Harrogate Town 2-1 Stalybridge: Late Brendon Daniels magic puts play-off bid back on track
Harrogate Town 2-1 Stalybridge Celtic
Brendon Daniels scored a dramatic winner as Harrogate Town got their promotion bid back on track with a 2-1 win over Stalybridge Celtic.
Daniels’ deep free-kick bent into the top corner three minutes inside second half stoppage time to send the home crowd into raptures at the CNG Stadium.
An own goal courtesy of Celtic defender Dave Wright had given Town a half-time lead but a clanger from goalkeeper Peter Crook allowed Chris Simms to level matters on the hour mark.
It looked like Town were heading towards a seventh match without a win before England C international Daniels bagged his 17th goal of the campaign.
Following Saturday’s drab 3-1 derby defeat at Bradford Park Avenue, Weaver made a succession of changes to his Town line-up.
Lewis Turner returned from injury at right full-back, while Paul Thirlwell partnered Danny Ellis, player of the month for March, in central defence.
Andy Gascoigne was handed only his second start in the league supporting lone striker Jordan Thewlis while Lloyd Kerry returned from suspension to partner Warren Burrell.
Paul Clayton, Tom Platt, Luke Foster, Mason Warren and Jack Emmett had to settle for places on the bench.
A misjudgement from Ellis almost handed Stalybridge the advantage as Chris Simms found his way into the Town box and produced a sprawling save from Peter Crook.
That was Stalybridge’s only meaningful opportunity of the opening half as Town looked the more likely to break the deadlock.
Joe Colbeck forced a strong save from Celtic goalkeeper Tony McMillan with Gascoigne’s follow up deflected wide.
Ellis then met Daniels’ corner with a powerful header but it was blocked by teammate Warren Burrell out for a goalkick.
The traffic was all heading in one direction and Daniels flashed a sweetly-struck volley across goal before Gascoigne smashed wide from the edge of the area.
Thewlis had the best opening of the first half hour but after bursting through alone from Daniels’ throughball, he lifted an attempted curler over the bar.
That chance seemed to sum up run of six matches without a goal from open play.
But within a minute, Weaver’s men had the lead when Daniels’ cross was headed past his own goalkeeper by Celtic defender Dave Wright.
The Stalybridge defence were incensed by an apparent offside in the area but after consultation with his assistant, referee Billy Khatib awarded the goal.
The visitors were sent out early for the second half and like in the first period, a Town error gave them a good chance early on. Crook spilled a cross and in a crowded box, a strike goalwards went past the post.
Little fell Town’s way although Thewlis should have done better from the impressive Kerry’s lifted ball over the top.
The equaliser came following a double substitution for the visitors with Aaron Chambers and Steve Tames introduced in place of Wright and Alec Mudimu.
Aidan Chippendale’s low cross was poorly dealt with by Crook at his near post and Simms scrambled the ball home from less than a yard.
In their search of a winner, Weaver sent Paul Clayton on for the free-running Thewlis and Jack Emmett replaced Gascoigne.
The changes should have done the trick as Clayton flicked Emmett through the right channel and the winger laid on a plate to Burrell, who spooned over from the penalty spot.
Weaver made one last change as five minutes of injury time was posted, following a serious injury to Stalybridge defender John Shaw.
The late drama came three minutes into injury time. Emmett’s trickery drew a foul on the right flank and Daniels curled the ensuing sweet free-kick over the heads of all the onrushing attackers and perfectly into the top corner for his 17th goal of the campaign.
Only two minutes remained for Town to hold out and the three points were secured to maintain their place in fourth place and get their promotion bid back on track.
Video credit: Tom Feaheny