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Salford manager Gary Bowyer watches over the warm-up with his arms folded ahead of Salford City's first pre-season game at Atherton CollieriesGary Bowyer made a winning start to his permanent tenure at Salford City with a 3-0 win at Atherton Collieries in the first game of pre-season.

Two goals in the opening 20 minutes from Ian Henderson set the tone for a soggy afternoon at The Skuna Stadium before Luke Burgess neatly clipped in a third late on.

It wasn’t just about returning to playing though as the team played in front of a vocal Ammies support for the first time in 15 months.

Salford striker Ian Henderson moves forward in possession away at Atherton CollieriesOverwhelmingly a satisfactory afternoon then, barring the weather and a delay in play while a rogue flare was dealt with, and the Manager was content with performances across the field.

“It was really good, first and foremost it was great to have fans back in the ground and good to obviously meet some of the Salford fans so that was a really good positive for us.

“The game itself, first half the lads have put a real good effort in at the end of a very long week and they’ve worked hard during that week so we’re pleased with the outcome and obviously to get Ian Henderson off already with two goals is terrific.

“I thought Josh Morris showed what he’s going to be like for us, not just in his general play but his delivery from set plays, to score two goals from set plays in the first game is very good. 

“I’m delighted with Liam Shephard, the way he’s come in and performed, he’s settled in really well and he’s just showed you what a really good player he is today, and then the other two new boys as well Matty Lund did terrific for us and Conor McAleny in there, so pleased with the first half and everybody coming through with no injuries and no soreness which was good.

“Then the second half was a mixture of one or two trialists we’re having a look at and one or two of the younger boys and again pleasing to get them 45 minutes under their belt, and we score a wonderful goal with Brandon linking up with Luke Burgess.”

Liam Shephard passes a ball in field on his Salford debut in a pre-season friendly away at Atherton CollieriesNorthern Premier League outfit Atherton are yet to complete a full season in the seventh tier due to Covid, and from open play they were committed and organised. The lethal Henderson though, Salford’s top scorer in 2020-21, twice managed to find space in front of goal to put Salford into a healthy lead albeit before both goals he had been denied by solid blocking defending.

Other chances were crafted, notably Jordan Turnbull heading narrowly over, and in the second half after Salford made a number of changes Atherton had a couple more sighters through Elliot Rokka. However the result was put to bed when the lively Burgess got on the end of a delightful through ball from Brandon Thomas-Asante to lift a shot over the oncoming Danny Taberner.

Salford midfielder Luke Burgess tricks his way forward away at Atherton CollieriesUltimately a good workout for the squad, and an important game to get back into the swing of things as Salford hope to pick up on August 7th where they left off in May.

“I think it’s just getting used to each other again, building relationships, and just the timings for example centre halves coming to head the ball and getting used to that,” added the Gaffer. 

“In training obviously it’s a little bit more controlled than when you’re playing against an opposition but I thought today Atherton, fair play to them, they were well organised and looked well coached, and it was a good game for us.”

Thanks again to Atherton for hosting us, and best wishes for the season ahead.

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