Alty's Simon Richman and Salford's John Johnston keep their eyes on the ball

Non-League preview: Salford City, Stockport County and Trafford face crunch games in play-off race

SALFORD CITY and STOCKPORT COUNTY face crunch games today in the race for the National League North play-offs.

Both have just 3 games left and Salford have slipped out of the top 5 for the first time in months after losing on Good Friday, when an early strike by Nathan Jarman gave relegation-threatened Gainsborough Trinity a 1-0 win.

The Ammies replied with a Sam Walker free-kick hitting the bar while John Johnston (above), Scott Burton and Walker went close from outside the box. Sub Nick Haughton then volleyed wide after the break while right-back Michael Nottingham sent a great chance over the bar.

But Josh Hine made a bizarre challenge in stoppage time that resembled a rugby tackle and in the ensuing melee, Salford centre-half Billy Priestley was sent off after a 2nd yellow card.

Yet there was still time for Stephen O’Halloran to head straight at the home keeper so the Ammies are now 6th after winning just 1 of their last 6. They now have a derby this afternoon at home to CURZON ASHTON, who have little to play for in 13th place and lost 3-2 on Good Friday at home to an ALTRINCHAM side which has already been relegated.

Joint Salford manager Anthony Johnson was dejected after Saturday’s game, saying: “People talk about other clubs dropping points but we haven’t been good enough for a while. Lads are making the same type of mistakes. It’s a lot more than just being unlucky or having a bad day at the office.

“We’ve travelled a long way today and I’m embarrassed for the supporters. They were clapping us at the end but we don’t deserve a clap – we just got beat by 3rd-bottom in the league!

“The fans expect more than that and we should be giving more than that. I feel a bit let down by individuals. Some people in the squad are on their holidays, but it’s down to me and Bernard (Morley) to see that. If we’re putting them in the team or having them around the squad, that’s down to us.”

STOCKPORT failed to take full advantage on Friday evening as they had to settle for a 1-1 draw at home to AFC Telford. The Hatters are now joint-6th with Salford, 2 points off the top 5, and they’re away to 4th-bottom Worcester today.

Brackley are 2 points behind Salford and Stockport after winning 2-1 at FC UNITED on Saturday and the Reds, who are 14th, visit Darlington today.

STALYBRIDGE CELTIC couldn’t keep their surprise winning run going as they lost 2-1 away to Gloucester City, with captain Matty Hughes being sent off at 0-0. 2nd-bottom Celtic therefore remain 5 points from safety with 4 games left and host 5th-placed Chorley today, while rock-bottom ALTRINCHAM host 2nd-placed Kidderminster.

Saturday’s 1-0 defeat at Woking all but ended MACCLESFIELD’s hope of sneaking into the National League play-offs and the Silkmen host Solihull today.

The race for the Evo-Stik North play-offs is being even more fiercely contested than that two leagues higher. Saturday’s results mean there are just 4 points beaten 3rd and 9th place, with TRAFFORD slipping out of the top 5 to 8th as they didn’t play.

Tom Baker’s men are back in action today at home to Colwyn Bay while 12th-placed DROYLSDEN, who upset title-chasing Lancaster 1-0 on Saturday, have a Tameside derby at HYDE UNITED, who are 10th after a Matt Beadle brace gave them a 2-1 win at Tadcaster on Saturday.

3rd-bottom MOSSLEY are still not safe after losing 3-0 at Kendal and host 4th-placed Glossop while RAMSBOTTOM UNITED host RADCLIFFE BOROUGH, with both sides clear of danger in the bottom half.

Mid-table ASHTON UNITED held Evo-Stik Premier champions Blyth Spartans to a 1-1 draw on Saturday and today visit Warrington Town.