Stalybridge recorded their 10th win in their last 11 league outings as defeated Brrow by the narrowest of margins to maintain their pursuit of runaway leaders Emley.
Tony Sullivan scored the only goal of the match in the 10th minute with a superbly struck free kick from 25yards. Barrow keeper Bishop had no chance as the ball flew past his outstretched left hand into the top corner of the net.
Two minutes later Sullivan linked with McNeil but his goal bound effort was deflected wide. Midway through the first half Celtic looked sure to increase their lead but Barrow somehow managed to clear the ball after an almighty goalmouth scramble. Pickford then missed a golden opportunity, shooting over from 15 yards despite being presented with both time and space.
Ten minutes before half-time the game erupted after a series of lunging tackles from Barrow's Mark Hume led to a melee involving most of the players on the pitch. Surprisingly only Bullimore of Barrow was booked but this incident seemed to sting Barrow into action and Housham should have brought them level in the 40th minute. When the ball was headed back across goal Housham somehow contrived to miss the target from a yard out, slotting the ball the wrong side of the post.
Sullivan fired over the bar shortly after the break but Barrow came more and more into the game and on the hour Ainsley had a fierce shot deflected wide.
Hume then had a shot blocked as Barrow piled on the pressure and substitute Doherty drilled a shot into the side netting after cutting in from the right.
Celtic weathered the storm though and Kevin Parr almost doubled their lead as he wriggled past two Barrow defenders but Bishop denied him with a brilliant one handed save, diving to his right.
The game was now end-to-end and the Celtic goalmouth saw the ball scrambled off the line before Ainsley forced Ingham into making a great save with a powerful drive from the edge of the area. A bizarre piece of refereeing followed as Stalybridge broke upfield, with McNeil through with only Bishop to beat, only to find play had been brought back to an off-the-ball incident in the Celtic half. Surely the referee could have waited for the next break in play to book the players involved.
The last 10 minutes were frenetic as both goals came under attack. Doherty and Housham spurned chances to equalise, shooting over the bar, while Parr, Sullivan (twice), McNeil and Ward had strikes at goal, though all missed the target.
Despite the state of the Bower Fold pitch I've yet to witness a disappointing game on it and this was another enthralling encounter!