Stalybridge did just enough to win against a hard working Radcliffe side in a low key affair at Stainton Park. Despite six changes from the side that defeated Gateshead Celtic looked comfortable for most of the game.
Celtic, in their gold away strip, had by far the better chances in the first half. Nigel Evans put in a dangerous cross in the opening but Green couldn't quite reach it and the ball skimmed off his head and wide. Steve Jones showed exactly how to head a ball when getting on the end of a Ward cross, his header back across goal looped over the keeper but agonisingly just the wrong side of the post. Evans then tried his luck from 20 yards but his dipping shot just cleared the bar.
Towards the end of the half Bauress dispossessed Radcliffe's danger man, Dempsey, but his powerful drive went straight down the throat of Hurst between the Boro sticks. Radcliffe worked hard with Dempsey pulling the strings in midfield, but the Celtic defence of Crookes, Williamson and Cooke managed to restrict them to long range efforts, all of which sailed high and wide. The only other moment of note was a superb piece of Giggs-like skill from Josh Howard, dragging the ball and spinning past 2 defenders. Brilliant.
The second half saw Celtic on the attack but for much of the time the final ball was lacking. Evans got on the end of a through ball but a combination of defender and keeper denied him. Soon after he was replaced by Sullivan and Cooke was moved up front to partner Jones as Wilson re-organised. On 65 minutes the changes paid dividends as Celtic burst forward and a low cross was turned into his own goal by Simon Kelly, lunging desperately to prevent Jones converting at the far post.
Andy Walker missed a great chance to equalise for Radcliffe after a good move down their right ended in him clearing the bar with a close range header.
Boro were made to pay for that miss when minutes later Sullivan found Cooke striding clear of the defence with a precision pass, and he coolly lifted the ball over the advancing keeper to open his account for Stalybridge.
Radcliffe then missed another glorious opportunity when Kissock missed the target after a great run into the box. A goal looked a certainty but when faced with only Fish to beat he dragged his shot wide. Dempsey had a couple of strikes at goal but neither came close to troubling Fish, while at the other end Jones and Green both went close but were denied by Hurst.