BUILDING improvements continue apace at Salford’s Moor Lane but, on the pitch, it was Martin Gray’s York City that still looked a work in progress.

Construction on the Ammies’ new Main Stand had moved forward impressively since the Minstermen’s previous visit in the FA Cup five weekends earlier while, two days before this contest, Sir Alex Ferguson officially “opened” the stadium that has been transformed under the watch of his famous “Class of ’92” footballers Gary Neville, Phil Neville, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Nicky Butt.

Hairdryers, meanwhile, are unlikely to have been fitted in the makeshift Portakabin changing rooms at the ambitious Greater Manchester outfit, but it would be no surprise if Gray gave his side the full Fergie treatment at the final whistle.

In a 3-2 defeat, all of the hosts’ goals came from dead-ball deliveries, just seven days after the Minstermen had thrown away the chance of a victory at Leamington by conceding from a couple of late set-piece situations.

As he goes back to the drawing board during the coming days in that respect, the ex-Darlington chief will also ponder the best use of the inherited squad at his disposal, whilst hinting at further new arrivals following the addition of a fresh face in each of his opening three matches.

The scoring performances of substitutes Louis Almond and Aidan Connolly will have certainly provided Gray food for thought after the pair spearheaded a late rally that almost snatched an unlikely share of the spoils after a hat-trick of sloppily-conceded efforts had seen Salford skipper Liam Hogan bag a brace, either side of Jack Redshaw’s sixth goal of the season.

Almond and Connolly certainly opened up a game that had lacked attacking spark in general play from both teams prior to their introductions.

Earlier, with Scholes watching on from an executive box, Ibou Touray did thread a ball through the left channel that saw Richie Allen force a near-post save from Bailey Peacock-Farrell with his legs on ten minutes.

City, meanwhile, saw David Ferguson’s chip from the left bounce back into play off home keeper Max Crocombe’s far post and debutant James Gray lift a 15-yard chance over moments later.

But it was the National League North title favourites who forged ahead on 22 minutes after Hamza Bencherif had fouled Mark Shelton close to the touchline.

Touray went on to swing a free kick in from the right and, when Jon Parkin’s downward headed clearance dropped to Hogan, he swept a shot past the exposed Peacock-Farrell from five yards.

Within five minutes, Salford had doubled their lead after Anthony Dudley’s left-wing corner was only cleared as far as Redshaw who, having been allowed the time and space to get a shot away, curled a 20-yard effort down the middle of Peacock-Farrell’s goal.

For shell-shocked City, Parkin went on to loft a free kick out of the ground, while a sliding Dan Parslow could only find the sidenetting at the far post with the goal unguarded after Crocombe failed to collect Josh Law’s left-wing free kick.

Crocombe did get his fingertips to a Gray header, though, in first-half stoppage time following Sean Newton’s corner.

Salford were then the brighter team on the restart, with City seemingly not heeding the lessons of the opening period as Redshaw was left alone again on the edge of the penalty area to collect a cleared Touray flag kick.

On this occasion, he used the freedom he was afforded to pick out Allen at Peacock-Farrell’s right-hand far post, but the on-loan Leeds keeper was equal to the former Fleetwood winger’s shot.

Peacock-Farrell was culpable, however, as Salford extended their advantage on 50 minutes.

Leaving Touray’s inswinging corner from the right, with the apparent misguided belief that it was going to curl out of play, the Elland Road rookie gifted Hogan his third goal of the season – all against the Minstermen – as the former Gateshead captain stabbed in at the far post.

After Gray shot straight at Crocombe following good play by Newton, Mike Phenix went on to flash a drive across the face of goal after riding Alex Whittle’s challenge and the same player also called Peacock-Farrell into action from 20 yards.

Simon Heslop’s stinging attempt from distance was then saved, while Redshaw blazed over with a great chance to make it 4-0 on 75 minutes after sub Jake Beesley had picked him out in the box.

Fellow replacement Mani Dieseruvwe also had a 25-yard effort safely gathered by Peacock-Farrell, before Connolly and Almond made their presence felt from off the bench.

Connolly drilled a shot against the outside of Crocombe’s upright after Parkin could not force in at the same far post following a Law left-wing corner but, within seconds, Almond had fired into the home keeper’s bottom-right corner from 20 yards on 84 minutes.

Shortly afterwards, Law had thundered a 12-yard strike against the bar following Parkin’s lay-off and Bencherif could not direct his header over the line from another Law flag kick.

Connolly went on to add a spectacular second goal on 90 minutes when he found the roof of the net from 25 yards.

It was too little, too late although, despite the Minstermen leaving the recently-renamed Peninsula Stadium pointless and without a win in four away games, Gray remained emphatic in his conviction that the club are not yet detached from the championship contest.

Bailey Peacock-Farrell 5

Josh Law 7

Hamza Bencherif 6

Dan Parslow 6

Alex Whittle 6

Amari Morgan-Smith 5

Simon Heslop 6

Sean Newton 6

David Ferguson 6

James Gray 5

Jon Parkin 5

Substitutes: Aidan Connolly 7 (for Morgan-Smith, 59), Louis Almond 7 (for Gray, 62), Adriano Moke 6 (for Ferguson, 67).

Subs not used: Luke Simpson, Theo Wharton.

Star man: Connolly – livewire who sparked life into City


Max Crocombe, Michael Nottingham, Carl Piergianni, Liam Hogan, Ibou Touray, Anthony Dudley (Gus Mafuta, 72), Scott Burton, Mark Shelton, Richie Allen, Mike Phenix (Beesley, 74), Jack Redshaw (Mani Dieseruvwe, 81). Subs not used: Josh Askew, Dominic McHale,.

Salford star man: Hogan – determined in both boxes

Referee: Leigh Doughty rating: 7/10 – decisive if a little lenient with cards

Booked: Heslop 44

Sent off: None

Attendance: 1,874

Shots on target: Salford 7, City 8

Shots off target: Salford 3, City 4

Corners: Salford 9, City 5

Fouls conceded: Salford 11, City 10

Offside: Salford 1, City 3