YORK City boss Martin Gray insists his team must pass a greater examination of their set-piece solidity at Salford on Saturday.

The Minstermen were undone by a free kick and a throw-in last weekend as they surrendered a 2-0 lead by conceding twice in the last five minutes at Leamington and only left the Midlands with a share of the spoils.

Liam Hogan, meanwhile, headed home a free kick to give National League North title favourites Salford the lead during last month’s FA Cup third qualifying round clash against City in Greater Manchester.

Veteran striker Jon Parkin went on to turn the tables with a second-half brace, but Gray has warned his team of the dead-ball threat the second-placed hosts pose.

He said: “Salford are big and strong and put lots of balls into the box from all areas, so we have to make sure we are better in terms of dealing with the second balls. Last week wasn’t down to fatigue - it was down to concentration levels and we’ve addressed that, regarding individuals costing us goals in certain areas.

“We won’t be dragging names out, though, because there have been lots of positives over the last two weeks.”

Gray is also hoping to make a new addition before the Moor Lane contest, adding: “We’ve got some good players, but we are looking to strengthen every week and, hopefully, we’ll have somebody in tomorrow.”

Despite bookmakers predicting over the summer that this season would be an automatic promotion shoot-out between Salford and the Minstermen, the latter trail last term’s beaten play-off semi-finalists by seven points ahead of this contest and Gray reckons the battle for a place in the National League remains wide open.

“This is a big game, but there are about six to eight other teams who will push all the way,” the former Darlington chief reasoned.

Gray already has an away victory over Salford on his CV this season, having helped the Quakers prevail 2-0 on the opening day courtesy of a double-strike from David Ferguson, who has since followed him to North Yorkshire.

The ex-Sunderland midfielder feels his old club were a little fortunate, though, with the timing of their visit, while still targeting a second victory over the Ammies on his latest trip across the Pennines.

“We met them early in the season, when they probably hadn’t quite settled in,” he reasoned about the Darlington win. “They had made the switch from part-time to full-time and had ten or 15 new players, so they were finding their feet.

“They were always going to get better, which they have done. I’ve looked at their last game against Leamington (a 3-2 home defeat) and Salford will be wondering how they lost because, on performance and chances, like us, they should have won.

“But we’ve just got to approach the game in the same way we did going to Leamington. I’m not a manager who goes anywhere thinking a point is good.

“We’ll be respectful of them, but the game-plan is to win three points.”

While playing down the significance of Darlington’s August success, Gray did add that City’s Cup victory could be of more relevance, adding: “It was a deserved win as well, which is good.”

The only absentees at Salford will be long-term casualty Clovis Kamdjo and Michael Rankine, who is still ruled out from training and playing while doctors attempt to diagnose his high-blood pressure issue.

Gray confirmed that Aidan Connolly and Alex Whittle have both recovered from the injuries that saw the former ruled out at Leamington and the latter substituted later on.

Long-throw specialist Sam Muggleton has also been told that he will need to let his feet do the talking if he is to win back a place in the match-day squad.

“I wouldn’t have a player on the bench just because he can throw a ball on the pitch,” Gray explained. “There’s a bit more to the game of football than being able to throw a ball half the length of the pitch.

“As a footballer, you are judged on what you can do with a ball at your feet and people aren’t going to be on the bench because their throw-ins are a weapon.”