Four straight defeats for Salford City, time running out for Graham Alexander at Moor Lane?

From table toppers to playoff hopefuls

Salford's rise to fruition over the past five years has been well documented, quite literally thanks to the BBC. With a unique ownership from Manchester United's famous 'Class of 92', the once tiny club plying their trade in the EvoStik Northern League Division One are now a full-time, professional outfit knocking on the door of the Football League.

Currently members of the National League Premier Division, the club who are part-owned by Valencia owner Peter Lim, Nicky Butt, Gary Neville, Phil Neville, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and now David Beckham are on the cusp of achieving exactly what they set out to do just five seasons ago.

After an extremely promising start to their campaign this time around, Salford looked dead certainties for promotion to League Two next term. The Manchester powerhouses lost only two of their opening 23 league games, propelling themselves to the top of the division towards the back end of 2018, with many bookmakers pricing them as solid favourites to claim the National League title in April.

Since the beginning of December however, things have taken a turn for the worst at Moor Lane. A terrible end to the year saw the club lose four consecutive league games, which included a humiliating 5-1 drubbing by current leaders Wrexham on Boxing Day. Salford have in fact only won two of their previous 11 league games and now find themselves 6th in the National League table, just a point above chasers Harrogate Town, Gateshead and Sutton United.

Eastleigh defeat the latest poor performance of a disastrous 2019

Following their recent 2-0 defeat at home to fellow playoff hopefuls Eastleigh on Saturday, Salford have now lost their previous four games in all competitions. The Ammies kicked off their dismal run of form with two underwhelming draws against Gateshead and Halifax Town in late January, before suffering last minute heartbreak against the division's bottom side - Braintree Town - at the start of February, losing 1-0 to the basement dwellers thanks to a 90th minute goal from Callum Morton.

Since then, a 3-0 loss to Maidstone saw Salford dumped out of the FA Trophy before back to back defeats to both Dover and Eastleigh in the National League has left the club balancing precariously on the edge of the playoffs with just 12 games of the season remaining.

The absence of leading goalscorer Adam Rooney is noticeable when you watch Salford play at the moment. The prolific front man has notched 18 league goals this season, but has missed the Ammies previous three league matches after limping off with an injury in the club's FA Trophy clash with Maidstone three weeks ago.

Back up striker Rory Gaffney has struggled on his own up front, often looking isolated, and with the midfield currently creating very little it's left the club lacking any real attacking threat in the final third - they've now scored just once in their last four league games.

Having brought in former Scunthorpe manager Graham Alexander at the beginning of the season, with the view that he would be the man able to guide Salford out of the National League at the first time of asking, the 47-year-old's future at the club is now looking incredibly uncertain.

With challenging games against Sutton United, Solihull Moors, Barnet and Harrogate Town all approaching in the next month, it's make or break for the former Preston midfielder as he looks to remain in the dug out at Salford City. They simply have to start playing with more belief, regain their confidence and tackle the forthcoming schedule head on, because with the top eight so tight at the moment, a couple more defeats will see them tumble out of promotion contention all together.

Adam Rooney - Salford City
The absence of leading goalscorer Adam Rooney is taking its toll on Salford.

The National League - A cruel mistress

Three promotions in the previous four seasons have seen Salford become accustomed to copious amounts of success in their heavily funded journey towards the Football League. However, in the hugely demanding National League where there is just one automatic promotion space up for grabs, you simply cannot afford to take your foot off the gas as it will cost you dearly. The same structure applies to the National League North of course, but with so many strong sides with Football League pedigree all competing in the premier division, the battle for the title is much more competitive.

This season we see the likes of Chesterfield, Barnet, Leyton Orient, Dagenham & Redbridge and Hartlepool all make up the fifth tier, with cash-rich clubs like Solihull Moors and AFC Fylde both also staking a real claim for promotion. Wrexham have been trying to forge a way out of this magnificently unforgiving league for the past ten seasons following their relegation from League Two in 2008, showing just what a gruelling division the National League really is.

It is almost offensive to suggest that just throwing money around will guarantee success in the top tier of 'non-league' football, and with Salford now the side every other team in the league want to make an example of, their journey to League Two has become even more challenging. This has been evident in recent weeks - teams travelling to Moor Lane up their game simply because it's 'Salford off the telly', with strugglers Dover making a mockery of them last weekend in front of their newest superstar owner, David Beckham.

It's almost a certainty that we will see Salford in the Football League within the next three-five years, it may even be the case that they get promoted this season and their emphatic rise continues. However, at the moment they are a side in disarray, lacking any leadership, togetherness and above all else, confidence. Graham Alexander is under the most pressure to deliver and should he fail this term, it won't be difficult for Neville & Co. to find any reason to justify showing him the exit door.


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