ABBEY HEY 1, STALYBRIDGE CELTIC 1
(Stalybridge Celtic won 3-1 on penalties)
Goalkeeper Greg Hall put it down to “just luck” as he was Stalybridge Celtic’s penalty shootout hero in their Manchester Premier Cup win at Abbey Hey.
The summer signing incredibly saved three of the four penalties from the hosts as Celtic eventually prevailed in a preliminary round tie.
Hall admitted he had to come up with the goods after his error had earlier handed Abbey Hey their goal.
He said: “I owed it to the lads because it was my bad kick out which led to their goal.
“I have a pretty good record and the season before last saved four or five penalties.
“There is no pressure of goalkeepers in a shootout, and I like the tightness and being responsible for the team.”
Celtic manager Chris Willock described his side’s performance as below par against opponents three divisions lower in the football pyramid. In fact, the hosts brought in five squad players with manager Terry Hincks saying it was by no means their strongest side.
However, their side included Agustin Alvarez, brother of Manchester City’s Argentine striker Julian who often attends games.
Willcock admitted his side is falling short in the final third where they again failed to score from open play – they netted from a corner.
“Ultimately it went down to penalties which is a lottery, though Greg has a very good record at saving penalties, and he atoned for his error,” he explained.
Hall was at his best early on to acrobatically turn over a shot from Rhys Clooney, the former Droylsden and Glossop striker.
Abbey Hey stopper Joe Lawton also pulled off a super stop to deny Theo Bailey-Jones.
The hosts made the breakthrough following a poor clearance from Hall from out wide not far from the touchline.
Hall could only watch in disbelief as Clooney fired into an empty net from at least 40 yards, a spectacular finish.
Celtic huffed and puffed without seriously troubling the hosts, through Domaine Rouse had a goalbound effort blocked on the line and Harry Benns’ effort was well turned over by Lawton.
It was not until midway through the second period that Celtic scored a scruffy equaliser as Cameron Darkwah bundled in a Benns corner following a melee at the near post when it was difficult to determine who got the final touch.
Darkwah, however, insisted it was his goal as Celtic suddenly had the momentum with them.
Despite enjoying more possession in the latter stages as the home side tired, Celtic rarely looked like conjuring a winner, though Godwin Abadaki shot narrowly wide with three minutes left.
In the penalty shootout, Hall saved from Clooney, Dillon Kirkham and Olaolu Odipe.
Rouse also had his spot kick saved by Lawton, but it was Hall who emerged his side’s matchwinner with his penalty heroics.