Lancaster City put in arguably their best performance of the season with a deserved victory at highly-fancied Salford City at Moor Lane on Saturday.
Despite facing opposition backed by Manchester United legends the Class of 92’ the Dolly Blues were by far the better side on the day in all areas of the pitch.
Led once again by Trevor Sinclair with boss Darren Peacock battling illness, the visitors started the game on the front foot and pressed and harried The Ammies from the first whistle and were unlucky not to be awarded a spot kick in the opening minutes.
Chasing Tom Kilifin’s long ball over the defence, Matty Poole managed to get goal-side of defender Steve Howson and before the City striker could get his shot away inside he appeared to be tugged to the ground, but Lancaster’s appeals were waved away.
Sam Bailey lashed a shot from just inside the box into the side netting as the breakthrough began to look inevitable, but it was the hosts who created the best chance of the opening exchanges.
Former Sheffield United striker Danny Webber could only drive a wide angle shot straight at Mike Hale with the Dolly Blues opening the scoring minutes later just before the half hour.
Poole flicked Ryan Winder’s lobbed pass into the path of Kilifin and the striker controlled the ball expertly on the turn to get in behind the defence and neatly poke the ball into the bottom left corner to net his 10th league goal of the season.
At the other end Hale had to be alert again to safely palm wing-back Phil Dean’s effort wide of the post, again taken from a tight angle in what would prove to be the hosts’ final meaningful chance at goal.
Lancaster doubled their lead on 40 minutes thanks to a top drawer effort from Winder.
Teed up from a 20-yard free kick by Garry Hunter the City striker rifled a powerful effort into the bottom-right corner, leaving keeper Jay Lynch in the Salford goal with no chance.
City looked set to be on their way to victory when just before half time Salford were reduced to 10 men.
Defender Cavell Coo was shown a straight red for a crude two-footed lunge on Ben Hudson in the first of many heated flash points in the match.
With a heavy ex-Ramsbottom United presence in the new-look Salford side old rivalries were certainly renewed in a physical and bruising encounter.
Lancaster played a much more cautious game in the second half, keen to defend their clean sheet and look for chances on the break.
City were denied what looked to be another strong penalty shout when Howson clipped Billy Akrigg as he raced clean through on the Salford goal.
The Dollies’ appeals were waved away once again, with Poole unlucky not to get a deserved goal as Lynch produced a last gasp block as the striker attempted to round the Ammies’ stopper.
The Lancaster backline held strong throughout the second half, with Jacob Davis producing a memorable last ditch tackle to rob Jordan Hulme of a great scoring opportunity late in the game.
The final talking point came in the dying minutes as Salford were needlessly reduced to nine men.
Substitute Sam Madeley bundled over Hale and in the scuffles that followed raised an arm to Davis and received the second straight red card of the day to cap off the hosts’ misery.
Whilst the play-offs look to be out of reach for the Dolly Blues this season, the impressive form and desire shown since the turn of the year can’t go unnoticed as Peacock’s side will look to once again prove their mettle against second in the table Darlington on Wednesday.
Lancaster City: Hale 9, Hudson 9, Davis 9, Marshall 8, Clark 9, Bailey 8 (Pearce 80), Akrigg 9, Hunter 9, Winder 8, Kilifin 8 (Woods 80), Poole 9. Subs not used: Donlon, Freeland, Wearing.
Star man: Matty Poole - Tireless pressing and hounding with a match winning assist.