Salford City head into Sunday’s National League play-off semi-final tie knowing only two wins are required to secure their Football League status for next season.
As the 2018/19 campaign reached its conclusion last weekend, The Ammies missed out on the title to Leyton Orient, who had held first place for all but three weeks in 2019.
Salford had closed the gap on the league leaders after a 10 match unbeaten run, but two losses in their final two league outings ensured The O’s advantage was unassailable.
“Our destiny is now back in our control. Everything is still possible, everything is in our hands. We’ve got the games that we have to win promotion.”
– Graham Alexander
Defeat away at Hartlepool United last Sunday saw Graham Alexander’s side slip down to third in the table, with Solihull Moors capitalising thanks to a 1-1 draw with Dagenham & Redbridge.
Thus, Salford will now compete in Semi-Final 2, with the victor of Thursday’s qualifier between Wrexham or Eastleigh awaiting. Elsewhere, AFC Fylde and Harrogate Town (who finished fourth and fifth respectively) will clash tomorrow for a place in Semi-Final 1 versus Solihull Moors.
The two semi-finals will take place this weekend, with Solihull Moors’ fixture on Saturday and Salford City’s tie the following day – both held at their respective home grounds as a result of securing the second and third spots.
The Vanarama eliminators are set…
💛 Harrogate Town
🔵 Solihull Moors
🔴 Salford City
Four games, four days, one final match-up to be decided 👊 pic.twitter.com/rTsK9Jgidg
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) April 29, 2019
Despite Salford’s limp climax to the season, gaffer Alexander is keen to remain optimistic about his side’s chances of securing promotion to League Two.
He said: “We’ve got to be confident about what we’ve done this season; what the players have done recently to go on an unbelievable run which really put us back in there and kept the pressure on the team at the top.
“Our destiny is now back in our control. Everything is still possible, everything is in our hands. We’ve got the games that we have to win promotion. There’s no need for us to be sulking or feeling sorry for ourselves, we’ve done brilliantly over the last couple of months to put ourselves in this situation.
“There’s many hurdles that you have over the course of the season, but we’ve still got the opportunity to be successful this season and it’s within our control, so that’s what we’ve got to focus on.”
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The omens are positive for Salford City, with the play-offs a route that Alexander has enjoyed success with earlier in his career.
The Scotsman won promotion to the Premier League with Burnley in 2009 during his vast playing career, and also guided Fleetwood Town to League One as a Manager in 2013/14 – both through the play-offs.
“It (previous success) gives a good base of knowledge and experience for myself, which I can pass onto the players,” commented Alexander. “But, there’s a lot of experienced players in that changing room that have been in this situation at this club and at other clubs too.
“We’re quite fortunate that we have a lot of players and staff members that have been in many different situations but come out successful. You have to lean on that a little bit, but you’ve also got to leave a little bit of space for the unknown – going into something new and exciting.
“Being in this situation at the end of the season is new and it is exciting, so we’ve got to have that feeling of enjoyment but also lean on our experience of past promotion campaigns throughout the staff and the players.”
If Salford do progress from the National League’s semi-final 2, they will face either of Solihull Moors, AFC Fylde or Harrogate Town at Wembley Stadium on Saturday May 11, with the winner the 92nd team to join the Football League ahead of the 2019/20 campaign.