A PLAY-off place is SALFORD CITY’s to lose as the National League North’s regular season comes to what promises to be a nail-biting conclusion this Saturday.
The Ammies have been in the top 5 for most of the season but recently slipped out after a run of 2 wins from 8 in March and April. However, the Ammies beat Curzon Ashton 1-0 on Easter Monday before a late winner by sub Nick Haughton gave them a 2-1 victory at Worcester last Saturday.
That ensured Salford are in the top 5 heading into the final day, when Chorley and local rivals STOCKPORT COUNTY will hope for a slip-up in order to leapfrog the Ammies. And although Salford host 4th-placed Darlington, the visitors won’t be able to take part in the play-offs due to ground-grading issues so even if Darlo finish in the top 5, their berth will go to whoever finishes 6th.
Chorley are currently 6th and host 3rd-placed FC Halifax, who have already secured a play-off spot, so that game is anyone’s guess, while 7th-placed Stockport host Gloucester. Salford are going a 3rd straight promotion after being transformed by the Class of ’92 takeover and a draw would probably be enough to keep alive their hopes due to County’s much inferior goal difference.
“When the fixtures came out at the beginning of the season and they paired us with Darlo (on the final day), there was always going to be something riding on it,” said joint Salford manager Anthony Johnson.
“It’s a massive game and people try to dress it up because of who we’re playing against. It’s an opportunity to stay in the play-off places. We’re 5th I the league and if results go right we could finish 3rd, so it’s a huge game for the club.
“But it’s not just us. Darlo, Halifax, Chorley and Stockport can all be in there so everyone will have the same anxieties and the same thought processes going on, trying to find a way of getting in. At least it’s in our hands, and that’s all you can ask. The lads have been unbelievable this season. In our first season at this level, to be going into the last game of the season in 5th place, if someone had offered us that at the beginning of the season we’d have snatched their hands off.
“At other stages of the season we’ve been 2nd, 3rd or 4th, so we’ve been disappointed at how we’ve fallen away but there’s always mitigating circumstances. We’re just really please that it’s in our hands.”
Salford will have to do without James Poole, though, as the striker is suspended after being sent off for 2 bookings last Saturday.
STALYBRIDGE CELTIC’s bid to pull off an unlikely escape act ended with a 4-0 home defeat by Tamworth last Saturday. Bridge then lost 4-2 at home to Harrogate Town on Tuesday night and they finish the campaign at 8th-placed Brackley.
Celtic will be going down to the Evo-Stik Premier with rock-bottom ALTRINCHAM, whose 2nd straight relegation was confirmed before last Saturday’s 1-1 draw against Alfreton. However, the Robins have this week announced their new manager, with Phil Parkinson set to take over from interim boss Matt Doughty. Parkinson has just enjoyed a successful spell at Nantwich Town in the Evo-Stik Premier, leading them to this season’s play-off semi-finals, and the 36-year-old is set to take a watching brief for Alty’s final game away to Tamworth.
FC UNITED’s 4-1 win at Nuneaton last Saturday lifted them to 13th above CURZON ASHTON, who are 2 points below the Reds after losing 3-0 at Halifax. FC end the season at home to relegation-threatened Gainsborough while Curzon host Boston United, who are 2 points behind them in 15th.
Lincoln City came from behind to beat MACCLESFIELD TOWN 2-1 last Saturday and clinch the National League title. Macc then held Dover to a 2-2 draw in midweek and they finish their league campaign at home to 12th-placed Sutton knowing they’re destined to finish a creditable 9th (12.15pm kick-off).