Match Report -
Defensively solid
By Debbie Taylor

Despite Smith's departure at the helm of Chester, the attendance remained low.

Perhaps they knew the game would be niggling and slack, even though Celtic started the game brightly, with Richard Peacock making most of the major moves.

Scott took a free kick after Wood had been crashed into by Porter. The ball was headed on to that man Peacock who brought the ball down on his chest, before curling a left foot volley which left Brown stationary, and fortunate, as the ball ricocheted off the post.

Wood was again clattered a few moments later, this time Spink bringing the midfielder down.

He took it quickly feeding through to Courtney, who's run was brought to an abrupt end as Ruffer stopped him in his tracks.

Peacock took the free kick into the box. Chester's defence struggled to clear, and as Parr nodded the ball over to Futcher, the offside flag was raised, despite the number of bodies around the defender.

Chester started to get into the game by about the tenth minute, when Spink raced through only to be halted by Futcher.

Scott was on hand to clear the lines from the resulting kick.

From the throw Rose and Lancaster swapped the ball before Rose crossed a good ball into the area. Crookes cleared at the expense of a corner, leaving Fish unthreatened. Hill knocked the ball in, and this time Futcher knocked the ball up field. The clearance fell to Kilgannon who tried his luck from 40 yards out, and went 40 feet over the bar.

Chester's Rose again was involved when he got to the by-line and whipped a cross in. Ruscoe met it well, but the ball sailed well wide.

Chester pressure resulted in another corner minutes later, after Murphy slid in to deny Ruscoe. Crookes cleared at the far post where Ruscoe was lurking.

Futcher and Crookes were again having an excellent game at the back, between them stopping anything that Chester tried. Further bolstered by Woods having an excellent game .

After a long free kick towards the Celtic penalty area, Crookes' clearance went for a throw, allowing Chester to come forward.

Beesley stepped over the ball, allowing it to run to Spink, who knocked a first time ball back to Beesley. His drive from the corner of the 6 yard box had a lot of power, and Fish got down well to block it making an excellent save. As the striker followed through, Scott was on hand to clear off the line for a corner. Celtic again cleared off the line when Hill's corner was headed goal bound by Ruffer, and Futcher headed clear after Fish had been beaten.

With this brief reprieve, Celtic got to probe at the Chester defence, and found it in excellent form.

Courtney was caught offside on a couple of occasions and the defenders provided Brown with a wall that the attacks struggled to find a way through, and never once threatened Brown's goal.

As the half came to a close, Chester again found ways through to Celtic's goal.

First Kilgannon fed Porter, who's 18 yard effort was blocked by Crookes, and then Porter got onto a Spink flick over the defence, but could not keep his shot down.

The last act of the half was in Stalybridge's favour, as Lancaster brought Bushell down, allowing a trademark Peacock free kick to whip into the area.

Ruffer cleared off Futcher's head at the expense of a corner.

Peacock again whipped the ball in, and this time Ruffer knocked the ball up-field.

In the second half, Futcher senior brought on Mathew McNeil, resting Dominic Crookes, in the hopes that McNeil could sneak that vital goal.

And he very nearly did.

The second half saw mainly half chances at either end, with first Peacock's cross being cut out by Brown, and then a Kilgannon free kick at the other end allowed Beesley a sight on goal. Woods was on hand to close him down.

The play switched back up to the Chester penalty box moments later, when Scott got to the line, and crossed in. Bushell, racing in, had to back pedal slightly, and couldn't keep the header down, sending the ball over the bar.

The next best chance fell to Peacock, who capitalised on a bad Chester pass to launch a 20 yard effort that skimmed just past the upright.

The pattern of the game in the second half was very broken up, with a lot of stops in play. The referee would not allow anything to go, despite both sides have advantage a couple of times. There was nothing serious (until the end of the half), and a better game of football may have resulted with less time on the whistle.

Just past the hour mark, Courtney should have put Celtic in front when Scott's excellent cross found him relatively unmarked on the back post, and only a fine save by Brown kept the striker off the score sheet.

As the game entered it's final fifteen minutes, Celtic were beginning to get behind Chester more, with several balls from Scott and Peacock, but Lancaster was having a good game, and what he couldn't clear, Brown could catch.

At the other end Futcher was all over the pitch, blocking Beesley and Roberts (on for Rose), before they could even get lines of site on goal. And when Ruffer looked certain to score from a Rose corner, Futcher was again there to get the ball clear.

Spink could have granted a home win when he got onto Ruscoe corner, but he directed it well over the bar as Woods pressed him.

Then McNeil brought down Fish's goal kick, and had Ruffer crash into his back. Scott took the free kick short to Peacock, who lobbed the ball into the box, but Lancaster was there again to make sure the ball went out of harms way before McNeil could do anything with it.

However Lancaster could do nothing when Roberts almost made the error of the game passing the ball back to Brown, only for McNeil to race onto it. Brown was quickly off his line, and blocked the shot excellently.

With Chester still adding to their tally of corners, Williamson was brought onto replace Parr, to ensure that Celtic did not again concede another late, late, unlucky goal.

However, Celtic's luck turned bad in a different way when the influential Peacock was clattered by Roberts resulting in the midfielder limping from the field, and Perkins replacing him. Perkins barely got a touch before the final whistle blew. Fortunately, Peacock had been announced fit enough to play on Saturday against Dover.

The defensive game was excellent with Chester denied many chances that have been granted to easily in other games. Futcher and Crookes are making a formidable partnership, with Woods acting as cover.

Celtic did make several good chances, and three excellent ones, a conversion from any of which could have won them the game.

It was not to be. But the goal leak looks to have been stopped. Celtic are away again on Saturday before the nemesis returns next week in the guise of Wizzo, Sully, Jonah and their new Sandgrounder crew.