19.12.2015

Vanarama National League North

Stalybridge Celtic

Burns (45), Wright (49), Farrell (75), Shaw (83)

Hednesford Town

Peers (19), T. Williams (88)

(1) 4

(1) 2

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Sean Williams

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AFC Telford United (H) 26.12.15

A whirlwind week of change at Keys Park has seen much change off the pitch, but for new manager Frank Sinclair, it was much the same on the pitch as the Pitmen once again capitulated in defence to lose heavily at Stalybridge's Bower Fold this afternoon. The result sees the Pitmen drop into the bottom three for the first time since their return to step two in 2013 and highlighted the task in front of the new man at the helm

Bernard McNally's expected departure from Keys Park was confirmed by the club three days after a characterless 3-1 defeat to Gainsborough Trinity last weekend - the Pitmen moved quickly to appoint former Chelsea and Leicester man Sinclair on the same day, with the former Colwyn Bay and Brackley manager overseeing two training sessions this week to justify his selection this afternoon. There were several changes to McNally's final starting line-up, as Paul Ennis, Phil Trainer and Kyle Perry returned to the XI in place of Andy Todd, Ahmed Obeng and Adam Thomas. Danico Johnson was dropped from the matchday squad completely, despite his bright cameo after coming on late on at Gainsborough

Liam Watson had steered Stalybridge away from the trapdoor so far this season with his brand of direct football, with Celtic currently occupying eleventh place in the table. However, recent results had seen a real level of inconsistency from Celtic, with three wins and six defeats from the last nine games. Evo-Stik Premier League side Sutton Coldfield Town had dumped them out of this season's F.A. Trophy, much in the same way that Leamington had beaten the Pitmen in the same round

Loanee Tom Peers was straight into the action, whipping in a dangerous cross from the right that was inches away from being turned in at the far post by big man Perry

Perry was involved again in the ninth minute, latching onto an Ennis ball but firing high over the crossbar with a wild effort

Sean Williams felt that he should have been awarded a penalty a minute later, as Matty Hughes appeared to manhandle the midfielder in the penalty area. However, the referee was not to be moved and play continued

The Pitmen were rewarded for a bright, attentive start to Sinclair's stewardship with the opening goal on nineteen minutes; Stalybridge failed to clear a bouncing ball in their own penalty area, allowing Peers to slot the ball home after the ball had ricocheted to him via Ben Bailey

Stalybridge were slow to get into the game in the opening quarter, with Dale Wright off target with a flick header wide of goal on twenty-four minutes

Wright went closer to equalising for the hosts five minutes later, driving an angled shot into the side netting after coming in from the right flank

And yet, despite having much the better of the first half exchanges, the Pitmen once again conspired to ruin all their good work going forwards with more defensive misgivings right on the stroke of half time. Sean Williams lost the ball in midfield, allowing Stalybridge to break quickly. Steve Tames played in Danny Burns, who took a moment to steady himself and curl a shot beyond Dan Crane, despite the best efforts of Tyrone Williams to keep the shot out of the net

The rain that had been forecast across the North West started to lash down on the Bower Fold pitch during the early stages of the second half, making conditions slippery and allowing the ball to travel quickly across the turf. Celtic's late first-half goal appeared to lift their spirits and took the game to Hednesford with an early goal

Neat play involving Tames and Adam Farrell saw the Pitmen's defence opened up once more, with Wright running clear to lift his shot over a horribly exposed Crane and into the net via the crossbar

Sinclair made an almost immediate change to his side, bringing on the attacking threat of Thomas in place of John Disney down the right

Tames went close to finishing the game as a contest on fifty-eight minutes as Stalybridge broke quickly once again, with former Hednesford man Bohan Dixon crossing for Tames, who headed over the crossbar from close range

More pace was injected into the Pitmen on fifty-nine minutes, as Obeng came on in place of former Stalybridge man Ennis up front to give Perry some much-needed support

A further change followed for the Pitmen on seventy-three minutes, as Tom James came on at left-back in place of Matt Regan

Perry got on the end of a Thomas cross a minute later, turning the ball past Tony McMillan in the Stalybridge goal but being denied a second goal in two games by an offside flag on the far side

This was to prove costly for the away side, as Stalybridge all but sealed the three points a minute later. Dixon was the provider, skipping past James and sending over a cross that Farrell had the easy task of heading past Crane

Still, the Pitmen pressed, however, with Obeng firing straight at McMillan with a low drive and Perry somehow failing to turn the subsequent loose ball home from six yards out

Shaw was to put the Pitmen out of their misery once and for all with seven minutes remaining. Neat play involving Dixon, Chris Simm and Wright once again opened the Pitmen up with ease, allowing the defender time and space to control the ball and clip his shot over Crane and into the net

It could have been worse for the Pitmen two minutes later, as substitute Aidan Chippendale fired inches wide of Crane's left-hand post after more indecision left the midfielder with plenty of time to consider his options

It was the Pitmen who completed the scoring late on in the game, as Tyrone Williams stole in at the far post to head home a Sean Williams free-kick to give the scoreline more credibility for the visitors

So, a tough learning curve for the new management team of Sinclair and assistant Chris Millington, who have a tough task ahead of them as we enter the Christmas and New Year period. They will have learnt a lot about the overall quality of their side and no doubt will be working on some of the basics, particularly in defence, before the Pitmen host local rivals AFC Telford United on Boxing Day

Stalybridge Celtic: McMillan, Wylie, Crowley, Hughes, Shaw, Chalmers, Burns (Chippendale 68), Wright, Farrell (Simm 79), Tames (Osei 72), Dixon      Subs Unused: Johnson, Lingouba

Hednesford Town: Crane, Disney (Thomas 51), Regan (James 72), Bailey ©, T. Williams, Digie, Peers, S. Williams, Perry, Ennis (Obeng 59), Trainer       Subs Unused: Ransome, Todd