Stalybridge Celtic 2-2 Gloucester City
By Simon Clark
An 89th minute header from Darren Mullings salvaged Gloucester City a precious point against Stalybridge Celtic in a huge clash at the bottom of the Skrill North table.
The Tigers had gone two behind at half-time with a deflected free-kick from Kristian Platt, followed by a looping header by Sean McConville putting Celtic ahead.
New signing Charlie Griffin had a goal chalked off for an alleged push and Jack Harris struck the crossbar as City searched for an avenue back into the game.
Substitute Joe Parker set the game alight after a superb solo effort that brought City within touching distance, before Mullings’ bullet header secured a draw that, in all fairness, felt as good as a win.
As so often this season, the Tigers started on the back foot almost immediately with Paul Ennis forcing a smart save from goalkeeper Mike Green.
The first goal came shortly after with a smashed free-kick from Platt that took a wicked deflection off the wall and Green couldn’t do a thing with the ball nestling in the bottom corner.
City’s new number nine, Charlie Griffin, made his presence known in the 14th minute with a header cleared away by Callum Warburton en route to goal.
The hosts attempted to further their lead but a storming challenge from Marcus Giglio denied Tom Buckley, followed by Green parrying away McConville’s strong effort.
Griffin, who was clearly a nuisance up top for the Tigers, had the ball in the back of net with a stunning header from 10 yards out, only for the official to judge that a push had been involved much to the chagrin of the former Swindon Town man.
And just as City’s luck has been this season, with their next attack Celtic went straight up the other end and scored with a looping back post header from McConville after full-back Green had been exposed on the right.
Another City chance went begging after a Matt Groves corner saw Harris’ cushioned header bounce off the crossbar.
On a murky Tameside afternoon, the second half began with Celtic on the push but Buckley’s long range effort was easy enough for Green.
Debutant Griffin was in the right place at the right time yet again with a header in-front of goal that was superbly saved by Danny East.
Joe Parker came on for the Tigers to expose a tiring Stalybridge back-line and did exactly that on the hour.
A sumptuous flick-in from Griffin landed in the path of the Hartpury student who calmly took on the defender and thumped the ball into the back of the net to give City a glimmer of hope.
The game started to become all Gloucester and thumping low effort from Mullings was astonishingly saved by East as the pressure was piling.
More golden opportunities were thwarted by East with Griffin and Parker desperately trying to slot home in the midst of a goal-line scramble that the Tameside outfit somehow managed to clear.
And then, with City throwing everything at goal, Groves’ teasing corner was slammed home by Mullings in front of an ecstatic away following for a precious equaliser.
The importance of the goal was clearly shown with all 10 outfield players mobbing the central midfielder; and a goal that keeps the Tigers thoroughly in the hunt to squeeze out of the relegation mire at the bottom of the Skrill North.
Stalybridge Celtic: D. East, K. Bleau, A. McWilliams, C. Warburton, J. Tunnicliffe, K. Platt, P. Ennis, K. Briggs, G. Abadaki, S. McConville, T. Buckley
Subs not used: A. Pepper, C. Platt, O. Durnin, J. Bembo-Leta, J. Cookson
Goals: Platt 7, McConville 31
Gloucester City: M. Green, M. Green, M. Giglio, M. Coupe (Webb 70), J. Harris, J. Goddard, L. Hogg, D. Mullings, C. Griffin, W. Morford (Parker 56), M. Groves (Wilson 72)
Goals: Parker 60, Mullings 89
Subs not used: N.Phillips, S. Turl