Holmes 45

BRAVE Portland went agonisingly close to earning a replay against Salisbury at the Weyline Stadium but in the end a solitary Toby Holmes strike seconds before the half-time whistle was enough to take the Whites through to the third qualifying round of the FA Cup.

The Blues had more than matched their two-leagues higher opponents throughout the opening period but were undone by a moment of quality from Holmes in first half stoppage time.

And although the hosts edged the second half with a spirited display, they couldn't quite find the equaliser their endeavour richly deserved, as their best chance of the game fell to Jamie Beasley who was denied by a terrific save from Arsenal academy keeper Tom Smith ten minutes from time.

As early as the first minute the Whites went close to netting an opener when George Colson headed a Lewis Benson centre just wide but the impressive Ed Bastick, who suffered a nasty knock to the head two minutes later, recovered well to keep tabs on Benson as he won two duels in quick succession with the tricky winger to help his side grow into the game.

Then, on 18 minutes, the Blues conjured their first big chance themselves when a long diagonal free-kick found Bailey Rowe who couldn't quite bundle the ball home, but this seemed to give United the belief they needed which sparked a promising period of play.

Two minutes later Ben Morris hit a 25-yarder straight at Smith, just before a long ball into the right channel by Bastick unnerved the visiting keeper enough that he had to charge to the touchline to head the ball out of play.

Moments later the Whites threatened from a Benson free-kick that just eluded Darren Mullings thanks to the Blues rearguard who were defending well in numbers, just before a deep Beasley centre couldn't quite pick out Morris at the other end.

However, in the six minutes before the break, Salisbury began to find their attacking momentum and the Blues survived two big scares.

First, an in-swinging Benson corner caused chaos but amazingly didn't cross the line before being eventually cleared, and then former Terra Warren Bentley sent Holmes through and the lethal striker was found wanting as his shot was well blocked by Steve Boore.

Rowe then span his marker brilliantly on the edge of the box but couldn't get his shot away before the last action of the half brought the game's only goal.

The Blues were in need of some half-time respite when a high ball from the right side was neatly chested down by Holmes who stroked past Boore from just inside the area and there was barely time to take the centre.

Despite this cruel setback the Blues fought for all they were worth to stay in the cup in a stirring second half performance that should have brought more reward.

The early exchanges were largely played out in the visitors' half and two chances arrived either side of the hour mark.

Firstly, a slick passing move on the edge of the Salisbury area ended with Rowe's daisycutter easily gathered by Smith, and then Morris' drilled effort was charged down.

Moments later it looked like the Blues would be back on terms but Rowe's close range effort was blocked following good work from Beasley down the left flank.

In the 72nd minute, Boore had to be alert to tip over an acute angle strike from Shaquille Hippolyte-Patrick before the hosts looked certain to get their equaliser ten minutes from time.

Josh Williams began the move that saw Rowe work the ball to the byeline where he pulled the ball back to Beasley who smashed the ball goalwards from six yards only to see Smith pull off a magnificent save to deny Portland a replay.

Late on Rowe showed great close control again to fend off three Whites' defenders but his tired final shot failed to trouble Smith before a last ditch Ryan McKechnie free-kick came to nothing and Salisbury had, somewhat fortuitously, just got themselves over the line.

Blues: Boore, Bastick, Clarke, Williams, L King, McKechnie, Morris (Stewart 73), Buckler, Symes, Rowe, Beasley (Cox 80). Subs not used: Godfrey, Hutchinson, Halloran, Green, Hereka.

Salisbury: Smith, Colson, Sommerton, Dawson, Amankwaah, Oseni, Benson, Mullings (Rayfield 77), Holmes (Willard 70), Bentley (Fitchett 70), Hippolyte-Patrick. Subs not used: Benfield, Young, Wheeler.

Attendance: 534

Match Sponsors: Weymouth Precision Engineers Ltd
Man of Match Sponsor: Jake Richmond Bathroom Fittings
Match Ball Sponsor: Jake Richmond Ceramic Tiling
Programme Sponsor: Weymouth FC Cafe. 
Mascots: Jack Pearson and Leo Rowe