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A first half hat-trick from academy player Kamar Moncrieffe proved enough to propel Salford City into the last 8 of the Frank Hannah Manchester Cup. The first of those 3 strikes came with rather less than a minute played and the second came just 5 minutes later. Ashton were always playing catch-up after that and in the end the order was too tall against an Ammies side that deserved victory.

Unsurprisingly, changes were rung for this one and none of the 11 starters this evening began Saturday’s impressive 4-1 win at Dover Athletic. Even so this was a strong Salford line-up with 7 first-team players accompanied by lads from the academy. Ashton United manager Jody Banim – who as a player had a short spell with Salford -also took the opportunity to field an experimental line-up. Only two of tonight’s 11 started the 1-0 FA Cup win at Kings Lynn on Saturday – Casian Anghel & former Ammie Dom McHale.

A crowd of over 500 had assembled at the Peninsula Stadium and many were still making their way to a seat or place on the terracing when Salford took the lead. From their first attack, with barely 30 seconds played, the Ammies attacked on the right and when the ball came in MONCRIEFFE guided an effort past Harry Turner in the Ashton goal.

A very decent start for Graham Alexander’s men and it got better in the 6th minute. Ashton’s defence had struggled to settle to their task and failed to clear a ball played into the box – again from the right. MONCRIEFFE was there again, finding a little space to tuck a neat finish past the exposed Turner.

Two up with the game barely started and the Ammies continued to make all the early running. In the 11th minute Nick Haughton’s challenge wide on the left dispossessed Curtis Jones and Moncrieffe was left with acres of space to attack on the flank. He made it to the line before slipping in a low cross that was knocked behind for a corner. Zack Woodcock delivered the set-piece from the left and Liam Hogan met the ball toward the far post with a towering header. From just 8 yards out the well-directed downwards effort looked certain to extend Salford’s lead until Turner got down to make an exceptional save.

Another goal might well have ended the game as a contest, despite the lack of minutes on the clock, and Ashton had more pressure to deal with. Just past the quarter-hour Salford regained possession and Moncrieffe, understandably fancying his chances, hit a low, central 25-yarder straight at Turner.

There was a fair shout for a penalty soon after that as Luke Ashworth put in a heavy challenge on Devante Rodney inside the box, but the referee was not convinced.

Haughton would have quite a few pops at goal over the 90 minutes and in the 21st an effort from distance seemed on target until it flicked off team-mate Josh Askew then out for a goal-kick.

Ashton hadn’t managed to create anything so far but with 23 minutes played a penetrating run from Ramirez Howarth was followed by a good pass that gave Ryan Watson a sight of goal. It was a decent opening but Watson’s sights were a touch out and his low shot dragged wide of Max Crocombe’s left-hand post. The Ammies were quick to counter and Askew tried a 20-yarder from just left-of-centre that took a deflection before rolling harmlessly through to Turner.

McHale had been quiet on his return to the Peninsula Stadium but he moved outside to the left-hand angle of the box before hitting a rising shot over the crossbar.

A couple of chances for Ashton but otherwise Salford had been very much in the ascendancy. Thirteen minutes before half-tine Haughton had a go from a free-kick, a few yards outside the left-hand angle of the penalty area. The ball curved and moved in the air but didn’t dip sufficiently to trouble Turner.

Askew nudged a pass for Rodney to hit a low 25-yard effort straight at Turner. Salford were cranking up the pressure again and James Hooper’s pass up the left was controlled by Haughton. Hooper continued his run and collected a nicely judged return ball before whipping a low cross to the near post. A purple shirt was on the end of it, but the clearance dropped nicely for Askew on the edge of the area and just left-of-centre. Another very presentable opportunity for Salford but his rising drive cleared the crossbar by a foot or so.

A trying half for Ashton deteriorated further 9 minutes before the interval after their hosts put together another nicely constructed move. Haughton started it off on the left, playing a pass inside to Woodcock who moved possession over to the far side for Moncrieffe. The 17-year old was having a memorable half and his darting run into the area was terminated by a Josh Stachini trip. There were no complaints about the award of a stonewall penalty and Moncrieffe himself retrieved the ball and placed it onto the spot. At first it seemed as if he would be denied a hat-trick as Turner dived to his right, flinging up an arm to block the rising shot. It was a very good save from the Ashton keeper but the footballing Gods turned their back on him as possession fell back to MONCRIEFFE who slotted home from close range.

Harsh on Turner but a fantastic first half for Moncrieffe as he completed a 36 minute hat-trick.

Salford continued to press as half-time approached and Haughton’s slaloming diagonal run from the right to the edge of the box was finished off by a rising shot on goal. Turner got both hands to the well-struck effort, pushing the ball into the air then claiming possession as it dropped back down.

Three minutes before the break Rodney controlled the ball stylishly inside the box only to see his effort saved by Turner.

HALF TIME: SALFORD CITY 3 ASHTON UNITED 0

Not the best of first halves for the Robins and manager Banim made a couple of changes during the half-time break. McHale and Stachini’s evenings were over as Mark Lees and Bradley Jackson were thrown into the fray.

The second half would be a little flatter than the first but Salford were still very much looking for goals. Within 3 minutes of the restart Askew’s nicely struck effort from far out dipped dangerously but was well stopped by Turner. A couple of minutes later Ashton had their first chance of the half as substitute Lees hit a pacey effort from the left-hand angle of the box. The ball zipped just wide of Crocombe’s right-hand upright, serving a reminder that Ashton had not yet given up on their Manchester Premier Cup campaign.

Back down at the West Stand end the Ammies won a free-kick and a couple of corners as they sought to push the game out of the Robins' reach. In the 53rd minute Askew teed up Haughton whose low drive was tipped around the post by Turner. From the corner, taken by Haughton from the right, Rodney just failed to get his head to the ball, right in front of goal.

Jackson had the pace and direct approach to cause Salford problems and a lightning break on the right was followed by a driven ball across the box. Howarth was closing in towards the far post but the pace on the cross was just too much for him and no decisive touch was applied. Jackson was at it again within 60 seconds but this time a low cross towards the near post was cleared by a home defender. This was Ashton’s best spell of the game so far and they carved out a good chance in the 58th minute. Striker Liam Martin hadn’t made his mark on the game but here he collected a great ball from Ryan Watson before lifting a curling effort over the bar.

It was Salford’s turn next but after Askew nudged a pass to Rodney close to the left-hand angle of the box, the former Hartlepool man could only loft an effort wide of the far post. Haughton was still looking to get his name on the score-sheet but after getting into the box on the left he could only plant a low shot wide of the far post.

A Moncrieffe header dropped over the bar after that and in the 64th minute Haughton’s latest effort, a 25-yard dipper, was well saved by Turner.

The Ammies had created enough chances to win 2 games but as it was Ashton’s hopes were still just about flickering. Anghel had a penalty shout waved away in the 66th minute then Watson’s 30-yard right-of-centre effort passed outside Crocombe’s left-hand post.

Both sides made substitutions after that with Joel Barlow & Will Shepherd replacing Hogan & Woodcock for Salford. For the Robins, winger Ryan Crowther – out with a knee injury for 14 months – made a very welcome return to action as he came on for Martin. He could have made an immediate impact too, going ever so close to applying a finishing touch to Howarth’s ball across the box.

In the 73rd minute the Robins went close again after Howarth slipped a pass inside from the left. Skipper Matt Hill hit a low, angled effort but the ball was always curving away from goal, eventually passing a yard outside the far upright.

Salford’s two substitutes combined after that as Barlow’s low ball in from the right found its way to Shepherd. The low shot that followed appeared to have pace and direction, but it clipped off an Ashton player before being comfortably collected by Turner.

The Robins almost shot themselves in the foot 9 minutes from time as Curtis Jones’ pass inside from the right went straight to Rodney. The Salford striker had acres of space to advance into on his central run but elected to have a go from almost 30 yards out. The low effort was on target but lacked pace and was routinely saved by Turner.

There had been quite a few chances during the 2nd half – most of them going Salford’s way – but the final goal of the evening went to the visitors. Hill and Crowther were involved in a neat build-up before HOWARTH capped a good personal performance with by slamming in an effort from the left that went in off the far post.

A nicely taken goal for the Robins but it would be too little, too late for them. Salford finished the game on the front foot with Haughton lining up a 25-yard left-footer that just about cleared the West Stand. Two minutes from time he delivered a deep free-kick from the right but the ball spun off Moncrieffe right in front of goal dropping over the crossbar.

FULL TIME: SALFORD CITY 3 ASHTON UNITED 1

A good evening’s work from Salford’s point of view as players who haven’t had too much game time this season got a useful run out. In addition there was a tremendous contribution from the academy lads who certainly didn’t look out of place in a tie played against National League North opponents.

Congratulations are due to Kamar Moncrieffe who scored Salford's second hat-trick in 4 days on what was a great evening for him.

The quarter-finals are due to be played during week commencing 12th November and the Ammies find themselves a couple of games away from a cup final. This is a trophy that has evaded them since 1979 when Salford Amateurs defeated Irlam in the final of what was then the Manchester Intermediate Cup. Since then there have been 3 final appearances, the most recent of which came in 2013 when the Ammies lost on penalties to Mossley.

It’s obviously not the most prominent of priorities for Graham Alexander but it would be nice to lift this trophy – we might not have too many more chances, after all…

TEAMS:
Salford City: 1, Max Crocombe, 2. Sam Adetilote, 3. James Hooper, 4. Brandon Lockett (Alex Doyle, 84), 5. Liam Hogan (c) (Joel Barlow, 69), 6. James Jones, 7. Nick Haughton, 8. Josh Askew, 9. Devante Rodney, 10. Kamar Moncrieffe, 11. Zack Woodcock (Will Shepherd, 69')
Subs not used: George Neave
Ashton United: 1. Harry Turner, 2. Curtis Jones, 3. Josh Stachini (Mark Lees, half-time), 4. Luke Ashworth, 5. Matthew Hill (c), 6. Ryan Watson, 7. John Roberts, 8. Ramirez Howarth, 9. Liam Martin (Ryan Crowther, 70), 10. Dom McHale (Bradley Jackson, half-time), 11. Casian Anghel
Subs Not Used: Aaron Chalmers

Attendance: 518

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