ANTHONY JOHNSON described Salford City’s first half performance as “outstanding” as his side went on to defeat Harrogate Town 2-1 at The Peninsula Stadium.
The Ammies started brightly and went into half-time 2-0 to the good; a first half-time lead at home since October 21st against York City.
Mike Phenix, one of two changes to the starting line-up, scored his second of the season against Harrogate with a tap in on the line after James Belshaw struggled to keep hold of a slippery ball.
Then Tom Walker scored his first for the club shortly before the half hour mark with a neat finish that ended up being the winner as Dominic Knowles could only score a consolation in the second half.
However it was enough to earn the three points, and Johnson praised his side’s attitude towards the first half: “We banged on all week about starting quickly, starting well, because there have probably been a few home games recently where we’ve gone in at 0-0 or 1-0 down at half time and we’ve had to put the after burners on in the second half, but it felt a little bit differently today because we started really brightly.
“We tweaked the formation slightly with Nick [Haughton] coming in, Tom going back to the left after he finished on the right last week.
“I thought Tom was absolutely superb, an outstanding performance and he fully deserved his goal. I thought the front four, the movement amongst Jack [Redshaw], Pheno, Tom and Nick was superb, absolutely outstanding, but that was built on the foundation of the lads behind them, the way the lads defended, the way Gus and Lois picked up the second balls and played forward, aggressive with their passing, I thought we were outstanding first half.”
Simon Weaver’s Harrogate side haven’t failed to score in a league game this season, and Knowles’ consolation just after the hour had an element of inevitability to it.
Town came out strongly in the second half, and after Josh Falkingham headed wide, Knowles forced Max Crocombe into an excellent save before finally beating the New Zealand keeper.
Despite all the possession, crosses and half chances, there was little to test a resolute Salford defence, led impressively by captain Liam Hogan, as The Ammies saw the game out to open up an 11-point lead over their closest challengers.
“It’s a massive win in terms of how the league table looks,” said Johnson.
“You’ve got to give credit to Harrogate, personally in my opinion you’ve seen two of the best three sides in the league there and I’m not just going off what the league table tells you, that’s in my opinion what I’ve seen.
“It was a game of two halves, first half I thought we were absolutely outstanding, could have been out of sight, then second half we’ve had to show our resilience and dig in because of some of the football they played in the second half.
“They’ve had a 20-25 minutes period where it just wouldn’t drop for them and they played some really good football.
“We don’t give enough praise to Liam, he’s our captain, he gets the stick when things go wrong above everybody else, but he takes it like a man and his performance today, he led like a proper leader, putting his body on the line and I thought he was superb along with Pidge and the other boys.”
This is a big statement but that was the best support we’ve had from the @SalfordCityFC fans all season.. Unreal from our supporters today ❤️⚽️
— Anthony Johnson (@amjonno) January 20, 2018
There were two changes to the side that beat AFC Telford United last weekend with Phenix coming in for Anthony Dudley, and Mark Shelton making way for new signing Nick Haughton.
However there still wasn’t a berth for Josh Askew, who came on as a substitute, but Johnson explained the former Blackburn Rovers defender, like the players who weren’t involved, understands that it’s a squad game:
“I thought Josh got us up the pitch really, really well. Really disappointing not to be starting today with his performance in the second half last week; brilliant, absolutely brilliant even though he were on the pitch for 45 minutes, I thought he was probably our man of the match.
“We’ve explained to him that at this moment in time he did superb as an impact player and we felt that with the way the game might have gone today, as the game got stretched he’d play an important part and so it proved.
“Duds and Bees came on at a point where we didn’t feel the ball was sticking enough high up the pitch and as soon as they came on the link up play between them, the way the ball stuck, got us up the pitch.
“We’ve got a group of lads here who buy into what we’re about, they’re not just 11 or 14 players. Richie Allen, Dom McHale, Mani Diesreuvwe, all out of the squad today but big smiles on their faces for the lads.
“I’m really looking forward to being in this week with the boys but [it is] a massive game next Saturday and I can’t wait!”