Super Stalybridge Celtic marched into the Northern Final of the inaugural GLS cup, with a closely fought 2-1 victory against their illustrious opponents.
Both managers decided to use this fixture to blend youth and experience, perhaps realising that the greater challenges still lie ahead. Thoughts of Saturday’s game against Worksop no doubt in the forefront of John Reed’s mind as he played only six of the players that started against Alfreton.
In truth, the paltry crowd did not witness a classic game. However, they would have been doubtless impressed by the efforts made by both sides.
Following a defensive mix-up in the opening minutes, Osborne was given the time and space to slot an early goal past Dootson, deceiving the travelling faithful that their journey would be in vain, and Morecambe would go on a rampage.
Celtic teams these days are made of stern stuff and the castigation from the crowd that used to follow a conceded goal is no longer evident, and the team have a greater self-belief, as evidenced by the fact that as the first half progressed, the Celts began to gain a foothold in the game. Mark Atkins in his first competitive game being the architect of much the good work Celtic did, producing a range of passing that lived up to his past of winning a Premiership medal with Blackburn.
The equalizer when it came was a strange one but deserved all the same. Obviously, the supply came from Mark Atkins, spinning in a corner, and Barrie Keeling somehow managing to head home, when it appeared that he didn't even know his header was goal-bound.
The second half was played out in much the same vein, with neither side particularly creating many clear cut chances. Dootson, perhaps somewhat fortunately managed to keep out a Morecambe effort by inexpiably tipping the ball behind him and then letting it bounce of his shoulder to safety. Live-wire Morecambe striker Paul Lloyd also got into a good position only to see his shot rebound off the bar. With ten minutes to go, Morecambe could have sealed it as Salmon found himself with time and space just outside the box, but his final shot let him down.
At the other end, Andy Parton had a number of one-on-one chances that he failed to convert thanks to some excellent keeping, and last-ditch tackles. Similarly, the boys in blue can perhaps point to a couple of penalty decisions that could have gone for them.
With extra time now becoming the most likely outcome, Parton managed to grab himself another opportunity and this time rounded the keeper with no mistake, and with the defence scrambling to get back and cover, he slotted it thankfully into the back of the net.
The faithful jubilant, Johnny Reid ecstatic and Celtic in the final!