Chelmsford City boss Glenn Pennyfather admitted he was âstunnedâ by his teamâs late collapse to Salisbury City which saw a two-goal lead on 85 minutes converted into defeat, claiming missed chances costs his side who should have put the game to bed long before that at Melbourne Stadium.
The Clarets had moved in front through Jamie Slabber on 6 minutes then Cliff Akurang on the stroke of half time. But a Charlie Griffin penalty five minutes from time, which also saw Chelmsfordâs Ben Nunn dismissed, triggered an incredible fight-back which saw the visitors rattle in two more courtesy of Marvin Williams and Abdulai Bell-Baggie in the 92nd and 96th minutes respectively.
Dover Athletic and Basingstoke Town won elsewhere, meaning Dover are two points behind fifth-placed Chelmsford with two games each left to play, while Basingstoke have a five-point gap to make up with four fixtures remaining. Pennyfather will now be eagerly awaiting Basingstokeâs midweek result at Havant & Waterlooville, where dropped points would put the play-off chase back into Cityâs hands.
âWeâve dominated the game,â Glenn reacted. âWe were 2-0 up and should have been more goals in front, but weâre cruising. Theyâre not causing us any problems whatsoever. Then there was one ball forward and itâs snowballed from there - theyâve robbed us. Iâve seen some things in football, but right now Iâm devastated.â
Glenn recalled Adam Tann to the centre of defence as Captain, replacing Justin Miller, and he continued: âI donât think we did much wrong today but the sending off ignited it all and left us in a precarious position. Thereâs no time for us to feel sorry for ourselves, football doesnât allow you to do that and Iâve said that to the players. Whatâs done is done and we canât do anything about it.â
The game started positively for the hosts, who raced into the lead within 6 minutes. An intelligent knock-on from Ricky Modeste on the right rolled in Slabber, who was able to slip home past goalkeeper Willem Puddy from ten yards. They continued to apply pressure and could have added to that advantage in the 15th minute when an Aiden Palmer free kick dropped to Cliff Akurang, who headed wide.
At the other end, Clarets goalkeeper Stuart Searle needed two attempts to brilliantly grasp the ball with Marvin Williams looking dangerous, though Chelmsford remained in charge and Akurang got Ishmael Welshâs 20th-minute looping cross ahead of Puddy to nod into the net, only for the Assistant Refereeâs flag to deny him.
A far more clear cut chance was presented to the striker a minute later when Salisburyâs defenders dallied on the edge of their own six-yard and Akurang nipped in behind them, but he somehow blasted wide. However, he atoned for that error when Craig Parker burst forward two minutes into stoppage time and the resulting ricochets landed to Akurang, who couldnât miss with the goal gaping from a couple of yards.
After the interval the procession continued, and Parker received a pass from Akurang on 50 minutes before passing between defenders to Slabber on the inside right. His low drive across Puddy was expertly finger-tipped around the post by the diving Salisbury âkeeper. The corner which followed saw Akurang head onto the top of the crossbar and over, while the same manâs 62nd-minute snap-shot was straight at Puddy.
Salisbury were building from the back with spells of possession which rarely penetrated Chelmsfordâs final third, and Dan Fitchettâs ten-yarder which stung the palms of Searle on 74 minutes was an isolated attack. But their fortunes changed when a long ball saw Ben Nunn bring Fitchett down as the last defender to receive a red card. Griffin bolted the resulting penalty into the bottom corner.
Suddenly that 85th-minute goal changed the game and, in the second minute of injury time, Chelmsfordâs worst nightmares were realised. The ball had escaped Williams as he darted into the box but a mis-communication between defenders meant he could continue his run and tap into an unguarded net.
In the build-up to that goal, Chelmsfordâs Mark Haines suffered an injury which meant he had to leave the field so his side finished with nine men. And, when the home team didnât think matters could get much worse, substitute Bell-Baggie took possession outside the box and adjusted his body to launch a curling, dipping strike into the far top corner and seal a remarkable result for Salisbury.
Glenn highlighted the fixtures Chelmsford have left to claim points from, adding: âWeâve got two massive games coming up against Eastleigh and Woking, who wonât give us an easy ride. The other sides have got to win their games and weâre now relying on Basingstoke dropping points. Weâve shot ourselves in the foot today.â