It's a measure of how far Salford City have come in the last few years that when Skelmersdale United equalised in the 85th minute they celebrated like they'd just won the cup – the World Cup, that is. The guy who scored jumped so high he nearly bounced out of the stadium and into the River Irwell.
Maybe he couldn't believe his luck, as the linesman had let play continue when a Skem winger was all of three hundred yards offside. Everyone seemed to stop, waiting for the whistle, but the cross came over and, with the Salford defence still on pause, the Skem attacker joyfully pushed the ball into the net after his first effort had come back off a post. Cue World Cup winner celebration…
…But his antics could all have been in vain, had Rhodri Giggs, standing alone on the edge of the six yard box, managed to direct his header on target in the final second of a humdinger of a game at Moor Lane. A draw it was but Skem got a proper scare.
Salford went for Skem's throats from the kick off and, after only eleven minutes, in-form Gavin Salmon beat a man on the edge of the area and lashed a shot into the top left corner of the net to give the Ammies an early lead.
Scott Metcalfe almost doubled the score when his angled shot inched past the post but minutes later Adam Morning chased a lost ball down the line, kept it in play and put it through to Metcalfe whose cross was met by Gavin Salmon to double the lead. 2-0.
Two minutes later, Skem pulled a goal back when their 20ft tall number nine nodded in from a corner and their fight back began, hitting a post in the process. But it was Salford who scored next, Scott Metcalfe flicking in a stunning goal from an Adam Morning cross. Half time 3-1.
The second half saw constant Skem attacks, as Salford battled bravely in defence to maintain the lead. But the scousers (`don't call us scousers') pulled another goal back from another header. 3-2.
From then on the result could have gone either way, Skem raiding at will and Salford playing on the break. Danny Heffernan almost put the game beyond doubt, setting himself up brilliantly by beating two Skem defenders, drawing the keeper but putting his shot just wide. And Rhodri Giggs, meeting a great cross from the left, crashed his header straight at the Skem keeper when anywhere else on target would have seen a goal.
Instead it was Skem that got the draw, following the dodgy offside and Giggs' last second miss from another top cross. Final score 3-3.
A great game – and a great Salford performance against a very, very good Skelmersdale side. Salford City have now played five games against the League's top three teams and every single match has been incredibly close.
At the end of the game Salford City fans serenaded Skem off the field with chants of `Down with the Salford, you're staying down with the Salford…'
Don't be so sure. Both of these teams are well capable of getting promotion.
Photos by Andrew Goudie.