Blackman saves the day with late header

Slough Town

Slough Town

West (46), Blackman (87)
Stalybridge Celtic

Stalybridge Celtic

Jones (80)
League Attendance: 748 Garry Smart
Dave Russell always intended Garfield Blackman to be a supersub; unfortunately, he never worked out quite how best to do it.

Brian McDermott seems to have it sorted; the diminutive forward was on the pitch for just 15 minutes on Saturday but popped up with a vital goal to turn what might have been a dreary draw into an important three points.

Blackman, who could have signed for Russell's Walton & Hersham last week but opted to stay with the Rebels, has had a patchy season after making a blistering start back in August, but came up with the goods in a big way on Saturday.

The gritty visitors looked to have nicked a cheeky point, but a bold break down the right from Garry Smart (a full-back signed from Hayes in midweek and making his debut alongside former Leyton Orient winger Andy Gray, also now a full-time Rebel) ended with a head height ball into the box. Blackman, the smallest player in the squad, leaped over everyone to nod it into the net past goalkeeper Willetts.

The first half in particular seemed unremittingly bleak; a case of steel winning out over skill, but Slough showed enough grit to match Stalybridge at their own game.

Smart played an accomplished 90 minutes standing in for the injured Kenny Sansom, while Gray had his moments too despite being very tightly marked.

It took a good 25 minutes for any reading on the excitement scale, however; West slipped it inside to Pickett, whose shot from a few yards struck the 'keeper's legs. Just a minute later, Brian Lee lost his grip on Arnold and Burke's eventual cross never got the light touch it required to send it spinning into the net.

The rest of it was as scrappy as the mud-ridden pitch. The ball was lodged in midfield and there was little advancement down the flanks, the visitors' physical approach often putting up a brick wall to progress. Andy Clement's free-kick just over the top of the bar was a rare highlight.

That all changed quickly after the break. The Rebels came out fighting, saw their way through the defence, and within 30 seconds Mark Fiore crossed from the left, Gray got a light knock-on and the ball dropped nicely for West to smash in from six yards out.

Lee Harvey could have had a second with a header requiring clearance off the line, but a similar effort from Hall scraped the bottom of Ben Miles' post from a corner. The 'keeper also kept a Frain effort nicely away from the net.

It all came down to character; where McDermott's side seem to succeed is that they can put their problems behind them and come back into things. On 80 minutes, Jones got up above Harvey and headed into the net for an equaliser and that might have been it.

But the final minutes saw an onslaught on the Stalybridge end and Blackman was in the right place at the right time to capitalise; a few months or maybe even weeks ago, the second goal might have gone the other way that, at least, shows great progress.

Stalybridge Celtic Lineup


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