Salford City Manager Graham Alexander feels his side are preparing well for the start of the 2020-21 season after another encouraging pre-season display.
Despite a 3-1 defeat to Championship side Preston North End at The Peninsula Stadium, The Ammies performed and competed well for long periods of the game.
The better of the first chances went the way of the hosts as Ian Henderson and Brandon Thomas-Asante tested Connor Ripley in the opening 10 minutes before Ash Hunter and Oscar Threlkeld opened up half chances. Alex Neil’s side took a two-goal lead shortly after the 20-minute mark though, courtesy of efforts by Scott Sinclair and Billy Bodin within two minutes of each other.
Hunter pulled a goal back before the half hour, firing a low shot underneath Ripley who had saved an initial Jason Lowe shot, but his defence failed to pick up Henderson who was lurking nearby, and his pass back to Hunter was inviting enough for the shot.
Chances continued for both sides and a Sean Maguire strike before half time was ruled out for offside, while the other side of the interval a Patrick Bauer header cannoned off the defender’s own crossbar, much to his relief, as he tried to clear a corner.
However the Lilywhites sealed victory in their first pre-season game when substitute Josh Harrop tapped into an empty net at the back post as Salford were caught out at the back.
While the result wasn’t favourable, the Gaffer was happy with the performance and the continuing progression of the squad who are now three weeks into pre-season, and will continue to step up preparations ahead of kick-off in the Carabao Cup on Saturday 5th September.
“I thought we did really well in spells, I thought we probably created the better chances in the first half, we weren’t clinical enough with those chances, but the two goals we concede in a real short space of time has hurt us in a result type of way, but we’re looking to improve the performances.
“What I’ve just said to the players there is ‘we’ve seen a lot of creativity and energy, but I feel we have to sure up on the defensive side of it, right from the front’, and that’s what these games are going to do; they’re going to expose any improvements you have to make or any weaknesses in your team and Preston are a good team.
“From the challenge point of view it was a real good one.
“We know what we want to see from the team so as long as we see the things we want to see when the league starts that’s the main thing, but I think any mistakes or gaps you leave when you’re playing better opposition, like we have today, you get punished from.
“For me, you can win all the pre-season games, you can lose all the pre-season games, and day one of the season gives you a surprise so we’re concentrating on our performances at the moment, the players’ fitness levels – that’ll be the first 90 minutes for quite a few boys for maybe six months – and we’re still getting other lads up to speed.
“It’s all about progression each game and progressing the performance level of the team so we’re getting that, we’re still working hard on the training pitch day in, day out, before and after games. It’s about when the season starts and looking at the quality of the players, looking how motivated they are, I’m really pleased with our progression in the three weeks that we’ve had training with them.”
The SkyBet League Two season kicks off on Saturday 12th September, with The Ammies hosting play-off finalists Exeter City on the opening weekend followed by a trip to Ian Holloway’s Grimsby Town and Forest Green Rovers back at The Peninsula Stadium.
September is very much dictated by the Carabao Cup though with Rounds Two, Three and Four on consecutive mid-weeks before the end of the month should clubs be successful. Although there is the uncertainty of not knowing how many games will be played in September, the Gaffer is confident The Ammies will be ready.
“Obviously the first month is loaded with cup games so if you’re successful in those rounds you’re going to have a busy schedule.
“The second month in October I think there’s seven league games so that’s a fair shift but it is what it is, we have to be prepared and be ready for it, we have to get through pre-season getting the boys as fit as possible without losing any to injury because we’re not over-loaded with numbers.
“But we don’t want to peak too early, we want to be ready for when the season starts so there’s a lot of games, but games is what we’re here to do and play so we’ll look forward to it.”