It's a shivering afternoon at Moor Lane as a crowd of over 500 people flock to see what Salford City's new line up can offer. The hordes from Halifax are expecting another crucifixion, following their 7-1 home slaughter of the Ammies last September. Us home supporters are just trying to work out who's who in the tangerine shirts, as centre forward John Robinson is the only recognisable face in the starting line up.
Even Salford's new manager, Paul Wright, is nowhere to be seen in the dug out…he's subject to a Manchester FA ban 'til March and his assistant, Neil Hall, is looking after the dozen or so new players who have been plunged in at the deep end for The Great Escape...
It's looking a bit ominous, after all the team in the yellow shirts is the Halifax Town, former Football League proper, now rising from the ashes of administration with a squad full of ex Leeds United, Nottingham Forest and Man City players...like Kriss King, most memorable game? Leeds v Roma…
The gulf in resources is frightening – FC Halifax is giving the old Shay ground a makeover, with a capacity of 10,000. Salford City FC has an appeal in the programme for contributions towards the cost of a banner that supporters can flaunt at away games.
But, hey, as the match gets underway that gulf is shrinking by the minute. Salford are not only holding their own but looking threatening with a display of tight, neat, passing football that's rattling the Halifax stars. Even the Shaymen's supporters have shut up, after their constant chants of `What's it like to see a crowd?'
So we get to half time and it's 0-0. And it's the best Salford have played for months. And in the bar the home support is buzzing…no-one's got any idea of who's playing well because we don't know who the hell they are but they'll do for us…
The second half kicks off with regular Salford winger, Lathan Forrester, brought on as a sub to torment the Halifax defence. Bloody 'ell, we're going for the win!
As the game draws on, only the final ball in the last third of the pitch is letting us down. We're getting corners, we're getting free kicks, we're getting shots in on goal…and then…and then…Halifax hoof the ball up the field, there's a mix up between Salford's centre half and keeper (who, to be fair, have hardly played together before) and their forward heads the ball over them into an empty net. 1-0 to Halifax.
In past games this season, once the first goal's gone in, the defence has collapsed and it's been a succession of 4, 5 and 6 goals against. But not today. John Robinson hits a shot a whisker past the post, then, late on, we actually do hit the post after a great move with the goalie totally beaten. We deserve the draw at least. But it's not to be, and as the final whistle blows, this new Salford City team are applauded off the pitch.
We're still rooted to the bottom of the league. We still haven't won at home all season. But we've got belief. The Great Escape is on!
Next Home Game: Salford City v Ossett Albion 31st January 3pm kick off
Moor Lane, Kersal. £6/£3
Further Details at www.salfordcityfc.com
Words: Stephen Kingston
Photo: Paul Watson