2019/20: An Incredible Journey. Match Day 13 – Saturday 05 October 2019: Stalybridge Celtic v FC United of Manchester (FCUM)

Matchday programme cover

A local ‘derby’ just down the road for me featuring Stalybridge Celtic against FC United of Manchester at Bower Fold in the Northern Premier League’s top division. Two clubs that have interested me for different reasons, we’ll leave FCUM to later in the season. Stalybridge Celtic for me were a cup team, and I also remember them because of the Celtic suffix, in the time when I used to play games as a boy, like ‘name all the suffix’ of the league clubs’ (I think there were 26 at the time, the question and answer will be different now). Celtic wasn’t a suffix of any league club then or now in the English top four divisions but (Glasgow) Celtic are one of the largest sides in Scotland and were the first British club to lift the European Cup. So I naturally assumed that Stalybridge played in green and white hoops and had origins from a Roman Catholic church or church school.

There is some question around Stalybridge’s actual formation year in that whether it is 1906 or 1909, and no they didn’t spring from a Catholic but by Herbert Rhodes a local businessman and philanthropist, additionally they have always played in blue. How wrong my misconceptions were! Celtic were a former league club and were one of the founder members of the Third Division (North) for the 1921/22 season, along with another 19 teams from the north, some of whom have and will feature in this journey at one stage or another.

Handshakes before kick-off

It was local Football Charity Day at Bower Fold and there was a carnival atmosphere with a large FCUM contingent joining the home fans – the bar will have done very well today. Good footballing weather, a nice compact ground and a boisterous crowd, let’s hope that we had a game to match.

Stalybridge came out the block quickly and scored within two minutes. Darius Osei was fouled outside the box and Declan Walker took the resulting free-kick. Paddy Wharton in the FCUM goal couldn’t hold the effort and Osei had a simple tap in to give Celtic the lead. FCUM were nearly level just three minutes later when Jordan Buckley was denied by Alex Fojticek who dashed out of his goal to make the save. The opening of the game continued at a pace with Wharton having to save a Craig Hobson effort with nine minutes gone. It was an end-to-end encounter with play switching from one end to the other. Stalybridge’s Jonathan Ustabasi was a constant threat down the left-wing and managed to pick out Hobson and Osei on a number of occasions. The tempo couldn’t be sustained and eventually the game settled down. As the first-half was coming to a close Celtic had the ball in the net. However the effort was disallowed after the referee ruled that Osei handled the ball in the build-up. At the break the home side went in 1-0 up and deservedly ahead.

FCUM were eager to get a leveller early in the second-half and did so after fifty-seven minutes. The lively Tunde Owolabi firing home ball past Fojticek. Owolabi was then involved ten minutes later when he nipped in to collect a wayward Celtic back-pass which allowed Ennis to stroke into an unguarded net. FCUM held the 2-1 advantage as the game entered the final ten minutes, but the home side struck with eighty-two minutes on the watch as a Walker free-kick was headed home by Osei for his and Stalybridge’s second of the game. Celtic then sensationally nearly went ahead as another free-kick was met by the head of Valentine only for his effort to come back off the post. There was to be a winner though, but it came for the visitors as a free-kick from Ennis evaded everyone and nestled in the Celtic net as the game entered time added on to clinch a 3-2 win for FCUM.

What a great game, a five-goal thriller, the best of the season for me, especially the second half. The three United midfielders, Luke Griffiths, Alex Babos and Mike Potts ran the game and were the difference between the two sides. A great advert for the standard of football at this level (Step 7 of the football pyramid).


Saturday 05 October 2019

BetVictor Northern Premier League – Premier Division

Stalybridge Celtic 2 (Osei 2’, 81’) FC United of Manchester 3 (Owolabi 56’, Ennis 66’, 90’)

Venue: Bower Fold

Attendance: 1,188

Staylybridge Celtic: Fojticek, Walker, Mantack, Dent (Whitehead 71’), Lees, Smalley, Ustabasi,

Valentine, Hobson (MacDevitt 83’), Osei, Freedman (Bakkor 55’)

Unused substitutes – O’Halloran, O’Leary.

FC United of Manchester: Wharton, Morris, Dodd, Griffiths, Doyle, Jones, Babos (Lenehan 76’), Potts,

Owolabi, Buckley (Ennis 55’), Curran (Joyce 90’)

Unused substitutes – Rodney, Belford


Steve Blighton