EVER since Nick Holmes took over as boss of Salisbury, he has been combing the area for that most elusive of non-league footballers - the midfield general.

Now he has finally found him - in the no-nonsense shape of former Saint Tommy Widdrington.

The hard-nosed Geordie made his debut for Salisbury last Saturday, just days after playing his farewell game for Port Vale at Swindon in the Coca-Cola League 1.

Widdrington's impact was immediate as the Whites eased their Ryman Premier relegation fears with a morale-boosting 3-0 win at Northwood.

"I'm really pleased we got him," said Holmes. He's the midfield general I said I wanted all along.

"He's excellent - a real leader on the park. We've got a decent bunch of lads here and I think they were ready to be led and we saw the immediate effect of that last Saturday.

"Tommy's vocal too, which is good - providing you can understand his accent! I warned the lads they might struggle to interpret everything he says."

Defender Mat Jones also had a sound debut following his move from Winchester City and Salisbury have a third new signing waiting in the wings for tomorrow's tough home test against play-off chasing Hampton & Richmond Borough.

Richard Gillespie, who has rattled in 33 league and cup goals for Bashley this season, has joined on loan for the rest of the season.

Holmes said: "We've been interested in Richard for some time and this will give us a chance to look at him with a view to doing something long term."

If Salisbury do escape the drop, no one would be happier for them than Holmes's old Dell buddy Mark Dennis, director of football at promotion-seeking Eastleigh.

Although there was no love lost between the two sets of players in the recent league showdown at the Sparshatts Stadium, Dennis said: "I don't want Salisbury to go down.

"They're a big club with a great fan base and I've loved every minute of the local derbies against them.

"Without games like that, there's no passion. Nobody holds any grudges afterwards - all it does is fire us all up. I can't wait to go to their place later this month (March 28)."

Eastleigh, who have taken ten points from their last 12 to go fourth in the league, welcome ex-Saints midfielder Ryan Ashford back from suspension for tomorrow's trip to bottom-of-the-table Kingstonian.

Coach Nicky Banger said: "We're going to go into it in the same way we did against Yeading last week and be aggressive, organised and strong."