Salford City Manager Graham Alexander after the Cambridge United test. (Credit: Salford City – Charlotte Tattersall)
Manager Graham Alexander has praised the mentality of his Salford City players after overcoming a ‘sticky patch’, as he now sets his sights on extending their upturn in form.
The Ammies, who had won two of their opening 11 matches in League Two, have now produced two consecutive victories for the first time since their induction into the Football League.
Despite conceding eight goals in two games, Alexander’s side responded with a 3-0 defeat at Walsall on October 5th and a 1-0 result over Cambridge United this Saturday – with Salford rising to 14th in League Two.
— Salford City FC (@SalfordCityFC) October 13, 2019
Separated by two points prior to kick-off, the two teams struggled to break the deadlock in an uneventful opening period with Craig Conway’s speculative attempt the only effort on target.
The U’s, who had only lost once on their travels this season, began the second half in the ascendency with George Maris wasting a glorious opportunity and Luke Hannant twice denied by Kyle Letheren and Cameron Burgess in quick succession.
However, the Ammies weathered the Cambridge storm and took what proved to be an unassailable lead when Adam Rooney rose highest to meet Conway’s enticing cross after 77 minutes – the former’s second league goal of the season.
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Boss Alexander commented post-match: “Like I said last week; coming off the back of those difficult defeats to a lot of goals to come back with two wins on the bounce and two clean sheets is to every testament to the character of the boys.
“I thought there were several strong performances and every credit to them. I can’t speak highly enough of the players, I think they’ve done fantastically well over the last couple of weeks.
“I’m just delighted after the work that the players have put in for the last two weeks. You want them to get the result at the end of the week to justify that work and we’ve done that the last couple of weeks.”
After two historic weeks for the club, where Salford City secured their first ever away victory in the Football League as well as their first run of back-to-back wins, Alexander hopes his side will have turned a corner in their season.
“The sticky patch was basically three or four games against the top four, that was it,” he commented. “Before that, we had only lost one in seven, so we’re looking at records and runs.
“It’s just that we had a real tough run of fixtures on the back of those draws and we took a couple of heavy beatings and that made everything look a little bit ugly. These two wins have made it look a bit more respectable, but it’s a long season.
“Like I’ve said a couple times, we’ve got a lot of players playing at this level for the first time. We’ve finally got a squad now – with the lads going out on loan – that’s manageable and we can really get down to some concentrated work with individuals and units. It’s just helping the results in proof.
“We know we’ve got good, honest players who want to work their socks off and make their mark on the Football League, but like I said last week, we’re babies to this level and we have to learn each week how we can improve, and we’ve certainly done that the last couple of weeks.”
After their barren run of form, the Ammies switched their formation from Alexander’s trusted 5-3-2 to a 4-4-2 and the Scotsman believes the alteration is responsible for their recent change in fortunes.
“We’ve tried to settle everything down, we’ve tried to not chase the next result no matter what we do and we’ve tried to put a long-term plan in place with the way we want to play. We’ve sort of gone back to what we did for two-thirds of the season, last season; the majority of the players know that system.
“It’s no guarantee of winning every game – nothing is – but we have to feel confident and sure in what we’re going to do when we walk on that pitch and I think the players have done that in their last two games.”
The Ammies’ victory this weekend helped them leapfrog Cambridge in the table, and now sit only four points beneath the play-off fray in League Two, however, Alexander has refused to get carried away.
“Honestly, you could have told us we were 13th or 18th, all I’m looking at is the performance and the improvement in the players, because I know long term over the next six or seven months, that’ll pay dividends.
“That’s what we’ve got to continue to do, we can’t look at ‘if we win this, we’re this, that or the other off somebody’ – that’s not going to get us anywhere, not at this stage of the season.
“With 10 games to go, then it’s really important, but at this stage it’s about making sure we’re a good unit that can create chances, that keep clean sheets and keep improving each week, and that’s where we’ve got to focus on from now until whenever.”
He concluded: “Certainly in October, there’s plenty of time so we need to continue to work to improve.”