Town lose ground in title race after defeat to rivals Salford

Louie Swain in action during Harrogate Town's loss at Salford City. Picture: Town Pix

Harrogate Town fell to a 2-1 defeat in their top-of-the-table clash with National League North leaders Salford City.

First-half strikes from Mike Phenix and Tom Walker condemned the visitors to a costly defeat at the Peninsula Stadium.

Simon Weaver’s side mounted a second-half comeback, but a Dom Knowles strike wasn’t enough to save the day.

The result sees Town concede serious ground in the automatic promotion race, the class of ‘92-backed side moving 11-points clear at the summit.

Salford came close early on when Simon Ainge’s clearing header fell to Jack Redshaw, whose low shot cannoned off two Town defenders.

The visitors’ first dangerous attack saw George Thomson break down the left but the former FC United man couldn’t dig out a cross for Dominic Knowles.

Second-placed Town then fell behind on 14 minutes - a scrappy goal to concede.

Fleetwood Town loanee Nick Haughton cut inside and forced a save from James Belshaw, but the Harrogate stopper couldn’t keep hold of the effort and Phenix was on hand to tap in.

Joe Leesley’s shot on target supplied a quick response.

But Salford held sway, Phenix having a far-post effort chalked off for offside and Michael Nottingham pressing Belshaw into further action.

Just as the game threatened to drift, the hosts doubled their lead in the 26th minute.

Haughton drove down the right, sliding a delivery across goal that was firmly planted home at the back post by unmarked Walker.

Town created good chances late on in the first half, Leesley firing over from a tight angle and Ainge nodding on target from the winger’s cross.

Whatever boss Weaver and his assistant Paul Thirlwell told their players at the break, it had an immediate impact.

First, Knowles saw a toe-poke from 15 yards athletically saved by Max Crocombe.

Then, full-back Ryan Fallowfield, far more advanced than in the early stages, twice broke and nearly headed home at the far post but was nudged under the flight of the ball.

Knowles halved the deficit just after the hour-mark, glancing an inswinging Leesley free-kick into the bottom right from close range.

Salford, stunned, tried to take the tempo out of the game and Haughton’s looping shot on 68 minutes was their first foray of the half with Lois Maynard also drilling over.

At the other end, Harrogate frontman Ainge made his physical presence known, charging down a Crocombe clearance, but was unable to bring the ball under his spell. Town pressed on, Jack Emmett seeing plenty of the ball in the final third, but having a low effort blocked.

City’s rearguard managed to hold out, however, securing a third successive victory, while Town have now won only one of their last five away games.

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