STALYBRIDGE CELTIC 4, WEST DIDSBURY AND CHORLTON 0
Easing of Covid-19 restrictions enabled fans to make an emotional return to Bower Fold as they were able to watch Stalybridge Celtic for the first time at home in five-and-a-half months.
Queues had formed outside the ground before the gates opened at 1.30pm anxious not to miss out with the capacity restricted to 300 on the first day fans were officially allowed back into games involving levels three to six – Northern Premier League and downwards.
And they witnessed a winning return as Celtic comfortably beat opponents from two divisions below them in the football pyramid to extend their unbeaten pre-season to six matches – five wins and one draw.
It was a special afternoon for Ben Woods, the former West Didsbury left back who has just moved to Celtic as he scored twice against his old club.
Left-back Woods was pushed forward to a left-wing role in the second period when he scored two goals inside three minutes and was unlucky not to complete a hat-trick.
Manager Simon Haworth was pleased with the workout describing the second period as their best half of football pre-season.
Celtic scored three goals in a devastating five-minute spell mid-half to seal victory.
It was a contrast to the start when the visitors came close to snatching a first-minute lead.
Celtic went ahead in the 11th minute through a terrific 25-yard strike from a triallist midfielder who caught the eye.
The attacking midfielder saw another screamer flash past the upright moments later as he caught the eye – his identity was not disclosed so not to alert other clubs. He admitted to having competition for his signature.
After a tight opening period, Celtic cut loose in the second half when they brought on Mike Burke, Steven O’Halloran and new-boy Freddie Sass.
Krisel Prifti and Burke went close before Woods, pushed forward from the restart, almost got on to the scoresheet when he headed narrowly wide from a Prifti cross.
Celtic doubled their advantage in the 64th minute when Prifti cut in from the right and he wrong-footed goalkeeper Andrew Jones with a scuffed shot which trickled into the net.
The third goal was the pick, a wonderfully created effort as O’Halloran sprayed a brilliant 50-yard pass to release Woods on the left.
Woods’ first touch was sublime as he slipped the ball past right back Harry Sheridan before rolling the ball low past the advancing goalkeeper.
Prifti provided the assist for the fourth goal with a cross which the stretching Woods managed to divert low past Jones.
Had it not been for Jones, who made a fine save to keep out Burke’s header, Celtic would have had a fifth in the latter stages.