FOR a few weeks it looked as though SALFORD CITY would run out of steam in the race for promotion from the National League North.
The ambitious Ammies have been in the top 5 for most of the season but a run of 1 win in 6 saw them slip out of the play-off places on Good Friday, following a 1-0 defeat at 3rd-bottom Gainsborough.
After being rampant earlier in the season, they now looked like they were dreading their next game rather than relishing it. Anthony Johnson was dejected after the Gainsborough defeat, admitting he felt some of the players let down him and joint-manager Bernard Morley.
But Salford returned to Moor Lane on Easter Monday for a derby against mid-table CURZON ASHTON and despite being given a test by the Nash, the Ammies bounced back to winning ways with a late 1-0 victory.
That kept Salford 2 points off the top 5 while promotion rivals STOCKPORT COUNTY dropped 2 points behind them in 7th after drawing 0-0 at 4th-bottom Worcester. A 6th-place finish may be enough to reach the play-offs due to ground-grading issues for 4th-placed Darlington.
But Johnson ad Morley don’t want to leave anything to chance and the Ammies visit Worcester on Saturday knowing they could climb back up to 3rd if they register their first back-to-back wins since February.
Morley said: “It was all about for 3 points, putting Friday to bed and trying to create that vibe by getting a big 3 points, which have turned out to be massive (because of other results).
“Curzon tried to do everything to stop us. We didn’t expect them to roll over for us, we wouldn’t do it over for anyone. They played well and made it really tough for us at times so we were really pleased to get the 3 points.
“Jay Lynch made two great saves. He just missed out on players’ player of the season so fair play to him. It’s good to go into Saturday knowing we kept a clean sheet. Worcester drew 0-0 at home to Stockport so that’s going to prove a tough challenge for us but you’ve got to go there and beat those sides.”
Curzon have little to play for now. They’re safe in 13th and lost 3-2 to relegated Altrincham on Good Friday. And despite now being 5 without a win, they tested keeper Lynch in each half through defender Jonathan Hunt and ex-Salford midfielder Luke Clark.
But with 7 minutes left, Michael Nottingham (above right) exchanged passes with John Johnston and squared for Sam Walker to tap in the game’s only goal. The former Curzon midfielder has scored 3 in 4 games since coming back into the Salford side and hopes to keep his place for some crucial games in the coming weeks.
“I’ve got the bit between my teeth,” he said. “I want to stay in the team and keep my shirt. I know with the competition we have at the club, there are plenty of good players, so if I’m not doing my job then someone’s going to come in and do it for me. I don’t want that to happen.
“Hopefully I’m hitting form at the right time of the season and it was a massive result for us. It’s been a long time coming and we just want to build on that now.”
Nottingham has been named the supporters’ player of the season while Scott Burton was named players’ player. Burton, a combative midfielder, followed Johnson and Morley from Ramsbottom United to Salford in January 2015 and recently signed a two-year deal for when the Ammies go full-time this summer.
“Scott’s got a great work-rate and desire,” Morley added. “He’s got a big heart and wants to be successful at this club. He started from the bottom and has worked his way right up, and Notts has scored nearly double figures from right-back so I wouldn’t argue with either of them getting awards.”
Salford host Darlington in their last game of the regular season on April 29, while Stockport visit Bradford Park Avenue on Saturday before hosting Gloucester on the final day.
The best Curzon can now do is finish 11th and they visit 3rd-placed FC Halifax on Saturday before finishing at home to Boston United.