NPL Premier Division: Nantwich Town 3-0 Stalybridge Celtic
A sucker punch in stoppage time added a goal unreflective of the game as a whole. Celtic did not do enough to open up a strong Nantwich back line, but didn’t play as badly as a three goal deficit suggests.
Barely had the sound of the whistle died down when Nantwich mounted an attack that required Tom Stewart to be on his toes, denying Callum Saunders a first minute opener. Within moments and the home side were making good use of the swirling wind, Saunders again with the shot and Stewart diving full length to push the ball around the post. Celtic started to get into a sort of rhythm, but were unable to get behind the home defence, and right before the half hour mark, Nantwich got a pair of corners that Celtic didn’t deal with and whilst Stewart made a good initial stop from Joe Malkin, it came out to Joel Stair who stabbed towards goal. It looked as though Stewart had managed to smother the rebound, but a tussle and Stair prodded the ball over the line for the opener.
Celtic started the second period well, with the Dabbers under the cosh for long periods, but apart from Lewis Salmon twice clearing the bar, the second with a strike after a great move Jonathon Ustabasi had almost unlocked the defence, Celtic could not get close on goal. It was something of a counter-attack that saw the Dabbers double their lead. Jamie Lawrie trying to lob Stewart, the ball coming back off the bar. Substitute Connor Heath had followed the ball in, reaching it an inch ahead of Luke Barlow to stab home from a yard out.
Ben Woods saw a free kick fly narrowly over the bar and Harry Freedman had the best chance for Celtic in the half when a rare mistake from Nantwich keeper, Greg Hall, cleared straight to him fifty yards out. He immediately launched back towards goal, but to Hall’s relief, the shot was wide.
In stoppage time, former Celt, Prince Haywood, was shielding the ball by the corner flag, running down stoppage time, when suddenly he twisted, and darted along the by-line, curling a powerful low shot across the face of Stewart and in at the far post.
Nantwich deserved the win and Celtic will have to learn from it and move on, with Scarborough the visitors on Tuesday night.