Phenix Strike Sinks Celtic
Mike Phenix's fifteenth goal of the season settled a close local derby at Moor Lane
SATURDAY 18th FEBRUARY 2017
VANARANA NATIONAL LEAGUE NORTH
SALFORD CITY 1 STALYBRIDGE CELTIC 0
1-0 Mike Phenix (56th min)
It wasn’t pretty – it wasn’t particularly convincing at times, either – but Mike Phenix’s 2nd half goal was enough in the end to secure a 6th consecutive home league win, lifting the Ammies up to 2nd place in the table into the bargain. Struggling Stalybridge might well feel they deserved to take something from this match but Salford last conceded in a home game during the month of October and on that solid defensive performance has the impressive run been built.
There was 1 change from the side that started at Gloucester last Saturday, with skipper Simon Grand, now recovered from injury, restored to the centre of defence in place of Steve Howson.
During the 1st half the Ammies were attacking their new West Stand, with supporters allowed to use it for the first time today. They could have had an early goal to celebrate too, as Jordan Hulme burst into the box only to see the ball apparently helped to safety by the extended arm of a Stalybridge defender. It was a decent shout for a penalty but the referee waved away Salford’s claims and otherwise the match had got off to a somewhat tentative start.
In the 9th minute Josh Hine’s pass from the left was pushed forward by Mike Phenix, but the touch was heavy and neither he nor Hulme could get to the ball before advancing Celtic keeper Grant Shenton.
Stalybridge, buoyed by their midweek Manchester Cup win, settled down quickly and came close to snatching the lead from their first dangerous foray. Kieran Dunbar’s pass from the left found Daniel Wilkins who looked up before hitting a powerful dipping 30 yarder that Jay Lynch just about managed to tip over the crossbar. The corner came in from the left, dropping beyond the far post where Aaron Chalmers got up unattended only to place his downwards header wide of the upright.
At the other end a long Josh Hine throw from the right was cleared as far as Hulme who crashed a shot goalwards only to see the ball slam into the midriff of a Celtic defender. The visitors countered quickly with Daniel Pilkington on the left and from his cross Wilkins drilled a low, angled effort from the right just wide of Lynch’s right-hand post.
In the 21st minute Salford’s George Green pushed forward on the right, hitting a great pass to the left with the outside of his foot. Phenix was the recipient but as he cut into the area he lost his footing and a defender was able to get in and make a clearance.
Three minutes later Chalmers hit a speculative effort from fully 40 yards and although Lynch was behind that one all the way the attempt was indicative of Stalybridge’s levels of confidence. New manager Steve Burr has got them playing already and in the 25th minute his new charges really should have taken the lead. Another long Hine throw-in was cleared and with men committed forward the Ammies suddenly found themselves short-handed at the back. Wilkins and former Salford striker Rio Ahmadi broke into the Salford half with speed and the latter passed inside to set up a chance for the former. The 20 yarder was powerful but Lynch made a good save and then recovered his footing to block Dunbar’s low follow-up from an angle on the left. This time it was Salford who countered quickly and when Hine delivered a cross from the right Phenix, leaning back, hooked in a 12-yard volley that was blocked bravely by Danny Morton.
Chances for both sides but it was Stalybridge who were looking the most dangerous and they went very close again with 32 minutes played. Pilkington’s delivery from a free-kick on the right was a good one and captain Matty Hughes was there to meet it, centrally placed and on the edge of the 6-yard box. This was a glorious opportunity but when it looked easier to score Hughes managed to plant a header just inches wide of Lynch’s left-hand post.
Celtic looked particularly slick on the counter attack and after another Salford build-up broke down the ball was moved forward to Pilkington on the right, but he couldn’t keep his 16 yarder down.
Twelve minutes before the break it was Salford’s turn to threaten when Phenix beat the offside trap to meet Green’s pass to the left. Having made it into the area the Ammies’ top-scorer checked inside to find an angle but his shot was blocked and Hulme was penalised as he jostled to pick up the loose ball.
An eventful 20 minutes or so, with Stalybridge in particular going close to grabbing a goal. The pace slackened as the first half drew to a close but Salford exerted a little bit of pressure during the last few minutes. Michael Nottingham’s nicely weighted ball up the right was controlled by Phenix who then used his strength to get past Daniel Wisdom. A low ball into the middle was aimed at Hine in front of goal but a Celtic defender got in to clear in the nick of time. During time added on Hulme did well to twist inside from the left but his tempting cross into the centre dropped just over Phenix and the first half ended without a goal being scored.
HALF TIME: SALFORD CITY 0 STALYBRIDGE CELTIC 0
Not the best of first halves for the Ammies but they had got through unscathed and the second forty-five minutes would see them less out of sorts. Nevertheless the first chance after the restart went the way of the visitors after Dunbar was tripped just outside the penalty area. Pilkington lifted the free-kick over the defensive wall and the ball was heading for the top corner until Lynch moved smartly to the right, pushing it behind for a corner. Two minutes later Hine went after a ball played into the box by Scott Burton from the left, only to be denied by a physical challenge from Shenton and one of his defenders. The loose ball dropped into the path of Green but he didn’t get any real power behind his attempt to poke a low finish home, with Wisdom punting away to safety from a couple of yards out.
This was better from Salford’s point of view and in the 55th minute Phenix did well to turn a pass to the right for Green. A darting advance from the Burnley loanee was finished off by a cross whipped into the box but with Brad Barnes and Hine lurking, Morton got in to head behind for a corner. Soon after that Hine got the chance to launch another long throw, this time from the left, and ball dropped to the edge of the 6 yard box where Phenix got a touch. The grounded Shenton palmed the ball out but only against the Salford striker who was left with the relatively simple job of prodding home from close range.
A slightly untidy goal for Salford but they all count just as much and Stalybridge now needed to breach a defence that hadn’t conceded a home league goal in more than 10 hours of football. That was a tall order and since the start of the second half the game had been sliding slowly but surely away from the visitors. The Ammies could have extended their lead within a couple of minutes as yet another long Hine throw from the right was partially cleared by the Stalybridge defence. Billy Priestley tried to hook the ball back towards goal, then Hulme half volleyed over from 16 yards out.
After that a game that had been quite open at times quietened down a little as the respective defences got on top, with neither side able to carve out anything clear cut. With 18 minutes left Hulme moved inside from the left but from just about the angle of the box his low shot was easy for Shenton to collect.
Steve Burr injected extra pace into his side with the introduction of substitutes Keano Deacon and Mathias Bakare but the Ammies were determined not to relinquish their narrow advantage. For Salford James Poole came on for Hine only to be replaced by Sam Walker within 15 minutes after suffering another twinge from his troublesome thigh.
It was Deacon who almost created something with 14 minutes left, scampering up the right only for his low delivery into the middle to be scooped up by Lynch. Salford were holding their opponents at arm’s length and could have put the game out of reach with 5 minutes left. Hulme and Barnes moved the ball from left to right for Green who checked inside before trying a left-footer that was deflected wide of the far upright.
Of course Celtic could not be discounted as an attacking force, with the pace of their substitutes a threat in the closing stages. In the 87th minute Deacon produced another cross from the right but Wisdom could only plant a left-of-centre 16 yarder straight at Lynch.
Stalybridge were pressing during time added on but were nearly hit on the break in the 3rd additional minute. Grand got up to win a towering header in front of his own goal, and as the ball dropped towards the halfway line Hulme managed to spin away from Chalmers. With the Stalybridge defender grounded Hulme headed towards goal but Bakare tracked back speedily, getting in a foot to deny the Salford striker. The ball was actually diverted in the direction of goal anyway but Shenton got down to his right, tipping the ball wide for a corner that came to nothing.
FULL TIME: SALFORD CITY 1 STALYBRIDGE CELTIC 0
Three vital points for Salford and they return to 2nd place in the table, ahead of Kidderminster Harriers on goal difference. It was anything but an easy afternoon for the Ammies against a very determined Stalybridge side but you don’t win 6 consecutive home league games by accident. Not a single goal has been conceded during that impressive run and any luck that went Salford’s way today has been earned by a string of accomplished defensive performances at Moor Lane. Clean sheets win games…
In attacking terms things were more laboured, with fluent football at a premium against a side who looked determined to impress their new manager. Stalybridge could easily have gone in ahead at half time but as is so often the case in football, fortune often fails to smile on struggling teams.
The Ammies will need to improve on this showing of course, but it’s equally true to say that good sides grind out results when not at their best, and that was the case this afternoon. There are 12 league games left and the mission is clear – finish in the top 5.
1) Jay Lynch
2) Michael Nottingham
3) Patrick Brough
4) Scott Burton
5) Simon Grand (c)
6) Billy Priestley
7) Jordan Hulme
8) Brad BARNES
9) Mike Phenix
10) George Green
11) Josh Hine
12) Steve Howson
14) Sam Walker (for POOLE, 87th min)
15) Nick Haughton
16) Richie Allen (for PHENIX, 81st min)
17) James Poole (for HINE, 71st min)
Booked: Burton, Green, Hine
1) Grant SHENTON
2) Danny MORTON
3) Daniel WISDOM
4) Matty HUGHES (c)
5) Fraser HORSFALL
6) Aaron CHALMERS
7) Kieran DUNBAR
8) Gary GEE
9) Rio AHMADI
10) Daniel WILKINS
11) Daniel PILKINGTON
12) Keano DEACON (for PILKINGTON, 61st min)
14) Lee GASKELL (for AHMADI, 71st min)
15) Darren McKNIGHT
16) Kristian PLATT
17) Mathias BAKARE (for WILKINS, 81st min)
Referee: Mr. Peter Gibbons
Assistants: Mr. Conor Brown & Mr. Daniel BRUCE