Stalybridge Celtic - Match Report
Conference, here we come!

Unibond Premier Division

Saturday 28th April

Emley 2

3 Stalybridge Celtic

David 6
Tonk 88

53 Filson
67 Jones
90 Cooke
Iain Benson
Celtic moved two points away from clinching the Northern Premier League title in front of the largest non-league crowd this season, and for many a season.

The 3,708 spectators (about 1200 for Celtic) got to see a rollercoaster of a match which had everything including the Sky Non-League show cameras. Due to the sheer number, kick off was delayed by quarter of an hour as people struggled through the insufficient turnstiles.

Although Celtic had first sight of goal when they won a corner which resulted in Locke crossing in. Cuss, the Emley keeper, fumbled the cross, but Parr stabbed the loose ball wide of the net.

It was then Emley's turn to attack the net in this end to end match. And they showed how it should be done. A free kick just inside the Celtic third was whipped in by Hatto. The big central defender, David had come up, and found himself unmarked at the back post, making his header simplicity itself.

A goal down is not enough to make this Celtic side roll over, and Sullivan caused problems for most of the match, which Hatto dealt with by dragging and chopping the striker down towards the end of the game, Sullivan had to be replaced with one too many knocks.

Hatto got his reprieve from the first one, when Sullivan fired well over the bar.

Moments later, Pickford, Parr and Bauress wove intricate triangles around the Emley defence, but when Pickford's ball came in Jones headed it over.

At the other end, Prendaghast was causing many problems for Ward and Filson, and he managed to get several crosses in. The normally prolific Bambrook wasted his opportunities, firing wide and over.

When Ward was not shepherding Prendaghast, he was putting in sublime crosses, or in one case, a lovely curling shot that deserved a goal, but Cuss was aware of the danger, and plucked it out of the air.

Whilst Sullivan had Hatto to deal with, Jones had Wood, who pulled Jones down near the corner flag. But again, Celtic could do nothing with the swinging Bauress ball and it was cleared, allowing Emley to put the defence under pressure again. But Celtic did not allow the Emley speed men of Prendaghast and Wood enough room to cause any real problems.

Celtic had a pressure free spell during the middle of the first half, in which Pickford put a ball right through the heart of the six yard box. Parr made enough space for a shot, but blazed over, and a Locke throw into the heart of the box saw Bauress put it over the bar. It looked like Celtic were never going to find the back of the net.

Then Sullivan got booked, admittedly so did the root of the problem, Wood. In order to protect the ball, Wood knelt with a leg on either side of it, and looked quite content to stay there. Sullivan reached between his legs to extract the ball, and as he did so, Wood gave an almighty cry and threw himself to the ground clutching his head!

After a consultation with the linesman, Sullivan got a yellow card for a dangerous tackle (!) and Wood for playacting, presumably.

Celtic were then put under the cosh again by an Emley side that has a lot of quality. And they can rue the chances they missed. Darren Day (taking a break from appearing in the West End ;-) got on the end of a criss crossing move but his shot was weak, and allowed Ingham to scoop it up, and then moments later, Nazha was put under pressure by Filson, and his shot went well wide of the target.

With an echo of the previous fixture, Celtic went a man down just before half time.

Parr and Wilson jumped for the ball, and Wilson elbowed the Glossop lad across the cheek, as they came down, Parr raised his arms, and pushed Wilson. The referee had no choice but to give Parr a straight red.

The half ended with the ball still zipping from end to end, Cuss caught a Bauress free kick resulting from Pickford being dragged down, and Scott's curler from Sullivan being hacked down by Hatto went over. Fortunately, Emley were having similar problems in scoring, as Day proved when he stole in unmarked onto a Hatto cross only to head over from a yard, if that.

Celtic steamed into the second half, but still had problems in the penalty area. Sullivan was put through by a great ball from Jones, flicked over the defence, and Sullivan raced goal bound with two defenders chasing him, but unlikely to catch him. Cuss came off his line well, and Sullivan tried a chip, but the keeper smothered the ball, and held on as Sullivan had to leap over him.

Sullivan was again brought down by Hatto, and this time Bauress fired straight at the keeper. Cuss fumbled, as he had several times before, and Filson was on hand to stab in the loose ball. He ran to the Celtic contingent at the touch line and received due appreciation!

It was obvious that Celtic felt they could go onto win this tie. Ward let loose a thunderous shot from thirty yards which was deflected for a corner. Bauress put it in, causing mayhem at the back for Emley, as there seemed to be Celtic shirts everywhere. Eventually they cleared it for a corner, only to see Locke throw it right back in. It eventually came to Scott, who put it back in, only for Day to clear the Emley lines, setting Hatto off on a run. Pickford was on hand to remove the ball from Hatto. Professional foul said the referee handing Syd a yellow card.

Hatto then got his just desserts as he again upended Sullivan, sending the wing man spinning. He got a yellow card. The resulting ball in was headed wide by Filson, but the goal kick landed right at Pickford's feet. e threaded the ball through to Sullivan, who squared it to Jones.

Jones unleashed a brute of a shot from twenty five yards which sent Cuss flying across his goal in a vain attempt to reach it. Bottom corner, 2-1 Steve Jones had done it again!

Emley saw the title slipping away from them, and to give them credit, they managed to claw their way back into the game. Though Day needs to get new boots as again his shot from distance was weak enough for Ingham to finish his cup of tea before he picked it up. Nazha was substituted by super-sub Tonk, as the international was getting no change from Crookes and Locke, and Wilson was replaced by Wilson (confused?).

Between times, Sullivan earned two free kicks after the hack and slash Hatto but Bauress fired over both times. Possibly in attempt to break the windows of the Legoland Hospitality suite.

The new Wilson stated his case by getting onto a Bambrook cross, but he could only head wide.

With new impetus Emley threw men froward to grab the equaliser. Having something of a record for grabbing late goals, Celtic knew what to expect. Filson granted them a corner, and then Crookes deflected it for a second, before Ingham had to tip the ball over his crossbar for a third. Finally Emley wasted their corner by sending it arcing over the penalty area and off the other side for a goal kick.

With the minutes ticking down, and a final substitution by Emley to replace the dangerous Prendaghast with an ineffectual Jones, Emley looked desperate but dangerous. With a lot of men committed forward, Sullivan again broke their offside trap, and raced down Cuss' throat. Again, the keeper made a fantastic block to deny Sullivan, and Sully could only put the rebound wide (agonisingly close though).

With so many men forward, and Celtic a man down, it was inevitable that Emley would get shots on goal, and they brought out the best in Ingham, who pulled off a trio of great stops, the best of which was to deny Day a powerful headed shot after he had beaten his marker.

As the end of the match drew closer, Sullivan received one too many tackles from his shadow and had to be replaced, though Emley took a free kick before the referee could see the sub flag, fortunately it was cleared, unfortunately Sullivan was no longer able to run, and latch onto the clearance.

Finally Cooke came on, and his first job was to try and get onto the end of a corner, but it was cleared, allowing Tonk to break, and slot the ball to the left of Ingham's outflung arm.

Emley had got their equaliser with two minutes left on the clock.

But a draw was not good enough. With a draw Celtic could win the league by beating Droylsden and Burscough, hardly two of the leagues high flyers!

Emley continued to press. Emley's Jones blasted just over the net from just outside the box, and Day headed inches wide from a Hatto cross were the best of several Emley efforts, the majority of which sailed harmlessly wide.

Jones had run himself into the ground as the ninety minutes were up and past. Wilson brought Charles on. Charles immediately latched onto a Scott ball, and lifted it over the Emley defence. Cooke raced through, down Cuss' throat.

Again the keeper was quickly off his line.

Showing greater maturity than Sullivan, Cooke waited until the keeper was past the penalty spot before lobbing the ball over the keeper, and under the bar. Cuss could only turn and watch as the most spectacular goal finished off the most exciting match.

As the referee blew the final whistle, the Celtic fans mobbed the pitch, congratulating the players, and tearing one or two shirts.

Emley probably feel aggrieved at the result, and perhaps feel that they deserve a draw. But at the end of the day, Celtic did not crumble under frequent intense pressure, and got six points off Emley this season. Perhaps Emley do not need to do the huge amount of work to get their ground up to Conference standard any more.

The Championship race is not yet over. Two points are still required, three if Emley can beat Droylsden 23-0. Celtic cannot afford to lose concentration now.

Celtic: Ingham, Ward, Sullivan (Cooke), Crookes, Filson, Bauress, Pickford, Parr, Scott, Jones (Charles)
Unused sub: Williamson