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Team Sheet

Hartlepool United
1
Scott Loach
2
Peter Kioso

Richardson '85

3
Mark Kitching
6
Liam Noble

Hawkes '88

7
Ryan Donaldson (c)
16
Nicky Featherstone
1 goals for Nicky Featherstone
17
Myles Anderson
21
Luke Molyneux
29
Nicke Kabamba
1 goals for Nicke Kabamba
33
Luke James
Yellow card for Luke James
34
David Edgar

Holohan '43

Salford City FC
1
Chris Neal
2
Scott Wiseman
3
Ibou Touray
4
Gus Mafuta
Yellow card for Gus Mafuta

Redmond '66

5
Liam Hogan (c)
Yellow card for Liam Hogan (c)
6
Carl Piergianni
Yellow card for Carl Piergianni

Linganzi '70

7
Matt Green
Red card for Matt Green Yellow card for Matt Green Yellow card for Matt Green
8
Lois Maynard
9
Adam Rooney
1 goals for Adam Rooney

Dieseruvwe '63

10
Danny Lloyd
Yellow card for Danny Lloyd
18
Danny Whitehead
Substitutes
10
Niko Muir
11
Josh Hawkes
14
Gavan Holohan
19
Kenton Richardson
26
Adam Bale
Substitutes
12
Max Crocombe
11
Tom Walker
15
Devonte Redmond
20
Mani Dieseruvwe
24
Amine Linganzi
Managers
Manager - Craig Hignett
Managers
Manager - Graham Alexander
Match Officals
Referee - Andrew Miller
Assistant Referee - J Bickerdike
Assistant Referee - T Fletcher
Fourth Official - D Carr

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Match
Report

Salford City's final game of the scheduled season ended in defeat, with Hartlepool United coming out top by the odd goal in five. Adam Rooney had put The Ammies ahead within three minutes of the start, but Matt Green's dismissal during first-half time added on proved to be pivotal. The former Lincoln City forward picked up a second yellow card following a challenge on Pools keeper Scott Loach and the home side took advantage of their numerical superiority. Hartlepool ran in three second-half goals and although Mani Dieseruvwe pulled one back late on, back-to-back league defeats have consigned Graham Alexander's side to a third-place finish.

With an outside chance of overhauling leaders Leyton Orient, the gaffer set up his side to score goals. With defensive stalwart Nathan Pond rested, Lois Maynard dropped back into the centre of the defensive three. The Dannys Lloyd & Whitehead were drafted into midfield, with Devonte Redmond dropping down to the bench. Up front Green formed a partnership with Rooney, leaving recent starter Dieseruvwe having to be content with a place among the substitutes.

With their supporters in fine voice, the afternoon started perfectly for Salford when they went ahead as early as the third minute. It was a good goal too as Lloyd swung in a cross from the right with ROONEY arriving to guide a first-time finish between Loach and his left-hand post.

A fine goal,and the Ammies were looking determined to push Orient all the way. They went close again in the fifth minute as Lloyd took a free-kick, tight to the line on the left. Hartlepool's defence left Lois Maynard unattended beyond the far post and he met the delivery to power in an angled header. Loach displayed the quality that earned him fourteen England Under-21 caps as he stretched to his right, pushing the ball away to safety.

During the first-half Salford would look dangerous every time they crossed the halfway line yet Pools were certainly in no mood to let their visitors have things all their own way. Luke James in particular would cause problems for the Ammies all afternoon and with eight minutes played he cut into the box from the left. A sight of goal encouraged James to pull the trigger, but Liam Hogan had tracked him all the way and the blocked effort spun up and over the bar for a corner.

James was at it again soon afterwards, chasing a loose ball into the left-hand side of the penalty area. Chris Neal was off his line quickly, getting there first to punt a clearance that thudded off James and away from goal.

Pools had found their attacking feet and Sunderland loanee Lee Molyneux was next to threaten, hitting a low left-footer wide of Neal's left-hand post. From their next attack Hartlepool won a free-kick deep on the right, with Noble lofting the ball to the far post where big striker Nicke Kabamba got in a header that dropped outside the Salford keeper's right-hand upright.

Molyneux worked himself into another decent position on twenty-five minutes, moving inside from the right prior to drilling a low twenty-two yarder wide of Neal's left-hand post.

The attacking impetus was with Hartlepool. after their opponents had made an intense start to the game. The Ammies were confined to the odd break and during one of these Green picked up a yellow card after a clash with an opponent. That booking would have serious ramifications before too long, but in the meantime Pools resumed their hunt for an equaliser. Mark Kitching got forward to whip in a cross from the left, with James getting up to meet the delivery on the penalty spot. It was a decent chance but the Hartlepool man couldn't keep down a header that failed to trouble Neal. Noble was the next to have a go, hitting an effort from distance that was comfortably held by the keeper.

The Ammies had been quiet for a while but displayed their attacking teeth again thirteen minutes before the interval. Scott Wiseman's advance on the right was followed by a cross that Lloyd met, right-of-centre with an eighteen-yard glancing header that dropped outside the far upright. The former Stockport forward turned provider next, getting in a cross from the right that was flicked on by Green, only for Danny Whitehead to plant a header over the bar from in front of goal.

Gus Mafuta picked up a yellow card five minutes before half-time after being warned a couple of times by the referee. Soon after that Hartlepool suffered a blow when David Edgar collapsed to the turf after tracking Lloyd's run on the left flank, with Gavan Holohan coming on in his place.

It seemed as if Salford would make it to the break unscathed but the tide of the game turned against them during the third minute of time added on. The Ammies broke out of defence, with Green surging forward on a left-of-centre run, in chase of Whitehead's pass from deep. Loach advanced quickly to the edge of the box, with Green sliding in to challenge as the two came together. The keeper writhed around in apparent agony for second or two before springing athletically to his feet when it became apparent that the referee was reaching for his pocket. It has to be said that Green's attempt for the ball looked a trifle rash for a player already on a yellow, and the referee accepted the invitation to dismiss him from the field of play.

We'd seen histrionics from the home side following earlier challenges made by Salford players so Green's red-card may well have been a case of 'job-done'.

HALF-TIME: HARTLEPOOL UNITED 0 SALFORD CITY 1

Even with eleven men on the pitch Salford had been forced to defend for portions of the first-half - the challenge now was to protect their narrow load with a numerical disadvantage. The job could have been made a touch easier three minutes after the restart when Whitehead latched onto a ball on the left, slipping past Peter Kioso and into the penalty area. This was a big chance to establish a two-goal advantage but Loach stood stall and strong, making a good blocking saved when the shot came in.

That would prove to be another crucial moment in the game as Hartlepool shrugged off the scare to get back on level terms. Two minures later a cross from wide on the right was met by Kabamba beyond the far post, and when he headed back inside NICKY FEATHERSTONE was on hand to poke a finish past Neal.

The pressure on Salford's goal persisted after Featherstone's goal and five minutes later Holohan slammed in a rising shot from just outside the box. Neal was beaten but on this occasion fortune favoured the Ammies as the ball cannoned off the underside of the bar and back into play. Salford cleared their lines but momentum was with their hosts and the final half-hour seemed a difficult prospect.

Lloyd picked up a slightly harsh booking in the sixty-second minute after angrily throwing the ball to the turf following a decision that went against him. Within seconds of that manager Alexander made his first change of the afternoon, replacing Rooney with target-man Dieseruvwe. Hogan followed Lloyd into notebook after body-checking an opponent and bringing what could have been a dangerous break to a premature end.

Salford were largely playing a containing game against motivated and lively opposition, but they did manage to create a chance in the sixty-eighth minute. Ibou Touray advanced through the inside left channel then could only drag a low twenty-yarder wide of the far stick.

Some encouragement for the travelling supporters - not that much was needed - but within a minute their side had gone behind. Hartlepool pressed forward again, with Noble hitting a low effort from right-of-centre that Neal stopped but could not hold. The ball squirmed away to the left where KABAMBA had a simple task, tapping the into the empty net from close range.

It was time to roll the dice again, with Amine Linganzi coming on for Carl Piergianni who had played every single minute of Salford's league season so far. The change ushered in a switch to a 4-3-2 formation as the Ammies went for an equaliser that would allow them to retain second place in the table. They fashioned an opportunity straight away as Lloyd aimed a cross from the left at the near post. Dieseruvwe stooped in a brave attempt to get there with his head, only for a defender to make a hasty clearance.

With Salford committing men forward when they could, space was always liable to open up behind them. Hartlepool ruthlessly exploited one such situation with thirteen minutes left after Ryan Donaldson clipped a low pass down the right-flank. Molyneux advanced before playing a low ball into the nearside of the box and from fifteen yards JAMES hit a low, angled shot inside the far post.

That made the score three-one in Hartlepool's favour and it looked as if the game was up for Salford. To their credit, the Ammies still tried to apply pressure on the home goal and Hartlepool were obliged to defend a couple of dangerous balls into their penalty area. Time was running out for what would be an unlikely comeback, but Salford cut the deficit to one goal with three minutes remaining. Substitute Devonte Redmond picked up possession wide on the left and his cross was a good one. DIESERUVWE escaped the attentions of his marker, stretching out a leg inside the penalty area to poke a finish past Loach.

A lifeline for Salford and it spurred them on to go in search of what would be a dramatic equaliser. Maynard's long, lofted ball out of defence was expertly controlled off the chest by Dieseruvwe, who made half-a-yard of space prior to hitting a low shot that was charged down. The ball went loose, with Lloyd in desperate chase but Loach managed to smother the danger.

In the final minute of four added on Touray swung over a cross from the left, looking for Dieseruvwe only for a defender to glance out beyond the far post for a corner, Lloyd delivered low to the near post, with Maynard stooping on the edge of the six-yard box to get in a header that rose almost vertically before dropping over the bar.

By the time Loach launched the goal-kick upfield the referee had the whistle at his lips and the regular season was over.

FULL-TIME: HARTLEPOOL UNITED 3 SALFORD CITY 2

This was a game that hinged around one key incident, with Green's sending-off shifting balance firmly in Hartlepool's favour, Ironically the formation and personnel that have picked up so many points of late might have served Salford better when they were down to ten man. As it was, manager Alexander's adventurous selection was perhaps less well suited to protecting a lead with a man short.

In terms of the title, this result made little difference. Orient took a point from their home game with already relegated Braintree, securing automatic promotion into the bargain. A little further to the east Solihull Moors snatched second place courtesy of an draw at Dagenham & Redbridge where they held out despite a great deal of late pressure.

It's not ideal to go into the play-offs on the back of two defeats but those disappointments must be quickly brushed away. We are, after all, where we thought we'd be before today's match, with a home play-off semi-final to negotiate. We know now that the game will be on Sunday 5th May at The Peninsula Stadium, with the winners of Thursday's Wrexham-Eastleigh Qualifying Round tie providing the opposition.

One game at a time is the order of the day, at the end of another thrilling season for Salford City.

Attendance: 3,582 (300 Salford)

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