The Ammies grabbed their first win of the season at home a fortnight ago putting three past Newport County, but haven’t managed to kick-on in September with narrow away defeats to Oldham in the Papa John’s Trophy and Carlisle.
It has been an up and down couple of weeks for Ash Eastham after he was unfortunately ruled out of both of last week’s fixtures. The captain tested positive for Coronavirus but is fit and rearing to go again on Saturday after a period of self-isolation.
“It’s been a tough one coming off the back of playing in the home game against Newport and getting a really positive result, then getting struck down with COVID a day later was a frustrating one. I was fortunate enough to only miss one league game which was an unlucky result at Carlisle but I’m really looking forward to being back with the lads and cracking on again.
“The club have been fantastic with me, got me set up at home with my own workout gear and sent me over a bike to put me through my paces in my time away. I’ve managed to keep fit and fortunately, I’ve been back in training the last couple of days with the lads.”
Although Salford sit in the bottom half of the table, the mood in the dressing room remains positive; good performances do not always equate to results and thee 30-year-old believes in the process, with signs of steady improvement visible since the opening day.
“We’re certainly not happy with the results and the points we’ve picked up so far. You have to look at the performances, there’s a fine balance between performance and results and we’ve spoken about it as a group, there are fine margins that we need to brush up on.
“The performances that we have been putting in should be consistently bringing in more points than they have, so we have to keep believing in the process as a team and brush up on the fine details that we feel are costing us in games at the moment.”
Looking ahead to the weekend, Eastham hopes to be back in Gary Bowyer’s starting XI against a strong Bradford side who currently sit in third place. Salford have met The Bantams four times whilst the pair have been in League Two, and The Ammies are unbeaten against their Yorkshire opponents. Eastham knows the challenge Bradford bring on and off the pitch and is eager to get another three points on the board.
“I can’t wait, if the manager deems me fit and ready enough then I’m ready and raring to go. Playing or not playing we’re certainly focused on this Saturday’s game because Bradford’s a big one! They’re certainly a side that will be hoping like us to be at the top end of the table come the end of the season.
“We felt we were really heading somewhere strong after the Newport game; we took a little bit of a setback last week but it’s not affected the confidence and our belief in our own process.
“It’s always a good game playing Bradford whether you’re at their ground or at home when the away fans come in numbers. I think that was the last game that we played before lockdown, and they brought a great crowd so it’s always a good occasion, but one that we’ve got to be focused on the pitch and go toe to toe with probably one of the favourites in the division.”
The Ammies can also welcome back Tom King and Tyreik Wright after the pair returned from international duty with Wales and the Republic of Ireland U21s respectively. There are no other absentees for Salford, with a full squad available for the first time this season.
The Bantams got off to a flying start to their League 2 campaign, going unbeaten in their opening four games with impressive wins against Stevenage and late-winners against Oldham and Mansfield. Similarly to Salford, it will be Bradford’s third successive season in the fourth division although the West Yorkshire side have bags of Football League experience.
Following the departure of joint managers Mark Trueman and Connor Sellars, Bradford have brought Derek Adams to the helm after an impressive job with Morecambe last season, leading the shrimps to promotion via the Play-Offs. The Scot has strengthened his squad since his arrival, bringing midfielder Yann Songo’o with him from Morecambe, Alex Gilliead from Scunthorpe United and familiar face Oscar Threlkeld. Andy Cook, one of Bradford’s summer signings has made an instant impact at the start of the new campaign. The 30-year-old centre forward made his move to Valley Parade permanent after spending half of last season on loan from Mansfield, and has netted four in his opening six appearances.
Last year Bradford finished 15th after a slow end to the season with just one win in the last eight. Salford’s two encounters with The Bantams ended in The Ammies taking a full six points, winning 3-0 at home and a 1-0 away win. Both games were played behind closed doors, but the fans could end up being an impacting factor with the away end at Moor Lane sold out.