The wind howled, the mud glued and the pitch tilted at 45 degrees as the Ammies failed to come to terms with conditions at Harrogate Railway yesterday. And Salford City's usual short passing game came unstuck against the conditioned hooves of the Railway men, who harried the Ammies to a standstill.
Had Salford put away two identical chances in the first 15 minutes, however, the result might have been very different. First Craig Flowers, raiding down the right, put in a low cross that skimmed across the six yard box only for Scott Metcalfe to fail to connect. And minutes later Gavin Salmon repeated the cross but Metcalfe, again lurking in the six yard box, couldn't connect properly and his shot was gathered by the keeper.
Five minutes later, Harrogate slung over a corner that curled and swirled in the wind as it defied Lloyd Rigby, Salford City's eighth goalkeeper this season, and the desperate attempts of Alex Mortimer to head clear off the line, to open the fortuitous scoring. Wind 1 Salford City 0.
The Ammies now had a mountain to climb – and that was just the pitch. Kicking up the hill and into the wind, on a mud glued surface on which the ball wouldn't run just didn't suit Salford's game as Harrogate stymied the rest of the half.
After the interval, Salford, now kicking down the hill, still offered little as the wind dropped and Harrogate grew in confidence. The chances were few and far between, but first Cayne Hanley crossed for Gavin Salmon at the far post, whose shot was blocked by a defender. And then Steve Murty went on a mazey run that took him past four defenders to set up Cayne Hanley but his lob fell just over the bar.
Half way through the half, however, Harrogate increased the lead when a hoof from defence found the centre forward clean through and he finished to make it 2-0. And that was it, bar a Cayne Hanley shot on the run that rattled the post. It just wasn't the Ammies' day or conditions but with five points dropped at the start of 2012 play off hopes have been temporarily put on hold.
Salford City now have three home games on the run to put things right, starting with a Manchester Senior Cup quarter final against Ashton United this Tuesday night, followed by high flying Lancaster City next Saturday, and fellow play off hopefuls Bamber Bridge the week after. All at Moor Lane – for further details see www.salfordcityfc.co.uk
Photos by Andrew Goudie