Match Report -
Yes! Ooh, Aah, Kevin Parr!
By Debbie Taylor

New manager Dave Miller has had an instant impact on Stalybridge Celtic's fortunes, reversing the eight-on-the-trot defeats with a victory over Forest Green, making this the first conference double of Celtic's campaign. If he can do it again on Monday against Doncaster, that will be the second!

The confidence in the team was evident from the outset, with Parr getting into the kind of positions he had got into under Wilson.

Indeed, the confidence was so high that when Ayorinde received the ball and ran towards goal, the spectators held their breath, until he got upended! Never fear, before the first minute had ticked on the clock, Woodhead swung the free kick to Parr on the penalty spot, who thumped it past Pearcey who had come to far for the cross. Official time? 1 minute 26 seconds.

It was the kind of start Celtic could only have dreamed of, and they pummelled the Rovers' goal searching for the second.

Within minutes, Impey gave away a corner from Ayorinde's persistence, and Woodhead swung it in back to Ayorinde, however, his drilled shot skimmed over the bar.

But the Nigerian hadn't finished and a surging run put him through onto Pearcey, who saved well, blocking the powerful drive, but the rebound was put wide.

Still Ayorinde didn't give up, and before the game was 10 minutes old, he again got into a good position, getting onto a Courtney layoff, but sliced the ball narrowly wide, with Pearcey beaten.

Courtney, too, looked a lot brighter than of late, and when he got the ball outside the box, he saw Pearcey off his line, and tried a cheeky lob that Pearcey looked relieved to catch.

Finally, after consistent pressure, Forest Green found a way out of their own half, but they couldn't get through the defence, as Woodhead put Hopkins' powerful shot around the post for a corner. A second corner was granted when the ball eventually fell to Impey who saw his close range effort blocked and turned around the other post by Beesley.

This fell to Langen outside the box as Celtic tried to clear, but his shot sailed over the bar.

However, this was the Kevin Parr show! Celtic resisted this brief Rovers pressure, and returned it in spades. Celtic pressed Forest Green back into their own third, winning throws and free kicks in dangerous areas. When Jenkins brought down Ayorinde, Parr almost duplicated his goal, this time from a Murphy cross, which Pearcey did well to hold onto. Pearcey also had to be alert as Pickford burst through from midfield as the defence let him go.

Sykes got a glimmer of goal, but wasted his opportunity, leaving Fish still relatively untested as the defence held strong in front of him, with Woods playing out of his skin, with an imposing performance. He denied first Sykes, and then Langan, the Langan block sending Woodhead off on a run, and though Woodhead's floated cross in was nicked off the head of Ayorinde, Forest Green knew that this was not the Celtic side they had been reading about.

Ayorinde was causing all kinds of problems for the Rovers' defence, and they had to be alert as he attempted to find his strike partner with a double cross blocked first by Lee, then by Jenkins for a corner, as the powerful Nigerian battled to find a way through the now organised defence. Pearcey punched the corner clear, but at the expense of a throw-in, which Celtic quickly took, and Woodhead whipped in from the left.

That man Parr surged into the box and planted a header past Pearcey into the corner of the net. The home fans went wild. A two goal lead!

Celtic finished the half with smiles and style. Another searching cross from Woodhead almost found Courtney, as Tearney slid in to put it out for a corner. Who got onto the end of the corner? Kevin Parr! Pearcey again did well, with some fine reactions to deny Parr his hat-trick, something he deserved.

Forest Green took the impressive Tearney off at half time, and replaced him with a more industrious Heggs. However, this was not going to stop Parr from trying to grab his hat-trick.

Pickford and Ayorinde interchanged, before laying off to Murphy, as the fullback steamed past. Murphy whipped a great ball over the defence, where Parr muscled his way through to plant his forehead firmly on the ball, putting it past Pearcey only to see it rebound off the crossbar.

The frenetic pace was beginning to show on Celtic, and Forest Green again got a chance of some possession, despite constant harrying all over the field from Pickford, Williamson and Ayorinde.

Woods intercepted Foster's cross, and tried to free Courtney, only to see the lithe striker caught offside, despite being a yard onside when the cross was played. From this, Forest Green worked the ball down the flank before Heggs got onto an Impey cross, and planted the ball into Fish's hands. Fish immediately launched a long ball upfield, which Ayorinde duly took through the defence, but planted his shot over the bar.

Minutes later, Pickford should have added to the goals, when he got on the end of a Murphy throw, and blasted the ball net-bound from distance. Pearcey earned his wages with a fantastic reaction save to deny the midfielder. His long punt up field was met by Hopkins, who missed the target with his shot under pressure from Beesley.

As Forest Green got into a rhythm, Courtney followed Cooper back towards defence, eventually bringing the Rovers player down 35 yards out. Cooper took the free kick himself, curling it around the wall, but he curled it too far, and it was not to be Forest Green's night.

As the hour mark passed, people began to believe that Celtic might just pull a victory off, marking the debut of Dave Miller in fine style, but Forest Green were as desperate for the points as Celtic, and they were not going to roll over and die.

Cooper got a second chance with a free kick after Woodhead was adjudged to have fouled Heggs, but Williamson in the wall, turned it aside. Foster tried to put it back in, this time Woodhead put it out for a corner, which man of the moment Parr headed out to safety.

It wasn't long before Rovers had another corner though, which Sykes whipped in for Jenkins to try and put past Fish. Fish made an outstanding save to deny the Rovers' man.

Celtic were beginning to look nervy as the final fifteen minutes approached, and this showed when Meechin burst through the defensive line, and Williamson late tackle brought the player down inside the box. The referee had no doubt about pointing to the spot, which Cooper drove past Fish into the bottom left of the goal, beyond the Celtic number one's reach.

Parr almost grabbed an instant reply, but Pearcey tipped his cross/shot over the bar, and Ayorinde's header was wide of the mark.

The two teams traded corners, with both defences performing well, and Courtney had a half-hopeful shot from outside the box sail past the upright, but it was Forest Green Rovers who finished the game the strongest, and Celtic's concentration had to be high.

Foster finished the game with a flurry of Forest Green corners, which the Celtic defence coped with, and Heggs will be cursing himself for putting his shot wide of the mark.

Forest did get the ball into Celtic's net, when Heggs ran a third of the pitch and slotted the ball past Fish, only to see it ruled for offside.

A little bit of luck at the end, but new boss Miller will have been delighted with resurgent performance from the Bower Fold outfit.

The tests get tougher here on in though, with Yeovil on Saturday, and Doncaster two days later on Monday. The top two in three days? Can Celtic continue their form long enough to regain safety? It's a tough call.

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