Opening Day Setback for Ammies
Salford City were beaten 2-0 at home by Darlington on the opening day of the 2017-2018 season
SATURDAY 5th AUGUST 2017
VANARAMA NATIONAL LEAGUE NORTH
SALFORD CITY 0 DARLINGTON 2
David FERGUSON (43rd minute)
David FERGUSON (90+5 mins)
Seldom has a season been more keenly anticipated at Moor Lane but as we all know football isn’t a game you can rely on to keep to the script. A well drilled and dogged Darlington side had to endure a few spells of pressure, especially during the second half, but crucially they took two of their opportunities then defended well to hold on for the win. The Ammies are left to nurse a first opening day defeat since Warrington Town won an NPL game 5-1 at Moor Lane in August 2011 when Salford's consolation was scored by a certain Jack Redshaw, missing today due to a foot problem.
The two sides met in the last game of the regular 2016-2017 season, with 8 Darlington players and just 2 Salford players in the starting line-up of both.
A bright, sunny summer’s afternoon started off promisingly for the Ammies as they played some precise, passing football almost from the whistle. This was the type of stuff the home crowd had turned out hoping to see, but after the first half dozen or so minutes the balance of the game began to swing Darlington’s way.
Salford hadn’t created an early opportunity and then had to defend as they were pushed back towards their own penalty area. The visitors won a corner and a couple of free-kicks but were unable to create a chance either.
In the twelfth minute the Ammies almost benefited from a crisp build-up as Richie Allen rolled a pass out to the right for Michael Nottingham, who set off on a typical galloping run. Darlington’s defence was stretched but as Phenix and Lois Maynard moved into space through the centre Nottingham’s attempt to slide a precise pass into their path was cut out by Gary Brown.
A ‘nearly’ moment for Salford, and there would be a few more of them before the 90 minutes were over.
Generally though the bulk of attacking possession was with the Quakers although a succession of balls into the Salford box were dealt with by the defence. In the 16th minute David Ferguson lobbed a pass forward inside where it was expertly chested down by the back-to-goal Brown. James Caton was on hand to hit a first-time shot from 20 yards out and left-of-centre but the ball flew high over the crossbar.
The Ammies' early liveliness had dissipated by this point and Darlington should have gone ahead in the 24th minute. A long Brown throw, from the left and tight to the line, wasn’t dealt with by the home defence and found its way through to David Syers at the back post. This was a big chance but the Quakers’ number 8 contrived to hook the ball wide from just a few yards out.
At the other end a couple of minutes later Brown talked himself into a booking after being penalised for a touch of pushing and pulling with Phenix. Allen delivered the cross towards the far post with Carl Piergianni getting up well only to see his 10 yard header drop over the crossbar.
Mani Dieseruvwe followed the Darlington defender into the notebook a couple of minutes following a clash with Dominic Collins which left him requiring treatment and a change of shirt. The game was certainly turning a little tetchy and Salford followed up Piergianni’s chance with a free-kick and corner, with both proving fruitless.
Darlington’s attacks were still carrying a touch more menace and 9 minutes before the break Caton did brilliantly to twist inside Scott Burton on the left after seemingly being penned into the corner flag. The Quakers’ forward cut inside before delivering a cross that looked dangerous until Nottingham got up to put in a clearing header.
It was Salford’s turn next with Dieseruvwe somehow managing to wrestle possession back after being muscled out by two defenders. The big striker pushed forward on the right before curling in a cross aimed at Phenix’s untracked run through the middle. The delivery was nigh on perfect but Phenix’s first touch was a poor one that prodded the ball into the safe custody of Bartlett.
Some goalmouth action there but just as it was looking as if the first half would end without a goal, Darlington grabbed a 43rd minute lead. Syers touch to control a lobbed pass down the right was just right and he got into the box before unleashing a rising drive that cannoned off the near upright and back into play. Possession fell for the unmarked Ferguson on the edge of the area and he guided a low finish inside Max Crocombe’s left-hand upright.
HALF TIME: SALFORD CITY 0 DARLINGTON 1
The opening stages of the second half were fairly open, with each side getting into some promising positions only to be thwarted by a solid opposition defence. Salford were looking a little more assured in possession now and could have got back on level terms in the 56th minute. A spot of head tennis outside Darlington’s box came to an end when Dieseruvwe brought the ball down off his chest before slamming in an effort that dipped just over the bar.
This was better from the Ammies and just a couple of minutes later Nottingham’s persistence on the right took him to the line and then past Terry Galbraith. A nice lay-off to the edge of the area picked out Dieseruvwe but his shot spun to the left where a surprised Phenix could only prod the ball straight at Bartlett. The pressure continued and after Burton’s great pass found Phenix on the left he played the ball inside and into the path of Maynard. This was another very good opportunity for Salford but once again it went begging as the former Tranmere midfielder hit a tame effort at Bartlett.
The home side had found some attacking form and Allen was the next to threaten, hitting an effort from the right hand side of the box that went a yard over.
Maynard was involved again in the 65th minute, lofting a pass down the right for Phenix to spin away from Brown and head toward goal. This was the best chance yet but last season’s top scorer snatched at it, hitting a shot that soared a dozen yards over the target.
It looked as if the Ammies would get their equaliser, but that build-up of attacking steam had apparently been exhausted and Darlington were digging in to protect their points. With 19 minutes left Nottingham played a great ball down the right that sent Dieseruvwe away through the inside right channel but was denied a free-kick after being bundled over by a solid defensive challenge.
By this time Salford had brought on Josh Askew and Anthony Dudley for Ibou Touray and Phenix, but those subtitutions did not signal a change in attacking fortunes. The Ammies were huffing and puffing but Darlo’s house was in no imminent danger of being blown down and the home side’s forays were beginning to look a little desperate.
The home side needed their first “big, late chance” of the season and it arrived in the very final minute of normal time. A ball from the right to the far side of the box was headed inside by Piergianni – whose imposing physical presence had been added to the attack. Possession fell for Maynard but from about 20 yards out he could only lash an effort wide of Bartlett’s right-hand upright.
Two minutes into time added on the Ammies were still pressing but another half-chance came and went as Dudley’s shot from inside the box was charged down by a defender. As you might expect, Salford were throwing caution to the wind in their chase for a leveller but were caught out in the 5th minute of injury time. Darlington substitute Harvey Saunders collected the ball in midfield before advancing on the right then cutting inside with pace. No challenge came in and Saunders passed low to the left where FERGUSON moved into acres of space before hitting an angle effort past Crocombe.
FULL TIME: SALFORD CITY 0 DARLINGTON 2
Not the start to the season that Anthony Johnson and Bernard Morley would have wanted, and they will be disappointed with the level of performance during a disappointing first half. There were little bits of genuine quality here and there but the Ammies looked disjointed most of the time and were bustled out of their stride by a typically determined and robust Darlington side.
The second half was better, especially the first 25 minutes or so, and if any of those clear-cut chances had been taken the outcome of the game could well have been much different. The necessary composure in front of goal was missing all through this match and that will have to be remedied in time for the midweek away game.
In the end though, too many misplaced passes, too many hit-and-hope long balls and a dollop of poor finishing made this a season opener to forget.
It’s important not to get carried away by this result – the players have the quality to bounce back from this setback and I suspect we will see a much more fluent performance from the lads at Chorley on Tuesday evening. There are no “must win” games in August of course, but a three point haul at Victory Park would certainly be timely.
Onwards and Upwards !
1) Max CROCOMBE
2) Liam Hogan
3) Carl Piergianni
4) Scott Burton
5) Danny LIVESEY
6) Lois Maynard
7) Michael Nottingham
8) Richie ALLEN
9) Mike PHENIX
10) Mani DIESERUVWE
11) Ibou Touray
12) Josh ASKEW (for TOURAY, 68th min)
14) Jake Beesley (for DIESERUVWE, 84th min)
15) Anthony Dudley (for PHENIX, 68th min)
16) Emmanuel Ogunrinde
GK) Tony AGHAYERE
Booked: Dieseruvwe, Maynard, Burton
1) Adam BARTLETT
2) Chris HUNTER
3) Terry GALBRAITH
4) Phil TURNBULL
5) Dominic COLLINS
6) Gary BROWN
7) Josh GILLIES
8) David SYERS
9) Mark BECK
10) James CATON
11) David FERGUSON
12) Leon SCOTT (for GILLIES, 67th min)
14) Liam MARRS
15) Harvey SAUNDERS (for CATON, 74th min)
16) Scott FENWICK
GK) Ed WILCZYSKI
Referee: Mr. Sam MULHALL
Assistant: Mr. Richard ELEY & Mr. Martin BEARD
Attendance: 1,777 (355 Darlington)