STALYBRIDGE CELTIC could take the number of players used so far this season to more than 40 when they travel to their National League North relegation six-pointer at Bradford Park Avenue tomorrow (Saturday).
Four new arrivals are in the frame for selection, with goalkeeper Grant Shenton (Ashton United), defender Josh Heaton (Droylsden), midfielder Adam Morning (Colne) and striker Josh Hine (loan from Salford City) all arriving at Bower Fold this week. One absentee though will be striker Liam Dickinson as the terms of his loan from Bradford do not allow him to feature.
Wingers Danny Burns and Henoc Mukendi have returned from loan spells at Skelmersdale United and Colne respectively. Heading in the other direction, striker Steve Tames has joined Witton Albion on an initial three-month loan with a view to a permanent signing.
Co-manager Paul Phillips said: “We’re in a mess and the only people who can get us out of it are ourselves. We’ve done our homework and things have to change starting tomorrow.
“At least now we’ve got players who are up to the task. I know we’ve had a big turn-round in the squad but that shows you the standard Steve and I had when we took over.”
Celtic will be without long-term injury victims Sam Tatum (broken leg and ankle), Jay Gorton (cruciate ligament) and Keil O’Brien (torn hamstring) as they look to prevent the gap to safety becoming bigger by recording only their second away win of the season against a side buoyed by their 3-2 midweek success at fellow strugglers Altrincham which sent Stalybridge to the bottom of the table.
Phillips, of course, is only too well aware that victory is essential tomorrow if his side are to stand any chance of bridging the eight points that stand between them and safety.
He commented: “It’s an important game for me and Steve and it’s an important game for the players. We’ve been making progress without getting the right results. We’ve been unlucky but we’ve got to cut out the mistakes.
“It’s got to the point where I can’t watch Sky Sports News. Whenever they show the league table I can’t look. Steve Halford and me aren’t used to tables where our team is at the wrong end.
“We just need to put everything into one because the performances are coming and the players look like getting some confidence back. We need a little bit of luck and we need to have some pride.”
England Youth striker Adam Morgan is available for selection for CURZON ASHTON who face Gainsborough Trinity at the Tameside Stadium.
Morgan, who came through the ranks at Liverpool, making two first-team appearances, has also played for Rotherham, Yeovil, St Johnstone, Accrington, Hemel Hempstead and Colwyn Bay.
Like neighbours Stalybridge, the Nash badly need some league points. Despite their FA Cup successes they are hovering just above the relegation places and lost at Brackley last Saturday before holding Chorley to a 1-1 draw two days later.
Jordan Wright misses tomorrow’s game and Joe Guest is suspended for being sent off a week ago.
A scan has confirmed that Danny Shaw is clear of knee problems and he should return to training before the end of November, roughly the same time as Andy Watson should be fully fit.
Three clubs are in FA Trophy first qualifying round action hoping to win £2,700 in prize money.
ASHTON UNITED are home to Marine — the first of three meetings with the Crosby club in the next seven games (not counting possible replays).
Their key absentee is on-loan Oldham Athletic man Lee Knight who has a hamstring injury. However, Joe Connor and Alex Frost are available.
Co-boss Jody Banim says the Robins are well-prepared, and that he and partner Will Haining were very impressed with Italian full-back Domenico Maiese who was man of the match in the 2-2 draw at Sutton Coldfield.
“He did really well and looks like he’ll be a decent signing,” said Banim. “His performance was a big plus for us because Will and me like to play our football high and Domenico fits the bill.
“I think we’re two or three injuries away from having a squad of 19 or 20. It will be great when we have some options because the side has been pretty much picking itself since we took over. It would be good to introduce a bit of competition into the squad.”
Tom Dean comes back for MOSSLEY, who are home to Farsley Celtic, and defender Martin Park returns for GLOSSOP NORTH END, which means they have a full squad for their Derbyshire derby at old rivals Buxton.
HYDE UNITED, who have won their last two matches, are away to Ossett Town. They travel to Yorkshire without Andy Pearson, who is ill, and Danny Pilkington, who has a hamstring injury.
Despite saying he was fit to return after the midweek Manchester Premier Cup victory over Mossley, it looks like Dave McGurk will have to settle for a place on the bench.
“We’ll have to see how things are tomorrow. Dave’s in the squad but he’s not 100 per cent so he may have to be content with being a substitute. After a calf injury he’s damaged his hamstring but it’s not as bad as first feared,” said Tigers manager Darren Kelly.
“As for Danny Pilkington, he’s tweaked his hamstring and we’re hoping that’s not a bad one. We’ll see how he goes and he may be in for the following week.”
DROYLSDEN have no match.