Worcester City 4-0 StalybrIdge Celtic
Vanarama National League North
Rob George reports from the Victoria Ground
A GAME of two halves saw Worcester City return to winning ways and somewhat banish their home hoodoo with a much-needed three points against their lowly visitors.
Carl Heeley made one change from the hard-fought 0-0 draw at Boston United with Cieron Keane making his return to the team at the expense of Junior English.
A nervous crowd gathered to see if City could bring to an end 233 minutes without a goal against a team who had lost nine of their last ten games.
A fast start was crucial from the Blue and Whites and Lee Hughes won a corner in the first minute. Keane’s delivery was met by Sam Oji who headed it over the bar.
Celtic weren’t shy in coming forward though and Daniel Wilkins free kick in the sixth minute warmed the hands of City keeper Ryan Boot who has extended his stay at the Victoria Ground for another month.
As the first half wore on, Celtic belied their lowly standing and looked to be more than a match for their hosts and threatened to spoil what many expected to be an easy three points for City.
Celtic pressed and won a number of corners to try and pile the pressure on Ryan Boot after his calamities against Brackley Town.
But the Blue and White number one passed his test with flying colours with catches and punches and provided an air of calm assurance once again.
The frustration rose though and Lee Hughes certainly made his feelings known to Keane just before the break.
However as the first half stumbled into injury time and City’s goal drought went past 278 minutes, lady luck shone on Heeley’s men.
A lucky deflection in the middle of the park 30 yards out saw the ball spin to Hughes and left him through on goal. The ace poacher was denied by a good save by Celtic keeper Tony McMillan who was unfortunate to see the ball bounce right into the path of Ebby Nelson-Addy who had a simple tap in to hand City an undeserved lead at the break.
The visitors came out firing at the start of the second half and Oji was on hand to block a shot from Dickinson before Wilkins was denied by the post when his long range shot had Boot beaten.
City switched from a 4-4-1-1 to a 4-4-2 a minute later when Colby Bishop was introduced for Micah Evans who would have wanted to do better on his home debut.
The positive moved sent City forward with gusto and on the hour the impressive Joe Fitzpatrick won the ball in midfield and fed Chekaine Steele and slid in Hughes.
The experienced hit man wasn’t going to miss twice in one game and fired low into the bottom corner to hand City a 2-0 lead they never looked like surrendering.
Hughes hit the post and forced good saves from McMillan in a pulsating four minute spell which could have easily seen City out of sight with time to spare.
The experienced talisman was proving such a threat that fussy referee Josh Smith declined to let him back on the field for at least two minutes after treatment for a head injury to cap a ridiculous performance from the man in the middle.
However let that not detract from a wonderful second half which saw City put the icing on a cake which even Mary Berry and Paul Holywood would have been proud of.
Fitzpatrick capped a fantastic afternoon with a chip the late Seve Ballesteros would have been proud of to find Bishop who volleyed home to make it 3-0 on 87 minutes.
Carl Heeley’s men saved the best to last with a gorgeous flowing move in injury time down the right which saw sub Jordan Murphy find Steele who could have easily shot but slipped it to Bishop who then found Keane to shoot low into the bottom right corner.
City left the field to warm applause from the faithful after an afternoon to remember where Celtic were put the sword.
Truth be told, when City don’t make errors at the back they don’t look like conceding and there seems to be a growing confidence at the back led by Boot.
The goal drought is over and now City have the chance for an Autumn harvest.
Anyone fancy an unbeaten October?