SALISBURY have opened up a healthy ten-point gap in the race for the second automatic promotion spot in the Evo-Stik South West.

Steve Claridge’s Whites claimed a massive 2-1 win at third-placed Evesham United yesterday – but victory came at a price in a controversial encounter at the Jubilee Stadium.

Salisbury lost new signing Luke Hopper to a calf injury early on before fellow striker Owen Howe was sent off - allegedly for pushing the referee - just past the half-hour, along with two Evesham players.

Robins skipper Linden Dovey saw straight red for a poor challenge on Elliot Wheeler and, in the aftermath of that incident, both Howe and Evesham’s Archie Haskayne got their marching orders.

Ten-man Whites took the lead on the stroke of the half-time whistle when Danny Young turned home Lewis Benson’s cross-shot.

They doubled that advantage ten minutes after the break with George Colson netting from the penalty spot after substitute Stuart Green had been fouled by Garyn Preen.

The nine-man hosts pulled one back when Matt Liddiard headed home Adam Mann’s corner, and Salisbury – backed by more than 100 travelling fans in a 357 crowd – missed several good chances in a nervy finale.

Two players have left Salisbury in recent days - Brandon Munday dual-signing for Sydenhams Premier outfit Shaftesbury to get some game time after injury and  winger Cory Simpson departing by mutual consent.

Simpson joined the Whites from league rivals Larkhall Athletic at the beginning of February, but manager Claridge confessed: “I think Cory found it a little bit different here to what he was used to and it hasn’t quite worked out for either party.

"He has to be up early with his work and the travelling from Bristol to Salisbury was takings its toll on him.

"Also, I couldn’t guarantee him a starting place and he’s had an offer closer to home. We’ve let him go so he can take that.”

Wimborne Town are up to fourth in the South West standings after a 1-0 win at Swindon Supermarine.

Marine had Callum Parsons sent off for a foul on Jack Lovell after 73 minutes and Wimborne took full advantage with an 80th-minute penalty winner from top gun Toby Holmes.

*Gosport Borough's scheduled home game against Kettering in the Evo-Stik South Premier was rained off as was Winchester City's Evo-Stik South West clash with table-topping Taunton Town.