Report: Kilifin Nets Points vs Stalybridge Celtic
Even the most optimistic of City fans would have been hesitant to predict an unbeaten opening month to the season in the Evo-Stik Premier Division...
Yet, as full time blew on Monday afternoon, Phil Brown’s side had the accolade of the only remaining unbeaten team in the league.
Tom Kilifin’s first half goal was all that was needed to seal the points in what was, in truth, an ugly win for the Dolly Blues against another former Conference North foe, Stalybridge Celtic.
Returning to a 4-4-2 formation with Kilifin partnered by Oliver Wood up front, City faced up against a Celtic side who had scored just 2 goals since their drop from the Conference North. Their defensive style of play, with two full lines of bodies behind the ball, hinted as to why they are struggling for goals in their new league surroundings.
It was up to the Dolly Blues to break down this stubborn defence, but throughout the 90 minutes they created enough clear cut chances to get the win that could and should have been by a greater margin.
The opening goal on 21 minutes was created by the quick feet of winger Scott Harries. Cutting inside past two defenders from the left flank his curling shot from 20 yards struck the inside of the post. The ball rebounded to the path of Kilifin who got enough contact on the stretch to force the ball goal-wards into an empty net to open the scoring.
The best chance the visitors created fell on the stroke of half time. Forward Bailey Jones collecting the ball in midfield and driving at the City defence. 25 yards from goal Jones unleashed a powerful low drive that looked to be bound for the bottom left corner. Powell was on hand to produce a superb fingertip save and deflect the ball onto the post and keep Lancaster ahead.
The second half produced two golden chances for Phil Brown’s side to put the game to bed but they were both squandered in spectacular fashion. First Ricky Mercer on 53 minutes skied a shot from 6 yards over the bar from a corner, whilst Kilifin could only head Harries cross from the left flank over the bar when unmarked on the penalty spot.
At the other end of the pitch the Dolly Blues defence were at their very best to keep the visitors at arms length for the rest of the game. Stalybridge committed only a few more players forward as the game wore on, not enough to open the game up for City to capitalise on the counter attack or for the visitors to create another scoring chance.
Just the second win of an unbeaten campaign confirms that after six games Phil Brown’s side are well above par in the first two thirds of the pitch. If Lancaster can begin to create more chances and tap into more goals they have all the potential of being a real force at this level of football.