Match Reporter: Andy Giblin
Unibond League First Division North
It’s not the first time this season that Salford City have been denied a deserved reward through ill-luck, but after this brave performance on the ground of league leaders Colwyn Bay, Salford’s players, staff and supporters will be especially disappointed.
The North Wales side hadn’t lost a league match since the opening day of the season when FC Halifax Town visited Llanelian Road to secure an impressive 3-0 win. Since then Bay have won 7 and drawn two league games so struggling Salford’s task was a considerable one.
Manager Paul Wright made several changes to the side that lost heavily at Trafford last Tuesday, with three players making their debuts for the club. A re-shaped defence saw Liam Foster given a start at right back whilst Darren Hockenhull partnered skipper Carl Ruffer in the centre, with Russ Courtney dropped to the bench. Alex Mortimer took the left back berth as usual.
In midfield Rhodri Giggs reverted to his left wing role whilst new signing Craig Mahon (signed from Barrow) took the wide right position - Ged Murphy and Haydn Eames played together in the centre.
There was a completely new strike force on display, with ex-Bury starlet Domain Rouse partnered by tall centre forward John McAliskey who counts Mansfield and Huddersfield amongst his former clubs.
The game kicked off and Salford looked lively and confident right from the whistle. Certainly there was little early indication of which side was top of the league as the visitors knocked the ball around well, looking for openings. The new lads were playing a full part, with Rouse looking to have bags of ability whilst strike partner McAliskey held the ball up well and closed down Colwyn defenders in determined fashion.
City almost carved out an opportunity in the 8h minute when Rhodri Giggs sent Rouse clear on the right, and he played a great ball in for McAliskey only for the move to be curtailed by the linesman’s flag.
Early encouragement for Salford, but it was Colwyn who produced the game’s first good chance in the 9th minute. Josh Macaughley did well to play a cross in from the left and Rob Hopley rose highest to make the header. Fortunately for the Ammies, keeper Andy Robertson was alert to the danger and was able to push the effort around the post for a corner.
Two minutes later Salford’s forward line clicked into gear to exert some serious pressure on the Colwyn Bay goal. Craig Mahon embarked upon a jinking right wing run past two defenders, only to be stopped in his tracks by a foul. Alex Mortimer ‘s subsequent free kick was cleared but only as far as the nippy Mahon who picked up the ball wide on the right. From the line he played a deep cross to the far post that was just a little too high for McAliskey and he could only drop his header wide of Chris Sanna’s goal.
Salford’s movement up front was causing Bay’s backline plenty of problems, and in the 16th minute the visitors took the lead with a debut goal from Rouse. Alex Mortimer curled his right flank corner into the danger area and Rouse was on hand to steer the ball past Sanna from close range.
City have often looked vulnerable this season just after scoring, and one minute after this goal Bay’s young loan signing Macaughley found himself in space inside the Salford box. He snatched at his shot somewhat, sending the ball well over Robertson’s bar but it was a reminder for Salford of the home side’s ability to create chances.
In fairness though, Salford’s defence looked to be coping with Bay’s attacks fairly comfortably, and it was to be the visitors who created the game’s next chance. Mahon was doing well on his right flank and in the 21st minute he cut inside and curled a decent left footed shot that was heading inside the far post before Sanna scampered across his line to make the stop.
The home side were looking most dangerous from set pieces, and they almost forced an equaliser from a 25th minute corner. Louis Corrigan curled his left-footed right flank cross to the far post and central defender Tim Brandreth got there first but was disappointed to see his six yard header clear the bar by some distance.
Three minutes later Bay tried the same trick, and again it almost worked for them. This time Corrigan’s corner was met by a Colwyn head but the ball cannoned off Ammies defender Darren Hockenhull and out for a corner.
Salford’s forays forward had become less frequent as Colwyn slowly racked up the pressure on Robertson’s goal but Rouse did have an opportunity on the half hour. He picked the ball up wide on the right and cut inside before trying his luck from at least 35 yards, but his ambitious attempt lacked both pace and direction.
Just one minute later Colwyn striker Rob Hopley beat Carl Ruffer’s challenge wide on the right but Salford’s skipper did well to recover and did enough to pressure Hopley into a weak cross that Robertson was able to smother.
As the half time break approached Colwyn stepped up their efforts to notch an equaliser, and although City defended doggedly they were indebted to keeper Robertson who produced a top class save in the 39th minute. The ball had been fizzing about inside Salford’s box when a partial clearance found its way to Bay substitute Anthony Sheehan outside the area. He had time and space, and his 25 yard shot seemed destined to find its way inside the post before Robertson flung himself to his left to tip the effort onto the post and away to safety. It looked a goal from the moment the ball left Sheehan’s foot, but Robertson had pulled off an impressive and memorable stop.
In the last minute of the half Salford spurned a glorious chance to extend their lead following a neat counter-attack prompted by Rouse’s incisive break on the left. He played a pass to Mortimer who in turned rolled the ball into the path of Ged Murphy, inside the Bay box and on the left. With a clear sight of goal in front of him the Salford midfielder took his eye off the ball for a split second and played a classic ‘fresh air’ shot , allowing the Bay defenders to clear the danger.
A good half for the Ammies, who’d largely matched their top-of-the-table opponents and established a narrow lead to protect during the second half.
HALF TIME :
COLWYN BAY 0, SALFORD CITY 1
As expected Bay came out looking fired up for the second half, and they almost made a breakthrough in the 49th minute. Robertson failed to hold on to a tricky cross and the ball fell kindly for Eddie Jebb. Fortunately for Salford he couldn’t make good contact with the bouncing ball and his first time effort screwed well over the bar.
Sixty second later Hopley tried his luck with a 20 yard effort, but Robertson was equal to it and made a comfortable stop.
In the 52nd minute a lobbed pass into the box caused confusion between Robertson and Hockenhull and as the ball pinged around the six yard box Sheehan almost took advantage of the chance before the ball was somehow scrambled clear.
Despite the home side’s pressure Salford were always looking to hit on the break, and they almost grabbed a second goal in the 53rd minute. Mahon played a neat pass inside to Giggs and he tried to lift the ball over the advancing Sanna only to see the keeper pluck the chance out of the air.
Four minutes later Jebb won the ball well in midfield, but with options open to him decided to try his luck from 25 yards only to see the shot fly high and wide of Robertson’s goal.
The ex-Cammell Laird man was to have more success with his next contribution to his side’s attacking efforts. Just one minute later Jebb was played into space on the left and this time unselfishly pulled a low cross back into the box. Salford defended desperately to block Macaughley's effort near to the line, but the ball fell kindly for Jebb back on the left and maybe 8 yards out. He hit a powerful low shot that evaded the sprawling Hockenhull and found its way inside Robertson’s right hand post despite the keeper’s best efforts to stop the ferocious effort on his line.
The equaliser encouraged the home side to pour forward in search of the win, and they almost edged themselves ahead just three minutes late. Murphy conceded a free kick 25 yards from goal in the inside right channel and Corrigan’s goal-bound attempt produced another fine save from Robertson. The Salford keeper dived to his left to push the effort wide of his left hand post when it had looked likely to make the top corner.
In the 64th minute Salford’s defence was disrupted by an injury to Hockenhull, received during another Colwyn Bay attack. Macaughley tore forward on the right, but seemed to foul Hockenhull as the pair approached the line. With the Salford centre half down and injured Macaughley cut back and evaded a challenge before trying a 20 yard shot that went wide of Robertson’s left hand post. In recent matches some fussy refereeing had seen free-kicks awarded for the most innocuous of challenges but the officials saw fit to wave play on after this incident.
Hockenhull was replaced by Russell Courtney for the last 25 minutes of the match, a like-for-like switch at the back.
In the 67th minute a neat Colwyn move involving Sheehan and Ian Sheridan almost set up the lively Macaughley again, this time from close range. With the goal at his mercy the ball wouldn’t quite settle for him and he could only poke his effort over a relieved Robertson’s bar.
Following this concerted spell of Colwyn pressure, Salford regained their lead in the 68th minute somewhat against the run of play. Substitute Martyn Andrews had only replaced Ged Murphy seconds before when he lobbed an intelligent ball forward from the half way line that had the Bay rearguard retreating. Rouse controlled the pass well, muscled his way past a defender and flicked the ball wide of the advancing Sanna before rolling the ball into the empty net.
A great goal for the debut striker, and his second of the match.
For a little while it seemed that Rouse’s excellent strike had taken the steam out of the home side’s attacks and the Ammies were able to venture forwards a little more themselves. In the 73rd minute Mortimer’s cross from the right found Rouse inside the box and left of centre…with the ball falling a little behind him he tried an acrobatic overhead attempt that thumped into the turf before just clearing Sanna’s crossbar. It takes confidence and ability to try something like that, and Rouse seems to have both in plentiful supply.
Colwyn Bay haven’t made it to the top of the league by accident however, and they regrouped to apply further pressure on the Salford goal. Just after Rouse’s latest opportunity Corrigan curled a free kick – left footed, from the right – towards the far post and Robertson did well to drop onto Hopley’s downwards header.
The Ammies did seem resolute at the back, and as the match entered its final ten minutes it began to look as if they might nick a very impressive result indeed. Colwyn possession was failing to carve out more than the occasional half-chance at this stage, although Robertson did need two attempts to claim a low 35 yard effort from Bay’s Steve Aspinall eight minutes from time.
You can't count your chickens following Salford, and a three minute spell was to turn the game on its head.
With time running out for the home side the lively Jebb again tried his luck from 25 yards, and this time his low effort beat Robertson’s dive and seemed to hit the inside of the post before rebounding off the prone Robertson and nestling into the net. It had been little more than a speculative effort to be honest, yet the footballing Gods currently conspire against Salford City and the match was level.
That body blow came with three minutes left on the clock, but there was even more disappointment to come for the healthy contingent of travelling fans. The late strike had understandably boosted the home side, and they looked full of running as they chased what had seemed a most unlikely win. With seconds of normal time remaining Hopley was played into space on the left and his low cross was turned past Robertson by the desperately retreating Russell Courtney. Ironically Hopley’s break had caught his team-mates out too and there was relatively little support for him in the danger area. A truly cruel stroke of bad luck for Salford whose determination and willingness to work, allied with impressive counter attacking had almost seen them earn some reward from this very difficult fixture.
The officials added six minutes of extra time, but Salford were unable to conjure an equaliser as Bay successfully defended their lead…they’d only got their noses in front in the 90th minute, but that was enough to claim all three points.
Salford’s players looked disconsolate at the final whistle, and the management team must pick their side up in time for Saturday’s home game against fellow strugglers Garfoth Town. It was at Garforth in last season’s final game that the Ammies concluded their ‘Greatest Escape’, and a repeat of that day’s 5-2 scoreline would be more than welcome. In reality, any result that secured three points for City would be very acceptable indeed.
There were plenty of plus points here…the overall standard of play was quite good and the three debutants impressed to varying degrees but the statistics now show three points gained from a possible twenty four. With games coming up against the division’s lesser lights, Salford must be looking to accumulate points quickly over the coming weeks to haul themselves off the foot of the table.
COLWYN BAY :
1) Chris Sanna
2) Steve Aspinall
3) Louis Corrigan
4) Tim Brandreth
5) Dave Challinor ©
6) Carl Clampitt
7) Eddie Jebb
8) Josh Macaughley
9) Rob Hopley
10) Ian Sheridan
11) Stuart Graves
12) Anthony Sheehan (for Graves, 34th min)
14) Jamie Dunne (for Corrigan, 84th min)
15) Alex Hay
16) Tom McGill (for Sheridan, 77th min)
SALFORD CITY :
1) Andy Robertson
2) Liam Foster
3) Alex Mortimer
4) Ged Murphy
5) Carl Ruffer ©
6) Darren Hockenhull
7) Craig Mahon
8) Haydn Eames
9) John McAliskey
10) Rhodri Giggs
11) Domain Rouse
12) Russell Courtney (for Hockenhull, 65th min)
14) Ashley Kelly (for McAliskey, 71st min)
15) Adam Morning
16) Carlos Edmondson-Rouse
17) Martyn Andrews (for Murphy, 67th min)
Attendance : 224