Richie Wellens lamented a “brutal” and “ridiculous” fixture list after watching Salford produce a stunning performance to beat leaders Cambridge 4-1 at the Peninsula Stadium.
Top scorer Ian Henderson grabbed two, with Richie Towell and on-loan Leeds midfielder Robbie Gotts also on the mark against an out-of-sorts Cambridge, for whom Paul Mullin’s strike was little consolation.
It was a much-needed win for the Ammies, whose own promotion push had been stalled by four postponements in the previous five home matches this year.
“When you take your chances it gives you belief and changes the opposition’s mindset. I thought it was similar to the Oldham game but this week we took our chances,” said Wellens, whose side led 3-0 at the break.
“The front five pressing players started us off really well and gave us a platform to build from.
“Credit to everyone for getting the game on but also for changing the kick-off time to 5.30pm because you can see how cold it is now, and the pitch hardened up for the last 20 minutes. Had it kicked off at 7pm then it probably wouldn’t have gone ahead.
“It has been a really difficult period. You plan for the game, your intensity levels go up and then you find out an hour before the game that it’s off. That is an energy drainer.
“But I’m really pleased with the performance and how we took the goals.
“The fixture schedule now is brutal, it’s ridiculous. We have Saturday-Tuesday every week until the middle of March. It’s not even like the supporters can give you energy, but you just have to get on with it, it’s the same for everybody. I’ve never known a schedule like this.”
Wellens also praised Gotts for his impact since arriving from Elland Road.
“On the press he is excellent, a typical (Marcelo) Bielsa player. His passing is good, he’s scored two in three for us and could have had more. He is a really good, infectious lad who the group has taken to straight away.
“We are going to improve him for free, that’s why Leeds have loaned him to us. We think he has a real chance to go all the way.”
Cambridge boss Mark Bonner said defensive frailties cost his side a first league defeat of 2021.
“We played against a team who pressed the life out of us. We gave them chances and they are too good a team to do that. If you give them, they will take them,” Bonner said.
“We kicked ourselves really and gave ourselves too big a task. We created some good chances but we weren’t good enough and they deserved the win.
“We just need to respond in the right way, as we always have. We are on a good run. The scoreline looks and sounds horrible but we’ve given them a foot up in the first half with uncharacteristic errors.
“We have a really good defensive record and never concede many goals, or chances. But we made too many basic errors tonight and didn’t have the same organisation and aggression that we’ve had in previous weeks.
“When you play a team like this you have to be better than that and we got punished for some poor defending and errors.
“This isn’t a reality check because we are not carried away with our league position.
“We were unbeaten in seven or eight and now just have to win the next game. We are going to lose games and how you lose them matters.
“We have lost that by too many tonight but from our perspective they are expected to win the league and get promoted and we are not expected to be anywhere near it, so we are massively overachieving.
“We are enjoying that challenge and will respond from tonight and try and get back on track. Our aim is to be competitive and be at the top end of the table for as long as we can.”
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