STALYBRIDGE CELTIC 0, MARINE 0
One point so nearly became three as Stalybridge Celtic finally ended a run of seven straight losses in Northern Premier League, premier division.
In scenes of pandemonium at the end, Raul Correia missed a 99th minute penalty for Celtic, blazing high and wide.
From the spot kick being awarded, for a foul on Celtic substitute Tinashe Chakwana, to being taken was almost five minutes as referee Majid Ali had to deal with a series of scuffles and other shenanigans which included tampering with the penalty spot.
It appeared orchestrated and aimed at delaying and presumably unsettling the taker which succeeded as Correia failed to convert from 12 yards.
Celtic manager Chris Willcock was unhappy how the incident at the end was handled, saying the match officials did not deal with any “authority or assertiveness”.
However, Willcock took positives from the game as the worst losing run of his lengthy managerial career ended.
He said: “We have been moving in the right direction for the last couple of games and have cut out individual errors and mistakes at the back.
“It was a first clean sheet in nine games and that gives us a platform to build on.
“We did the basics well and, when they put us under a lot of pressure in the second half, we dealt with it well.”
Marine arrived at Bower Fold with a strong contingent of former Celtic players and personnel.
In the starting line-up were Josh Solomon-Davies and Charley Doyle while present but injured were Callum Harris and Hayden Campbell.
And Marine’s assistant manager was Ian Johnson, who was previously Simon Haworth’s number two.
In an opening period of few clear-cut chances, Celtic defended resolutely and endured only once scare when debutant Freddie Price, who was at Morecambe last season, headed against the crossbar.
Celtic’s first meaningful opening in the 53rd minute saw Correia shoot over.
Marine would have taken the lead mid-half but for two brilliant saves from Celtic goalkeeper Greg Hall.
Sol Solomon was put clean through by Doyle only for Hall to make a super stop low to his left to deflect the shot around the post.
Then from the resulting corner, a point-blank header from substitute Djavan Pedro was miraculously turned on to the bar and over by Hall.
And from the next corner, Doyle sent a near-post header flashing across the face of goal as Celtic lived dangerously.
Celtic survived and then in the fifth minute of added time – only four were signalled – they were awarded a penalty after Jonathan Spittle was adjudged to have fouled Chakwana.
And in the mayhem which followed it was a surprise only two yellow cards were shown to Marine’s Luke Clark for removing the ball from the penalty spot and Celtic’s Domaine Rouse for the scuffle in which he tried to retrieve it.