York City are preparing for the biggest test of 2018 so far, as league leaders Salford City arrive in town.
Feb 10th 2018, 3pm KO
The Greater Manchester side, owned by the infamous ‘Class of 92’, will arrive at Bootham Crescent with a bumper crowd expected.
Both sides are looking for a return to winning ways this weekend. City are winless in three after their 1-1 draw away at Tamworth last week, while Salford suffered their first defeat of 2018 with a 2-1 loss away at third placed Brackley in their last match.
It could potentially be City’s biggest test of the season, considering that Salford have the best record away from home in the league this season, while York have the 10th worst home record.
A win for City would be a huge moral boost after a week that has seen further tensions between owner Jason McGill and the York City Supporters Trust casting doubt over the club’s future.
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York City preview
City’s squad received a huge boost ahead of Saturday’s game, after the club re-signed Middlesbrough midfielder Alex Pattison until the end of the season on Thursday (Feb 8th).
Darlington-born Pattison made five appearances for the Minstermen while on a one month loan spell in December.
His electrifying pace and pinpoint-passing soon made him a popular figure around Bootham Crescent and the club have been working tirelessly to bring the player back since his return to Teeside in mid-January.
After his first training session back, the 20-year-old told the media that he always wanted to return to York:
I just want to get York promoted and do the best I can.
When I was here we won three games on the bounce. Obviously the last couple of games haven’t gone to plan, but hopefully we can kick on again now.
There were a few teams enquiring about me, but they wanted someone with Football League experience and I haven’t got that yet.
I know coming here will do me the world of good, I always wanted to come back.
New signings imminent
York City manager Martin Gray is confident of making two more new signings this month, with one potentially coming in time for the Salford match.
Speaking to the media on Thursday, Gray talked about Pattison’s return and the possibility of new signings.
On transfer deadline day I rang Alex’s agent more than my wife!
Middlesbrough have been really great to work with and we are so thankful they have let him come back.
I feel he gets us up the pitch and he will give us a great injection of energy. I’m hoping he can add some goals to his game now as well.
We’re working hard today. We’ve got one or two heads that could come in and we’re hoping at least one will be in the squad for Saturday.”
Speaking on the prospect of facing league leaders Salford this Saturday, Gray was mindful of the Ammies being a hard nut to crack this season.
Salford have only conceded 28 goals so far this season. Gray said: “I think defensively, they’re very strong. They get a lot of 1-0 and 2-1 victories.
“They may not have a 25 goal striker like Jon Parkin, but equally, they have a solid defence which can be just as valuable.
“I think on the day, it’s going to be a game of who can take their chances, and when ours come around we need to take them.
“Anybody can beat anybody on the day and it’s about who can keep their focus.”
Stadium: Peninsula Stadium
Capacity: 5,106 (2,246 seated)
Nickname: The Ammies
Manager: Anthony Johnson and Bernard Morley
League Position: 1st
Top Scorer: Jack Redshaw (14)
It has been a rollercoaster few years for Salford City.
Before being taken over by former Manchester United players Gary and Phil Neville, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt and Ryan Giggs in 2014, the club was run by a committee of 12 volunteers and maintained by an army of supporters.
Since then, the football celebrity owners have set their sights on taking the club to the Football League.
Amazingly, in their first two seasons as owners, they guided the club to back-to-back promotions to take Salford to the National League North.
At the heart of the club’s success is the ruthless managerial duo of Bernard Morley and Anthony Johnson, whose tendancy to throw the hairdryer around in their team talks, is well depicted in Sky 1’s ‘Class of 92’ documentary.
After becoming a full time professional club in March 2017, the duo guided the club to the National League North playoff’s in their first season in the 6th division.
Salford lost to Halifax in the playoffs, but this season the Ammies have taken the league by storm and now look almost certain to seal a third promotion.
They currently sit six points clear at the top of the league having only lost five games all season.
One of those defeats came in their last game, as Salford were edged out 2-1 away at third placed Brackley, confirming their first loss of 2018.
Man to watch: Liam Hogan
The Salford born central defender has been a big part of Salford’s success this season.
After signing for the club in the summer, he was named captain and has commanded a defence that has kept 11 clean sheets up until now.
The 28-year-old has scored three goals for the Ammies this season, and incredibly, they all came against York.
It means Hogan is becoming quite the bogey player for Minstermen, and they will need to work hard to crack a defence led by the Salford skipper this weekend.
Last time out: Two comeback goals from Louis Almond and Aidan Connolly couldn’t rescue City from a 3-2 defeat at Salford’s Peninsular Stadium. Two headed goals from captain Liam Hogan and a Jack Redshaw goal had put Salford 3-0 up in the match.
The two sides have only met each other twice in their history, both during this season. City won the first ever meeting between the two sides, when two Jon Parkin goals secured a 2-1 away victory in the second qualifying round of the FA cup back in September.
While York have the league’s top goal scorer in Jon Parkin, Salford have the joint highest scoring defenders in the league with 11 goals between them (Michael Nottingham 4, Lois Maynard 4, Liam Hogan 2, Josh Askew 1).
One might expect goals this weekend; Salford have scored in all of their away matches, while City have only failed to score twice at home all season.
If you’d have told me at the start of the season that Salford would be 15 points clear of York at the top of the league… I’d have probably believed you actually.
Salford have been on an unstoppable train heading towards the Football League since the class of 92 bought the club in 2014. That treble winning mentality seems to have filtered into the Ammies playing style and it will take a massive effort by the York players to defeat the league leaders on Saturday.
City will be boosted by the return of Alex Pattison. His pace and power is exactly what the team lacked in last weekends 1-1 draw with Tamworth, and exactly what they need ahead of Saturday’s game.
I would expect it to be an extremely tight game, and I think Martin Gray is right when he says it will be a case of who can take their chances on the day.
I can’t call it… so I think a draw is in order.
Higgs Predicts: York City 1-1 Salford City