STALYBRIDGE CELTIC 1 BOSTON UNITED 1: Both teams settle for the score which suites neither

Scott Garner.
Scott Garner.

Boston United had to settle for a point at Stalybridge Celtic - on a day when they should have taken all three.

Scott Garner headed the Pilgrims ahead in the first minute, but a series of missed chances came back to haunt Dennis Greene’s side as Michael Powell snatched a second-half leveller.

With Tamworth winning 3-2 at home to Leamington, United’s advantage in the play-off race has been cut to two points, although Boston still have their own destiny very much in their own hands.

As the Pilgrims bus pulled into Bower Fold, both teams were preparing for a contest which could define their seasons - in dramatically differing ways.

A draw suited neither side, even if Stalybridge remain just above the drop zone and Boston stay in the Vanrama North’s top five.

Greene made two changes to the side which beat Tamworth 2-0 on Bank Holiday Monday, with Nicky Walker and Marc Newsham returning to the starting XI as Kyle Dixon dropped to the bench and Mark Jones was sidelined with a hamstring injury.

Celtic were without ex-Pilgrim Stefan Galinski, unable to play due to a clause in his transfer, while fellow centre back Matt Regan was suspended and striker Chris Simm missed out due to a family wedding.

After losing their first five contests at Stalybridge, United have improved things on their past two visits, with last season’s 3-3 draw preceded by a 1-0 victory.

And it took less than a minute for the Pilgrims to open the scoring.

With just 57 seconds played Scott Garner beat Ross Etheridge at his near post with a diving header following Walker’s cross from the left.

And five minutes later that lead could have been doubled as Kaine Felix’s header rattled the Celtic crossbar, before Dayle Southwell’s drive was tipped wide by the home keeper.

Boston could have had the contest wrapped up within the opening 10 minutes as Southwell rounded Etheridge, only for Peter Wylie to make a last-ditch clearance and Boston appeals for a penalty were turned down.

Southwell nodded Walker’s corner goalwards and Harley Wigley appeared to handle on the goalline.

The remainder of the first half was ruined by a strong wind which frustrated both sides, although Southwell was handed another sight of goal from Walker’s cut-back, even if his strike wasn’t sweet enough to find the target, and Stalybridge gave the away side a nervy moment as a deflected free kick flew just wide of the mark.

United started the second half on the front foot, with Felix’s drive deflected over.

Moments later Newsham forced a good body block from Etheridge, and as the keeper scrambled back to his goal Garner’s weak follow-up was saved.

Celtic gave Boston a heart-in-mouth moment when a low ball was guided across the six yard box but no home player could get a touch.

And there was more to follow as Aidan Chipperfield’s free kick almost crept inside Max Stryjek’s near post.

And that leveller finally arrived in the 69th minute as Michael Powell volleyed home at the back post following a corner.

That goal seemed to reinvigorate United, and Rene Steer came close to finding the net with a 20-yarder.

And great work from Kyle Dixon down the left flankl freed up Southwell, but his header was inches wide.

And with that went Boston’s last chance.

CELTIC: Etheridge, Crowley, Wylie, Wigley, Hughes, Potts (McKenna 59), Chippendale, Kerr, Bentham (Ennis 59), Powell, Mudimu (Allen 59); Subs (not used): Staunton-Turner, King.

UNITED: Stryjek, Marrs, Steer, Mills, Garner, Piergianni, Felix (Hall 84), Walker, Southwell, Newsham (Dixon 56), Roberts (Saebe 68); Subs (not used): McGhee, Vince.

Ref: Paul Marsden.

Att: 601.