Though billed as a friendly, the Ray Stanley Memorial Shield (Thursday, 7.30pm kick off at Bower Fold) has come to mean much more. It is a way for both teams to gauge how their pre-season preparations are coming along.
Hyde will be looking to win the shield that they instantiated for the first time in six times of trying. The previous five attempts have all resulted in wins for Celtic. Indeed, Celtic have scored ten goals in this competition, whilst conceding only four.
It all started in 2001 when the inaugural game went to penalties. 1-1 at full time, Hyde took Celtic all the way to sudden death penalties, having scored three each. Celtic converted two of their spot-kicks, and Hyde only one, with Lee Buggie getting the decisive goal. This was followed in 2002 with yet another penalty shoot out, Phil Eastwood?s late strike cancelling out Steve Foster?s earlier goal to bring on the spot-kicks. Celtic converted their first four, but Hyde could only get two, Craig Dootson saving their final penalty. Celtic won the 2003 competition 2-1 in normal time with two goals from Phil Eastwood, whilst 2004 was won at a canter 3-0, and last season we won it again, 3-1.
Hyde?s preparations have seen them sign ex-Celts Neil Prince, Craig Dootson, Steve Pickford and Earl Davies. They have only had one pre-season game so far, a 1-1 draw away at Kidsgrove Athletic. Neil Prince was the scorer in that match, and he is going to have an influential role to play in this match as he will want to impress against his former club.
Last season saw Hyde finish eleventh on fifty-six points, four places and ten points behind Celtic. Though they only won three of their last ten away matches, one of Hyde?s away wins did come at Bower Fold, overturning a decade of wins from Celtic over their Tameside rivals. That win came courtesy of two late goals from an ex-Celt and now ex-Tiger, Matty McNeil.
McNeil?s leaving allowed Dale Johnson to nip in and take Hyde?s top-scorer with twelve goals. They averaged 1.4 goals per game away from home, conceding 1.1 goals per game, conceding in eighteen of their away matches, and failing to score in six. Twenty-eight of their sixty eight goals came away from home. Their most common scoring time last season was around the hour mark with eleven goals, though late strikes added up to twelve goals (two of them against us!).
Celtic have retained the services of Lee Ellington who was last season?s top scorer, whilst our second top scorer Neil Prince will be playing for the other side. We scored an average of 2.4 goals per game at home, conceding 1.1. We scored in twenty-one of our home games, and kept five clean sheets. Fifty-one of our scored seventy-four goals came at home. We lost only one of our last ten home matches, winning the other nine, finishing strongly by scoring ten goals in three matches, whilst conceding two. Hyde won one, drew one and lost one in their last three, scoring four, and conceding four.
In their last match, the pre-season friendly away at Kidsgrove, Hyde lined up as:
1. Craig Dootson
2. Lincoln Adams
3. Paul Armstrong
4. Earl Davies
5. Mike Flynn
6. Nathan Wharton
7. Steve Pickford
8. Gerry Harrison
9. Neil Prince
10. Dale Johnson
11. Nicky Clee
In our last match, the pre-season friendly away at Goole Town, Celtic lined up as:
1. Nick Buxton
2. Michael Murray
3. Jamie Kay
4. Scott Maxfield
5. Mark Hume
6. Ian Snodin
7. Steve Garvey
8. Barrie Keeling
9. Andy Parton
10. Garry Kharas
11. Bryan Stewart
Several trialists have been turning out for Celtic this pre-season, these are:
? Michael Murray, a fullback from Rochdale Reserves
? Jamie Kay, a fullback from Stockport County
? Ian Snodin, a midfielder/defender from Doncaster Rovers Reserves (son of the Everton legend ?Snods?).
? Andy Parton, a striker from Scunthorpe who enjoyed something of a mythical status here when he was on loan.
? Bryan Stewart, a left-winger from York City.
Hyde appear to have settled on the team that they want to start the season with, whilst Celtic have signed Ashley Winn from York, Lee Morris from Worksop and Mark Hume from Alfreton.
The game is still a friendly, but a win over Hyde is always a great morale boost for the fans. Hyde will believe that they are due a win in this competition, and arrive knowing that they did beat us in their last visit here. Expect a tough game.