High-flying Celtic prove too strong

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Blue Square Bet North

STALYBRIDGE CELTIC 2

Conner Jennings 6

Greg Wilkinson 67

EASTWOOD TOWN 1

Jervaise Christie 23

by Andy Cope

A DOGGED performance from Eastwood, assisted by wasteful finishing and moments of brilliant goalkeeping, helped to keep a potential disaster down to a respectable scoreline at Stalybridge last Saturday.

Greg Wilkinson’s second-half winner proved to be the difference, as second-placed Celtic maintained their fine start.

A much changed Badgers line-up included two debutants in Anthony Gregory and Mitch Hanson, signed a couple of days earlier from Dunkirk and Oxford United respectively.

Stalybridge started well and went in front in only the sixth minute.

Lloyd Ellams picked the ball up wide left and his run took him into the box, picking out Conner Jennings to smash the ball into the net.

It was just the start the Badgers didn’t need but they responded positively with Paul Riley teeing up Gregory who forced a good save out of former Eastwood keeper Jan Budtz.

The league’s leading goal scorer, Phil Marsh, was to spend a frustrating afternoon being denied by an inspired goalkeeping display from James Severn.

The on-loan Derby man thwarted Marsh for the first time in the 11th minute, diving full length to beat away the strikers drive.

Aaron Cole beat two defenders down the left and his cross-cum-shot had Budtz scrambling across his line in a rear Eastwood foray into the opposition’s half.

A couple of minutes later Steve Istead won a dangerous free-kick. Cole’s shot was deflected into the path of Hanson but the striker couldn’t quite apply a finish.

Stalybridge quickly hit the Badgers on the break and Rea was inches away from extending the lead when he crashed his shot against the crossbar.

The Badgers were handed a lifeline in the 23rd minute after a good run and cross by Cole. Under no pressure, a terrible clearance from Andy McWilliams presented Jervaise Christie with the ball and the striker gratefully found the corner of the goal to put the Badgers back on level terms.

The goal sparked the Badgers into their best period of the game and Jarrod Westcarr was unlucky to see Rhys Meynell clear his goal-bound shot.

Severn tipped efforts from Ellams and McWilliams away from goal, then parried Wilkson’s rasping drive.

Gavin Caines’ free-kick, central and just outside the penalty area, failed to trouble Budtz, who was then forced into a smart save by Westcarr moments later.

The half ended with a well-worked move that saw Istead fire just wide.

But Stalybridge went up a gear and dominated proceedings after the break.

Severn saved well from Rea and Craig Hobson, while Craig Armstrong headed a Jennings shot off the line.

With Celtic’s relentless pressure it was inevitable a goal would come and it duly arrived in the 65th minute. McWilliams was given far too much time and his teasing cross along the floor found its way through to Wilkinson on the far post to score.

Severn was again in action to deny Marsh from range and sub Arthur Gnahoua, while the only moment of note for the Badgers was a late header from subs Jason Bradley that neither troubled the keeper mor the scoreline.

Eastwood: 1 James Severn 2 Mitch Hanson 3 Paul Riley 4 Craig Armstrong 5 Gavin Caines 6 Steve Istead 7 Anthony Gregory 8 Danny Elliott (Alex Troke 82) 9 Jarrod Westcarr 10 Jervaise Christie (Jason Bradley 67) 11 Aaron Cole (Josh Burge 76)

Subs not used: Sam Benjamin, Jake Want (GK)

Att: 540

Best Badger: James Severn