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A last minute header from Jake Beesley gave Salford City their first pre-season victory as NPL Premier side Nantwich Town were beaten 2-1 at the Weaver Stadium. The Ammies were good value for their win overall although it did look as if Jack Higginbottom’s leveller 6 minutes from time might deny them.

Manager Graham Alexander again decided to field a different team in each half as he continues to assess his players, along with the odd trialist or two.

A gloriously sunny evening in the heart of Cheshire and Salford started the game in an appropriately bright manner. Within 3 minutes of the start Tom Walker had done well to make his way to the left-hand angle of the 6-yard box. A ball inside found its way to Hemmings whose shot was blocked by Toby Mullarkey, with the trialist left-back hitting a follow up straight at Dabbers keeper Andy Wycherley.

Salford were keeping possession well, patiently waiting for holes to open up in the home defence. To be fair there weren’t too many to find early on as Town kept it nice and tight at the back. Hemmings found the space to hit a 22-yarder after a dozen minutes of play but couldn’t keep his effort down.

Nantwich looked most dangerous when former Ammie Joe Mwasile embarked on a run and Jordan Davies headed one cross from the right off a defender and behind for a corner. Mwasile was creating again soon afterwards and from his pass inside James Lawrie tried his luck with a shot that was bravely blocked by Liam Hogan.

The game’s opening goal arrived in the 18th minute and it went the way of Salford City. Walker’s free-kick from wide on the left was aimed towards the far post and Town’s lines were not cleared. There was a bit of a scramble before Rodney directed the ball low across the 6-yard box where LOIS MAYNARD beat Wycherley to slam a rising close range effort into the roof of the net.

The first goal of 2018-2019 and it looked as if the Ammies were capable of adding more. Walker’s control in the middle of the park was impressive (although it may have been assisted by an inadvertent handball) and the ball out right to meet Devante Rodney’s run was a good one. The former Hartlepool man’s first touch took him into the area and Wycherley did well to push the stinging rising drive that followed over the bar.

Just past the mid-point of the first half Danny Whitehead swung in a corner from the left and Hogan’s 8-yard downwards header was collected by Wycherley. Walker had a go next but his 25-yard free-kick from left-of-centre dropped just wide of the keeper’s right-hand angle of bar and post.

The Ammies were still bossing possession and creating decent scoring chances. They could have gone two ahead in the 31st minute after Hemmings’ clever cross-field pass found the trialist full-back on the left. A driving run into the area followed but with Anthony Dudley unmarked in the middle the aspiring Ammies elected to slam in an angled 10-yard effort that flew a yard wide of Wycherley’s right-hand upright.

Salford won possession deep inside Dabber territory 12 minutes before half-time and Rodney advanced through the inside-left channel. Space was opening up but the move came to a disappointing end as Dudley was adjudged to be offside when the ball inside was played.

The trialist left-back had done quite well so far and in the 38th minute he latched onto a glorious Walker pass that bisected the home defence precisely. Again he elected to have a go but once more Wychereley was there, managing to push the well-struck effort wide for a corner.

That was just about it for the first half but Salford could be reasonably pleased with a performance that might well have yielded more than just the one goal.

NANTWICH TOWN 0 SALFORD CITY 1

A wholly different 11 took to the field in the blue, unnumbered shirts of Salford City for the second half and the Dabbers made 4 changes of their own. One of those Nantwich substitutes was Nathan Cotterell and he served early notice of personal intent within 3 minutes of the restart. A nippy run on the left was followed by a dangerous low ball inside, with Jake Lawlor forced to concede a corner as yellow shirts closed in.

Salford were soon playing some nice football again but the next chance of note went to the home team. Cotterell was again the architect, darting to the line on his left flank before pulling back an inviting pass into the middle. Danny Glover got there first but with a real sight of goal could only skew a shot wide of Max Crocombe’s left-hand post.

On the hour Cotterell and Glover combined again but after collecting a neat pass Matt Bell failed to hit the target.

Mark Shelton had already sent one effort from distance high over the bar but in the 61st minute he forced a good save out of Wycherley, hitting a rasper that was pushed behind for a corner.

The Ammies were again playing some good stuff but the ball wasn’t quite running for them in the final third.

As the game entered its final quarter Nantwich manager Dave Cooke displayed a finely tuned sense of occasion by bringing on a certain Harry Cain. A name to strike fear into opponents at the moment but thankfully Salford would largely retain their defensive composure.

Nick Haughton had looked lively since coming on at half-time and with 19 minutes left he hit a 25-yard free-kick that had Wycherley moving smartly to his left to save.

There was more good football played by the visitors but much of it was breaking down in or around the box. Kieran Glynn, showing some nice touches this evening, swapped passes with Haughton before sliding a low ball into the left-hand side of the area for Rory Gaffney. The angle was on the acute side but the former Bristol Rover slammed in a low shot that zipped across the 6-yard box without anyone being able to apply a decisive touch.

With 15 minutes left Haughton prompted another Salford attack, picking out Gaffney as he moved into space on the right. The low pass inside was good but Glynn, from slightly right of centre, could only roll an effort inches wide of Wycherley’s right-hand post.

The Ammies pushed forward again and within another 60 seconds Shelton had hit a pacy effort that Wycherley could only push back out. It was a simple task for Jake Beesley to tap home the loose ball but the assistant’s flag had already been raised for offside.

Gaffney looks to be a very tidy acquisition and with 11 minutes left played a nice ball into the left-hand side of the area for Ibou Touray. Again the angle was challenging but the former Dabber drove in a low shot that went wide of the far post.

The Dabbers hadn’t contributed much more than hard work for a while but they could have got back on level terms with 9 minutes to play. Joe Malkin’s header inside the box dropped towards Cain but he couldn't find the target with a nodded effort of his own.

Otherwise Salford were well on top but their second goal was proving to be elusive. In the 83rd minute Glynn showed some neat footwork before slipping a pass through for Haughton. The midfielder deserved a goal for his inventive performance but it wasn’t to be as the 18-yard left-of-centre effort dropped just over the crossbar.

The Ammies had created quite a number of openings so far, but with only one taken their lead was fragile. The price for profligacy was duly paid with just over 5 minutes left after Nantwich were awarded a free-kick wide on their right. The delivery dropped towards the far post and from among a crowd of players and 6 yards out JACK HIGGINBOTHAM's header beat Crocombe at his right-hand post.

A bit of a blow for the faithful few who chose to travel instead of watching France book a World Cup Final place, but there was life in this game yet. In the penultimate minute Gaffney was played into space on the right, making it to the angle of the penalty area. This was dangerous for Town but Joel Stair got across and Gaffney’s low shot across substitute keeper James Hawkins cleared the far post by a foot.

It looked as if that might be that but Salford’s Shelton had other ideas. With seconds left to play he found space on the right before launching a dream of a cross towards the far post. BEESLEY got on the end of it, rising to nod a header just inside Hawkins’ right-hand upright.

FULL TIME: NANTWICH TOWN 1 SALFORD CITY 2

In the end this was a deserved win for Salford and there were plenty of good things about the performance. There was some slick football played during both halves and on another sultry evening the levels of energy were impressive. Graham Alexander and Chris Lucketti will have learned a lot about their players and will now be forming a clear idea of the side who will face Leyton Orient in the season opener on 4th August.

In the meantime however we can look forward to the visit of League One Barnsley on Saturday, with that one kicking off at 3pm.

TEAMS:
Salford City First Half: Chris Neal, Scott Wiseman, Trialist 1, Lois Maynard, Carl Piergianni, Liam Hogan ©, Ashley Hemmings, Danny Whitehead, Anthony Dudley, Devante Rodney, Tom Walker

Salford City Second Half: Max Crocombe, Trialist 2, Ibou Touray, Gus Mafuta, Nathan Pond, Jake Lawlor, Kieran Glynn, Mark Shelton, Rory Gaffney, Jake Beesley, Nick Haughton

Nantwich Town: Andy Wycherley, Troy Bourne, Damien Skolorzynski, Joel Stair, Toby Mullarkey, Caspar Hughes ©, Joe Mwasile, Matt Bell, Danny Glover, James Lawrie, Jordan Davies.
Subs: James Hawkins, Ryan Allcock, Sam Wakefield, Clayton McDonald, Harry Cain, Declan O’Riordan, Nathan Cotterell, Jack Higginbotham, Joe Malkin

Referee: Mr. Conor Brown

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