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Nationwide Conference North

Stalybridge Celtic

Ellington (19), (90), Prince (45)

Hednesford Town

(2) 3

(0) 0



Current Form

Next Match


Gary Hateley



Harrogate Town (A) 19.4.06

The Pitmen will be officially relegated on Wednesday night if they fail to beat Harrogate Town after another defensive horror show saw Stalybridge Celtic ease to all three points at Bower Fold on this Bank Holiday Monday afternoon and strengthen their late push for a play-off place

Saturday's frustrating draw against Redditch United had extended Hednesford's winless run to five games and left them five points adrift of safety ahead of today's trip up the M6. Under-fire manager Steve Anthrobus elected to stick with the game XI that had started the Redditch game, despite calls for Lee Barrow to be restored to the defence and give the young Pitmen back line some much-needed experience, particularly with Ian Wright now ruled out for the remainder of the season due to another injury issue

Celtic started the afternoon sitting in seventh place in the table, five points adrift of the final play-off spot with four games remaining. Manager John Reed made three changes to his side from the one that had surprisingly lost 4-2 to Vauxhall Motors on Saturday as Steve Garvey replaced James Turley, Jody Banim came in up front in place of Phil Eastwood and Neil Prince was preferred to Stephen Baynes

Kicking up the slope in the first half, the Pitmen almost took an early lead to turn the form table on its head as a corner kick from Colin Hunter was cleared back to him, with his low left-footed drive from an angle saved by Stalybridge goalkeeper Paul Pettinger low down to his right-hand side

Three minutes later, another corner from Hunter was partially cleared by the home defence, falling to Graham Hyde who was standing on the edge of the Stalybridge penalty area. The veteran midfielder's return shot lacks power, however, and was straight at Pettinger

Stalybridge's first half chance fell to striker Lee Ellington in the ninth minute of the game as Tom Marshall's clearance fell short and was picked up by Paul Sykes, whose through ball found Ellington in behind the Hednesford defence. However, Ellington took a heavy final touch and allowed Gary Hateley to make a smothering save down at his feet before he could get his shot away

The Pitmen felt that they had a legitimate shout for a penalty kick in the thirteenth minute of the game as Leon McSweeney took Steve Brannan's through ball into the Stalybridge penalty area before taking the ball around Pettinger, who appeared to bring the striker down as the stopper attempted to push the ball away. Despite vociferous protests from the men in green, referee Mr Brabin waved away the protests and the ball ran behind for a goal kick to the hosts

Banim and Garvey linked up well two minutes later as the latter made a good run down the right, beating Les Hines and whipping the ball into the Hednesford penalty area, where Ellington controlled the ball well but lifted his shot from ten yards out over the crossbar as Richard Teesdale put him under pressure

Ellington was not to be denied with his next effort, however, as the home side took the lead in the nineteenth minute; Kevin Parr took the ball down the right for the Celts, making a move to the edge of the Hednesford penalty area and squared the ball to Ellington, whose powerful shot had too much on it for Hateley, who could only get a fingertip to the shot but could not stop the ball from finding the corner of the net

Sykes could have piled the misery on for the hapless Pitmen just two minutes later as a cross from Banim was allowed to find Sykes in acres of space to the right-hand side of the Hednesford penalty area, only for the midfielder's low shot to bounce narrowly wide of Hateley's left-hand post

Hyde - red-carded on Saturday for two bookable offences - was booked once more midway through the first half as he brought Banim down just twenty-five yards from the Hednesford goal and was shown a yellow card for his challenge. The experienced Darren Barnard took the free-kick quickly and found Parr with a chipped ball into the six-yard box, only for the midfielder's header back across goal to be cleared by Teesdale as he denied Sykes a tap-in at the far post

Four minutes later, Ellington controlled a long ball forwards from Barrie Keeling and slipped the ball through to Parr, whose low driven shot from twenty yards out whistled past Hateley's left-hand post

Garvey was next to test Hateley on twenty-nine minutes as his rising shot from twenty-five yards out took a slight deflection off Tom Marshall's leg and ended up into the grateful arms of the Hednesford goalkeeper

The hosts continued to look the more likely to score next, with the dangerous Banim seizing on a loose Scott Hadland pass and played the ball out to Prince on the left-wing on thirty-three minutes. His cross was hooked clear by Hines, who could only skew the ball as far as the incoming Parr, whose follow-up shot lacked power and precision from twenty yards out

On thirty-seven minutes, a rare attack from the Pitmen saw Sean Platt exchange passes with Brannan before the Walsall loanee found Hyde lurking just outside the Stalybridge penalty area. His low driven effort was blocked by Barnard, with McSweeney's follow-up shot ending up sailing high over the crossbar

With four minutes of the first half remaining, Keeling rose highest to meet a corner kick from Prince at the near post but could not get enough purchase on his effort and glanced his header wide of Hateley's near post

Right on the stroke of half-time, Stalybridge struck again to leave the Pitmen with a mountain to climb in the second half as Banim's run and cross down the left found Prince on the opposite side of the Hednesford penalty area, with the winger controlling the ball well and curling his effort beyond the boot of Hines and beating Hateley at his far post to make it 2-0

The Pitmen could have little argument at the half-time score as they had been a solid second best for much of the half against a confident Stalybridge side still gunning for a late run at the play-offs; the superior finishing of the hosts had once again highlighted the yawning gap between the Pitmen at the foot of the table and the sides fighting towards the top. The ineffective Brannan was taken off by Anthrobus before the second half could commence as Nathan Lamey came on to change the formation to 4-4-2 for the visitors

The hosts continued to have the better of the game in the early stages of the second half, with Ellington going close to grabbing his second goal of the afternoon as he curled a shot narrowly wide of the far post with an opportunistic effort from the edge of the Hednesford penalty area on fifty minutes

The same player went close once more for the hosts on fifty-four minutes as Banim found space down the left to pull the ball back into Ellington's path, only for his first-time volley to clear the crossbar with Hateley watching the ball over the upright

Antrobus rolled the dice once more with another tactical shift to his team on fifty-eight minutes as he elected to bring himself on in place of Platt, with the away side moving to a 4-3-3 formation as a result

Lamey's pace saw him escape the attention of Keeling on sixty-two minutes as Hyde's pass found the former Moor Green man just inside the Stalybridge penalty area. Lamey brought the ball inside and worked it onto his right foot, but he snatched at his shot and scuffed it well wide of Pettinger's right-hand post from fifteen yards out

A neat backheel from the hard-working Banim two minutes later found Garvey running in behind the dawdling Ross Adams, only for the midfielder to get his angles all wrong and drill his effort well wide of goal with only Hateley to beat

Hunter has struggled to have an impact on the game down the left-wing for the Pitmen, having been marked out of the game by Grant Black and was substituted on sixty-four minutes as Anthony Maguire came on in his place as the away side's final change of the game

A minute later, Hyde picked up Maguire's free-kick and crossed for Anthrobus, who rose above Barnard to head the ball inches wide of Pettinger's left-hand post from only six yards out

More woeful defending from the Pitmen on sixty-eight minutes saw both Teesdale and Hadland allow Banim to make a run from deep and into the Hednesford penalty area, only to be denied by a fine save from Hateley down at his near post

Two minutes later, Prince and Garvey combined once more through the middle of the pitch, with Garvey turning past Teesdale but lifting his effort over the crossbar from the edge of the penalty area

With seventeen minutes of the game remaining, Banim could count himself unlucky not to seal the points for Stalybridge as Prince beat two Hednesford players for pace and pulled the ball back to the striker on the edge of the penalty area; his curling, dipping shot dipped beat Hateley but bounced off the top of the crossbar and out of play

Another good save from Hateley on seventy-six minutes denied Sykes after Prince's low driven corner kick dropped to the feet of the midfielder, whose well-struck shot was turned away by the trailing foot of the Pitmen's number one

Back came the Pitmen and Hines curled a delightful free-kick over the Stalybridge wall on eighty-one minutes and into the path of Anthrobus, whose weak flick header was held by Pettinger before Lamey could get goal side of Keeling and reach the ball

Two minutes later, McSweeney showed fine skill to turn past Scott Maxfield and play Lamey into a pocket of space just inside the Stalybridge penalty area. However, the striker wanted a little too much time to make his mind up and allowed Barnard to make a smothering block to clear the danger

Stalybridge substitute James Turley thought that he had wrapped the game up for the Celts with three minutes remaining as he exchanged passes with Sykes just inside the penalty area before turning the ball past Hateley, only to be denied by a late offside flag against Sykes on the main stand side

The Pitmen launched a quick counter-attack from the free-kick as Hateley booted the ball forwards and up to Anthrobus, whose flick-on found Lamey running in behind him. Rather than take a touch, Lamey elected to shoot first time and lashed his effort wide of goal from twelve yards out

With the Pitmen committing more and more men forwards in search of a late salvo, the hosts settled the game with a third goal in the final minute of the afternoon as Hadland brought Ellington down to the left-hand side of the Hednesford penalty area to hand Stalybridge a free-kick in a dangerous position. The Hednesford wall was hastily thrown together and lacked any real solidity, leaving a huge gap to Hateley's right for Ellington to aim at. Suffice to say, the striker needed no invitation to curl the ball through the hole in the wall and fire past a horribly exposed Hateley to make it 3-0

Three points this afternoon boosts Stalybridge's play-off hopes but a fourth defeat in five games for the Pitmen moves them to the brink of a swift return to step three. Another daunting-looking away game at fifth-placed Harrogate in just forty-eight hours time will rubber-stamp relegation if the Pitmen fail to pick up three points at Wetherby Road

Stalybridge Celtic: Pettinger, Black, Maxfield, Barnard, Keeling, Sykes, Garvey, Parr, Ellington, Banim (Eastwood 75), Prince (Turley 80)      Subs Unused: Kharas, Baynes, Buxton


Hednesford Town: Hateley, Adams, Hines, Hadland, Teesdale ©, T. Marshall, Brannan (Lamey 45), Hyde , McSweeney, Platt (Anthrobus 58), Hunter (Maguire 64)     Subs Unused: Barrow, Beckett

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