STALYBRIDGE CELTIC 1, MORECAMBE 2
Despite still being work in progress – the words of new manager Chris Willcock – Stalybridge Celtic’s new-look side gave a creditable account of itself in its first pre-season friendly at home to Morecambe.
Indeed, Celtic were ahead for more than hour following a first-goal goal from Aaron Grewal as they looked set to defeat opponents four divisions in the football pyramid.
But two goals in the last seven minutes from Dylan Connolly and Arthur Gnahoua gave The Shrimps victory they scarcely deserved.
“Considering the lack of time we have had to work on things, it went better than expected,” explained Willcock.
“Hopefully it has created a bit of a buzz and the near 400 crowd – great for a friendly – have gone home relatively happy.”
Celtic’s starting line up comprised six new signings, three returning players and two trialist centre back.
But they more than matched Morecambe’s full first-team squad in the opening half in which Grewal gave them a 21st minute lead.
The winger, signed from West Didsbury and Chorlton last season, fired home a low shot from the edge of the box after Osebi Abadaki’s deflected strike rebounded to him.
Celtic made four changes at half time which included bringing on big centre-back Dereck Ubah, who was at the club last season, and Keano Deacon who has returned to Bower Fold.
The Shrimps introduced Cole Stockton, the striker who scored 26 goals last season to help keep them in League One.
By the hour, Celtic only had two of their starters still on the field but their much-changed side more than held its own.
Celtic looked set to be holding on for victory when they conceded an 82nd minute penalty for a trip on Connolly who slotted home the spot kick.
Then three minutes from time, Shrimps substitute Gnahoua ran at Celtic’s defence before bending in a terrific shot into the bottom corner past the trialist replacement stopper.
Willock said: “Overall I was happy for 60 minutes. It is difficult not to become disjoined when you make so many changes. We had eight or nine trialists on at the end.
“We have not had a lot of chance to work on things, so it was a detailed team talk. The lads tried to implement what I asked, and we were well organised in the first half.
“We are work in progress and with more sessions we will become more organised and difficult to beat. This has given us a platform to build on.
“We have a strong 12 but still looking to add experience, one or two quality players. I am still speaking to players and networking.”