STALYBRIDGE CELTIC 3, RUSHALL OLYMPIC 2
NEW signing Connor Hughes almost single handedly propelled Stalybridge Celtic into the third qualifying round of the Buildbase FA Trophy.
Former Oldham Athletic pro Hughes, in only his second appearance for Celtic, produced a scintillating display. He scored twice, provided the assist for the other goal and also struck the frame of the Olympic goal twice.
After losing 5-0 at home to Mickleover Sports and 3-0 at Ramsbottom United in the Integro Cup, it had been a miserable week for Celtic.
But Hughes helped bring back the smiles as the victory also earned a £4,000 winners’ cheque and a place in Monday’s draw when National League North and South clubs enter the competition.
It was a spirited display as Celtic twice came from behind before claiming their place in the next round with manager Steve Burr saying Celtic were the better side the deserved their victory. Some of their football was a joy to witness.
However, it looked as though it might be another of those days to forget when Mohmed Hakeem, an Antigua and Barbuda international, fired Olympic ahead after 20 minutes after Richard Brodie’s shot hit the upright and rebounded invitingly to his feet.
Hughes, playing on the left, equalised eight minutes before the break, finding the net with a low shot from the edge of the box.
Celtics finished the half on top as Matthew Wolfenden had a shot well saved and Oli Roberts fired narrowly wide.
Hughes hit the post in the second half before Olympic regained the lead when Jordan Sangha was left unmarked to head home a corner.
And it looked as though it was destined not to be for Celtic when Hughes hit the underside of the bar and the ball bounded to safety.
Celtic equalised after 76 minutes when Hughes drove in a low corner and substitute Theo Bailey-Jones, who had only been on the field for six minutes, steered home a low shot from 12 yards.
Olympic would have gone ahead for a third time but for a fine headed goalline clearance from Oliver Crowley to deny Hekeem.
Cometh the hour, cometh the man and Hughes struck the winner with six minutes left as centre forward Liam Dickinson provided the cross for winger Hughes to steer home a well-placed header.