National League North leaders Salford City swept aside Alfreton Town at a rain-soaked Moor Lane on Saturday, although an improved second half performance did yield a late consolation for the Reds in a 4-1 loss.
Manager Nicky Law could only field a bare squad with just two subs available, and his cause was certainly not helped when defender Terry Kennedy’s recurring injury forced him to limp out of the game on 37 minutes.
Despite Alfreton creating a couple of early chances it was Salford who led after 12 minutes when Mike Phenix side-footed home a Matt Warburton cross from five yards, the move stemming ironically from a goal-kick after Ryan Wilson’s lay-off had rebounded out of play off Craig Westcarr.
Wilson was also at the heart of an earlier chance, when his inswinging corner had needed punching clear under pressure by home keeper Jay Lynch, but once the hosts had found the net they maintained control throughout the game.
Successive saves by Fabian Spiess from Warburton and Scott Burton in the 15th minute kept Salford at bay for a further seven minutes, but the ease with which Phenix ran on to Craig King’s pass to leave Jordan Hulme with the simplest of back-post conversions highlighted the Reds’ defensive problems.
It was 3-0 after 26 minutes when Michael Nottingham’s long throw worked its way to City skipper Simon Grand, who scored with a firm header after his initial attempt had come back off the crossbar.
And it could have been even worse four minutes before the break when Warburton hammered the ball against the bar from a Hulme cross.
The rain eased for the second half, and with it came more cohesion from the Reds, but it was still difficult to break through and Dan Bradley’s 48th minute effort from distance was never going to trouble Lynch.
Tom Allan went close with a header from a Wilson corner, then another flag-kick in the 54th minute caused concern for Salford with Lynch again punching clear, but it was Spiess who needed to save from Warburton before Hulme fired wide from a good position. The fourth goal arrived at the mid-point of the second half, Warburton steering home from close range from a Nottingham cross, and a fifth was only prevented by Richie Allen’s inaccuracy in front of goal from a lethal Phenix cross.
Alfreton’s consolation goal was scored by Sam Smith, who stabbed home Westcarr’s 76th minute cross at the back post, but City pushed forward again and it needed a particularly good save by Spiess to deny James Poole eight minutes from time.
There was still time for a controversial moment when Evan Garnett sent Adam Priestley through on goal, only to be clattered into by Lynch eight yards outside his area, the keeper somewhat fortunate to escape with a yellow card although it was far too late in the game to have made any realistic difference.
Salford: Lynch; Nottingham, O’Halloran, Burton (Wellens 65), Grand, B.Priestley, King, Walker, Phenix, Warburton (Poole 67), Hulme (Allen 67). Subs not used: Worley, Johnston.
Alfreton: Spiess; McGowan, Kennedy (Garnett 37), Jordan, Allan, Heaton, Monkhouse, Wilson, Bradley, Westcarr, Smith (A.Priestley 85)
Referee: Paul Newhouse.