Saints In Nottz
Michael Nottingham's 8th goal of the season secured a priceless win away to play-off hopefuls Brackley Town
SATURDAY 11th MARCH 2017
VANARAMA NATIONAL LEAGUE NORTH
BRACKLEY TOWN 0 SALFORD CITY 1
0-1 Michael Nottingham (57th min)
Anthony Johnson and Bernard Morley opened their account as full-time gaffers with three points as Salford City recorded a narrow but priceless victory at St. James Park. Full back Michael Nottingham’s eighth goal of the season, scored a dozen minutes into the second half, proved enough to overcome an in-form Brackley Town side and keep the Ammies in 2nd place.
There were changes from the side that lost at Tamworth last week, starting in defence where Patrick Brough’s illness gave Steve O’Halloran his first league start since October. Further upfield David Norris, Jordan Hulme and Josh Hine were in for Nick Haughton, George Green and Richie Allen.
A first visit to the handsome Northamptonshire town of Brackley for Salford City and it was sure to be a tough proposition. The Saints have reached the FA Cup 2nd Round and the FA Trophy’s 4th Round this season, with recent wins over Kidderminster Harriers (2-0) and AFC Telford United (6-0) keeping their play-off hopes very much alive.
A season’s best league crowd had assembled at St. James Park and it was the home supporters among that number who saw their side create the afternoon’s first chance. A battle of the number 8s, just outside the left-hand angle of Salford’s box was won by Town’s James Armson but his lofted effort on goal was comfortably plucked out of the air by Jay Lynch. A few minutes later Jordan Hempenstall hit a 19 yarder, left-footed from right of centre and that one was dipping underneath the crossbar until Lynch acrobatically tipped the ball over.
A good save from the Salford keeper and the action switched to the other end as a Nottingham throw-in from the right found its way through to Scott Burton. The midfielder headed for the line before squaring a ball that was intended for Mike Phenix, only for home custodian Laurie Walker to get down and intercept. Seconds later the Ammies were back on the offensive and Jordan Hulme tried a volley from the right that dropped just over the target.
A lively attacking start from both sides but Salford created problems for themselves in the 10th minute. A long ball dropped into the visitors’ half of the pitch and defender Billy Priestley had yards of advantage on the chasing Hempenstall. Lynch raced out of his goal to get to the ball but succeeded only in cannoning a clearance straight into Priestley, with the ensuing collision leaving both Salford players grounded. A corner was the result but this time the Ammies’ rearguard dealt with the danger effectively enough.
Next to threaten was Josh Hine whose shot from the edge of the box was blocked and the same fate befell a follow-up effort from David Norris.
Brackley were looking to use width to open up a resolute looking Ammies formation, with Glenn Walker looking useful but Lynch and his defenders were equal to the task handed to them. In the 18th minute Salford’s keeper took another cross consummately before launching a great kick that caught of the Town defence. Hine took advantage, latching onto the ball before driving forward through the inside left channel, well ahead of the pursuing Saints’ defenders. This was a great chance to open the scoring but Laurie Walker had advanced and Hine’s low shot from 18 yards spun off his left-foot and away to safety.
The home side were forced into a change midway through the first half as defender Luke Graham made way for Jordan Gough. Within a couple of minutes Armson jinked his way through the Salford defence before finally being stopped in his tracks but after an enterprising beginning the game entered something of a quiet spell.
On the half-hour Armson turned smartly away from the approaching Hulme wide on Brackley’s left but his cross dropped harmlessly wide of the far post. Shortly afterwards Adam Walker moved inside from the left before delivering a ball that Armson got up to meet, but his 15 yard header dropped harmlessly into the arms of Lynch.
Brackley were seeing more of the ball in attacking positions but had a habit of straying offside and a number of promising build-ups were spoiled by crosses that were snapped up by Lynch or cleared by his defensive colleagues. Four minutes before the break Glenn Walker advanced on the left before clipping a pass inside only for the busy Armson to send an effort flying high over the bar from a yard inside the penalty area. In the 1st minute of time added on to the end of the first half Shane Byrne slid in a left of centre pass that bisected the visiting defence. Glenn Walker was the recipient and he headed towards the line before pulling a low ball back to the angle of the 6 yard box. Adam Walker’s run hadn’t been picked up but he made a mess of the shot, clearing the crossbar by some distance when it looked easier to hit the target.
That miss marked the end of a decent first half but even though the Saints had created more openings they hadn’t managed to turn any of them into goals.
HALF TIME: BRACKLEY TOWN 0 SALFORD CITY 0
The second half started slowly in terms of attacking intent although Hine headed over for Salford soon after the restart. In the 54th minute it was Brackley’s turn with Armson again looking to slice hs way through the Ammies’ defensive line before eventually being stopped. Possession fell for Glenn Walker but Priestley had spotted the danger, getting in to make a good block.
Within a minute the Saints were pressing again and Lynch made a superb stop to deny Armson with David Moyo unable to force the loose ball home.
A close run thing for Salford but they responded with a counter attack that would earn them the lead. Phenix picked up possession on the left before heading into the box where his low shot came off Alex Gudger for a corner. Norris delivered towards the near post where a Brackley head flicked on a ball that dropped towards Phenix at the far stick. Salford’s top scorer lunged past a defender then got in a downwards header that bounced back towards the keeper’s right-hand upright. Nottingham was on hand to head against the bar from a few yards out and fortune was with him as the ball dropped conveniently to his left foot to be tucked away before the home defence had a chance to react.
First blood to Salford and as might be expected they had some defending to do in the wake of Nottingham's strike. Brackley looked to commit men forward but the Ammies got their players behind the ball to protect that vital goal advantage.
In the 65th minute Moyo chased a bouncing ball on a right-of-centre path and after he chested down into the box Lynch advanced to meet him. In the event it was Barnes, tracking back once again, who got in with vital tackle and the subsequent corner came to nothing.
The stage looked set for a dramatic final quarter but Brackley’s efforts to prise open Salford’s defence were repeatedly thwarted. The Ammies were entirely focused on their task and if a ball into the box wasn’t won by a defender it was claimed by Lynch.
Both sides made changed during this period of the game – Salford to close it down and Brackley to introduce a flash of inspiration – but it was the visitors who looked most likely to achieve their aim.
As time ran out Brackley chucked everything they had at the Ammies but there was simply no way through and the home side were running out of ideas – and patience. Even the announcement of 5 minutes of added time failed to discourage Salford but in the last of those Armson cut in from the right to catch Lynch with a nasty challenge as the keeper came out to smother the danger. A demonstration of the Saints’ frustration but there were to be no real scares before the referee’s whistle sounded and the noisy away fans behind Laurie Walker’s goal began their victory celebrations.
FULL TIME: BRACKLEY TOWN 0 SALFORD CITY 1
This was a performance that could never be described as ‘pretty’ but at the business end of the season that’s not the priority. The Ammies were set up to contain in-form opponents and did their job very well indeed, nicking the goal they are always liable to get before digging in to protect the advantage. Every man did his bit with the defensive and midfield units outstanding, along with a goalkeeper who so consistently reminds us of his worth.
Brackley started well and had some decent opportunities before the break but during the second half they never really looked likely to get the better of opponents who were organised, uncompromising and gritty. Salford worked hard for this win and returned to basics to end a shaky spell of away results. With other play-off contenders picking up points this was a vital victory and sets the Ammies up for two massive home games over the next 10 days.
A great way to respond to last week's disappointment...
(Red and Black Stripes/Black/Red)
1) Laurie WALKER
2) James CLIFTON
3) Alex GUDGER
4) Shane BYRNE
5) Luke GRAHAM
6) Gareth DEAN (c)
7) Glenn WALKER
8) James ARMSON
9) David MOYO
10) Jordan HEMPENSTALL
11) Adam WALKER
12) Jordan GOUGH (for GRAHAM, 22nd min)
14) Ellis MYLES (for CLIFTON, 78th min)
15) Steve DIGGIN
16) Lee NDLOVU (for HEMPENSTALL, 69th min)
17) Lee COX
1) Jay Lynch
2) Michael Nottingham
3) Steve O'HALLORAN
4) Scott Burton
5) Simon Grand (c)
6) Billy Priestley
7) David Norris
8) Brad BARNES
9) Mike PHENIX
10) Jordan Hulme
11) Josh Hine
12) George Green
14) Nick Haughton
15) Richie ALLEN (for HULME, 86th min)
16) Sam Walker (for NORRIS, 78th min)
17) Craig King (for PHENIX, 67th min)
Booked: Barnes, Hine
Referee: Mr. Anthony Tankard
Assistants: Mr. Ed Pidduck & Mr. Hallam Cutmore