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Graham Alexander, Salford CityGraham Alexander called for a step up in character after Salford City threw away an early lead at home to Exeter City, then required a second half Ash Hunter equaliser to earn a point.

It was on course to be a great start to the 2020-21 SkyBet League Two campaign when Ian Henderson scored in the third minute from close range, his second goal in two games since a summer move from Rochdale.

However last season’s play-off finalists composed themselves and led at the break courtesy of goals from Matt Jay and Joel Randall, on his first league start for The Grecians.

Tom Elliott replaced Luke Armstrong at the break, with Richie Towell and Brandon Thomas-Asante coming on around the hour mark and Salford improved to create more regular openings, but Hunter was the only player able to break Lewis Ward’s goal as both sides settled for a point.

Ash Hunter, Salford CityThere is a long way to go this season, but the Gaffer is keen to see it take a better trajectory than the first half performance. He said:

“[It went] downwards without a shadow of a doubt, it was a great start like you say with an early goal, worked well, great finish, and then we lost sight of what was needed for the rest of the half.

“We didn’t do anything that is required to win a game of football and we were deservedly behind at half time, and it was a massive lesson for us that first half in humility, work ethic and courage to be honest.

“Maybe the early goal made us think it was going to be easy and we’re thinking we could just take our foot off the pedal, or we took a backwards step because we thought 1-0 would be enough, I don’t know,  we have to speak about it on Monday but certainly [it’s] nowhere near the level we require this season and nowhere near the level that we know the players are capable of.”

The introductions of Towell and Thomas-Asante in particular seemed to inject more urgency and pace into The Ammies’ performance, with Towell’s instinctive first time cross setting up Hunter’s equaliser.

But the Gaffer admitted he considered a change even earlier, and that he wants to see more of the attributes that earned The Ammies an opening day point regularly throughout the season.

“I’ll be honest I felt like making a change after 25 minutes, the goals were coming it was plain to see, you want to give players the chance to grow into the game. We took Luke off at half time but it wasn’t just down to him, it could have been anybody.

“We couldn’t continue to have the performance that we were having and it was just about the basics, and we have to learn really quickly that no one is giving us anything, we have to earn every single inch of that pitch and in the second half I wouldn’t say we added any quality but we were just more physical, more aggressive, more forward-thinking and made them defend.

“They’re all basics of football, we know we’ve got the quality to win games, to create things, but you’ve got to play in your opponent’s half and we just didn’t do that, the goals we conceded in the first half were just unbelievable really.

“I have to say the players showed the right commitment and courage and, I don’t know what to call it apart from that, they just went and tried to win a game of football in any way, shape or form.

“I actually believe we’ve got real good experienced players in there who do know [how to win a game], they’ve got to come out of their shell now and actually make sure their voices and their characters are heard. They’re here for a reason, and we’ve got to see it.”

Next up for Salford is Wednesday’s trip to Premier League Everton in Round Two of the Carabao Cup, followed by next weekend’s visit to Grimsby Town. 

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