Points could mean promotion prize for Ashton
Weekend Non-league Football Previews
ASHTON UNITED have no room for error tomorrow (Saturday). If they want to make sure of a home tie in the Evo-stik NPL premier division play-off semi-finals on Tuesday, they must win at Workington.
Goal difference means it’s highly unlikely the Robins would miss out on the play-offs altogether, but a defeat or draw at Borough Park could allow Grantham to overtake them. A victory, on the other hand, might even get them into second place depending on Warrington’s fortunes at Stourbridge.
“That Stalybridge game killed us,” said manager Jody Banim. “We should have won it, and if we had we’d be second now. It’s so frustrating.
“At least as it stands everyone will have to put their strongest side out. No one will have the luxury of being able to rest players because everybody needs to win.”
Ashton’s only definite absentees are goalkeeper Dave Carnell, who has a torn hamstring, and club captain Mark Lees, who has a broken metatarsal. However, Alex Johnson, whose availability has been hampered by his new job as a prison warder, will be able to play at Workington and in the play-offs if necessary.
Banim is also hoping to field Matty Chadwick at some point. He explained: “Matty was on the bench at Matlock in midweek but it was a really tight game and it wasn’t the right situation to bring him back. Hopefully he can get some minutes tomorrow.
“We really need to win and secure third place because it would be a nightmare if we had to go to Grantham on Tuesday.”
STALYBRIDGE CELTIC travel to Halesowen for their twelfth game in 22 days with only 13 players available, and one of those faces a fitness test.
Striker Matty Wolfenden limped out of last night’s 5-0 home defeat by Witton Albion and will be assessed before kick-off.
Goalkeeper George Sykes-Kenworthy, who has made an impressive start at Bower Fold, is ruled out with concussion which means that Aidan Winterbottom will be between the sticks after featuring as an outfield substitute in the Matlock and Witton matches.
The game signals the end of Steve Burr’s tenure in the Bower Fold hotseat after it was announced earlier this week that his contract would not be renewed.
In the first division north, promoted HYDE UNITED sign off with a home clash with Colwyn Bay. Victory would even let them finish second, in the unlikely event they win by a four-goal margin and Scarborough lose to Ossett Albion.
Manager Darren Kelly has a full squad to call on apart from long-term absentee Chris Sutherland. Tom Pratt has recovered from a broken toe and made a big impact at Mossley last week when he came on as a substitute.
Elliott Rokka has been recalled by Tranmere and Dominic McHale has returned to Salford City.
The player of the year presentation will follow the match and next season’s home and away kits will be unveiled.
DROYLSDEN, who are home to Brighouse Town, have goalkeeper problems. Will Jones is injured — he was stretchered off with a broken foot in the 3-1 midweek victory over Colwyn Bay — and Richie Branigan needs a fitness test.
GLOSSOP NORTH END take on Ramsbottom at Surrey Street without Adam Jones (calf) and Cav Coo (neck). MOSSLEY travel to Tadcaster lacking the services of James Blair and Danny Hall.
CURZON ASHTON are another club with two players missing. They head for Harrogate Town without Chris Rowney and Niall Cummins, but safe in the knowledge that they have secured their National League North status for a fourth season.
THE following comments from Steve Burr were made to Tony Bugby and are published in the May edition of the Stalybridge Correspondent. Free copies are available around the Stalybridge and Dukinfield area . . .
“Burr from the Bridge
“Steve Burr wrote these exclusive notes for the Correspondent after it was announced his contract wasn’t being renewed for the 2018-19 season.
“I would like to start by saying I have no regrets about coming back. Stalybridge Celtic is still a wonderful club and will always hold fond memories.
“Things did not work out like I thought they would due to a lot of circumstances that have been well documented during the season, and I am disappointed not to have delivered the goods.
“The club has an absolutely smashing chairman, Rob Gorski; vice-chairman, Syd White, others on the board, backroom staff and supporters. The players’ commitment, especially since the turn of the year, when we needed it by the nature of how the fixtures turned out, was in abundance.
“You also have to remember that we aren’t full-time professionals and our players also hold down jobs.
“I have always built sides with a good team spirit, but this is as good as any I have had while managing Chester, Southport, Kidderminster or Nuneaton.
“I would also like to thank the academy and reserve players who have been thrown in at the deep end. It has been tough for the youngsters but they have always given their best.
“I had a chat with the chairman about three weekends ago and told him I would not be staying. I knew the club would have to make cutbacks and it was time for me to step down and allow Celtic to regroup and find a level they can afford to pay and bring in players.
“The most important thing is the football club keeps going.
“We had to cut back during the second half of the season. It has not been an easy one and the supporters will probably have been as gobsmacked as myself.
“We have played some really good football, especially at home, and had some terrific performances against the top teams. But there have also been some bad ones.
“I spoke to Rob Gorski and there has been no fall-out. I wished him all the best. Hopefully he can restructure the club to go in another direction.
“The club was in freefall when I arrived and I am proud to have turned it around and stopped it. Let’s hope all the bad luck has been used up and fortunes change.
“I have a couple of offers on the table for next season, which is nice, and I will look at them as I definitely want to carry on in management.”
Weekend Non-league Football Previews
VICTORY over Spennymoor Town at the Tameside Stadium tomorrow (Saturday) will effectively secure CURZON ASHTON’s National League North survival.
A win would take the Nash to 49 points — the maximum Gainsborough can reach — with two games left to play and with a far superior goal difference. Curzon are minus-nine while Trinity are minus-28.
Whatever happens, manager John Flanagan has several players missing. Chief among them is striker Niall Cummins who has picked up a serious knee ligament injury and will miss the last three games.
Midfielder Sam Walker has returned to Stockport on the completion of his loan, and Matt Regan has damaged an ankle and is doubtful. Chris Rowney’s knee problem is showing signs of improvement but he is unlikely to play again this term.
On the positive side, Ben McKenna’s groin/hip injury has settled down and he is available to play.
In the Evo-stik NPL premier division, ASHTON UNITED will quite literally be fielding a team of walking wounded against Nantwich in their last home game of the season.
Matty Chadwick (knee), Deane Smalley (knee) and Josh Granite (broken hand) will all be strapped up so that they can feature at some point. There are also hopes that Mark Lees (broken metatarsal) will be able to play a part at Workington next week to prepare him for the play-offs. John Pritchard has a torn thigh.
However, the biggest blow is possibly the loss of goalkeeper Dave Carnell who is out for what’s left of the season with a torn hamstring.
Robins boss Jody Banim said: “Josh Ollerenshaw will come in. We’re lucky to have him because he’s a very good keeper and has my full confidence. But losing Dave is a blow because I consider him to be the best in the league.
“It’s a difficult situation but we’ve just got to get on with it. We’ll definitely be the walking wounded but we’ll see if we can manage some of the injuries till the end of the season. If we can beat Nantwich and Matlock, we might have scope to rest some players ahead of the play-offs.”
STALYBRIDGE CELTIC play their seventh game in 12 days when they welcome Coalville Town to Bower Fold.
Despite it being the penultimate Saturday of the season, Steve Burr’s men still have five games left after their fixture list was blown apart by recent bad weather.
Celtic were only able to muster 12 players for Thursday’s 2-0 defeat at Matlock Town but should have a full complement tomorrow with Liam Dickinson, Greg Wilkinson and Josh Ramsden all available.
Defender Alex Honeyball is a doubt after picking up a knock at Causeway Lane and Connor Hughes serves the first part of a two-game suspension after being sent off in last week’s 4-1 reverse at Stourbridge.
In the first division north, HYDE UNITED could wrap up promotion by winning at Mossley.
Because of restructuring and the creation of a new central league, the best-performing third-placed club from the Northern Premier League, Southern League and Isthmian League will also go up.
At the moment the Tigers are in pole position. They have two rivals, both from the Southern League’s first division east. Cambridge City can reach a maximum of 87 points, and Hartley Wintney could make 88. By winning at Seel Park, Hyde would get to 89 with a game left to play.
Whatever the figures might say tomorrow or next week, everything is dependent on the FA who will make an announcement when the season has ended.
As the Tigers played at Radcliffe last night (Thursday) manager Darren Kelly was still assessing his squad this morning and was only able to confirm that Luke Porritt will definitely be out. He was injured by a bad foul at Atherton Collieries on Monday.
Winger Tom Pratt, who broke a toe at the end of February, made his return at Stainton Park when he came on as a sub for the last 15 minutes.
MOSSLEY manager Dave Wild has reported a clean bill of health.
Adam Jones misses GLOSSOP NORTH END’s trip to Kendal with a calf injury. Ryan White is unavailable because of a Bolton Wanderers under-23 game and Lewis Lacey is doubtful with a knock he picked up at South Shields on Tuesday.
DROYLSDEN, who recorded their first victory of 2018 when they beat Skelmersdale on Monday, will again be without the suspended Luke Daley. Richie Brannigan faces a fitness test.
Weekend Non-league Football Previews
JODY BANIM wants second place in the Evo-stik NPL premier division and he believes his ASHTON UNITED squad are good enough to get it.
The Robins go into tomorrow (Saturday’s) game at second-bottom Halesowen having won their last two matches while Warrington have not enjoyed a victory in five games and Grantham have lost their last two.
A further boost to Ashton’s fortunes is former Oldham Athletic striker Deane Smalley who is now coming good and justifying the manager’s faith in him. He scored the winner against Stafford on Tuesday and twice in the 4-0 defeat of Whitby.
“We played well against Witton and then dropped points against Stalybridge and Mickleover, so we had a bit of a get-together — some team bonding — and it appears to have done the trick,” said Banim.
“Tomorrow we’ve got Halesowen who are second-bottom and then we play Stalybridge who seem to be playing almost every day. I think three wins could do it for us, and if we do finish second that would mean home ties in the play-offs.”
However, with only a small squad at his disposal, Banim knows he needs to avoid injuries but tomorrow he has several. Chief among them is team captain Mark Lees who has broken a bone in his foot.
Banim said: “We’re hoping Mark will be right for the play-offs if we reach them. We might even try and get him ready for the game at Workington on April 28 but it’ll depend on the pain. It’s usually six weeks for a broken bone but Mark’s adamant he’s going to play.”
Ryan Makhosini returns, having served a two-match ban, while only one game remains of Jack Dyche’s suspension. Matt Chadwick is still injured and John Pritchard has picked up a thigh strain.
STALYBRIDGE CELTIC are down to the bare bones as they prepare for the first of four away trips in six days.
Steve Burr’s men travel to Stourbridge tomorrow before playing at Nantwich on Monday (Cheshire Senior Cup semi-final), Ashton United on Tuesday and Matlock Town on Thursday.
Ross Killock misses out after suffering a recurrence of his calf injury in last night’s defeat by Shaw Lane. Tom Brown has dislocated a shoulder after falling off a ladder at work, and fellow midfielder Greg Wilkinson faces a late fitness test on his thigh injury. Defender Harrison Holgate is expected to return.
In National League North, CURZON ASHTON may find their elation at beating Gainsborough 2-0 is short-lived. They face the six-pointer at visit fellow strugglers Leamington without a trio of key players.
Chris Rowney has a ligament injury and is likely to be out for the rest of the season. Ben McKenna has a groin strain and Sam Walker pulled a hamstring in midweek which means he misses the final game of his loan period.
HYDE UNITED should be at full strength when they meet Skelmersdale at Ewen Fields. The Tigers, who have won their last two matches, are second in the Evo-stik NPL first division north but only a point clear of Scarborough who have taken 13 points from the last 15.
Jack Tuohy, who was an unused substitute in the goalless draw with Glossop, could start for MOSSLEY at Prescot Cables if he passes a late fitness test. Dieter Downey and Adam Latham may also figure but Logan Jeffs picked up a knock last night and it’s unlikely he will be risked.
GLOSSOP NORTH END boss Mark Canning expects to field a strong squad at home to Ossett Albion.
He said: “It’s a case of the morning after the night before. A couple of players took knocks against Mossley and we’ll have to see how they react. We’ll have a better picture on Saturday but we should be okay.”
DROYLSDEN, who are still winless in 2018, will only have the suspended Luke Daly missing when they play Kendal at the Butchers Arms.
JACK TUOHY returns for Mossley's home clash with Glossop North End tonight (Thursday) after missing Monday's 1-0 defeat at Brighouse Town with a thigh strain.
However, Adam Latham is sidelined with an impact injury sustained at St Giles Road. Goalkeeper Max Povey is still suffering from the damaged hamstring that has kept him out for the last fortnight.
STALYBRIDGE Celtic chairman Rob Gorski has voiced his disappointment at the Northern Premier League’s refusal to grant any leeway in rearranging called-off matches, saying his club’s fixture pile-up is getting beyond absurd.
Last night (Monday) fans and management were left fuming after the premier division game at Mickleover was postponed at the last minute, further complicating a fixture list that is already congested in the extreme.
The Celtic players had arrived at Station Road when the referee deemed the pitch to be waterlogged. It was a decision that markedly failed to impress manager Steve Burr who tweeted:
I’ve seen it all now. @MickleoverSFC pitch is as good as you will get. A 5-yard area of the pitch was deemed unplayable!!! Thanks for taking everything into consideration. Absolutely UNBELIEVABLE
Counting tonight (Tuesday’s) Cheshire Senior Cup tie with Barnton, Bridge have ten games to fit in by April 28 — a total that would increase to 12 if they reached the county cup final.
Mr Gorski believes the Northern Premier League needs to reduce its micro-management and allow clubs some freedom to arrange their own affairs.
He said: “Although there’s nothing we can do about the weather, it’s massively frustrating to have had continual postponements at, specifically, two away venues. Had we had more notice and flexibility, we could have used those dates for other matches, thus reducing the backlog.
“Unfortunately, unlike the National League, it appears the NPL want to be more hands-on and dictate events.
“Our new secretary, Paul Carter, has had a baptism of fire with scheduling all of this. Even though he has done a tremendous job, we’ve not had that freedom to change fixtures. For example, we could have played Workington at home instead of continually heading over Woodhead on futile trips.
“Financially, it’s obviously hit us hard. I hate to think what the gate will be at some of our remaining matches and it’s putting unfair pressure on the depleted squad to play five times in a week.
“Should we beat Barnton and Nantwich in the Cheshire Senior Cup, the pile-up will become beyond absurd.”
Remaining Stalybridge Celtic fixtures
Tuesday, April 10, Barnton, H, Cheshire Senior Cup quarter-final; Thursday, April 12, Shaw Lane, A; Saturday, April 14, Stourbridge, A; Tuesday, April 17, Ashton United, A; Thursday, April 19, Matlock Town, A; Saturday, April 21, Coalville Town, H; Monday, April 23, Mickleover, A; Tuesday, April 24, Workington, H; Thursday, April 26, Witton Albion, H; Saturday, April 28, Halesowen Town, A.