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Chelmsford City 2 Salisbury City 1
Blue Square Bet South
Chelmsford City 2 Salisbury 1
Whites: Puddy, Udoji, Dutton (c), Hart (Baggridge, 61), Brett, Lewis (D. Clarke, 70), McPhee, Clark, Sinclair, White, Fitchett.
Subs not used: Scott (gk), Hough, Roberts.
Scorer: Fitchett (7).
SALISBURY CITY surrendered their lead at the top as they slumped to their first defeat of the new campaign at Melbourne Park, writes Joel Holt.
The visitors flew out of the starting blocks and burst into a seven-minute lead after Dan Fitchett steered home Jamie White’s cross. But they were brought back down to earth when Anthony Church evened it up, scrambling home from close-range.
And the Whites’ afternoon ended in tatters in the 60th minute as Brian Dutton clipped the legs of Anthony Cook inside the area and Jamie Slabber stepped up to smash home the winner for the Clarets.
Full of confidence, after being unbeaten in their opening four games, the visitors got off to a dream start. On a rapid counter-attack, White played a clever one-two with Fitchett and the latter nodded home the return to register Salisbury’s first goal in the first half of the new season.
And the opening goalscorer was denied a huge chance to double City’s lead from the spot when he was wrestled to the floor by Justin Miller, but the referee shook his head and waved play on. The decision was the turning point and played a crucial part in what unfolded next.
The visitors were caught sleeping at the back and Craig Calver’s looming cross was hooked off the line by Stuart Sinclair in a compact box, but he could not prevent debutant Church from prodding home the equaliser inside 16 minutes.
In a well-contested opening, both sides had clear-cut chances to edge in-front. White speared a decent effort past a post and Slabber put a header off target. But it was the Clarets’ Calver whose looping cross nearly found the net as it rippled off the woodwork.
Disaster struck Salisbury in the 60th minute as Dutton’s mistimed challenge on Cook led to a penalty. Slabber calmly approached the spot and planted the ball into the bottom corner. Dutton then nearly redeemed himself after leaping to head a whisker away from the top corner.
With 20 minutes left on the clock, player-manager Darrell Clarke put himself into the mix again in the hope his side may salvage a point.
The visitors continued to throw numbers forward and Fitchett came close to mustering a leveller on two occasions, but two inviting low crosses were untouched at the far post.
Ryan Brett fired a stinging shot wide, and in the dying stages Ugo Udoji delivered a deep cross but Chris McPhee’s soaring header sailed over the top.
Clarke said: “I’m not going to be to harsh on my players. I thought we came to a side which will be pushing for a play-off spot and we were the better team.
“I don’t like talking about officials, but it’s a big changing point when Dan was denied a penalty when we were ahead.
“I said to the boys we’re going to get frustrating games like this but it’s the way we bounce back.”
The Whites are at home to Bath City on Tuesday.