Haughton Nicks It At The Death For Ten-Man Ammies
A great strike from Nick Haughton four minutes from time nicked all four points for The Ammies at Worcester City
SATURDAY 22nd APRIL 2017
VANARAMA NATIONAL LEAGUE NORTH
WORCESTER CITY 1 SALFORD CITY 2
0-1 Mike PHENIX (36th min)
1-1 Jordan MURPHY (60th min)
1-2 Nick Haughton (86th min)
Nick Haughton’s goal four minutes from time rubber-stamped a proper “Jonno & Bernard” performance as Salford City defied numerical disadvantage to secure a crucial win at relegation haunted Worcester City. James Poole’s second yellow card had come a minute before the interval but the Ammies climbed the mountain that confronted them and came out on top thanks to a committed and gritty second half showing.
There were changes from the side that beat Curzon Ashton on Easter Monday, starting at the back where Steve O’Halloran was reinstated in place of Patrick Brough and Fraser Horsfall made a Salford City debut thanks to the enforced absence of suspended Billy Priestley. Further upfield John Johnston and Harry Panayiotou made way for Josh Hine and Jordan Hulme as the managers set out their stall to tackle the last away game of the regular season.
Worcester City, playing at Bromsgrove Sporting’s Victoria Ground, started the afternoon fourth from bottom of the National League North, equal on points with Gainsborough Trinity. The Blues needed a win and unsurprisingly both sides looked to press forward from the very start.
The Ammies had quite a bit of attacking possession early on but despite a corner and Hine’s trademark long throw they didn’t manage to create an opening. Worcester looked lively too but were confronted by a Salford defence that didn’t seem to be in the mood to give anything away.
On a day of blue sky and sunshine the visitors were roared on by their travelling faithful – many of whom were in fancy dress for the occasion – and there was already an intensity about the game appropriate to importance for both clubs.
In the eleventh minute the Ammies went close after Jordan Hulme’s pass sent Michael Nottingham away on the right, and the full-back made for the line before drilling a low cross into the danger area. Nobody in a red shirt could get onto the end of that one but a corner was won and Sam Walker delivered the set piece from the left. Salford skipper Simon Grand got up high to get in a header but Worcester keeper Nathan Vaughan was equal to the challenge, reacting well to push the ball away.
It was Worcester’s turn next as Cieron Keane’s cross from the left was cleared by Grand only for Junior English to win possession of the loose ball. From the left-hand side of the area the Worcester man lofted in an effort that bounced off the top of the bar before being knocked out of play for a corner. Cierom Keane took it short and full-back James Chambers curled in a cross from the right for Jordan Murphy whose acrobatic attempt to hook the ball home dropped wide of Jay Lynch’s left-hand upright.
It was turning into end-to-end stuff and just before the quarter hour Nottingham again surged forward on the right before crossing for Horsfall to head straight at Vaughan. Within a minute Worcester had countered and after the ball was worked inside from a throw on the right Cieron Keane’s low shot from twenty-five yards drifted wide of Lynch’s right-hand post.
The Blues continued to get bodies forward but Salford’s rearguard was standing firm and the pace of the game dropped off a little after an opening twenty that could easily have produced goals.
In the twenty-first minute Hine’s throw from the right was met by Nottingham but his reverse header dropped into the raised arms of Vaughan, stationed at his near post. Another throw just four minutes later fell for Hulme just outside the six-yard box but under defensive pressure he couldn’t keep the first time effort down.
The Ammies were asking most of the questions as the half-hour arrived but Worcester were defending well and the keepers weren’t being seriously tested. Eleven minutes before the interval came the game’s first booking as James Poole was yellow carded for a foul on Ebby Nelson-Addy and that incident would have repercussions before too long.
For now though Chambers prompted a Worcester attack as his ball down the right found Nelson-Addy who turned away from Steve O’Halloran before crossing low into the middle. Not for the first – or indeed, the last – time this afternoon Grand was there to clear for the Ammies and within a minute the visitors were ahead.
Nottingham’s cross from the right was cleared only as far as Scott Burton who swung in his own delivery from deep on the same flank. Worcester defender Graham Hutchison got up above Hine six yards out but he was stretching and his intended clearing header fell for Mike Phenix. Salford’s top-scorer was about two yards outside the left-hand angle of the six-yard box and hit a first time effort that bounced between Chambers and Hine before beating Vaughan at his right-hand post.
An instinctive finish from Phenix to record his sixteenth of the season and the Ammies had only their second first-half goal from the last thirteen outings. It had come at a good time as well, following a spell when Worcester were getting forward a bit, winning a few corners and free-kicks that were all dealt with competently by the visiting defence.
Having edged themselves into the lead Salford went looking for a second and five minutes before half-time Poole tried an ambitious twenty-five yard lob from right-of-centre that dropped over the crossbar. Within another minute or so Walker’s inswinging corner from the right set off a scramble right in front of goal but Vaughan did well to smother the ball as red shirts closed in.
It looked as if that might be the last noteworthy incident of a closely contested first half but there was to be a blow for the visitors in its final minute. After the referee halted play for a Worcester free-kick Poole apparently kicked the ball away and home players crowded around the official, demanding a second yellow card for the Salford man. Keeper Vaughan ran forty yards to join in, and it’s odds-on that he wasn’t adding a recommendation for leniency into the mix. Sure enough the second yellow was produced and you have to have some sympathy for Poole – it wasn’t as clear-cut an offence as many that we’ve seen go unpunished this season and he certainly wasn’t given the benefit of any doubt.
No cards were shown to Worcester players for their unsavoury pressurising of the referee and the Ammies now faced playing a full half a man short.
HALF TIME: WORCESTER CITY 0 SALFORD CITY 1
The second half started in similar fashion to the first, with both sides looking to get forward. An early Worcester corner came to nothing and in the fiftieth minute the Ammies were awarded a free-kick, twenty-five yards out and left of centre. Walker had a go with the ball taking a bounce before being stopped and held by Vaughan in the home goal.
Worcester went straight down the other end to create a chance of their own with captain Tyler Weir picking up a pass to the left before tucking the ball back for Cieron Keane. The home number eleven had played well and he whipped in a cross that found the head of Kuda Muskwe, about ten yards out at the near post. The striker’s header was a decent one but Lynch was untroubled as the flicked effort dropped a couple of feet over the crossbar.
Once again the game was opening up and Hulme found himself on the ball, on the left inside Worcester’s area after the home side had carelessly relinquished possession. A pass to the right found Walker who moved the ball on to set up Burton for a twenty-five yarder that was always rising on its way over the bar.
Worcester had not particularly exploited their numerical advantage so far but eventually began to move the ball around quickly, exerting a rather more intense spell of pressure. A decent build-up gave Cieron Keane the chance to shoot from distance and although his low effort clipped off a defender on its way wide the referee outraged the home side by awarding a goal-kick.
A couple of corners were won as the Blues looked to force an equaliser but again Salford’s defence appeared to be coping well enough. That situation changed on the hour after substitute Tom Sharpe swung in a great cross from the right with Jordan Murphy getting up well at the near angle of the six-yard box to flick in a header that dropped inside Lynch’s right-hand post.
All square and Worcester’s confidence was understandably boosted by their equaliser, when it had looked as if they were struggling to find the quality to break down the opposition defence. Within two minutes of Murphy’s goal Grand had been booked for a foul on Cieron Keane and the away supporters might have just been fearing that the game was slipping away from their ten-man side.
The Ammies were certainly finding it more difficult to break out effectively and after one of their attacks broke down Worcester hit on the counter. Murphy ended up with another sight of goal but from twenty-two yards out got under the ball and sent his effort over the crossbar.
Salford needed to show character and as it happened they were up for that particular challenge. The ten men were grafting and midway through the second half were awarded a free-kick on the right. Walker swung the ball in with Nottingham just failing to get a touch in the middle but Vaughan had to dive to his right to push the bouncing cross wide of his right-hand post.
Richie Allen came on for Phenix after that and with eighteen minutes left the Ammies almost found a way through to goal. Burton’s pass down the right found Nottingham and a ball was clipped inside for Hulme who couldn’t quite get it under control. Possession was up for grabs and it was Nottingham got in first, jinking to the line before playing in a low cross and Hine wasn't far away from getting a touch.
More encouraging for Salford but within a minute they conceded a second. Cieron Keane had been behind most of Worcester’s better moments of the afternoon and he advanced on the left before getting in a cracking cross that picked out English, right-of-centre and fifteen yards out. This was a gilt-edged opportunity but English fired an effort too close to Lynch who moved to his left to take and hold the ball.
Good keeping from Lynch, but there’s no surprise in that and he had more work to do in the seventy-seventh minute. A quickly taken Worcester free-kick from the halfway line sent Cieron Keane away on the left and again his cross was a good one. This time it was aimed low at the near post but English couldn’t get there and Salford’s keeper was able to gather safely.
Both of these sides were in desperate need of the extra two points and with nine minutes left Salford introduced Nick Haughton for Hine. He almost made an immediate impact, nipping in to take the ball from Cieron Keane whose attempt to pass ended with a classic air-shot. Haughton’s typically mazy advance finished with a pass to Hulme on the left-hand side of the area and his low shot was stopped by Vaughan at the base of his right-hand post, then gathered at the second attempt.
For Worcester Nelson-Addy’s pass from the right picked out Muskwe but he could only slam a rising effort over the bar from the edge of the box.
Time was running out for either side to find that coveted winner but Haughton had been looking lively since coming on and he produced a hammer blow just four minutes from time. The substitute's nod forward was returned by Hulme and after Haughton scrapped his way past one challenge the pair played a neat little one-two. The Fleetwood loanee’s dart into space, right-of-centre, caught out the home defence and from eight yards out he placed a low finish across the despairing Vaughan and inside the far post.
A great finish, beautifully timed and unlike the recent trip to Harrogate there would be no obliging referee to hand the opposition a soft penalty or two.
Haughton’s goal had knocked the stuffing out of a Worcester side who had given their all but had not managed to open up their opponents anywhere near often enough during the second half. In the penultimate minute Cieron Keane’s free-kick from the left was aimed at Sam Oji but the big defender was leaning backwards and his header dropped harmlessly over the bar.
There were four minutes of time added on but Salford had shut up shop and in truth the Blues looked a spent force. Jordan Keane was booked after desperately dragging back the flying Nottingham before Muskwe pushed forward on the right only for his cross from tight to the line to be claimed by Lynch.
FULL TIME: WORCESTER CITY 1 SALFORD CITY 2
This was the sort of performance that has come to characterise the Johnson-Morley era at Moor Lane. The second half, played in heat against a side in dire need of points would have been tricky enough with eleven men but the Ammies had been harshly reduced to ten. They adapted to that blow well, as they had to a poor playing surface, worked hard, didn’t let the equaliser knock them out of their stride then found the desire to go on and get the win. Last season victories were secured at Barwell and Frickley Athletic in similar circumstances but this one could yet turn out to be by far the most significant.
It takes guts to haul yourselves out of a late season sticky spell and it’s good to see that the old spirit and sheer determination that has underpinned the last couple of campaigns is still very much alive and kicking. Six points is a great response to the disappointment at Gainsborough eight days ago and let’s be honest, the return to winning ways could not have been better timed. Canny substitutions played a big part today although you suspect that if Poole had not been dismissed a very solid Salford side might well have won this one comfortably.
Worcester will point out a few decent chances but other than for Cieron Keane their approach play lacked composure and quality. This is a tough division with 100% commitment to the cause not always enough to secure a reward. The Blues must now hope that champions AFC Fylde have a big off-day next Saturday as Gainsborough Trinity snatched a point of Kidderminster Harriers this afternoon. It's difficult to have much sympathy given the concerted effort to get Poole sent off and Weir's histrionics following a tangle with Phenix during the second half - the Worcester skipper certainly did not lead by example as he screamed in apparent agony then leapt unscathed to his feet when it became apparent that the officials weren't buying it. Not nice, but perhaps karma had the final word there...
Two late winners in two vital games speaks volumes about the attitude of this squad and next week’s showdown against Darlington could well turn out to be the latest in a string of memorable afternoons at Moor Lane. The reaction of players and bench alike show that the heart of Salford City's latest promotion push is still beating strongly.
In Jonno, Bernard and the lads we trust….
1) Nathan VAUGHAN
2) James CHAMBERS
3) Tyler WEIR (c)
4) Sam OJI
5) Graham HUTCHISON
6) Junior ENGLISH
7) Eddy NELSON-ADDY
8) Jordan KEANE
9) Kuda MUSKWE
10) Jordan MURPHY
11) Cieron KEANE
12) Tom SHARPE (for CHAMBERS, 53rd min)
14) Aaron BRETT (for ENGLISH, 87th min)
15) Ben TILBURY
16) Danny JACKMAN
17) Ethan ROSS
1) Jay Lynch
2) Michael Nottingham
3) Steve O'HALLORAN
4) Scott Burton
5) Simon Grand (c)
6) Fraser Horsfall
7) Josh Hine
8) Sam Walker
9) Mike PHENIX
10) James Poole
11) Jordan Hulme
12) Steve Howson
14) David Norris
15) Nick Haughton (for HINE, 81st min)
16) John Johnston
17) Richie ALLEN (for PHENIX, 68th min)
Sent Off: Poole (2nd yellow)
Referee: Mr. Anthony Tankard
Assistants: Mr. Edward Pidduck & Mr. Edward Cook