Weekend match previews
STALYBRIDGE CELTIC manager Keith Briggs is hoping that a night by the seaside will do the trick as he prepares his team for tomorrow’s relegation six-pointer at Lowestoft.
The Celtic squad set off for Suffolk this afternoon (Friday) in a bid to ensure they are fully prepared. Briggs has labelled it a must-win game, his side having slipped back into the drop zone.
Goalkeeper Lewis King returns to action after missing the home defeat against Brackley to be at the birth of his first child.
Defender Kelvin Bleau is the only absentee through injury, but Briggs has pruned his squad this week with Chesterfield loanees Charlie Dawes and Michael Onugwigun returning to their parent club. Stephen Brogan and Brad Gascoigne have been released.
HYDE, who are away to Gainsborough, have released striker Tom Bentham who is thought to be in talks with Stalybridge.
Perry Ng (Crewe) and Ben Holmes (Huddersfield) have both had their loans extended for a further month. Manager Gary Lowe has no injuries worries ahead of tomorrow’s trip to Lincolnshire.
There were fears club captain Josh Brizell may have had a torn abductor muscle but they proved unfounded.
Former Leyton Orient winger Jack Sherratt comes into the ASHTON UNITED squad for the Evo-stik NPL game at midtable Halesowen Town.
Sherratt (21), started the season with Northwich Victoria, but spent a brief period on loan at Stalybridge last spring. Robins co-boss Paul Phillips describes him as a great addition.
Ashton have no fitness or suspension problems.
CURZON, who bounced back with an excellent victory over fellow promotion candidates Ilkeston last week, face Stourbridge at the Tameside Stadium.
Alongside Andy Watson and Ryan Watson who are out for the season, Tom Eckersley has a broken leg and Mark Bett and Simon Woodford are both ruled out with hamstring injuries.
Ryan Watson is to undergo surgery in three weeks’ time to repair a cruciate injury.
In the first division north, MOSSLEY visit Warrington hoping to extend their nine-match unbeaten league run which stretches back to Boxing Day.
Matty Purcell is unavailable because of work commitments and Arron Hevingham remains sidelined with a ruptured stomach muscle.
DROYLSDEN, who finally got a win under their belts last week, visit Ossett Albion with a couple of new signings on show.
Former Crewe centre-back Ryan Allcock joins the Bloods from Congleton Town and winger Josh Sumner comes in from Skelmersdale. Halifax midfielder Jake Hibbs returns on another month’s loan.
Sean Myler is Droylsden’s only injury absentee.
GLOSSOP NORTH END’S FA Vase quarter-final against Northern Counties East League premier division club Shaw Lane Aquaforce has been moved to Sunday and will now be played at Handsworth Parramore's Sandy Lane ground in Worksop (kick-off 3pm).
Sam Grimshaw and Dan White are doubtful with head injuries but otherwise manager Chris Willcock has a full squad and says everyone is raring to go.
EXCUSE the unintended pun, but Stalybridge Celtic have turned into a Jekyll and Hyde outfit.
Even manager Keith Briggs admits he’s never entirely sure which team will take the field. But he’s 100 per cent certain that he’ll have to sort out the personality disorder if he’s to keep his job at Bower Fold.
“After the Christmas period when we won four games I thought we’d kick on and that confidence forward, but it didn’t happen. We had a tough game against Tamworth, who were flying at the time, and it took us back a few stages,” Briggs commented.
“We battered Stockport but were naïve and got hit with a very late sucker punch. Against Chorley we defended well in the first half, then battered them after the break but couldn’t score.
“And then we got the Brackley game which was a total write-off. It was the worst I’ve ever known us play as a manager or as a player.”
After a week off because North Ferriby were in FA Trophy action, Stalybridge return with a match at Lowestoft on Saturday. It’s a game they must win if they are not to get cut adrift in the relegation places.
Briggs admits that the directors have done all they can to make sure his squad will be in the best shape. Whereas when Hyde went to Suffolk, a month ago, they took a journey which started at 7.15am and ended at 12.30 the following morning, the Celtic players will get an overnight stay.
Said the manager: “We’ve got players at this football club who are good enough to get us out of this mess but they’ve got to stand up and be counted. They’ve got to work harder and start performing.
“They’ll be fully rested at Lowestoft so there’ll be no excuses. It’s up to them to respond.
“But I’m fully aware of my part in all this. I’ve put a lot of pressure on myself to do well and if we don’t start winning games soon things will have to change. I don’t want that to include me.
“I want to be at Stalybridge Celtic a long time and that’s only going to happen if we get the right results.”
Asked about Liam Dickinson’s transfer to Guiseley, Briggs replied: “I felt that when Liam was in the side we were too direct. We were going long all the time instead of playing football.
“I’ve always told the players if somebody comes in for them I’ll let them know. Guiseley are in the play-off places and I wish Liam well.”
And the manager quipped: “I hope he scores lots of goals against the teams around us and has a stinker when Guiseley play Stalybridge.”
Weekend match previews
MOSSLEY’S status as Tameside’sform team will be put to the test at Spennymoor tomorrow (Saturday).
The Lilywhites, unbeaten in a nine-game run stretching back to Boxing Day, lie tenth in the Evo-stik NPL first division north while their opponents are fifth. Victory, or at least the avoidance of defeat, would do much to strengthen their play-off hopes.
Midfielder Arron Hevingham misses out on the trip to the Brewery Field with ruptured stomach ligaments sustained in the 1-0 victory over Ossett Albion. However, striker Sam Robinson returns.
Co-managers Peter Band and Lloyd Morrison have shored up the Seel Park squad by signing goalkeeper Liam Flynn from Stocksbridge Park Steels and by taking defender Daniel Mukuna on loan from Hyde reserves.
DROYLSDEN, who have won only once in six games since New Year’s Day, are hoping to give their fading play-off hopes a boost at home to Ossett Town.
Several players have left the Butchers Arms in recent weeks with the latest being Jake Parker and Russ Saunders. Craig Ellison (Congleton Town) replaces Saunders as goalkeeper and striker Callum Pritchard-Ellis has been signed from Crewe Alexandra.
In the premier division, CURZON ASHTON could do themselves and neighbours Ashton United the world of good by beating Ilkeston at the Tameside Stadium tomorrow.
The Blues, who were looking like championship contenders during the first third of the season, have slipped badly since December, winning only once in eight league matches.
It’s one in and one out in terms of forwards with Matty Warburton recovered from a back injury but Mark Bett sidelined with a strained hamstring. Defender Jonno Hunt returns after a chest infection.
The Robins, hoping to bounce back immediately after their midweek defeat by FC United ended their run of five consecutive wins, are home to Frickley Athletic. On Monday night, Ilkeston visit Hurst Cross.
STALYBRIDGE CELTIC have no game tomorrow as North Ferriby are in FA Trophy action, which gives them an extra week to lick their wounds after the 5-1 mauling by Vanarama North relegation rivals Brackley at Bower Fold.
HYDE, who have yet to win under Gary Lowe’s management, face title contenders Fylde at Ewen Fields.
New midfielder James Burke, a product of the Huddersfield Town academy but signed from Bury, comes into the reckoning. Striker Tom Bentham is out with a shoulder injury sustained in the gym. Josh Brizell has recovered from a back problem.
Danny Racchi and Andreas Pachipis have both left the club as Lowe continues to whittle down the squad he inherited from Scott McNiven. “Tomorrow’s going to be a big test. I’m looking for players I feel can take us forward and also to give some of the younger lads a chance,” he said.
GLOSSOP NORTH END continue their punishing schedule up in Gateshead where they visit Dunston UTS for an FA Vase fifth round replay. Manager Chris Willcock reports no injuries or suspensions.
If the Hillmen win they will visit Barnsley club Shaw Lane Aquaforce in the quarter-finals.
On Tuesday, Glossop beat Squires Gate in the league cup to line up a home semi-final tie with Bootle. This Tuesday (February 24) they are home to Matlock Town in the last four of the Derbyshire Senior Cup.
ARE Ashton United genuine promotion or indeed championship contenders? The next seven days could well decide.
Tonight, the Robins cross town to the Tameside Stadium to face Evo-stik NPL premier division title favourites FC United and on Monday are home to second-placed Ilkeston.
Ashton go into tonight’s game with no selection problems and having won their last five league matches. Even so, co-manager Paul Phillips insists they are very much the underdogs.
“Nobody gives us a hope in hell but everyone’s fit and we’re going to give it our best shot,” he said.
“It would be a massive boost if we could win but whatever happens I don’t think anything will be decided tonight. There are a lot more games to go.
“There again, it’s games against the likes of FC United and Ilkeston that sort the men from the boys. We’ll have a right go at them and I hope we find ourselves in the mix.
“I think the fact we’re in this position at all is great testament to what everyone has achieved at Hurst Cross. When you compare crowds and resources we’re way behind FC United but we’re still up there competing with them.”
The Rebels won 2-0 at Hurst Cross on January 3, but the Robins side they faced was without Phillips and Gary Gee (suspended) and defender Jack Higgins
STALYBRIDGE Celtic boss Keith Briggs is sweating on the fitness of two key defenders as he prepares his side for their crunch meeting with fellow Vanarama North strugglers Brackley Town tomorrow (Saturday).
Kelvin Bleau has missed the last three games with a groin strain and Stefan Galinski faces a late test on a knee injury.
Matt Regan, omitted from the squad for Tuesday’s home defeat by Chorley, could return if Galinski is unable to play. Oliver Crowley will continue to deputise for Bleau if he is still unfit.
The Bridge will again be without long-term injury victim Aidan Chippendale, with no date set for his return to action.
Gary Lowe takes his Hyde side to Stockport County still without a win since he and assistant Martyn Booty reassumed command at Ewen Fields on January 2.
Without signings, suspensions or injuries he may field the same 16 who lost to Boston United last weekend.
Ashton United will have two new faces in the squad for their home Evo-stik NPL premier division clash with Grantham when they will be hoping to make it five consecutive league victories.
Former Hyde full-back D’Arcy O’Connor should make his debut along with ex-Trafford striker Michael Oates.
For the first time in weeks Curzon Ashton have no injuries or suspensions beyond long-term absentees Ryan Watson and Andy Watson. The Blues are away to Rushall Olympic.
In the first division north, Manchester Premier Cup finalists Mossley ought to be able to extend their unbeaten start to 2015 at home to Ossett Albion.
Josh Granite returns after injury and there may be a loan signing in the squad. Dougie Carroll (foot) and Matty Purcell (ankle) are the only two absentees.
Droylsden face Scarborough at the Butchers Arms. Steve Hall faces a late fitness test.
FA Vase preview
WHAThappens when the irresistible force comes up against the immovable object? We could find out on Saturday when Glossop North End meet Dunston UTS in the last 16 of the FA Trophy.
The Gateshead side are known for not conceding many goals. So are the Hillmen. As Glossop manager Chris Willcock puts it, something will have to give.
Willcock describes Dunston as a hard-working, typical North East outfit. They won the Vase in 2012 and since 2009, when North End were losing finalists, a club from that part of the world has reached Wembley each time, winning on five of the six occasions.
“They’re a good team going well in the Northern League premier division. We’ll especially have to keep an eye on Andrew Bulford who was man of the match when they won the Vase. He’s scored bags of goals,” said Willcock.
“With the three Whitley Bay players they’ve signed Dunston will have six men who have played in Vase finals. They’ve got experience throughout the side as well as lots of skill, so we’re going to have to be at our best. But they won’t be looking forward to coming to our place.”
If the tie finishes as a draw the replay will be at Wellington Road the following Saturday. However, with his team in three cups and challenging for the North West Counties League championship, Willcock aims to go through at the first attempt.
“We want to get it done and dusted this weekend,” commented the Glossop boss. “A replay really wouldn’t suit us in our situation. We believe we’re going to get a big crowd. The fact United and City aren’t playing on Saturday should help us.”
Willcock’s only injury worry is midfielder Martin Parker who was rested for the Derbyshire Senior Cup quarter-final victory over Chesterfield because of a slight groin strain. His situation was to be monitored at Thursday training and a decision made on Saturday.
Glossop’s county cup semi-final opponents are Matlock Town and while Willcock is prepared to acknowledge their Evo-stik NPL premier division status he believes they are beatable.
He said: “They play two levels higher than us and seem to be responding to a new management team so it’s going to be difficult. But we knocked them out of the competition last year and we can do that again.
“As far as we’re concerned at Glossop North End we’ve got unfinished business in the Derbyshire Senior Cup. When we lost to Ilkeston in last year’s final we got a raw deal from the officials.
“This year we’re determined to go one better.”