Celtic are on the road again this Saturday when we head into Staffordshire to face Stafford Rangers (kick off 3pm, there will be a match centre for this game). Stafford are currently twelfth in the league, five places and eight points behind Celtic having played three games more.
Stafford have imploded in recent weeks. They started the season strongly losing just twice in their opening thirteen matches (at home to Southport and Tamworth), but in their last thirteen matches they have won just three (Gainsborough home and away, and Telford away). Their previous solid defence that conceded about a goal a game in the opening period has seen them ship fifteen goals in their last seven games, although they did keep a clean sheet in their last match at home to Gainsborough.
They have kept eleven clean sheets throughout the season, six of them at home, including a run of five games without conceding between September and October, which still stands as a season record. They have failed to score in ten matches this season, eight of which were at home. This gives them an average of 0.9 goals per game (0.4 at home), and conceding 1.2 goals per game (a goal per game at home). Their top goal scorer is David McNiven with eight goals, a full five goals ahead of his closest rival for the golden boot in Tom Thorley on three. Their most dangerous period is around the twenty minute mark, when they have scored eight of their twenty-three goals, whilst the last fifteen is their most vulnerable, when they have conceded nine of their thirty-one conceded goals.
We met Stafford earlier in the season, when Celtic won one of their two home wins this season, beating Stafford 2-0. We have never won at Stafford, our best result a 2-2 draw back in November 1993 when both teams were in the Conference National, whereas Stafford have won three of our last five visits there. The automated prediction algorithm believes that this will be Celtic?s season, suggesting a 3-1 win for Celtic.
Stafford have a clean bill of health, and no players suspended for the forthcoming match. In their last match a 2-0 home win over Gainsborough, they lined up as:
1. Tim Sandercombe
2. Andre Francis
3. Jonathon Loukes
4. Tom Thorley
5. Wayne Daniel
6. Stuart Pierpoint
7. Chris Flynn
8. Jake Moult
9. David McNiven
10. Nick Wellecomme
11. Christian Millar
Celtic also have a clean bill of health, and no players suspended. In our last match, the 1-0 win over Harrogate Town, Celtic lined up as:
1. Paul Phillips
2. Ashley Woolliscroft
3. Rhys Meynell
4. Barrie Keeling
5. Terry Barwick
6. Paul Sykes
7. Steve Torpey
8. Richard Battersby
9. Alex Meechan
10. Nathan Joynes
11. Andy Smart
Celtic are just one point adrift of the play off zone, and are currently capable of catching Gateshead and Alfreton in the top five, and with games in hand, we are not that far behind Tamworth and Telford. A win is vital if we are to maintain our promotion aspirations. It is very tight at both ends of the table.
Other games on Saturday (weather permitting):
Blyth Spartans (19th, 22pts) v Droylsden (10th, 35pts)
Burscough (21st, 21pts) v Gateshead (2nd, 50pts)
Farsley Celtic (13th, 31pts) v Alfreton Town (5th, 41pts)
Fleetwood Town (15th, 29pts) v Redditch United (17th, 26pts)
Harrogate Town (6th, 41pts) v Solihull Moors (18th, 24pts)
Hinckley United (9th, 35pts) v Gainsborough Trinity (8th, 26pts)
Hyde United (20th, 22pts) v Hucknall Town (22nd, 20pts)
King?s Lynn (14th, 31pts) v Southport (3rd, 48pts)
Vauxhall Motors (11th, 32pts) v Tamworth (1st, 51pts)
Workington (16th, 27pts) v AFC Telford United (4th, 48pts)