Ammies On Top After Harrogate Spar
A Lois Maynard header 13 minutes from time inflicted Harrogate's first defeat of the season
TUESDAY 5th SEPTEMBER 2017
VANARAMA NATIONAL LEAGUE NORTH
HARROGATE TOWN 1 SALFORD CITY 2
0-1 Mike PHENIX (2nd min)
1-1 Joe LEESLEY (47th min, pen)
1-2 Lois Maynard (77th min)
At about 7:40pm this evening the CNG Stadium announcer ebulliently informed the crowd that Harrogate Town had not lost a game so far this season. True at the time, but those words were a fair temptation for fate and 2 hours later Town’s unbeaten start had been consigned to the history books. An impressive first half performance could have seen the Ammies go into the interval 2 or 3 goals to the good, yet only Mike Phenix’s 2nd minute strike separated the sides. The second half would prove to be more testing yet Salford recovered from the body-blow of a penalty conceded a couple of minutes after the restart and Lois Maynard snatched a deserved winner 13 minutes from time. A first victory in 5 attempts over Harrogate Town since promotion to National League North level and despite the season's fledgeling status it may well turn out to be a vital one.
There were 2 changes from the side who started Saturday’s draw at Curzon Ashton, with Mark Shelton in for Jake Beesley and Mike Phenix replacing Mani Dieseruvwe. There was a change of formation too as the 3:5:2 (or 5:3:2 depending on your footballing philosophy) gave way to 4:4:2. Skipper Maynard lined up alongside Carl Piergianni in the centre of defence with Ibou Touray and Michael Nottingham filling the full-back berths. Josh Askew and Richie Allen slotted in on the left and right side of midfield respectively with Shelton – making his first competitive Salford start – forming a midfield partnership with Scott Burton.
Up front were Phenix and Jack Redshaw and within 2 minutes of the start the former put Salford City ahead. The Ammies had started enthusiastically and following a cleared corner Richie Allen swung a cross from the right into the near post. PHENIX's first effort appeared to be blocked but there would be no denying last season’s top scorer as he stabbed the loose ball past James Belshaw in the home goal.
An ideal start for the visitors and they should have extended their advantage just 2 minutes later. Askew picked up possession on the left and darted for the line before drilling a low cross into the edge of the 6 yard box. Redshaw seemed odds on to make it 2-0 but under desperate defensive pressure could only lift an effort over the crossbar with the goal gaping in front of him.
The Ammies had started their evening in fine style and Harrogate were most definitely rocking. With 6 minutes played Allen’s low cross from the left was touched on to the far side where Maynard let fly with a powerful on-target effort that was blocked – possibly - inadvertently - by defensive partner Piergianni.The early league leaders were under considerable pressure and a throw-in on Salford’s right was followed up by a one-two between Phenix and Redshaw who set off on a surging run up the flank. Having reached the area a low cross to the far post was only a foot or so too far in front of the incoming Askew. This time Harrogate managed to counter through Jordan Thewlis and the tricky forward laid off a pass to the right. Marcus Day was on the end of that one but when the shot came in Piergianni slid in to divert the ball behind for a corner.
When the set-piece came in it was dealt with efficiently by the Salford defence and that coolness under pressure would be a feature of their play all evening.
The Ammies were looking slick and mobile, restricting their North Yorkshire opponents to the odd counter. Even so Josh Falkingham and Jack Emmett, along with the busy Thewlis looked to have the creativity to cause problems for the visiting defence. In the 11th minute a quick passing move gave Thewlis the opportunity to slip a pass into the right-hand side of the area but Emmett hadn’t quite anticipated and was unable to capitalise.
Salford needed to be alert at the back but they still looked the more likely side to add to the scoring. In the 12th minute Touray curled a left-footed free-kick from the right to the far post but after nobody could get a touch the ball dropped mere inches wide.
Harrogate weren’t getting time to settle on the ball with Askew typifying Salford's all-action approach in the 16th minute. The terrier-like former Blackburn man pressured one Town defender to the extent that what should have been a fairly routine clearance ended up as a corner for Salford. Nothing came of the that set-piece but Touray delivered another free-kick from the right midway through the first half, with a defender forced to head behind at the far post. Again the corner was cleared but the Ammies won the ball back before Phenix advanced on the left then played a pass inside for strike partner Redshaw. A neat spin took him away from a defender but the subsequent low shot was comfortably saved by Belshaw.
As the half-hour approached Town began to offer more menace and Emmett’s powerful run through the centre was followed by a flicked pass to the right. This was promising for Harrogate but Thewlis’ low cross into the middle was knocked behind by the retreating Piergianni. Emmett was at it again in the 31st minute, once more looking to play Thewlis in only for the ball to be partially cleared out to the left. Joe Leesley had been quiet so far but moved inside to give himself a sight of goal before hitting a shot that dropped a yard over the bar.
Better from Harrogate but it was Salford who piled on more pressure after that with Redshaw’s effort from distance deflected behind for a corner. Twelve minutes before the interval Askew – having a fine half – won possession in midfield before advancing to slide a pass to the left for Redshaw. With the Town defence back-pedalling he cut inside along the edge of the box before hitting a curling effort that looked destined for the far bottom corner until Warren Burrell got in a vital block.
It was Town’s turn to press next as George Thomson’s pass into the left-hand side of the area looked certain to be cut out by Maynard. It wasn’t but Thewlis hadn’t gambled and was unable to latch onto the ball before it ran through harmlessly to Crocombe.
Harrogate were looking for an equaliser before the half-time whistle and after Marcus Day’s 25-yarder from right-of-centre was blocked the ball dropped for George Thomson, standing virtually next to him. Thomson lined up a shot too but this one skidded off the surface and bounced wide of Crocombe’s right-hand upright.
Once again the home side couldn’t exert a consistent spell of pressure and the attacking play switched to the other end of the field. First Burton had a goalbound effort blocked and then Allen played a neat ball into the path of Nottingham, advancing on the right flank. The subsequent low cross ran through to Askew on the far side and he worked the ball back into the middle where Allen managed to lift an effort over the crossbar from a few yards out. To underline a good chance wasted the ball rose high to come back off the underside of the stand roof then dropped into a dustbin positioned behind Belshaw’s goal.
The last opportunities of an entertaining first half went to Harrogate although after Day moved inside from the left he could only send a low drive straight at Crocombe. During time added on Ryan Fallowfield controlled a cross-field pass from the left before knocking a great cross into the danger area. There were yellow and black shirts arriving but Crocombe rose the the occasion, producing an acrobatic response that allowed him to push the ball clear.
HALF TIME: HARROGATE TOWN 0 SALFORD CITY 1
A very satisfying first half from the Ammies’ point of view, holding a good footballing side at comfortable arm’s length most of the time. The only shadows on their evening were the clear-cut chances that had not been converted and what could have been a commanding lead became level scores within 2 minutes of the restart.
Harrogate made 2 changes at the interval and came out for the second half looking determined to find a way back into the game. They won a corner after about 30 seconds and although that one came to nothing the home side wouldn’t have to wait too long to make an impact. In the 47th minute Fallowfield lofted a cross towards the far side of the area and Allen was adjudged to handle as the ball bounced into him. There have been more clear-cut handballs but you do see these given and the referee had a good look before pointing at the penalty spot.
Memories of last season’s late nightmare at this venue – when Simon Ainge netted 3 penalties during the last 10 minutes to secure an unlikely draw – flooded back as LEESLEY placed the ball on the spot. There would be no change of fortune for the Ammies as Town’s number 11 slammed a rising effort to Crocombe’s left and although the keeper went the right way there was little chance of him keeping it out.
Salford could have been 3 up at the interval but now, just 2 minutes into the second half, found themselves back on level terms.
The game settled for a while but it was Salford who were next to show some attacking teeth. In the 53rd minute Burton’s lofted punt from the edge of his own area bounced towards Town’s penalty area and for a moment it looked as if Redshaw would manage to bring the ball down. Belshaw had other ideas, rushing headlong out of his penalty area to get in a header that cleared the immediate danger to his goal.
Salford were back on the offensive after a minute when Burton controlled a long ball just outside his own area before launching a long pass to the left for Askew. Touray took over and slotted inside for Redshaw who had time and space to hit a stinging effort that flashed just outside Belshaw’s left-hand upright.
The game became a little scrappy for a while after that but Town gradually began to find some cohesion and were looking more likely to conjure a threat. Their quick passing style got going a little bit and they were pressing Salford more persistently than had been the case during the first half. The Ammies were coping quite well but the feeling was growing that the evening’s scoring might not yet be over.
Nevertheless Crocombe was still not being seriously tested and it was Salford who created the next decent opening with 25 minutes left. Burton’s deft touch back in midfield found Allen who advanced on a central run before picking out Phenix, who cut in from the left before seeing his angled 20-yarder deflected over for a corner.
Salford made 2 substitutions just after that with Allen and Askew replaced by Anthony Dudley and Dieseruvwe in a bid to freshen up attacking options. It would do so, but for now it was Town’s Thewlis causing problems with a run that took him half the length of the pitch, from centre to the right. There was a sight of goal at the end of that progress but the Town striker could only direct a low, angled effort wide of the far post.
Leesley was the next to carve out a chance, doing well on the left with 17 minutes left before directing a cross towards the far post. Substitute Jake Wright was under pressure from Touray yet managed to get in a header that Crocombe snatched from the air at the angle of his left-hand post and the bar. Wright threatened again soon after, collecting a throw-in from the left before using his strength to turn inside and along the edge of the box. Once again though the finish didn’t match the approach play as a right-footed effort soared a couple of yards over the crossbar.
Half-chances for Town but it was Salford who scored what would turn out to be the games winning goal in the 77th minute. Just before it arrived Dudley’s run on the left had been followed by a pass to Touray whose whipped cross was just a little bit too far in front of Dieseuvwe. Next the visitors won a corner and Touray trotted over to the right before dropping a nicely judged delivery towards the edge of the 6-yard box. Salford captain Maynard rescued a point with his goal at the Tameside Stadium on Saturday and won an extra 2 here, rising high to plant a downwards header that beat Belshaw before bouncing high into the back of the net.
Far from sitting back in the aftermath of Maynard’s goal Salford went looking for another one, to push the game beyond Harrogate’s reach. Redshaw found space on the right to send a curling cross into the box but a defender got to it before intended target Dieseruvwe could.
Back at the other end Leesley, who had enjoyed a much better second half, crossed from the left with the ball being met by Emmett just beyond the far post. He has probably made better contact than this but his effort thumped into the surface and looked to be creeping in until Crocombe got down to help the ball around the upright and out for a corner.
Jake Beesley came on for Redshaw who had taken a painful knock earlier in the second half and the Ammies kept possession well, denying Town the chance to put them under pressure. Three minutes from time Town substitute Ben O’Hanlon tried a 22 yarder from left-of-centre and at first it looked as if the nicely struck shot would dip, only for it to drop harmlessly over the bar.
Salford were finishing the stronger of the two sides and during the final minute of the 90 Dieseruvwe nodded on a ball into the box but despite Dudley’s efforts a defender nudged it out at Belshaw’s left-hand post. Dudley returned the favour a minute later, clipping a pass into the right-hand side of the area only for a defender to get in a toe in and deny Dieseruvwe a chance to shoot.
Harrogate couldn’t get hold of the ball and the Ammies could have scored their 3rd of the evening during the corresponding minute of time added on. The ball seemed to drifting out on Salford’s left for a Town throw-in but Dudley chased it down before heading for the line and twisting inside past a defensive challenge. Harrogate were all over the place as the former Bury striker kept his head to lay a low pass back into the path of Dieseruvwe. The big striker looked certain to score until a defender slid in to make a superb block, at the expense of a corner.
There were 5 minutes of injury time in all but Town had run out of ideas and at the final whistle the Ammies celebrated a hard-fought but deserved win with their travelling supporters.
FULL TIME: HARROGATE TOWN 1 SALFORD CITY 2
There was a degree of disappointment in the Moor Lane camp following Saturday’s draw with Curzon but any lingering wisps of that cloud have been firmly dispelled by this top drawer showing. The first half saw the Ammies produce the type of fluent football they’ve been threatening for a while and after Phenix’s opener they could – and perhaps should – have added 2 or 3 more.
A one goal lead is always vulnerable and so it proved here as Town were awarded a penalty very soon after the restart. Credit is due for Salford however as they didn’t let that setback affect them too badly and although Harrogate were much better during the second half the visitors continued to create chances. On a more clinical day the Ammies could have recorded 6 goals but while their profligacy will be of some concern to the managers they will be happy with the chances created and the 2 that were put away.
This was a gritty, determined performance from Salford just when they needed one and allied with no small degree of creativity and skill it was enough to inflict a first defeat of the season on Harrogate Town. All 14 of the players who saw action today did what was asked of them and you cannot really expect more than that. A great win against a good side and the task now is to repeat that dose when new leaders Brackley Town visit Moor Lane on Saturday.
A well-deserved round of applause is due for the players and coaching staff, as well as the supporters who travelled to cheer them on (before enduring multiple M62 closures on the way home) - then we move on to the business in hand.
HARROGATE TOWN (Yellow and black/black/black):
1) James BELSHAW
2) Ryan FALLOWFIELD
3) Ben PARKER
4) Josh FALKINGHAM
5) Bailey GOODA
6) Warren BURRELL
7) George THOMSON
8) Jack EMMETT
9) Marcus DAY
10) Jordan THEWLIS
11) Joe LEESLEY
12) Ben O'HANLON (for FALLOWFIELD, 66th min)
14) Joe CRACKNELL
15) Ben MIDDLETON (for GOODA, half-time)
16) Jake WRIGHT (for DAY, half-time)
17) Noel BURDETT
SALFORD CITY (All blue):
1) Max CROCOMBE
2) Michael Nottingham
3) Josh ASKEW
4) Scott Burton
5) Carl Piergianni
6) Lois Maynard
7) Mark Shelton
8) Richie ALLEN
9) Mike PHENIX
10) Jack Redshaw
11) Ibou Touray
12) Tony Aghayere
14) Jake Beesley (for REDSHAW, 81st min)
15) Dom McHALE
16) Anthony Dudley (for ASKEW, 66th min)
17) Mani DIESERUVWE (for ALLEN, 66th min)
Booked: Shelton, Dieseruvwe
Referee: Mr. Dean HULME
Assistants: Mr. David PILL & Mr. Andrew KITCHEN
Thanks to Alan Broughton for the headline !