Stalybridge Celtic spirits still high despite defeats in first two matches

STALYBRIDGE CELTIC 1, SOUTH SHIELDS 3

Upbeat Stalybridge Celtic manager Simon Haworth declared there are more positives than negatives to take from their opening two games of the season in the Northern Premier League’s premier division, despite both ending in defeat.

Celtic, beaten at Nantwich Town on Saturday, made their home bow against South Shields who headed back to the North East with three points.

Ioan Evans heads Celtics’ goal. Photo thanks to Phillip Smith Photography.

“Generally I am pleased where we are, but there are things still to work on. We still probably need to bring one or two in to fine tune the squad,” he explained.

“We held our shape well in the first half only to give away two quick and silly goals.

“When we got it back to 2-1, there was a 10-minute spell when we were on top, but they managed the game well and deserved their win.”

Haworth admitted Shields, who are full-time, would be a challenge for anyone at their level who are lucky to train twice a week – it is only once at present because of midweek matches.

After an uneventful opening, Shields seized control with quickfire goals in the 29th and 32nd minutes.

Darius Osei, the 25-year-old striker Celtic sold to Shields in February 2020, returned to Bower Fold to inflict pain on his former club as he found the net with a headed flick from right back Jordan Hunter’s cross as goalkeeper Grant Shenton was left wrong footed.

Osei, who had a spell at Oldham Athletic, helped set up the second released Hunter who raided down the right before sending a low cross to the far post where captain Callum Ross stole in unmarked.

Blair Adams, a former England U20 international, struck the upright early in the second half when Ntumba Massanka, once an academy player at both Manchester clubs as well as Burnley, forced a fine save from Shenton.

Celtic, so close to being 3-0 down, suddenly halved the deficit to 2-1 when centre back Ioan Evans headed home a Callum Harris cross following a well worked free kick.

Suddenly it was game on as Shields were no longer in a commanding position and you sensed their vulnerability as the Celtic players suddenly found a belief they could get something out of the game.

Shields regained their poise and sealed victory with an 85th minute goal from Massanka who fired high into the roof of the net from a left-wing cross by substitute Alex Kempster.

It might have got worse for Celtic in stoppage time when Evans slipped enabling Kempster to race clear only to inexplicably fire wide.

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