Tuesday 8th September 2009
Blue Square Conference North
Eastwood Town 1 Stalybridge Celtic 3
Admission: £10 (Concessions £6)
Programme: £2 (Very good publication)
Tea hut purchase: Tea 80p
Weather: Persistent swirling rain during the first half
Parking: On Nottingham Road about 800 yards away
I must have coaxed the rain south with me. It was close on my tail all the way down the M1. Apparently the Midlands had been basking in glorious sunshine all day? That soon changed! Conference North new boys Eastwood Town had been up the top end of the table early doors and there seemed to be a positive air of confident expectation around Coronation Park as I entered the stadium. First things first I must comment on what a jolly good programme was on offer, a refreshing value for money effort with lots of interesting reading. Next, onto the ground and the immediate impression is that of a low-level tidy set up with a small main stand slightly set back from the pitch, this is positioned adjacent to what appears a new build tea hut and a smart looking club house. The main characteristic of your first viewing has to be the slope, it is significant and sweeps unevenly downwards towards the fire station end of the ground. Something the home side probably put to productive tactical advantage.
The rain started right on kick off and didn't let up until half time, to say it was from the Noahs Ark category was an under statement. It soon had the locals dashing for the available cover, those choosing to show off their new Forest tops were doubtless wishing to have brought a sensible coat. I thought the weather stifled the football during the first half. Both sides passed the ball as they could and 'attack' seemed to be very much on the agenda but the conditions certainly made it difficult. What seemed to shock the Eastwood support was that Stalybridge appeared to be very much up for the challenge and this became all the more evident when they took the lead after 25 minutes. A well worked equaliser soon calmed the locals but having a home player sent off really wasn't what they wanted and as the sodden sides trooped off at the break you could detect that this was now going to be much more of a struggle for Eastwood than they had anticipated. Especially as Stalybridge now had that favourable slope to call upon.
Stalybridge have a respected manager in Steve Burr and he certainly applied the correct tactics to exploit ten man Eastwood. Come the second half the rain had stopped, the wind had dropped and the Burr masterplan was to get the ball wide and pass-and-move the home side right-out of the game. The Celtic players provided some excellent football and carved out chance after chance, two of which they took but to be honest it should probably have been a lot more. One can argue that the sending off hit Eastwood hard and it did, however, the stuff Stalybridge put on in that second period was very good indeed and no wonder the travelling support were jovially singing the Brazil song. It was intriguing to over hear the locals mumbling that this Stalybridge lot looked a good side and had pulled Town down a few pegs during the evening. You could conclude that it's all part of the learning process, I had seen enough from both of these sides to assume that they will both be 'around' come the shake up.