Salford City joint-managers Anthony Johnson and Bernard Morley

National League North preview: It’s double derby day with two big games at each end of the table

JOINT-manager Anthony Johnson insists that SALFORD CITY won’t let plans to turn full-time in the summer distract them the National League North run-in.

Last week the club confirmed the rumours that they’ll be making the switch from part-time football in time for next season.

Johnson and joint-manager Bernard Morley have signed new 2-year contracts and will actually go full-time at the end of this month. The players will follow suit in July, and ideally the Ammies will be a National League club by then.

However, Johnson knows that won’t happen unless Salford are fully focused on the last few games, such is the competition for the two promotion places.

Leaders AFC Fylde remain in pole position for the league title while last week’s 1-0 win at Brackley kept Salford in 2nd place, above Kidderminster and Chorley on goal difference.

STOCKPORT COUNTY are outside the play-off places on goal difference and they visit Moor Lane today before travelling to Fylde on Tuesday. And after hosting County, Salford have another big home game on Tuesday against Chorley.

“There’s still 9 games to go this season so we can’t take our eye off the ball and start planning for next season because, number one, we’re hoping we’ll be in the league above, and number two, we’ve got probably as tough a game as you can have this Saturday,” he told Beyond the Big Two.

“If Stockport win then they almost close the gap on us so it’s a massive game. Then we’ve got Chorley at home on Tuesday, so the league’s relentless.

“As great as it is, having our contracts tied up, it’s all about this Saturday. Once that’s out of the way it’s all about Tuesday. We’ve got to keep our feet on the ground and take one game at a time.”

Stockport are 4 points behind Salford after winning 3-1 at home to local rivals Curzon Ashton last week and they have a fine away record. The capacity for today’s game is restricted because of the redevelopments taking place at Moor Lane, but the game sold out 2 weeks ago.

And the Ammies have been boosted by the arrival of Fraser Horsfall, who has joined on a youth loan from Championship side Huddersfield until the end of the season. The young centre-half has already been on loan at Trafford and STALYBRIDGE CELTIC this season and impressed in Salford’s recent 1-0 league win over Stalybridge.

“He was already on our radar anyway but he did do well against us,” said Johnson. “For someone who’s only 19/20, the size of him and the way he gets the ball down, his touch, his control – it’s really impressive for someone so young at this level of football.

“You don’t see many 19-year-old centre-halves playing at this level. You only have to look at our centre-halves – Simon Grand, Billy Priestley and Steve Howson are all experienced players. And it’s the same with Stockport, with Mike Clarke, Chris Smalley and Mark Ross.

“For a kid to be playing every week shows you what he’s about, not just technically but mentally, to be put up with that week in, week out, playing against the likes of Danny Rowe and Mike Phenix. It shows he’s got the capability to go on and have a good career.”

Robbie Lawton and Matt Doughty celebrate
Altrincham’s Robbie Lawton and Matt Doughty celebrate victory at Boston

Yet this mammoth clash at Moor Lane is not the only Greater Manchester derby in the National League North today.

ALTRINCHAM and STALYBRIDGE look set to suffer relegation but they’re making a fist of it, with both claiming much-needed wins over the last week.

Alty won 2-0 at Boston last week to climb off the bottom for the first time since November, only for Celtic to win 4-3 against Bradford Park Avenue on Tuesday night to climb back above them.

The Robins and Bridge are now 14 and 12 points from safety, respectively, before the two sides meet at Alty’s J. Davidson Stadium today, when the home fans are planning a walk-out protest against chairman Grahame Rowley.