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Chris Neal, Salford City, Salford City 1-1 Eastleigh, The Peninsula StadiumSALFORD CITY ARE GOING TO WEMBLEY! Have we said it enough?

Chris Neal’s two saves in the penalty shoot out saw us finally see off a well-drilled opponent in Eastleigh and book a date with AFC Fylde at Wembley.

The Ammies took the lead in the first half’s dying stages when Carl Piergianni headed Ibou Touray’s wicked delivery past Luke Southwood.

Both keepers had been kept busy and produced some top drawer saves, and Paul McCallum found a way past Neal with a looping header to equalised in the second half.

Extra time couldn’t decide a winner, and in front of The West Stand we booked a first ever trip to Wembley thanks to Liam Hogan, Danny Whitehead, Devonte Redmond and Ibou Touray’s strikes!

After the match, Graham Alexander praised his side’s character to keep going against a tough opponent.

“It was a tough game which we knew would happen, when you get to this stage of the season and into the play-offs it’s all quality teams and we all won a lot of games to get here, and it was the game we probably expected it would be from Eastleigh. They’re a very organised team, didn’t give much away although I thought we created some real good opportunities today but it went all the way to penalties, then it’s down to the players to show the right mentality, their courage and trust their training, technique and they did that.

“I thought we grew into the extra time, we pushed it right until the final whistle but I thought it was a real tough game, two excellent teams and we’re just delighted to come out on top!”

Chris Neal

The former Shrewsbury man went two further than producing some outstanding saves throughout the 120 minutes, and saved penalties from Sam Matthews and Chris Zebroski to become the hero of the day.

“To be honest the preparation is done in the week, as a goalkeeper department we do our research and have a look at the penalties so I was confident on a couple that I knew which way they were going, so it’s just a little bit of luck, guessing right, going early, sticking your paws out and hopefully get that little bit of luck!

“We had a good training week this week and I think it showed today, it was always going to be a nervy, edgy game but luckily we came out on top.

“It was one of them games I was not very busy in certain minutes of the game so you’ve got to keep in the game, keep concentrated, and you know there’s always going to be one or two big saves to make.

“We haven’t achieved anything yet, we set out to achieve promotion to League Two and that’s still our target. We’re not celebrating too much today because we know we’ve still got a job to do at Wembley next week.”

Liam Hogan & Ibou Touray

Liam Hogan, Chris Neal, Salford City, The Peninsula Stadium, The National League, Salford City 1-1 EastleighThe skipper stepped up second in the shoot out and emphatically scored, while Touray did the same as well as assisting Piergianni’s opening goal. They were both  in high spirits after the game.

“We’ve practiced this week, the lads have had a great technique and slotting them away, and even when we missed the first one we still felt confident we were going to turn it around, especially with Nealo in the sticks, he’s been brilliant all season and his shot stopping’s been incredible so we always fancied him to save one and he didn’t, he saved two, turned it around and the rest of the lads did their job,” said Hogan.

“It was a good day,” added Touray, “a big game so I’m happy with the assist and scoring a penalty. We’ve been practicing all week, so just put it into the game and it’s worked out for us well!”

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