HYDE UNITED 1, STALYBRIDGE CELTIC 0
STALYBRIDGE Celtic’s Evo-Stik League, premier division survival will be determined by a last-day decider, writes Tony Bugby.
It follows a 10th defeat in 11 league games on Easter Monday at Hyde United in the Tameside derby which leaves Celtic only one point and one place above the relegation places with one game left.
And that will mean an anxious and nerve-jangling last day to the season which will determine Celtic’s fate when either they or Mickleover Sports are relegated.
If Celtic beat Grantham at home they are safe. If not, they must rely on Mickleover slipping up at Bamber Bridge.
It is a far cry to early in the season when Celtic were in the play-off places and even at the turn of the year when goalkeeper Paddy Wharton signed on loan from Tranmere Rovers he was talking about challenging for them.
Celtic’s loss at Hyde was a mirror image of so many of the recent defeats, though seven of the 11 losses have been by one goal which shows how tight is the margin between success and failure.
They had more chances than Hyde but their Achilles heel all season has been the lack of a cutting edge.
Hyde only had two chances, the first being the 24thminute matchwinning goal from Deane Smalley, the former Oldham Athletic and Chesterfield striker who had to quit being a full-time pro through injury.
Grant Roberts lofted a delightful ball over the Celtic defence and Smalley raced clear to lob Wharton, an exquisite finish.
Celtic’s best chance of the opening period was a drive from Greg Wilkinson drive that was well turned over the bar by keeper Peter Crook.
The second half saw Celtic dominate for lengthy periods and it was Hyde who were happiest to hear the final whistle.
Liam Tongue’s header struck the upright, Crook kept out an almost point-blank shot from Chris Smalley and Glen Rule’s effort was also turned over by the keeper.
Celtic manager Simon Haworth threw on three attacking substitutes and had to take risks in pursuit of an equaliser.
Inevitably it left holes at the back and Tom Pratt sprinted clear from his own half in the fourth minute of stoppage time only for Wharton to make a brilliant stop.
It was to prove in vain, but Celtic at least showed spirit, something they will need on Saturday if they are to beat the drop.