ASHTON UNITED 1, STALYBRIDGE CELTIC 2
“INCREDIBLE” was the word assistant manager Alex Meecham used to describe Stalybridge Celtic’s win at Ashton United, a result that dented the hosts’ promotion bid in Evo Stik League, premier division, writes Tony Bugby.
It was Celtics’ fifth game in eight days and came 24 hours after nine of the team played the full 120 minutes at Nantwich Town where they lost 4-3 after extra time in their Cheshire Senior Cup semi-final.
Meecham said: “It was incredible, no other word can describe it.
“Some of the players didn’t get home from Nantwich until 2am and had to do a day’s work before playing again at Ashton.
“We lost in the cruellest way after extra time at Nantwich where we deserved to take the game to penalties.
“We had to pick up the lads and it was phenomenal what they did to win the game against adversity. We even had two players making their debuts having only previously college football.
“It was backs to the wall at times, but they deserved every word of praise as they made our supporters proud.”
Meechan was highly critical of the fixture schedule for April – 13 games in 26 days.
He said: “It is ridiculous and disgusting the way we have been treated by the league.
“I thought the Cheshire FA would have also shown common sense by letting the cup tie go to penalties after 90 minutes.”
Loan player Harrison Holgate was ruled out as parent-club Fleetwood Town would not permit the teenager to play two games in 24 hours while Jack Taylor, from the reserves, was unavailable.
Ashton took the lead midway through the opening period when left-back Lewis Baines headed home a corner from the tightest of angles.
Jack Dyche struck an upright and Nic Evangelinos fired wide when clean through as Celtic lived dangerously and were lucky to be only 1-0 down at the break.
Celtic’s loan keeper George Sykes-Kenworthy raced from his line to save bravely at the feet of Evangelinos as a second goal continued to elude Ashton.
Celtic drew level after 69 minutes when substitute Brice Pouamoun, an academy player, delivered a pinpoint cross from the right for Matty Wolfenden to head into the roof of the net.
And lifted by the goal, Celtic conjured a winner in the 86th minute when Jake Charles scored his eighth goal of the month.
Charles was sent clear by Josh Ramsden’s through ball and was initially denied by keeper David Carnell’s block but he was given a second bite of the cherry as he fired home the rebound.
Carnell damaged his hamstring attempting to keep the ball out and, with no keeper on the bench, centre-back Aaron Chalmers was forced to take the gloves.
The injury meant there was five added minutes and in the last one Celtic were indebted to Sykes-Kenworthy who made a brilliant save to deny Nicky Platt who was clean through on goal.