Lancaster City 1-0 Stalybridge Celtic

Tom Kilifin.
Tom Kilifin.

Even the most optimistic of Lancaster City fans would have been hesitant to predict an unbeaten opening month to the season in the Evo-Stik Premier Division.

Yet, as full-time blew on Monday afternoon, Phil Brown’s side had the accolade of the only remaining unbeaten team in the league.

Tom Kilifin’s first-half goal was all that was needed to seal the points in what was, in truth, an ugly win for the Dolly Blues against a former Conference North foe in Stalybridge Celtic.

Returning to a 4-4-2 formation with Kilifin partnered by Oliver Wood up front, City faced up against a Celtic side who had scored just two goals since their relegation.

Their defensive style of play, with two lines of bodies behind the ball, showed why they are rooted to the bottom of the table.

It was up to the Dolly Blues to break down this stubborn defence but throughout the 90 minutes they created enough clear-cut chances to get a win that could and should have been by a greater margin.

The opening goal on 20 minutes was created by the quick feet of winger Scott Harries.

Cutting inside past two defenders from the left flank his curling shot from 20 yards struck the inside of the post. The ball rebounded into the path of Kilifin who got enough contact on the stretch to force the ball goalwards into an empty net to open the scoring.

The best chance the visitors created fell on the stroke of half-time.

Forward Bailey Jones collected the ball in midfield and drove at the City defence before unleashing a powerful low drive from 25 yards that looked to be bound for the bottom left corner. Josh Powell was on hand however to produce a superb fingertip save and deflect the ball onto the post and keep Lancaster ahead.

The second half produced two golden chances for Brown’s side to put the game to bed, but they were both squandered in spectacular fashion.

First on 53 minutes Ricky Mercer skied a shot from six yards over the bar from a corner, whilst Kilifin could only head Harries’ cross from the left flank over the bar when unmarked on the penalty spot.

At the other end of the pitch the Dolly Blues’ defence was at its very best to keep the visitors at arm’s length for the rest of the game.

Stalybridge committed only a few more players forward as the game wore on, not enough to open the game up for City to capitalise on the counter attack or for the visitors to create another scoring chance.

Just the second win of an unbeaten campaign confirms that after six games Brown’s side are well above par in the first two thirds of the pitch.

If Lancaster can begin to create more chances and tap into more goals they have all the potential of being a real force at this level.

Lancaster City: Powell 7, Steel 8, Mercer 7, Westwood 7, Clark 8, Winder 7, Wills 8, Carney 7, Harries 8, Wood 6, Kilifin 8.

Star Man: Simon Wills - Won every midfield battle.