“IT wasn’t pretty” admitted Salford City captain Liam Hogan after marshalling his side to a 1-0 victory away at Blyth Spartans.
A seventh consecutive league win coupled with Harrogate’s loss at FC United of Manchester means that league leaders Salford are now nine points clear at the top of the Vanarama National League North.
However the result wasn’t as straightforward as it appears, and The Ammies had to dig in deep, particularly at the end, to come away with a tenth clean sheet in 20 games.
And Hogan says a tough game is what his side expected, and what they prepared for:
“We’ve stuck to the game plan, it wasn’t pretty,” said the former Gateshead defender.
“It was never going to be our best performance this year, we were never going to come here and play pretty.
“They’re a good side, a useful side that have scored a lot of goals so I think it was important that we got the first goal because as a unit, as a team, we’ve done it before, we’ve soaked up a lot of pressure.”
Blyth were joint-top scorers going into the game having found the net an average of 2.4 time per game in the league, so keeping them out was always going to be a difficult ask particularly with the attacking talent Alun Armstrong’s side boast.
Nevertheless Hogan was full of praise for the way the entire team contributed to the defensive performance, and said it was a ‘pleasure’ to be a part of, also putting the game up there as one of the best this season.
“We feel they were very good on the counter attack, they’ve got a lot of quick players and to be fair they’ve had a few shots today and some superb defending, goalkeeping, has kept them at bay and that probably feels like one of the best wins alongside the Chorley one.
“I know you might think some of the better football we’ve played in other games but as a centre half our purpose is to stop the goals going in so that feels better than any wins this year and like I said, we looked at them, they’d scored the most goals in the league this year, so to stop them and shut them out at their own place is massive.
“It’s a theme that we’ve worked on all week so it’s good to see that the rest of the lads, even Duds clearing the ball off the line at the end, everyone’s been involved at the end.
“Its a full squad game and I’ve just patted the lads on the back because it was a pleasure playing in that team today.”
THE GOOD RUNS CONTINUE
Victory in Northumberland extends The Ammies’ unbeaten league run on the road to 10 games since the 1-0 loss at Gainsborough Trinity last season, which in a league where it’s difficult to string wins together is a good achievement in Hogan’s eyes.
“It’s remarkable form because if you look around at all the other teams there’s not many that can put too many wins together, so to put seven back-to-back, and especially with the away record we’ve got at the moment, is remarkable.
“Albeit the way we win games isn’t always pretty but the most important thing today was the three points against a very, very tough side so we’ll build on that again.”
Anthony Johnson and Bernard Morley’s current best run of league wins stands at nine, achieved at the back end of the 2014-15 season, and as this run nears that record Hogan hopes that the momentum can carry Salford through to the new year.
“This month is, I mean they’re all tough, but this month’s a really, really tough month so if we can come through this well then that’s going to stand us in good stead for the new year.
“You’ve just got to keep doing, believing, giving everything.
“Training this week’s been really impressive and it starts from there when you’ve got a full time side you’ve got to be able to use it to coach, to be coached and we’ve done that today with a game plan.
“A pat on the back to every single player and this group’s getting tighter and tighter, so it’s brilliant to be involved in.”
Joint-manager Morley, who recently celebrated his 150th game in charge of Salford alongside Johnson, added:
“It’s massively important [to keep the run going].
“You enjoy wins like this, the lads are absolutely buzzing, but it’s all about not getting complacent, keeping your feet planted.
“We’ll work hard in training this week and we’re back up here next week for an equally tough game at Darlington so it’s just important we get back to training and really apply ourselves.”
The next game for Salford is a trip to Darlington’s Blackwell Meadows on Saturday 9th December. The Quakers surprisingly won 2-0 at The Peninsula Stadium at the beginning of the season, however after the departure of Martin Gray to York City this is a new era at Darlington…