started brighter and soon got going against a young Havant side. As Brett kept Havant stopper Clark Masters on his toes, forcing a routine save.
The Whites remained in control and after rattling both uprights twice before the break, they deserved to lead.
Firstly, Rob Sinclair weaved his way past half-a-dozen white shirts and setup Jamie White, whose venomous strike struck the far post, before Sinclair’s glancing header ricocheted off the other post.
Salisbury, who last won on the road more at Eastbourne Borough on December 15, remained focused on the task and were suddenly on the verge of ending that run before the 60th minute.
Fitchett registered his first goal since New Year’s Day - drilling a low-hard shot in the bottom corner two minutes after the break.
And Fitchett found the same position again, reaching double figures in the league with a left-footed beauty.
But the deficit was reduced three minutes later as Ryan jabbed home a scruffy equalizer.
And Ryan was on hand to head home the leveller, punishing Salisbury for their wretched defending.
But in the 76th minute, the attention was diverted away from the football and all eyes were on Jones. After falling awkwardly following a clash with Puddy he was knocked unconscious for eight minutes and was rushed to hospital.
Once play had resumed, the Whites looked more perilous in front of goal but failed to convert chances and instead were handed a point, which has put them top of Conference South momentarily, as Welling United lost.
The Whites now have a double-header at the Ray Mac, starting with play-off chasing Weston-super-Mare on Saturday (3pm) and then welcome Basingstoke Town on Tuesday (7.45pm).