Brakes Put On Ammies Charge
An eleven game unbeaten run comes to an end as Leamington edge Salford out by the odd goal in five
SATURDAY 7th OCTOBER 2017
VANARAMA NATIONAL LEAGUE NORTH
SALFORD CITY 2 LEAMINGTON 3
0-1 Rob THOMPSON-BROWN (19th min)
1-1 Mike PHENIX (29th min)
1-2 Connor GUDGER (44th min)
2-2 Mike PHENIX (68th min)
2-3 Kurtis REVAN (85th min)
Sometimes in football it’s just not your day and this certainly turned out to be an afternoon to forget - or maybe learn from - for the Ammies. Despite once again hogging the attacking possession - and scoring two good goals - a trio of Leamington set-pieces consigned Salford City to their second home league defeat of the season.
The starting line-up was unchanged from the 1-0 win at Gainsborough a fortnight ago but there was good news on the substitute’s bench as Gus Mafuta was fit to return to action following that pre-season injury.
The Brakes had chalked up two wins and two draws from their six away games this season but soon found themselves pressed back as Salford looked for an early advantage. Some crisp passing and fluid movement promised goals and the first real opening came along in the 5th minute. Carl Piergianni played a great lofted pass down the left and Ibou Touray caught it almost on the line before pulling a low ball back towards the edge of the box. Two Leamington defenders managed to slip simultaneously on the slick turf giving Josh Askew a sight of goal but his 18-yarder from left-of-centre spun off a defender before running sedately through to Brakes’ skipper Tony Breeden in goal.
Anthony Dudley initiated the next dangerous attack almost straight away, slipping a ball to the right and into the path of Michael Nottingham. The full-back’s delivery across the 6-yard box was a good one but Askew, on the slide, couldn’t quite get there.
Salford were clicking nicely into gear and in the 8th minute Liam Hogan’s ball down the right flank gave Mike Phenix the chance to run. Having powered past a defender last season’s top scorer got in a low cross and Junior English could only prod back towards his own goal. Keeper Breeden just about managed to stop the ball crossing the line but his defence were soon under pressure again.
Again the danger came down Salford’s right and this time Scott Burton did well to hook a pass forward from tight to the line. Phenix was stretching Leamington’s defence again, getting into the box before squaring low inside. The ball wouldn’t quite sit up for a red shirt and fortune was with the Brakes, allowing them to finally clear their lines.
Leamington still couldn’t raise the siege on their goal however and an Askew-Dudley one-two almost breached their rearguard but Breeden had anticipated and got to the return ball first.
The Brakes had done virtually nothing so far in terms of threatening Max Crocombe’s goal but with a dozen minutes played Rob Thompson-Brown tried a low 30-yarder that went wide of the Salford keeper’s right-hand upright.
If there’s a criticism to level at Salford City so far during what has been a great start to the season it would probably be the rate at which chances are converted to goals. They continued to apply pressure here and on the quarter hour really should have taken the lead. Dudley’s short corner from the right was nudged back to him and this time a clever pass picked out the unmarked Jack Redshaw inside the area. For a player of Redshaw’s quality this was a great chance but 15 yards out he got under the ball to send an effort high over the crossbar.
Leamington had started to see a little bit more of the ball themselves by this point, playing some neat stuff yet there had been hardly any sign of them seriously threatening Crocombe’s goal. That situation changed in the 19th minute as Nottingham struggled to deal with an awkwardly dropping delivery into the box and as the ball went loose Piergianni seemed to tug on the shirt of Jack Edwards. The referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot and the Brakes had been handed a great opportunity to open the afternoon’s scoring. THOMPSON-BROWN was handed responsibility for the spot-kick and despite the whistling and gesturing from the Salford fans gathered in the West Stand he placed a good finish low inside Crocombe’s right-hand post. The home keeper made a valiant attempt to get there, going the right way, but the pace and accuracy of the penalty were enough to put Leamington one up.
A goal very much against the run of play but it encouraged the visitors and suddenly what had promised to be a fruitful afternoon for the Ammies was suddenly looking rather more difficult. Nevertheless they still looked very capable of creating more chances and in the 26th minute Touray teed up Dudley for a thumping 20-yarder that had Breeden diving to his left to punch the ball away.
Salford deserved a goal and didn’t have to wait very much longer to get one. Just before the half-hour mark a spell of pressure finished with a pass played inside from the left. Lois Maynard latched onto it and he cut inside along the edge of the box before hitting a low, curling effort that might well have found its way inside the far post. PHENIX removed any doubts over the destination of the ball, providing the gentlest of touches to divert Maynard’s effort just inside the upright, with Breeden rooted helplessly to the spot.
Having got back onto level terms Salford’s next task was to establish a lead and they set about that task with a degree of relish. Again pressure was applied and Askew slammed in a rising 20-yarder from just left-of-centre that Breeden could only push back into play. Once more there was no red shirt on hand to poke the loose ball home and the Brakes were able to hack clear. Touray threatened next, finishing off a run on the left with a clipped pass inside. Redshaw was the recipient had he had time and space to get his bearings before curling a 22-yarder inches wide of Breeden’s left-hand post.
There was more disappointment for Redshaw 10 minutes before half-time as he chased a ball over the top with the closest defender seeming to slip and fall. Salford’s number 10 had a clear run of goal but the referee awarded Leamington one of the softest free-kicks of the afternoon – and the competition for that award would be pretty fierce.
It seemed only a matter of time until the Ammies edged ahead and in the 41st minute Redshaw collected a pass with back to goal, midway into the Leamington half. A sharp turn gave him the chance to head for the box and he hit a decent low 20-yarder only to be foiled again as Breeden got down to his left to push the ball behind.
Despite a dominant first-half performance it looked as if the teams would go in level but Leamington set-piece number 2 was about to make its presence felt. A forward ball was contested by former Villa and QPR striker Stefan Moore and although he went to ground a bit too easily under Hogan’s challenge the referee obliged with a free-kick, 25 yards out and centrally positioned. Left-back CONNOR GUDGER stood over this one and promply lofted in an exquisite shot that clipped off the inside of Crocombe’s left-hand post before dropping into the net.
The referee’s whistle brought a frustrating first half – from Salford’s point of view – to an end and as the player’s made their way off an altercation ensued, involving players and coaching staff from both sides. When the dust had settled, and after the officials got together to sort out what happened, Salford City joint-manager Anthony Johnson was sent off.
HALF TIME: SALFORD CITY 1 LEAMINGTON 2
Urged on by their vocal travelling support and buoyed by a fortunate half-time advantage, the Brakes started the second half well. Jack Edwards couldn’t quite wrap his foot around Thompson-Brown’s delivery from the left and Moore skewed a shot wide when he perhaps should have done better.
The Ammies quickly rediscovered their poise and Touray powered in an angled shot from the left with the ball going just wide of he far stick.
The home supporters had become increasingly irritated with Leamington’s ability to win free-kicks from the most innocuous of challenges so it was ironic that Phenix was booked in the 64th minute for simulation after it looked as if he may well have been clipped. For the Brakes Edwards in particular had been eager to go to ground all afternoon yet he had picked up a number of free-kicks as well as the penalty, all without attracting censure from the referee.
Salford were pouring forward again and Piergianni’s powerful 22-yarder from left-of-centre was parried by Breeden. Seconds later Touray poked in an effort from the same side, although considerably closer and this time Leamington’s keeper pushed the ball around his right-hand post for a corner. Dudley hoisted in the set piece from the left and PHENIX rose imperiously to get in a nicely judged downwards header that beat Breeden at his left-hand upright.
The very least the Ammies deserved was to be level and the stage now seemed set for an all-out assault on Leamington’s goal. With 20 minutes to play Nottingham slid a pass to Phenix on the right and he hammered an effort towards the near post only to see it headed away by James Hood.
At the other end a misunderstanding almost allowed Brakes’ substitution Kurtis Revan in but the attacking momentum was firmly with the home side now. Leamington were getting men behind the ball and competing for everything but fortune also seemed to be wearing a blue shirt this afternoon. In the 77th minute Breeden blatantly picked up the ball outside his area but after the referee looked to his assistant for guidance he received entirely the wrong advice.
A Touray corner from the right was headed towards goal by Maynard and although Breeden could again only push the effort away, a defender got there first to put in a clearance.
Salford were on the hunt for a winner but had to keep an eye open at the back too. With 10 minutes left Edwards once more responded to a light challenge by going to ground and yet again the referee awarded the free-kick. From deep and down the middle Thompson-Brown lofted a ball into the left-hand side of the box where Edwards could only glance a header wide of the keeper’s right-hand post.
The Ammies had brought on Mafuta for his competitive debut after the former Gateshead midfielder picked up an injury during pre-season. In the 81st minute he reacted quickly to pick up possession after a Salford corner had been cleared and his run took him to the edge of the box. A short diagonal pass into the area found Phenix on the right and be got real power behind his low, angled effort only for Breeden to pull off a top-class save as he droped to push the ball wide of his far post.
That crucial third goal was eluding Salford but the situation got rather worse for them 5 minutes from time. Hesitant defending gave Leamington an opening and Revan slipped a pass to fellow substitute Callum Gittings who advanced before hitting a low effort that took a slight deflection on its way outside Crocombe’s left-hand post. The Ammies seemed to believe it had not and maybe their concentration slipped as a result of their disappointment over the decision. It was the wrong time to lose focus because the corner came in from Leamington’s right and dropped into the 6-yard box where REVAN was able to nudge the ball over the line.
Leamington’s players celebrated with their travelling support behind Crocombe’s goal, and well they might. An unlikely win appeared to be on the cards and the inquest among Salford’s defence can only have concluded with “we should have done a lot better with that one”.
There would be about 8 or 9 minutes to play but Leamington dug in again and the Ammies failed to create a decent opportunity to grab a third equaliser of the afternoon. At this level it’s difficult to break down determined opponents who get men behind the ball but even so Salford’s management team will be disappointed by the overhit passes and crossed that marked their team’s efforts over the closing minutes of what had become a desperately disappointing afternoon.
Salt could have been driven into Salford wounds in the penultimate minute of the 90 as Leamington broke with Kieran Dunbar and he swapped passes with Gittings, advancing to his right. Salford’s defence had been caught pressing forward but Dunbar failed to take advantage, hitting a low shot that Crocombe did well to deflect away with his legs.
FULL TIME: SALFORD CITY 2 LEAMINGTON 3
It cannot be doubted that Salford were unlucky to come out of this game empty-handed but to a certain extent they contributed to their own downfall. On a moderately lucky afternoon the Ammies could have got 6 against Leamington but this time the brace they did score were not enough. Faced with opposition whose main attacking ploy seemed to be winning set-pieces and seeing what came from them, defensive focus – usually so tight – was allowed to slip at crucial times. At the other end it sometimes seems that we have to create half-a-dozen or more good openings before one of them is put away.
It seems a bit churlish to be critical after the recent run of impressive league results but with 1 automatic promotion spot up for grabs every game is vital. Harrogate Town won at Curzon this afternoon and the side that takes that top spot will be the one that produces quality and consistency over the course of the season.
Credit to the Brakes who stuck to their game plan, worked prodigiously hard and responded positively to being pinned back twice. They can be proud of their showing although three points was an extravagant reward for their overall contribution.
If Salford can become more ruthless inside the penalty area they stand a great chance of winning the National League North – the ability to do so is definitely in place. Let’s go out and prove it…
SALFORD CITY (Red/White/White):
1) Max CROCOMBE
2) Michael Nottingham
3) Ibou Touray
4) Scott Burton
5) Carl Piergianni
6) Liam Hogan (c)
7) Anthony Dudley
8) Lois Maynard
9) Mike PHENIX
10) Jack Redshaw
11) Josh ASKEW
12) Gus MAFUTA (for BURTON, 79th min)
14) Dom McHALE
15) Mark Shelton (for DUDLEY, 68th min)
16) Jake Beesley
17) Mani DIESERUVWE (for ASKEW, 56th min)
Booked: Piergianni, Hogan, Phenix, Mafuta
Sent Off: Johnson
LEAMINGTON (All Blue, yellow trim):
1) Tony BREEDEN (c)
2) James MACE
3) Connor GUDGER
4) Joe CLARKE
5) James HOOD
6) Junior ENGLISH
7) Kieran DUNBAR
8) Joe MAGUNDA
9) Stefan MOORE
10) Jack EDWARDS
11) Rob THOMPSON-EDWARDS
12) Richard TAUNDRY (for DUNBAR, 90th min)
14) Callum GITTINGS (for THOMPSON-EDWARDS, 80th min)
15) Kurtis REVAN (for MOORE, 68th min)
16) Liam CANAVAN
17) Ahmed OBENG
Referee: Mr. Benjamin SPEEDIE
Assistants: Mr. Liam ROBINSON & Mr. Carl ROONEY