Match Report -
Collier Forces a Replay
By Mike Tilly

A second half equaliser from Steve Pickford kept Stalybridge in this seasons FA Cup after a frustrating afternoon for the Blues at Bower Fold.

Billingham opened brightly, with Clarke racing past the defence, only to mistime his run, and clash with Ingham, injuring the Celtic number 1 in the process.

It seemed only a matter of time before Celtic made the breakthrough as they bombarded the Billingham goal in the opening half hour. Steve Jones saw a superb volley turned over the bar by Collier, Pickford twice went close and both Sullivan and Bauress saw shots flash inches wide of the uprights. A succession of corners ensured the game was played around the Billingham box for much of the half but it was Celtic's north-eastern opponents who went closest to scoring when Clarke raced clear only to lose control at the vital moment when faced with a one-on-one situation with Ingham. How he managed to avoid having his name taken for an outrageous dive, the likes of which are only seen in comedy sketches, only referee Mr Tatten can explain!

Clarke however made amends five minutes before the break with a superb turn and strike form the edge of the box which the injured Ingham could only stand and watch as the ball flew into the top corner of the goal.

Mark Ogley became a makeshift keeper for the Blues as Ingham failed to recover from his first half knock. In a bizarre twist of fate, Clarke again made a run intro the Celtic box, and again injured the Celtic keeper, only this time, it was Ogley who received Clarke's boot. Some more paranoid people might suggest tactics at work? Fortunately, Ogley had little to contend with in the second half; but sadly for Celtic neither did Collier at the other end.

Celtic struggled to find a way through the visitors defence but on the hour Pickford brought a sigh of relief to the home fans, sliding into the box to convert a great pass from Jones.

Pickford drove a shot through a crowd of players and substitute Scott curled the ball towards the top corner but Collier was equal to both efforts. At the other end Rowntree put the ball over the bar when it looked easier to score after Ogley saved from Clarke. Billingham finished the game the stronger and they would surely have felt it an injustice if Sullivan's shot from 10 yards hadn't shaved the wrong side of the post in the closing seconds.

Full credit to Billingham for taking Celtic to a replay on Tuesday and sending their small but vocal group of fans home happy.

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