Tuesday will see John Reed take Stalybridge Celtic to Harrogate Town for the first time since he left them last season, so both sides will have something to prove in this game (kick off 7:45pm). To add to the tension, there is a lot riding on the game for both sides also, with a play off spot up for grabs. Harrogate missed out on a play off spot last season, something that they blame us for.
Harrogate are currently fourth in the table, eight points and three places above Celtic, having played one game more. A win for Harrogate could virtually guarantee them a play-off spot, whilst a win for Celtic would put them to within three points of Droylsden, with a game in hand and yet to play them for the last play off spot.
Harrogate?s home record is exceptional this season, with only two losses and those against two of the title contenders, Northwich Victoria and Stafford Rangers. The third contender, Nuneaton, were beaten at Wetherby Road in January. That said, in their last four home games, Harrogate have been held to two draws by Workington and Redditch United, lost one to Northwich, but managed to get back on track in their last game with a 1-0 win over Alfreton in their last home match.
That win came off the back of two away wins at Hinckley United and Kettering Town. Since Northwich beat them in January, their season took a bit of a wobble, with only one win in seven games. Though this dropped them out of the play-off spots for a few games, they?ve pulled their season around and put themselves firmly in the driving seat for a play-off spot.
We?ve met eight times over the past few years, and in that time we?ve not won at Wetherby Road, nor have the two sides ever drawn. We beat them earlier in the season at Bower Fold but last season saw them take all six points off us in the league, though we beat them in a Trophy match at Bower Fold. Though we?ve won two of the last three confrontations, Harrogate are in pole position overall with five wins out of eight. Given the history and the current home/away form of the two teams, the automated prediction algorithm is predicting a 2-1 win for Harrogate ? a similar score line as predicted for Celtic?s last match at Worcester; which we won.
Harrogate have taken six points off Hinckley and Vauxhall this season, with nobody yet taking six points off them. Celtic have yet to take six points off a team, but having beaten them once this season, Tuesday presents an ideal opportunity.
Goals for Harrogate this season have come from Danny Holland, whose twenty-two goals have put him top of the Golden Boot league, as well as making him Harrogate?s top scorer by twelve clear goals. Four of those twenty-two have come from the penalty spot, unlike Celtic?s top-scorer Lee Ellington, whose nineteen goals have all come from open play. Ben Jones and Gareth Grant are trailing in Holland?s wake with six goals apiece.
Harrogate have been very mean in the first half this season, with only twelve of their forty-three conceded goals coming in the first period. The remaining thirty one have come in the second half, with the last fifteen minutes seeing seventeen goals conceded. Their goals for have been more balanced, though there is a definite spike around the seventy minute mark with fifteen of their scored fifty-three goals coming in this spell. On average, Harrogate score 1.6 goals per game at home (1.7 overall), and concede a miserly 0.8 goals per game at home (1.9 overall). They have kept ten clean sheets all season (six of them at home, and one in their last match), whilst they have scored in all but two of their home games, failing to score just four times all season.
Harrogate are likely to be without the services of Danny Holland, Roy Hunter and Chris Ellerker who all picked up knocks in their 1-0 win over Alfreton. In that match, they lined up as:
1. Joe Anyon
2. Richard Dunning
3. Ian Clark
4. Leigh Wood
5. Paul Stoneman
6. Chris Ellerker (Chris Mason)
7. Anton Lally
8. Roy Hunter
9. Marc Smith
10. Danny Holland
11. Lee Philpott
With Jody Banim and Kevin Parr joining Darren Hockenhull on loan, Celtic drafted in loan services from York City, with defender Stephen Baines and midfielder Ashley Winn appearing in the squad for the 1-0 win away at Worcester. In that match, Celtic lined up as:
1. Paul Pettinger
2. Grant Black
3. Scott Maxfield
4. Mark Barnard
5. Mark Haran
6. Barrie Keeling
7. Ashley Winn
8. Paul Sykes
9. Lee Ellington
10. Gary Kharas
11. Neil Prince
With only four away wins all season, and only one since the start of the year, against a team with a solid home record the odds are against Celtic. John Reed and Mark Atkins will both have something to prove in their old stomping ground, whilst Harrogate are going to want to ensure that he doesn?t. The home support are going to be the loudest they have been all season, acting as an extra man for the home team. If we play to our ability, we can win, but it?s going to take an exceptional performance.