STALYBRIDGE CELTIC 0, BASFORD UNITED 2
The lack of a cutting edge was again evident as Stalybridge Celtic were beaten at home by previously winless Basford United.
Celtic have scored only one goal – and that was a penalty – in their last five league and FA Cup matches and cumulatively they have found the net only six times in eight competitive matches.
And four of the goals have come defenders Ioan Evans and Stephen Brogan with captain Scott Bakkor the only forward to score.
And Bakkor, with two goals to his name, was again Celtic’s biggest goal threat against Basford as Jack Ryan has yet to open his account after seven matches.
Manager Simon Haworth’s latest moves to remedy issues over the toothless attack have been the captures of strikers Kieran Wells and Jay Fitzmartin.
Wells, 28, who joined Celtic from Frickley Athletic, made an encouraging debut against Basford while Jay Fitzmartin, 18, has been brought in on loan from Bolton Wanderers and he was on the bench against Basford having started in the FA Cup three days earlier.
After the awful showing in the cup exit at home to Colne, it was a much-improved display from Celtic against Basford who had failed to register a win in six Northern Premier League matches.
Like Celtic, Basford, one of the favourites to be promotion contenders, had been hit by injuries which had decimated their squad early season.
Celtic were without the injured Grant Shenton, Brogan, Connor O’Grady, Callum Harris and Charley Doyle and their absences have also clearly impeded Haworth’s side which is in the lower reaches of the table.
They were so short of personnel they had three 16-year-old on the bench against Colne and it was a similar story for Basford with three teenagers.
The lively Bakkor could have given Celtic an early lead, but his shot bobbled narrowly wide.
Steve Chettle’s Basford took the lead in the 20th minute following an outrageous piece of skill from Terry Hawkridge.
Hawkridge, 31, who has played league football for Scunthorpe, Mansfield and Notts County, produced an incredible touch to bring down a long ball which dropped over his shoulder.
He then delivered a delightful low cross to the far post for 38-year-old Aaron O’Connor, whose former clubs included Scunthorpe, Mansfield and Newport County, to slot home.
Celtic had chances to equalise before the break as Bakkor’s free kick was parried by goalkeeper Adam Collin. Evans, following up, looked set to score before his effort was deflected for a corner and then Wells saw a shot dip narrowly over the crossbar.
But any hope of getting back into the game was effectively killed off within two minutes of the restart when they conceded a penalty following Stephen O’Halloran’s trip on Kane Richards as O’Connor fired home the spot kick.
Haworth brought on Fitzmartin for Ryan just short of the hour and his electrifying pace caused unease as he continually ran at the visiting defence.
Celtic had a penalty shout rejected as the free kick was surprisingly given outside the box after Bakkor had been tripped.
Late in the game, O’Halloran produced great footwork for a central defender before seeing his half volley land on the roof of the net while in stoppage time a glanced header from Wells flew agonisingly wide.
Haworth described his side’s display as “excellent” pointing to the multiple chances they created.
True, they created more than Basford but the visitors were able to convert the ones that came their way and Celtic failed to do so.