Whitehaven rally to give McCormack happy return

Salford 26 Whitehaven 26

It was a happy homecoming for the former Salford coach Steve McCormack, as his new side drew with the National League One promotion favourites for the second time this season.

McCormack, sacked midway through the Reds' relegation season last year, saw Whitehaven's plucky display rewarded when Neil Frazer scored from Darren Holt's high kick three minutes from time and Holt added a difficult conversion.

"It's always special to come back for the first time and I've got good and bad memories of the place," McCormack said. "It's terrific to come here and get a point when no other side has done that this season."

Whitehaven looked from the start as though they believed they could damage Salford. A try from Graeme Morton, plus two goals from Holt, gave them an eight-point lead and Salford badly needed the lift they got from Paul Highton's storming run, which led to their first try from Andy Kirk, a three-quarter on loan from Leeds.

Salford took the lead when Cliff Beverley ran unimpeded from acting half to score and Chris Charles added the goal.

When Danny Arnold went over in the corner from Gavin Clinch's lofted pass, it looked as though the home side might run away with it, but Haven responded well, Aaron Lester's clever pass sending Mike Whitehead over, and they would have been level at half-time but for Holt missing a comfortable conversion.

Charles doubled Salford's lead with a penalty early in the second half, but Holt immediately reduced it again and Whitehaven went in front when, after a period of pressure, Leroy Joe forced his way over.

Holt missed that conversion but put over a penalty to stretch Haven's lead just before the hour. The penalty count was stacking up against the visitors, however, and from one awarded for Whitehead raising his knee in the tackle, Salford finally broke them down, Alan Hunte somehow getting his pass away for the impressive Kirk to claim his second.

Holt missed narrowly with two drop-goal attempts before Steve Blakeley's break stretched the Whitehaven defence and Stuart Littler went over.

That should have been it for an exhausted Whitehaven, but Frazer's try and Holt's goal not only brought them level but gave them the prospect of snatching victory. Holt was just off target again before the ex-Salford player Gary Broadbent led the charge to block Clinch's efforts at the other end.

"That was as poor as we've played all season," said the Salford coach, Karl Harrison, who admitted that Sunday's Arriva Trains Cup final against Leigh might have been on a few minds.

Salford: Davies; Arnold, Littler, Hunte, Kirk, Beverley, Clinch, Baynes, Alker, Coley, Baldwin, P Highton, Charles. Substitutes: Blakeley, D Highton, Berne, Haggerty.

Whitehaven: Broadbent; Frazer, Seeds, Wood, Wallace, Joe, Holt, Vaughan, Lester, Fatialofa, Morton, Miller, Hill. Substitutes: Kiddie, Walsh, Whitehead, Cunningham.

Referee: K Kirkpatrick (Warrington).

Comments