Non-league Football Previews
LAST day, last game, last-chance saloon.
STALYBRIDGE CELTIC’s Evo-stik NPL premier division future will be decided tomorrow (Saturday) when they face Grantham at Bower Fold.
Celtic, who hold a one-point advantage and a superior goal difference, need to win if their fate is not to be left in the hands of others. Yet it’s hard to see where that win might come from, even in such a crucial match.
Bridge have not only lost ten out of their last 11 games, they have struggled to score all season — a weakness that was starkly apparent at Hyde United on Monday when they piled on pressure throughout the second half but without any success.
The last time they hit three goals was on September 22, when they beat Matlock 3-1. They have found the net only seven times in their long slump and just once in their last five matches.
Top scorer Neil Kengni has notched only a single goal since the start of March.
Midfielder Ross Dent returns after a three-game suspension, which means manager Simon Haworth has a fully fit squad to choose from.
Despite their horrendous run of form in 2019, Celtic have shown flashes of ability. They beat Scarborough, and outplayed league leaders Farsley even though they lost 2-1. The question is, which side of their character will Bridge display against Grantham?
Whatever happens, there is likely to be a sense of relief at the final whistle if only for the end of what has been a tempestuous season off the field as well as on it. Boardroom disagreements and resignations have torn the club apart, creating an atmosphere that Haworth has publicly described as toxic.
Serious problems need to be addressed over the summer if Stalybridge are to progress next year and avoid what is becoming an annual battle with relegation.
DROYLSDEN could be lacking three players as they wind up the campaign at home to Prescot Cables.
Stavros Tserpe is suspended, Shaq Clarke has a damaged hamstring and Harry Pratt is doubtful.
Brandon Wilkes and Matty Hanson come into the GLOSSOP NORTH END squad for the clash with Runcorn Linnets at Surrey Street.
Szymon Czubik (back) and Adam Latham (ankle) are both injured. Jack O’Leary has been recalled by Curzon Ashton.
MOSSLEY have a full squad for their game at Clitheroe.
In National League North, CURZON ASHTON will have to face Spennymoor Town without Cameron McJannett who has been recalled by Stoke City.
Louis Wardle is ill and several players are carrying knocks, forcing manager Mark Bradshaw to recall Jack O’Leary from Glossop. Ryan Shenton is available after suspension.
Relegated ASHTON UNITED are so short of men for their derby clash with Altrincham that manager Jody Banim may have to put himself on the bench.
Among those unavailable are Jamie Reid (away), Toby Lees (recalled), Javid Swaby-Neavin (injured) and Liam Goulding who’s not allowed to play because he’s on loan from Altrincham.
Banim commented: “We’re down to the bare bones, which is never ideal, but especially when you’re playing Alty.”
He added: “I’m already working on a squad for next season and have some signings in the pipeline.
“This is the first time I’ve ever known relegation in my entire career. But we’ll be back.”
STALYBRIDGE CELTIC manager Simon Haworth has issued a rallying call ahead of tomorrow (Monday’s) game at HYDE UNITED.
Derbies between the two sides are always hotly contested and eagerly awaited by supporters, but it’s a long time since one held such huge significance. The Celts must win if they are to have a realistic chance of retaining their Evo-stik NPL premier division status.
Both clubs have underperformed since they drew 2-2 at Bower Fold on Boxing Day but Stalybridge have been in freefall, losing nine of their last ten league games. Yesterday (Saturday’s) home defeat by Warrington has left them just a point above the relegation places with only two matches to play.
Additionally, Bridge have had problems off the field with several directors and officials resigning over the last few months.
Making his appeal for unity in an interview on Celtic’s website, Haworth said: “We need everyone to be in it together. We need all the supporters with us. Whatever people’s opinions on things and on the season, we need everyone to just pull together for the next seven days.
“We need everybody behind us on Monday and Saturday, stay in the division and we can all reflect on things over the summer months.
“Right now it’s massive that we all pull together for the football club and put the football club before ourselves.
“If the players don’t rise to the opportunity provided by the Hyde game then they never will. What an opportunity to possibly keep the club in the division by going and beating our local rivals.”
Stalybridge will rely on the same squad that faced Warrington. Ross Dent completes his three-match ban and Elliott Cooke is still sidelined with a knee injury.
Hyde have their fingers crossed that Tom Pratt and Paddy Lane should be able to start after being on the bench yesterday. Doubts remain over Grant Roberts.
In the first division west, GLOSSOP NORTH END co-bosses Peter Band and Lloyd Morrison go back to their former club, MOSSLEY, but Band insists their return won’t add any needle to the game.
“Mossley are my past. It’s Glossop I’m concentrating on now because they’re my future,” he explained.
Following a poor second-half display against Kidsgrove, when his side capitulated and gave up a 1-0 lead, Band confessed to being hugely frustrated and promised to make changes for the trip to Seel Park.
The Lilywhites are at full strength but their defeat at Ramsbottom effectively ended their remaining hopes of reaching the play-offs.
DROYLSDEN travel to Kendal Town.
In National League North, ASHTON UNITED are away to Boston United with their hopes of survival all but dashed. To avoid the drop they have to win their last two games and pray that Guiseley and FC United lose theirs.
CURZON ASHTON visit Stockport County. There is no cash admission for this match. Tickets must be bought online from the County website.
Weekend Non-league Football Previews
MONDAY’S Tameside derby at Ewen Fields could take on an even bigger significance than usual. Normally, only local bragging rights are on offer. This time, the annual grudge match might well decide STALYBRIDGE CELTIC’s future as an Evo-stik NPL club.
Since Christmas, Bridge have fallen like a stone. They have lost eight of their last nine games and four in a row at Bower Fold. That has left them in 18th place in the table, only three points clear of the relegation slots. They desperately need to take something from the Easter programme and hope that Mickleover and Bamber Bridge stumble.
Not only form, but fixtures, suggest Celtic face the toughest matches. As well as facing their arch-rivals Hyde United on Monday, they are home to third-placed Warrington tomorrow (Saturday).
Bamber Bridge are home to Matlock and then away to Marine. Mickleover are home to Basford on Monday and then on Saturday, April 27 — the last day of the season — visit Bamber Bridge.
For the Warrington match, Stalybridge will be without the suspended Ross Dent, and defender Elliott Cooke who has an injured knee. However, they welcome back striker Andy Scott and defender Josh Solomon-Davies.
HYDE UNITED’S start of Easter at league leaders Farsley Celtic. Although Tom Pratt, Janni Lipka and Grant Roberts all trained last night (Thursday) and should be fit to play, they will be assessed in the morning.
It’s looking as though Ryan Crowther’s return may have been limited to one appearance. His damaged knee looks to have ruled him out of the Tigers’ final two games. They have no match next weekend as they were meant to face North Ferriby.
In the first division west, MOSSLEY need to lift themselves after the disappointment of losing the Manchester Premier Cup final.
Still battling to claim a play-off place, they face a tricky encounter at Ramsbottom and then take on Glossop at Seel Park on Monday.
Co-boss Dave Wild says he has a full squad to choose from.
GLOSSOP NORTH END, buoyed by their midweek victory over Newcastle Town, are home to Kidsgrove tomorrow.
Matty Holmes and Kayde Coppin come back into the squad after working away, and Jason Hill has recovered following a car accident.
Shaq Clarke is listed as a slight doubt for DROYLSDEN as they prepare to face Market Drayton at the Butchers Arms tomorrow and then visit struggling Kendal on Easter Monday.
CAN ASHTON UNITED bridge the four-point gap to safety? We should know by 5 o’clock tonight (Good Friday).
For the Robins to have any chance of playing in National League North next season they have to beat Chester at home today and hope that Guiseley are beaten at Blyth Spartans.
Manager Jody Banim said: “It’s clearly a game we need to win, but it’s a funny one because they beat us convincingly at their place in October when we lost 4-1.
“I think I got it a little but wrong that night and I think certain players didn’t perform well. Today gives us a chance to rectify that.”
Oliver Crowley is unavailable to play which means that Toby Lees may play right-back with Luke Ashworth slotting in at centre-back. Banim added: “Toby’s fast and athletic, so he can do the job.”
On Monday the Robins are away to Boston United.
FRESH from their Manchester Premier Cup success, CURZON ASHTON face a tough Easter programme as their fourth National League North season approaches its close.
Tomorrow (Good Friday) they are home to Southport, a club with a league record almost identical to their own, and then on Easter Monday they visit top club and title favourites Stockport County.
Ahead of Easter double, Nash manager Mark Bradshaw is able to bring back defenders Oliver Thornley and Joel Senior who missed out on the final at Ewen Fields.
Anyone travelling to Edgeley Park must buy a ticket in advance — there will be no cash turnstiles on the day. More information is available at www.stockportcounty.com
Admission is £15 for adults, £10 for pensioners and students and £5 for six to 17-year-olds.
Curzon’s season concludes on Saturday, April 27, when they will be home to Spennymoor Town.
ON a night of great expectation at Ashton United, two phrases stood out most starkly. Both were uttered by vice-chairman Steve Hobson, who stressed the terms “measured growth” and “sustainable investment”.
They came at the end of a meeting in which a packed Hurst Cross social club met new co-chairmen David and Jonathan Burke and listened intently as the two men — father and son — outlined their vision for the future.
With talk of a 3G pitch and a generous wage bill for manager Jody Banim, there was plenty for the fans to get excited about. But Mr Hobson stressed there was no prospect of money being chucked around or of mad claims such as getting Ashton into the Football League in five years. Change would be implemented gradually and responsibly.
The meeting was opened by veteran director John Milne who predicted seismic changes and a totally different Ashton United. He was the first to touch on a theme that would recur throughout the meeting: if the club was to progress it had to change. Otherwise it would stagnate.
Terry Hollis, whose retirement as chairman was announced at the meeting, commented later: “We were getting too old. I had to step down for the club’s benefit.”
First to speak was Jonathan Burke, Ashton-born but a West End comedy actor and writer. Stating that he saw a crossover between his theatre work and football, as both are forms of entertainment, he spoke of an exciting journey.
Mentioning that a colleague had advised him to under-promise and over-deliver, he set out three priorities in the hope of succeeding in that aim: making funds available to manager Jody Banim to compete at whatever level the club finds itself next season, to make sure Ashton United reaches out to the community and has more teams including a women’s side, and to listen to the supporters and take on board their concerns and suggestions.
He said: “If you ever see me at the ground, come and tell me what you think. The best thing we can do is to listen to people.”
David, a commercial property developer, spoke of his long connections with club. His father, Johnny, played 410 games for the Robins in the Fifties and Sixties. David recalled climbing the floodlights during training sessions when his father and the other players would use him for target practice.
He added: Ashton United is in my blood, and I’m going to invest in the club for all the right reasons. The club has a phenomenal history and we’re going to capitalise on that and take it forward.
“I hope that’s in this league (National League North). But if we go down I want us to be fully prepared so that we can come back up.
“Jody Banim will get 100 per cent support, within reason and we’re going to try to improve the facilities.
“But my investment won’t just be monetary, it’ll be personal too. My wife, Janet, will be involved on the commercial side.
“I want to bring inward investment because I really want the club to succeed. This club should be at the top. That’s what I believe.”
Steve Hobson concluded by paying tribute to the former board led by Terry Hollis. He thanked them all for their efforts over many years and emphasised that no one was being sidelined.
The new board comprises David and Jonathan Burke, himself, Jackie Tierney and Andy Evans. However, this was for investment reasons. Mr Hollis remains a director and stalwarts such as Ronnie Thomasson, John Milne and Mick Cummins will continue in their day-to-day roles and be as central as ever to the club.
Mr Hobson continued: “We’d hit a level and needed to do something about it. The decision to change was taken collectively. But it’s not about chucking money around, it’s about investing in our infrastructure and, more importantly, in the community.”