Match Report -
Couldn't convert the chances
By Debbie Taylor

Celtic's inability to convert chances into goals allowed Whitby to execute the perfect smash-and-grab to advance into the third round of the FA Trophy at Celtic's expense. The pitch had been sanded since the mud bath of mid-week and it made for an uncertain bounce in the ball that Celtic adjusted to quicker.

Sykes initiated the first attack, putting in a good cross for Bonsall who flicked it on for Hayward; unfortunately, Hayward couldn't quite reach it in a story that would be repeated all afternoon. Gildea fouled Parr thirty-five yards from goal, the free kick was cleared as far as Bowker who lobbed the ball back in for Hayward with Farthing heading out for a corner ahead of him. Hayward got to the corner, and Linighan cleared off the line with a header putting the ball out for a second corner. The second corner caused a scramble in the Whitby box, and Sykes and Smith smuggled the ball out to Whealing. The left back's shot was a powerful low drive to the bottom corner, but Veart was still there from the corner stopping the ball on the line and clearing.

At the other end Bowker clumsily challenged the powerful Johnson, but Whitby's free kick was delivered straight to Priestley.

Celtic's first half performance continued to create the chances, and Ben Smith worked himself some space just outside the box, but his shot whistle wide of the upright. Sykes whipped in a great cross and Ben Smith, using his head for change looked to have opened the scoring until Campbell's acrobatics saw him push the ball around the post for a corner. Steve Smith took the corner and cheekily attempted to curl it into the far corner, but Nicholson was on the line to head clear. Celtic continued to press and Bowman's cross forced Nicholson to head out for a corner. The corner was cleared but Steve Smith's industry combined with Sykes' deft touches allowed Smith to run into the box to attack Sykes' final lob, but Nicholson was there again to clear well.

Whitby were coming more and more into the game as the half neared its conclusion, and Keeling was forced into conceding a corner by Johnson, which Priestley caught. Even so, Celtic were still creating the most chances, and a Ben Smith bursting run ended when Gildea upended him just outside the box. Whealing's free kick was blocked on route to goal, falling to Steve Smith. Smith's powerful shot struck Veart's arm inside the box, and went for a throw. Scaife was not nearly so lucky, as he too handballed near the centre line. Bowman's free kick into the box was nodded down by Sykes to Keeling who struck the shot first time and produced a stunning save from Campbell tipping the ball around the post for a corner. The corner was wasted, as was the corner won by Whitby seconds later at the other end. Right before the death, Scaife fouled Bonsall almost breaking Bonsall's ankle after Bonsall had played the ball past him to run into the box. Despite being a foot away, the referee allowed play to go on, but Whitby generously broke up their countermove, putting the ball out so Bonsall could receive treatment.

The second period started with Whitby still improving minute on minute and Celtic deteriorating at the same rate. Despite Celtic winning a corner in the opening minute, the first real chance fell to Scaife, when he took advantage of a lucky bounce to get beyond Ben Smith and race in diagonal on goal. His shot as he entered the box was well stopped by Priestley and Bowker reacted fastest to the spilled ball knocking it out for a corner that Bonsall headed clear. Gildea didn't test Priestley when he found some space just outside the box for a shot, shooting wide.

Sykes almost set Nicholson up when he passed to Priestley who tried to put the ball on his favoured foot and ended up slicing the clearance under pressure from Johnson. Nicholson was the grateful recipient attempting the instant lob from distance that Priestley gratefully watched drift wide.

The game could still have gone either way, but stout Whitby defending kept the scores level. Steve Smith used some tricks to get to the by line and cut the ball back for the other Smith who saw his goal-bound effort cut out by Linighan. Scaife, who was already on a yellow card for dissent, fouled Bonsall thirty-five yards from goal. Whealing's curling free kick was well ready by Campbell making the catch look easy.

Sykes fouled Gildea forty-yards from goal, and the free kick took a deflection to go out for a corner, Whitby played the corner short and were caught offside by an alert Celtic defence. In frustration, fresh substitute McTiernan earned a yellow card, kicking the ball away. Priestley launched the free kick into the Whitby box, and Sykes' header was ineffective, glancing well wide of the goal.

Celtic then had a cast-iron penalty turned down. Steve Smith chased a poor back pass forcing Campbell into slicing the ball, Hayward went to head the ball level with the penalty spot only for Farthing to haul him out of the air. To make matters worse, the referee gave the foul to Whitby! Steve Smith then handed Hayward a glorious chance. His pin-point cross found Hayward unmarked just outside the six yard box, but he misjudged his header, and Whitby could clear.

Celtic were looking increasingly desperate, and being forced further and further back towards their own goal line. Priestley was called into action again when McTiernan found some space off a throw for a shot, producing a good save from Priestley.

Bonsall couldn't continue, and with twenty minutes left was replaced by Wharton. His first touch was to set Hayward up, but under pressure from Nicholson, the best he could do was win a corner. The corner was taken short to Whealing who delivered a great far post ball, which bounced off Bowker and went narrowly wide.

Whitby were looking very confident by now, and strung together a good dozen passes that ended with Nicholson darting into the box and shooting narrowly over the bar. Nicholson was causing all sorts of problems since his move up front, and Keeling fouled him some thirty yards from goal. The free kick was excellent, and Priestley could only watch as it clipped the crossbar and went out. Keeling was then forced into conceding a corner to stop Johnson latching onto a long throw. The corner was poor. Celtic broke off the corner and swept towards the Whitby goal. The Whitby defence was alert, and reverse the counter-attack to allow Bishop a run on goal, with Keeling the last defender, blocking the shot at the expense of another corner. Again, the corner was poor. Sykes played a poor pass that allowed Bishop a run towards goal, he cut it back for Gildea and his shot produced an excellent save from Priestley.

With ten minutes left on the clock, Caldecott and Calcutt replaced the two Smiths. The two substitutes linked up together well when Caldecott brought forward Whealing's through ball and found Calcutt with a pin-point cross. Calcutt used his first touch expertise to set himself up for a shot, which whistled narrowly passed the post. Had he scored, it would have been somewhat against the run of play, but would have sent Celtic through. Sykes, beating Veart and whipping in a cross, then created a lesser chance for Hayward who threw himself through the air missing the ball by a hair's breadth.

Celtic looked very tired now, and this allowed Scaife to lob Bowman and Gildea to head towards goal that looked to have beaten Priestley, until he tipped the ball over the bar. Priestley then palmed away the corner and there was no surprise he was given man-of-the-match.

Celtic still had one last roll of the dice, and caused absolute chaos in the Whitby box as first Calcutt lobbed the ball into the melting pot, and after desperately scrambling it clear, Wharton then put it back in. There were blocks, shots and tackles flying in, but Whitby held firm and survived.

This was to prove a decisive moment as Whitby took the ball up the other end of the pitch with Celtic too tired to get back with them. Bowman was missing from the right back position allowing Nicholson free reign to pick out his spot and put the ball onto the foot of Bishop who volleyed powerfully past Priestley with two minutes of normal time left.

There was no time, or energy left for another late Celtic comeback and Whitby walked away from the match having done enough to beat Celtic. Their second half performance took advantage of a tired Celtic, but even so, it took 43 minutes before they could convert their fitness into a goal. Celtic should have taken their chances in the first half if they were going to win this one, and they didn't.

Sponsors
Site Sponsor
Football Accumulators - Official Site Sponsors of Stalybridge Celtic
Site Sponsor
MG Domestic - Official Site Sponsors of Stalybridge Celtic
Main club sponsor
Works4U Official Shirt Sponsors of Stalybridge Celtic