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Team Sheet

Salford City FC
1
Chris Neal
2
Scott Wiseman
3
Ibou Touray
Yellow card for Ibou Touray
6
Carl Piergianni
9
Adam Rooney (c)
10
Danny Lloyd

Haughton '71

11
Tom Walker
Yellow card for Tom Walker
18
Danny Whitehead
19
Mark Shelton

Hogan '80

23
Nathan Pond

Rodney '87

30
Rory Gaffney
2 goals for Rory Gaffney 2 goals for Rory Gaffney
Braintree Town
21
Ben Killip
Yellow card for Ben Killip
2
Jon Muleba
10
Mohammed Bettamer
2 goals for Mohammed Bettamer 2 goals for Mohammed Bettamer
11
Christie Pattison

Amaluzar '57

12
Christian Frimpong

Cass '75

14
Lyle Della-Verde
16
Kodi Lyons-Foster
17
Joe Ellul (c)
25
Reece Grant

Allen '83

26
Ricky Gabriel
28
Cameron James
Substitutes
12
Max Crocombe
5
Liam Hogan
7
Nick Haughton
14
Josh Askew
21
Devante Rodney
Substitutes
7
Luke Allen
9
Dan Thompson
27
Mo Sagaf
30
Justin Amaluzar
32
Jake Cass
Managers
Manager - Graham Alexander
Managers
Caretaker Manager - Hakan Hayrettin
Match Officals
Referee - Leigh Doughty
Assistant Referee - Robert Wainwright
Assistant Referee - Carl Rooney
Fourth Official - Darren Brown

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Match
Report

Salford City extended their unbeaten run to 13 league games and held on to the National League’s top spot. A case of “job done” for the Ammies you might think, but the statistics are more impressive than today’s performance. Graham Alexander’s men got off to a perfect start against bottom-of-the-table Braintree Town yet in the end it took a Rory Gaffney goal, deep inside time added on, to rescue a single point.

With Lois Maynard away on UEFA Nations League duty with St. Kitts & Nevis, Josh Askew was the only change to the squad of 16 who made the fruitful trip to Dover last week. The starting XI was the same and they took just over a minute to edge ahead. Mark Shelton’s clearance caught out the Braintree defence who could only watch in dismay as GAFFNEY arrived to poke the ball past Ben Killip.

With the Ammies netting 13 times in the last 4 games it was perhaps understandable that their supporters began to think another big score was on the cards. Those expectations were fuelled further in the 4th minute as another long, high ball from Shelton almost found Gaffney again. This time the Irons defence cleared their lines and that would be that for Salford’s great start.

Town started to see more of the ball and were soon beginning to pose some questions. In the 9th minute forward Mo Bettamer – who would prove quite a handful – spun on the right-hand side of the area before whipping in a low effort that Chris Neal did well to hold. He had another go soon afterwards, hitting a 22-yarder from right-of-centre over the crossbar.

Signs of life from the Irons attack and they very nearly picked Salford’s defensive lock in the 14th minute. Lyle Della-Verde slid a clever pass right through the centre of the home defence and Bettamer found himself inside the box and on his own. Fortunately for the Ammies Neal – not for the first time this season – had anticipated, advancing quickly. The keeper got down at Bettamer’s feet to deflect the ball away and his side’s early lead was still intact.

This was a good spell for the Iron and they weren’t finished just yet. Della-Verde let fly with a rising 25-yarder that wasn’t too far wide of Neal’s left-hand upright.

Town’s caretaker manager Hakan Hayrettin will have been pleased by his new charges’ response to going behind so early on. The Ammies gradually settled down but would find it difficult to break down hard-working opponents who looked dangerous on the counter.

In the 21st minute Gaffney got up on the edge of the box to nod a long ball down, finding strike partner Adam Rooney. Salford’s leading scorer has been in clinical form of late but this time, after shifting the ball onto his right-foot, could only lift a shot over the target.

A second goal for the Ammies would have left Braintree with quite a task and it nearly came along just past the midpoint of the half. Shelton’s pass to the right picked out Scott Wiseman’s run and the full-back played a one-two with Tom Walker before lofting in a cross from out wide. The effort was caught by the blustery breeze and almost deceived Killip. Despite positioning himself for a more orthodox delivery the keeper managed to extend an arm, pushing the ball onto the face of the bar.

There was no Salford player on hand to turn the loose ball home and their next opportunity came from a corner. Walker’s delivery fell for Nathan Pond towards the far post and he headed back inside where central defensive partner Carl Piergianni had arrived. A bouncing ball plus the presence of several Town defenders made this a difficult chance and Piergianni could only flick an effort over the bar from 7 yards out.

The Irons emerged from that spell of pressure to force a couple of corners but were unable to prise open a Salford defence that had only conceded twice in the previous 8 outings.

After a promising start the first half had become something less than a classic, with the quality of football not assisted by that troublesome wind. Ten minutes before half-time Danny Whitehead’s ball out to the right was collected by Gaffney who attacked the line before swinging a good cross towards the far stick. It was just too high for Rooney when it arrived and that would sum up much of Salford’s afternoon – little flashes of promise that didn’t quite come off.

Braintree were employing their counter-attacking tactics to decent effect and Christie Pattisson pushed forward on the right before delivering a cross. Bettamer was underneath that one but with a defender in close attendance could only head over from 8 yards.

Walker produced some of the close-control skills that earned him another England ‘C’ cap in midweek, then passed out to the right for Rooney. There were red shirts arriving in the box, notably Gaffney at the far post, but the cross was too long to cause any trouble for the Town defence. It was Danny Lloyd’s turn to deliver after that, getting into space on the left before putting in a pacey cross that evaded everybody in the middle.

It looked as if Salford would take their lead into the interval but Braintree won a corner on their right in the half’s final minute. Della-Verde hoisted it into the area and a Town head glanced the ball on. There was a big penalty shout from the visiting players and the referee agreed with them, adjudging Ibou Touray to have handled. The usual protestations followed but they failed to sway the officials and Bettamer was left to place the ball on the spot. An unusually curving run up followed but there was nothing suspect about the finish as BETTAMER powered in a low shot that beat Neal at his left-hand post.

There was time for little else and an understandably ebullient Braintree side left the field to the cheers of their hardy travelling support.

HALF TIME: SALFORD CITY 1 BRAINTREE TOWN 1

The opening 15 minutes of the second half produced some decent Salford build-ups but Braintree were in no mood to relinquish their hold on at least a share of the spoils. The Ammies were struggling to find a way through a sky-blue wall that confronted them, with a little touch of frustration beginning to show. In the 58th minute Walker was booked for a foul and soon after that the Iron replaced Pattison with Justin Amaluzar.

It was Walker who almost found a way through Town’s defence just a couple of minutes after picking up his yellow card. Rooney had his back to goal when a ball forward dropped for him and he cleverly chested it on for Walker to chase. One challenge was hurdled but a slightly heavy touch gave Killip the chance to rush out and smother the danger.

The Ammies found a little more fluency in the 64th minute as Wiseman played in Shelton on the right and his cross was directed towards the far post. Lloyd was on the end of it but with a defender closing in he could only head wide of the angle.

A couple of modest opportunities for Salford but they went close to taking the lead 22 minutes from time. Another neat touch from Rooney allowed Walker to slide a pass into the right-hand side of the area, where Gaffney had found himself a yard of space. The angled drive that followed was well-hit but Killip got down to his left, pushing the ball wide for a corner.

Again the set-piece couldn’t be converted into a chance and Braintree were still looking to push forward whenever a chance cropped up. Della-Verde’s left-flank corner fell for Bettamer, on the edge of the 6-yard box and level with the far post. It was a decent chance but the Iron forward will be disappointed with a header that dropped harmlessly over the bar.

The action moved back to the other end where Walker’s corner from the left was headed on to the far side of the box. Whitehead fancied his chances, crashing in a powerful effort that was blocked by Kodi Lyons-Foster. Braintree countered immediately, with Grant carrying possession deep into Ammie territory before nudging a pass to the left for BETTAMER. There was work to do and red shirts in front of him but the Braintree man coped admirably, cutting inside to the edge of the area before placing a low shot wide of Neal and inside the far post.

That one went in right in front of the Braintree fans who had travelled up from Essex. It would be churlish to deny them their celebrations, bearing in mind their side’s torrid start to the season.

Salford had a job on now as Braintree dug in to protect their lead. Men were committed forward but the Iron very nearly sealed their 3 points courtesy of yet another counter. It was Grant again, and this time he had a go himself from 35 yards out and perhaps a little bit left of centre. The shot came as a bit of a surprise and the ball rose high before cannoning off the front of Neal’s crossbar with the keeper eventually claiming possession.

A close run thing for the Ammies and they weren’t making much headway when it came to getting back on level terms. Nothing was coming off the for the league leaders and some uncharacteristically sloppy passing, allied with Braintree’s all-action defending, was limiting chances of an equaliser.

With 8 minutes left Walker’s cross from the left was just too high for substitute Liam Hogan, dropping for Wiseman on the far side. Once again though the finish wasn’t good enough as the right-back’s shot rose high over the bar. Whitehead’s effort from 22-yards met the same fate soon afterwards and it was beginning to look as if the Peninsula Stadium was about to witness a major shock.

The Iron were living up to their nickname, getting bodies in the way of everything Salford tried to do, breaking up play and still looking to hit on the break. Nevertheless Walker was finding space occasionally on the left and another good cross was just about nudged away as Piergianni readied himself to plant a header into the net.

Devante Rodney came on for Salford late on but it was beginning to seem as if the game was up. The 90 minute mark came and went, and even 5 minutes if time added on began to drain away without any clear-cut opportunities being created. Would that footballing staple “the last big chance” present itself? On this occasion it would, and Braintree hearts were broken in the 3rd of those 5 additional minutes. Roared on by a big home crowd Rodney pushed forward on the right before drilling a low ball into the area. For once no Braintree man got in clearance and GAFFNEY pounced to steer a low finish across Killip and inside the far post.

Pandemonium ensued on the terraces behind Killip’s goal, with visiting players sinking to the ground in dejection at the cruel blow they’d taken. It wasn’t over for them yet either as Salford poured forward from the restart, looking for a winner that had seemed well beyond them not too long ago.

It could have happened too – we had just trickled into the 6th minute of added time when Wiseman swung in a cross and Piegianni arrived to get in a header from 7 yards out. The crowd held their collective breath bit the ball bounced one before it was collected by Killip. It hadn't been the easiest of chances but had the ball gone a yard to either side we would have been celebrating one of the most dramatic turnarounds ever seen at Moor Lane.

It wasn’t to be, and in all fairness Braintree Town would have considered themselves hugely unlucky had they been returning to the South East empty-handed.

FULL TIME: SALFORD CITY 2 BRAINTREE TOWN 2

Not the result we wanted, or the one we had been expecting. After dismantling Dover Athletic at the Crabble last week it was reasonable to suppose the Ammies might have made short work of the Iron today. Football rarely obliges such best laid plans but it’s true to say that Braintree looked a much better side than Dover.

The awkward wind was a leveller to some extent but the Iron arrived with a game plan, stuck to it, took their chances and worked as hard as any visiting team over the past few seasons. The Town players wanted It today, that’s for certain, and at times they looked more confident and assured than their table-topping opponents.

Maybe that very quick goal lulled one or two Ammies into a spot of complacency – if so, today could prove to be a very valuable lesson on the nature of the National League.

One of football’s hoariest old chestnuts is that good teams get results even when they don’t play well. A bit of cliché it might be, but there’s plenty of truth in it. Salford never really approached their best form this afternoon yet they had the spirit and tenacity to chase a result even when experiencing another footballing phenomenon – the ‘bad day at the office’.

Graham Alexander will be pleased with the attitude of his side late on and will doubtless ensure that focus and drive are maintained for 90 minutes per game. Results elsewhere mean that we have retained top spot – the trick now will be to hold onto it.

Good luck to Braintree for the rest of the season – they deserved their point and nearly took all 3. The Ammies have a couple of weeks before their next league game (at home to Ebbsfleet United on the 27th) and now switch their attention to the FA Cup. Next destination is Marine, with a place in the first round awaiting the winners…

Attendance: 2,710 (approximately 50 from Braintree)

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