HYDE UNITED 2, STALYBRIDGE CELTIC 2
Hyde United secured the point which guarantees their Northern Premier League, premier division status after a feisty Easter Monday derby against neighbours Stalybridge Celtic.
The Tigers’ draw in their final home game ensured they won’t finish in the bottom two relegation places following a nerve-jangling finish to the campaign.
Celtic, who had also had the threat of relegation hanging over them, achCaptopnieved safety with two games left following their 3-0 home win against Lancaster City two days earlier.
It was a derby which had everything – four goals, six bookings and even a stoppage because of crowd trouble as rival fans clashed, something later condemned by managers Nick Spooner and Simon Haworth.
Celtic’s Justin Johnson and Eddie Brown, from Hyde, both had decent chances, the latter denied well by goalkeeper Grant Shenton, before the Tigers made the breakthrough midway through the half.
Right back Harry Ditchfield delivered a delightful far-post cross for Brown, signed just before transfer deadline from Wythenshawe Amateurs, to head home his first goal for the club.
Celtic had great chances to equalise, notably when Scott Burton burst clear but blazed over when he ought to have found the net.
After an evenly contested opening half, Celtic took control from the restart and were quickly on level terms when referee Ben Tomlinson judged Johnson’s shot had been handled.
Johnson, Celtic’s leading scorer, scored from the spot, his 11th goal of the season.
Celtic were ahead before the hour when centre back Keenan Quansah headed home at the far post from Stephen Brogan’s free kick.
It was a moment Hyde goalkeeper Joe Green, playing with seven stitches in a gash to his kicking foot sustained in the Manchester Premier Cup final one week earlier, will want to forget as the effort squirmed out of his grasp and trickled over the line.
Charlie Doyle saw a header fly narrowly wide as Celtic, now in control, almost grabbed a decisive third goal.
Hyde rode their luck and hit back with Harry Pratt making it 2-2 in the 76th minute with his first goal for the club following his recent move from Mossley.
Ditchfield again provided the assist with a great ball over the Celtic defence. Pratt looked to have been closed down and missed the opportunity but somehow managed to get in a shot which flew past Shenton.
Play was halted with 10 minutes left as rival fans clashed with a couple illegally entering the field of play.
Hyde finished the game stronger and had two glorious chances to snatch victory.
Substitute Jonah Mitchell was put clean through in the 89th minute by Ciaran Summers and rounded goalkeeper Shenton before seeing his shot clear off the line by Shane Killock.
That was followed in the fourth minute of stoppage time by Brad Roscoe’s header beating Shenton, but this time Sam Wedgbury was on the line to clear.
Spooner admitted Hyde had to weather a storm and Celtic were the better side for much of the second half. He was also unhappy with the “sloppy” goals his team continues to leak.
Haworth, meanwhile, thought his side edged the contest.
“We were the better team for most of the game and got a real grip for 25 minutes in the second half when we ought to have killed it off, but that has been the story of our season,” he said.