No Gains On Bad Friday
Salford City slipped to a disappointing defeat at relegation threatened Gainsborough Trinity on a not-so-good Friday
FRIDAY 14th APRIL
VANARAMA NATIONAL LEAGUE NORTH
GAINSBOROUGH TRINITY 1 SALFORD CITY 0
Nathan JARMAN (7th min)
Salford City’s play-off aspirations were seriously dented at The Northolme as Gainsborough Trinity recorded their first home league win in six months. Encouraged by their vocal travelling support The Ammies created a host of chances yet largely failed to force home keeper Tom Nicholson into action on a profoundly disappointing Good Friday afternoon. Salt was poured onto Salford wounds as central defender Billy Priestley was sent off late on and he will now miss next Saturday’s trip to play Worcester City.
There were no changes to the sixteen who drew with Harrogate Town last Saturday and a game that both sides needed to win started off in lively fashion. The Holy Blues need points to avoid a first relegation in the club’s history and right from the start it was obvious that their players were fired up for this one.
Salford striker Mike Phenix sprung Trinity’s offside trap in the third minute but home keeper Nicholson got to the ball first, punting a clearance out of the ground. Almost a first opening for the Ammies but just a few minutes later they went behind. A long ball forward was won in the air then flicked on by muscular striker Chib Chilaka and Nathan Jarman set off towards goal. With both Priestley and Simon Grand in his wake the Trinity skipper drove towards the edge of the box before drilling a low effort from twenty yards with the effort beating Jay Lynch's dive before spinning off the inside of his left hand post and into the net.
An inauspicious start for Salford who were caught out through the middle but they were soon looking to get back on level terms. In the 9th minute Sam Walker’s free-kick from a few yards in from the right touchline and nearly forty yards out lifted high before dropping down and almost catching out Tomlinson as it smacked off the face of the crossbar a yard inside from his right-hand upright. It almost certainly wasn't a shot but Walker's delivery very nearly did the trick for Salford.
The action switched back to the other end as Trinity’s Jordan Thewlis slipped past Steve O’Halloran on the right before cutting inside and clipping a neat pass into the area. Chilaka was the recipient and was just about to pull the trigger from the right-hand angle of the six yard box when Priestley slid in to make what was probably a goal-saving challenge.
The game was opening up and just a couple of minutes later Priestley met Nicholson's long kick with a might header that rose high before dropping deep into Trinity territory. The home side's central defenders were caught out and Jordan Hulme was away into space on a just right of centre run. Having made it into the box Hulme had an awkward bounce of the ball to contend with and Nicholson had advanced quickly enough to block the effort to lift the ball over him. Unlucky for Hulme who is without a goal since notching a hat-trick against AFC Fylde two months ago.
Even-Stevens at the moment but Salford’s grip on the game was slowly tightening and on the quarter hour John Johnston pressurised Trinity left-back Brad Beatson into an unconvincing back-pass. Johnston continued his run, bearing down on Nicholson whose neat shimmy and clearance drew appreciative cheers from the home support.
Phenix was the next to threaten, muscling free of Callum Chippendale on Salford’s left before cutting into the penalty area. A low, measured effort beat Nicholson but passed outside the far upright with Jordan Hulme just failing to provide a decisive touch at the near.
The Ammies were knocking at the door and Craig King did well on the right, putting in a cross that dropped for Walker, fifteen yards out and just left of centre. The former Halifax midfielder escaped the attentions of Chippendale then chested the ball down consummately before hitting an effort that dropped a foot or so over the bar. Midway through the first half Walker’s corner from the right fell for Phenix who managed to curl his foot around the bobbling delivery from eight yards but his luck was out again as the ball dropped just over and onto the roof of the net.
Gainsborough continued to look dangerous when they got forward but those forays were becoming rare as the visitors increased their domination of possession. In the twenty-seventh minute Michael Nottingham found space on the right then dropped a cross towards the edge of the six yard box where Johnston just failed to get a touch. Johnston had another sniff of goal within sixty seconds, collecting Walker's forward pass towards the edge of the box but a powerful low effort was bravely blocked by Josh Lacey.
On the half-hour Priestley was booked for a foul on Jarman and that was to have repercussions later – in the meantime the Ammies continued to press for an equaliser. In the thirty-second minute another good move ended with Grand's ball finding Johnston who turned away from Josh Lacey with aplomb before running to the edge of the box only for the shot from a central position to flash wide of Nicholson’s left-hand upright.
Plenty of pressure from Salford but they could never afford to let their concentration at the back slip and a dozen minutes before the interval Thewlis’ run on the right took him away from Steve O’Halloran. The Ammies’ left-back recovered to get in a challenge and after Thewlis recovered his balance he also ran out of space, pushing the ball out for a goal-kick.
Gainsborough were closing down constantly, working hard to deny their opponents further sightings of goal. Four minutes before the break another neat passing sequence from Salford was easy on the eye yet failed to make any impact on the home defence. Scott Burton decided to have a crack from distance but although his rising thirty-five yarder was well-hit Nicholson moved to his right to stop and then collect at the second attempt.
A first ‘proper’ save of the afternoon from Trinity’s keeper despite Salford’s mounting chance-count and the visitors were still trailing. In the forty-second minute Phenix almost took advantage when a long ball forward dropped in his favour but this time the low shot from twenty yards went wide of Nicholson’s right-hand post.
The pressure on Trinity’s goal had not abated and Nottingham got up to glance on Walker’s free-kick into the box. Home defender Michael Jacklin slipped as he attempted to intercept but Nicholson got in a clearance before Phenix could pounce.
Salford’s half finished with Walker’s low twenty-five yarder fizzing wide of Nicholson’s left-hand upright, the last in a succession of efforts that failed to hit the target.
HALF TIME: GAINSBOROUGH TRINITY 1 SALFORD CITY 0
On another afternoon The Ammies might have been three or four ahead by now but the second half started with them still searching for their first goal. They almost caught Gainsborough out straight away after the restart but Nicholson’s point-blank save from Phenix was rendered irrelevant by the raised flag of the assistant.
An early corner saw Walker deliver from the left and although Priestley timed his run to get there first his header flew high and wide of the target. The Holy Blues were being pressed back again but some very solid defending suggested that Salford might have a job on their hands to restore parity.
A couple more corners came to nothing and in the 54th minute King cut in sharply from the left only to hit a shot that flew high and wide of the far post.
That was to be the former Bradford man’s final contribution as he made way for Nick Haughton, but despite being virtually camped in the Gainsborough half the visitors were not forcing work out of Nicholson.
Phenix was replaced by James Poole next but it was fellow substitute Haughton who went close in the sixty-first minute. A succession of Trinity defenders failed to get distance on clearing headers and when the ball fell for the Fleetwood loanee, left-of-centre and twenty yards out, he hit a powerful volley that wasn’t far wide of Nicholson’s right-hand post.
At times the second half was like a game of attack and defence, and as time progressed it was the defence who began to get on top. Salford were being held at arm’s length and frustrations were beginning to show. With twenty minutes to play Trinity’s Tom Davie was booked for a trip on Johnston with team-mate Callum Chippendale and Salford’s Poole following him thanks to their part in a post-foul scuffle.
Nottingham, thrown up front now, went close in the seventy-first minute after Johnston’s low pass inside from the right. The goal-scoring full-back hit an effort first time but the ball scraped over the bar and Trinity were still holding on to their narrow lead. Within a minute Poole again worked possession to Johnston on the right but after cutting inside he sliced an angle effort over with team-mates handily positioned in the danger area.
Salford managers Anthony Johnson and Bernard Morley’s last throw of the dice saw Josh Hine replace Johnston and the Ammies were throwing everything they had at Gainsborough.
The Holy Blues were holding firm however and almost extended their lead with fifteen minutes to play. A corner from the left fell for Jack McGovern, right-of-centre and sixteen yards out and he slammed an effort towards goal. Nottingham stretched to get in a vital block and The Ammies were soon piling on more pressure as the clock began to run down.
Gainsborough were chasing every ball, denying space and putting in lung-bursting effort as those three crucial points edged nearer and nearer. With six minutes left Haughton’s run was curtailed by a hefty challenge and Walker hit the loose ball over the bar from nearly twenty-five yards out.
As the seconds ticked away Salford’s composure began to desert them with crosses over-hit and passes not finding their target. Blue shirts appeared everywhere danger threatened and in the second minute of six added by the referee, Ammie hopes took another downturn. A tussle between substitutes Darnelle Bailey-King and Hine ended with the occupants of the Trinity dugout up in arms and a spot of pushing and shoving ensued, with players from both sides getting involved. There seemed little shortage of miscreants but the officials decided that Bailey-King and Priestley were the most prominent. Both were yellow carded but this was Billy’s second of the game and he walked off to face the empty dressing room and a very untimely suspension.
Leaving little cover at the back the Ammies pressed forward again and within a minute of Priestley’s dismissal they went agonisingly close to a leveller. Haughton twisted into some space wide on the right and his cross was a good one, dropping towards the edge of the six-yard box. Irish international O’Halloran’s goals have been rare but crucial and he almost got another, stooping to get in a header that appeared to be goal-bound. Fortunately for Trinity it was within reach of Nicholson who produced a tremendous reaction save, with the loose ball hastily cleared by one of his defenders.
On such incidents whole seasons can turn and Nicholson’s save could well play an important role in deciding both club’s fates. It was to be Salford’s last opportunity although at the other end Bailey-King found space against the skeleton staff defenders to hit a powerful effort that dropped just over the bar.
FULL TIME: GAINSBOROUGH TRINITY 1 SALFORD CITY 0
The managers – honest as always - will doubtless shoulder responsibility for this result but in all fairness some of their players need to step forward and hold up their hands. Recent form has been patchy with unconvincing performances yielding one scraped win in six outings. Basic mistakes have been made, simple things have been done badly and needless cards have been picked up. The current squad has the quality and experience to avoid all of these faults but at the moment they are not giving the account of themselves that they should. It really isn’t the time of season to lose composure or heart.
What else can you say about this game? Salford must have carved out fifteen very presentable chances over the ninety minutes yet only two were on target. A battling Gainsborough side created far fewer, yet made one count then defended with huge heart and determination to take three absolutely critical points. Make no mistake though – other than strength, determination and spirit Trinity had little else to offer and their league position will surprise none of the supporters who travelled to follow Salford City today.
The Ammies may wonder how they came away from this one empty-handed but if you don’t hit the target you don’t score goals. A lack of composure in the final third cost them very dear this afternoon and the suspension of Billy Priestley could not have come at a worse time.
Results elsewhere could have been worse but let's be honest – there is no further room for error. Three games remain and nine points will be enough to clinch a play-off place but anything less could result in the season ending in anti-climax and heartbreak.
It’s still in our hands but the lads – all of them – need to stand up and be counted and Monday afternoon would be a clever time to start. It would be a real shame for all the hard work earlier this season to end up without reward and we need to see a return to the approach and attitude that tore apart AFC Fylde and Kidderminster Harriers.
1) Tom NICHOLSON
2) Josh LACEY
3) Bradley BEATSON
4) Jack McGOVERN
5) Michael JACKLIN
6) Chris SALT
7) Jordan THEWLIS
8) Callum CHIPPENDALE
9) Chib CHILAKA
10) Nathan JARMAN (c)
11) Tom DAVIE
12) Alex WILES (for THEWLIS, 73rd min)
14) Cecil NYONI (for CHILAKA, 63rd min)
15) Ioan EVANS
16) Darnelle BAILEY-KING (for JARMAN, 82nd min)
17) George WILLIS
Booked: Salt, Davie, Chippendale, Bailey-King
1) Jay Lynch
2) Michael Nottingham
3) Steve O'HALLORAN
4) Scott Burton
5) Simon Grand
6) Billy Priestley
7) John Johnston
8) Sam Walker
9) Mike Phenix
10) Jordan Hulme
11) Craig King
12) David Norris
14) Harry PANAYIOTOU
15) Nick Haughton (for KING, 55th min)
16) James Poole (for PHENIX, 57th min)
17) Josh Hine (for JOHNSTON, 74th min)
Booked: Priestley, Poole
Sent Off: Priestley (Second yellow)
Referee: Mr. Garreth RHODES
Assistants: Mr. Martin Chester & Mr. Kevin Saunby