STALYBRIDGE CELTIC 1, BOOTLE 1.
Manager James Kinsey described it as a “brilliant week” after Stalybridge Celtic won at Clitheroe on Tuesday and held Bootle tonight at Bower Fold.
“It someone had said to me at the start of the week we would pick up four points from six, I would have snatched their hands off,” he declared.
The two performances and results – Celtic were unlucky not to take maximum points against Bootle – have put down a marker as to the progress made under Kinsey.
In less than two months, the new-look side has gone from being a complete set of strangers – who can ever forget their first friendly against Abbey Hey – to looking a team which can be a force in Northern Premier League, west.
“This is a brand-new group and there will be blips, but it is how we react to them, like going 1-0 down tonight, and also at Hanley, not panicking and fighting back,” he explained.
“I am so proud of them how they carry out instructions and the demands they put on others is so high.”
It was hard to argue with Kinsey when he claimed Celtic were the better team and should have won.
Yet it was Bootle who struck first when former Brentford, Gillingham, Cambridge and Port Vale centre half Leon Legge, still sprightly aged 38, headed home a Ben Hodkinson corner.
Celtic were struggling to defend set-pieces and the 6ft 4in Legge almost doubled the lead when another header, again from a Hodkinson corner, flashed the wrong side of the post…or the right side for Kinsey’s side.
But instead of being 2-0 down, it was soon 1-1 with a finish of the highest quality.
Winger Aaron Dwyer, who had a blinder, provided the cross for Jordan Burton whose shot struck the inside if the upright and flashed across the face of goal for Obua Mugalula to score from the tightest of angles.
The only surprise was that the remaining three quarters of the match failed to produce further goals.
Dwyer went close in first half stoppage time with a shot which flew narrowly wide after he cut inside.
The closest Celtic came to a winner was midway through the second period when Max Harrop whipped in a free kick from the right which struck the far upright. The ball rebounded to the dangerous Dwyer whose follow-up effort was superbly tipped over by keeper Owen Mooney.
Dwyer was also denied by the legs of Mooney who blocked his shot after he had been set up by substitute Joe Edwards.
Bootle also had their moments as Celtic’s on-loan Liverpool goalkeeper Luke Hewitson made a smart save low down to keep out Hodkinson’s shot, and captain Andy Scarisbrick also went close.
Neither side could conjure that elusive winning goal, but it was a fabulous contest which entertained a crowd of 677.
It was a masterstroke to switch to Friday as no other games were played locally, which boosted the attendance, and it also gives Celtic an extra day’s rest to prepare for Monday’s visit to Avro.