Boro slump to fourth home defeat in a row against Stalybridge
Boro suffered a fourth successive home defeat on Tuesday, after a grim showing against struggling Stalybridge, who had lost seven of their 9 games this season.
Michael Coulson and Bailey Gooda missed the game through injury, with Simon Heslop and Kieran Glynn coming in to replace them, and Nathan Cartman taking the captain's armband.
The visitors made a bright start as Kieran Wells hooked a shot just over, then Dylan Cogill twice headed dangerous balls clear, before Celtic went ahead on 16 minutes when Ashley Smith-Brown’s 20-yard free-kick deflected off the Boro wall and beat keeper Ryan Whitley’s dive.
Boro fought back and came close to an immediate equaliser, as Cartman battled for possession and set up Ryan Watson, who pulled the ball back to Glynn, who fired a stinging shot against the left hand post, then Ash Jackson had a shot deflected for a corner, which was taken by Watson and headed straight at the keeper by the diminutive Cartman.
Another Watson corner cannoned off the knee of Heslop and was tipped over the bar by keeper Louis Hood, then a James Cadman cross from the right was headed narrowly over by Kieran Glynn.
Celtic should have doubled their lead on 37 minutes when skipper Scott Bakker went on a surging 30-yard run and rounded keeper Whitley, but Will Thornton got back to block his goal-bound shot, then on the stroke of half-time Jackson lofted a shot over the bar after accepting a pass from Cadman.
The first half had been evenly contested, but Boro faded badly after the interval, with Stalybridge dictating play for long periods.
Kieran Wells twice headed narrowly over, before they went 2-0 up on 64 minutes when a Smith-Brown corner was headed powerfully home by former Boro centre-back Shane Killock, then Jay Fitzmartin had a low shot saved by the legs of Whitley.
Boro looked ragged, but Jackson screwed a shot wide in a rare foray forward, before Celtic wrapped up their convincing win on 79 minutes when a corner from the left by Fitzmartin was fumbled into his own net by Boro keeper Whitley.
Substitute Theo Hudson almost grabbed an 89th minute consolation, but his powerful strike was superbly tipped round the post by keeper Hood, then in stoppage time Scott Bakker fired wide for the visitors.
Overall, a dreadful result as the alarming slump in form continues. Perhaps having no game this Saturday is a blessing in disguise.
BORO: Whitley, Turner, Jackson, Heslop (Weledji 67), Thornton, Cogill, Glynn, Watson, Cartman, Maloney (Hudson 60), Cadman (Hutton 72)
MAN OF THE MATCH: Ashley Jackson