GREATER Manchester rivals Curzon Ashton and Stalybridge Celtic played out a largely uneventful scoreless draw at the Tameside Stadium on Monday night.
Jon Flanagan’s side were playing their second game in three days and in spite of dominating the first half, struggled to reach the heights of Saturday’s impressive victory at promotion-chasing Darlington.
Stalybridge, however, were in action for the first time in nine days and could’ve nicked three precious points as their opposition tired but couldn’t find the guile to beat Hakan Burton in a game of little quality.
The Nash came out of the blocks the quicker of the teams, Iain Howard flashed across the face of goal in just the fourth minute but found no takers in blue and white.
Matthew Warburton, now in his second spell at Curzon after resigning from Salford City, was pulling the strings for the Nash, firstly when he drew a decent save from Grant Sheldon in the Celtic goal before firing just wide of the left-hand post as the hosts began to take control of proceedings.
Chris Rowney played a neat one-two off Warburton but could only caress his left-footed shot narrowly wide of the target as the Nash struggled to turn their dominance into goals.
The visitors had their first noteworthy attempt at goal as late as the 44th minute when Kieran Dumbar let fly from 30 yards but Burton was equal to the effort.
Curzon pressurised Shenton’s goal again in first half stoppage time. Rowney couldn’t quite prod home after great work from Ryan Hall before the Stalybridge stopper produced what was undeniably the save of the match. It looked for all money that Niall Cummins would score when he slid in at the back post to meet Howard’s low cross only for the visiting number one to sprawl low and defy the Isle of Man striker.
After the break it was Stalybridge who were in the ascendancy. Gary Gee and Dan Wilkins aimed straight at Burton after forging decent shooting positions in a half where the hosts just never got going.
Aaron Chalmers came close to giving Celtic the lead but his effort rolled just wide after good work from fellow substitute Sefton Gonzales, before Wilkins did well to turn his man but shot wide with twenty minutes to play.
A second game in a three days meant Curzon were running on empty as the second half ebbed away, substitute Luke Clarke threatened to change the momentum of the game when he saw his long-range effort tipped away by Shenton within minutes of his introduction, but that was a rare moment of excitement from a Nash team who looked a shadow of the side which defeated Darlington and table-topping AFC Fylde in recent weeks.
Either side could have stolen all three points in additional time, Warburton who was largely anonymous after the break was denied by Shenton’s feet before Chris Baguely headed wide at the other end and we finished how we started, goalless.
On reflection Curzon’s decision to play their midweek games on a Monday night seems to have backfired here, an energy-sapping trip to County Durham little over 50 hours prior to this clash meant that after the interval they lacked the requisite energy to penetrate Stalybridge’s resolute back five.
As for Celtic, given their precarious position in the National League North table and the fact their opposition were hardly firing on all cylinders, they may view this as two points dropped. Needless to say they need wins and not draws if they’re to have any chance of climbing out of the bottom three, which looks a tough task given they’re 11 points from safety.
In truth, this one is unlikely to live long in the memory, two industrious sides but one operating at significantly less than 100% and the other lacking any creative spark, it comes as little surprise we ended nil-nil.
Curzon Ashton: Burton, Baillie (Jennings ’85), Tomsett (Clarke ’75), Hunt, Shaw, Stott, Hall, Howard, Cummins (C), Warburton, Rowney (Wright ’65)
Stalybridge Celtic: Shenton, Morton, Wilson, Mather, Horsefall, Hughes (C), Dunbar, Gee, Wilkins (’71), Gaskell (’60), McKnight (Chalmers ’55)
Unused: Morning, Da Silva
Referee: Mr Joe Hall
Report by Jordan Davies