The halfway point in our A to Z series brings us to the letter ‘M’, which is for…
Sport has long been played on the ground at Moor Lane, with records stretching back to the 1600s making it one of the oldest venues still used for sport. Athletics, Horse Racing and Rugby have all been played on the ground, in addition to football, with an England international rugby trials match taking place once upon a time.
Salford Football Club, before the days of becoming ‘City’, moved into Moor Lane in 1978 with the first game taking place against Abbey Hey in the Manchester League Premier Division on Saturday 16th September 1978, which Salford won 5-1 (Cairns x2, Thornton x2, Higgs).
Plenty of work was required on the ground as the pitch was in poor condition, and the main stand was derelict and without a roof. However it wasn’t in vain as the club was accepted into the semi-professional Cheshire League in 1980.
In 1990 floodlights were first installed at Moor Lane, which allowed us to enter the FA Cup for the first time, in our 50th anniversary year. We featured in the BBC’s Road to Wembley feature ahead of our Preliminary Round tie against Warrington Town, but lost the game 3-0 in front of 121 supporters.
After the success of the 2008-09 season and staying in the NPL Division 1 North, disaster struck in October 2009 when the clubhouse was set ablaze in an arson attack. Many years’ worth of memorabilia, photographs, shirts and records were destroyed as flames tore through the building, but through vast efforts a new clubhouse was built, and when the Class of ’92 arrived in 2014 they invested in further expanding it.
Exciting new plans for the site were unveiled in October 2016, and by the time Stalybridge Celtic visited us in February 2017 The West Stand was functional. Pressure was on to make sure the ground met the National League North’s criteria to avoid relegation back to the Northern Premier League, and we managed to satisfy it to the extent we were allowed to compete in the play-offs unlike Darlington, who despite finishing in the play-offs couldn’t compete because their ground didn’t meet the criteria. By the time they visited us for the last game of the 2016-17 season, the seats in the North Stand were in use and the skeleton of the Away Stand erected.
The summer of 2017 allowed the Away Stand to be completed, and a new irrigation system was installed at the ground. While the club became full time, we also sadly waved goodbye to the old main stand as it was demolished to make way for the South Stand. Peninsula were announced as Stadium sponsors in October 2017 when Sir Alex Ferguson officially opened the Stadium, and a commemorative game between a Salford City XI and a Class of ’92 & Friends XI took place in November 2017 when the South Stand was completed.
Finally the changing room and offices complex was completed in March 2019, including Buck’s Bar for the South Stand. When the iconic new crest-shaped floodlights were installed, the old ones were donated to Punjab FC to help them out, so when they were no longer needed by the club the portakabin changing rooms found a new home at Heywood St. James!
Manchester Premier Cup
An honourable mention too for the Manchester Premier Cup, composed by Frank McCauley.
The Premier Cup is Manchester FA’s senior non-league knock out competition. Unfortunately, despite appearing in three finals, it was a case of ‘always the bridesmaid never the bride’ for Salford City.
Our first final appearance was against Curzon Ashton at Old Trafford in May 1990. Thanks to a near post headed goal from Mark Platt after 12 minutes Salford held the lead until Curzon substitute Alan Sykes equalised with 13 minutes to go. Extra time couldn’t split the two sides and they met again in the replay at Droylsden’s ground, The Butcher’s Arms.
Weather conditions were pretty bad that night. Salford put themselves in front in the second minute through Des Daly only for Derek Egan (later to be coach under Bernard and Jonno) to equalise five minutes later. Salford had chances to regain the lead but it was that man Sykes again with a hat-trick on 70, 80 and 88 minutes who claimed the cup for Curzon with Wayne Roberts bagging an injury time consolation for the Ammies.
Ashton United were the opposition in our next final at Oldham Athletic’s Boundary Park in April 2002. This was one of those games where the result definitely flattered the winners. Despite riding high in what was then the Unibond First Division, Ashton were run ragged in the opening half hour which saw Rhodri Giggs have a penalty saved after 16 minutes. A quick Ashton break ended with Phil Denny giving them the lead on the half hour. Salford had a great start to the second period with Mattie Hughes equalising two minutes into the half. The Ammies were their worst enemies spurning a number of scoring opportunities before Craig Challender put Ashton in front and Denny added his second minutes from the end.
The Ammies’ third and most recent final was at Stockport County’s Edgeley Park ground in March 2013. Salford were under a lot of Mossley pressure through most of the game but despite going two goals behind they battled back to be on level terms after 90 minutes.
There was no extra time, the game going straight to a penalty shoot-out with Mossley taking the cup 4-2. In normal time a single goal – a penalty from Mossley’s Gary Gee – separated the teams at the interval. Sam Madeley (later to sign for Salford) increased their lead after 57 minutes before The Ammies began their fight back with a Brad Robinson strike on 76 minutes with Danny White bringing the sides level seven minutes from time. Mossley’s keeper, Russell Saunders, was their saviour in the time remaining with a couple of outstanding saves setting up the shoot-out finale.