Salisbury 1 Evesham United 0
Southern League Division One South & West
EVESHAM can count themselves a little unlucky to return empty-handed from the Raymond McEnhill Stadium on the opening day of their league campaign on Saturday.
Salisbury substitute Tommy Wright came off the bench to bundle home the winning goal four minutes from time to give the Whites the perfect start after their promotion from the Sydenhams Wessex League last season.
It was tough on a depleted Evesham side who battled courageously in scorching conditions and deserved at least a point for their efforts.
United could only name one recognised defender so manager Paul Collicott drafted in former Swindon Supermarine centre half Ross Adams, who was one of five debutants in the Red & Whites starting line-up.
Salisbury, managed by former Football League striker Steve Claridge, began at a high tempo but caused few alarms for United’s makeshift defence.
Indeed, it was Will Britt, who recently joined the home side from Premier League Southampton, who was drawn into making the game’s first save from Paul Fahy’s drive to the keeper’s near post.
Claridge’s side then enjoyed a brief spell of pressure as Elliot Wheeler headed over and then Kevin Sawyer – who was playing against one of his former clubs – denied Christian Oxlade-Chamberlain who is on loan from Portsmouth.
Just before the half hour, United manufactured their best opportunity of the first half when Fahy found himself one-on-one with Britt but screwed his shot just wide.
Ashley Williams tested Britt before half time when the keeper saw the ball late but managed to gather low down to his left.
There was drama five minutes into the second half when defender George Colson received a second yellow card for impeding Lewis Binns, leaving Salisbury to play the remainder of the game with ten men.
However, United failed to take advantage of having an extra man and never seriously tested Britt again.
The best chance fell to Sam Pearson but the United substitute – unmarked six yards out – contrived to head the ball over with only Britt in his sights.
Sawyer again showed his class when he pushed aside Claudio Herbert’s drive after the Salisbury winger had raced clear and looked certain to score.
The home fans were celebrating though when Wright won the game with a close-range header from Oxlade-Chamberlain’s knockdown.
United forced a succession of late corners but failed to trouble Britt and it was the Salisbury bench and supporters who were celebrating at the final whistle.
Evesham will bid to put their first victory of the campaign on the board when they host Didcot Town on Tuesday (7.45pm).