Once again the team was threadbare with the continuing injuries to Dan , Josh , and Marcus and the absence today of our keeper Mark and Joe H and we were therefore very lucky to welcome Joe W back from The Greens and Luke S who is always reliable to stand in as keeper . Not withstanding this the lads started really brightly controlling the game with crisp passing and creating a number of good chances before Middleton started to become the dominant team due to their workrate and desire and resorting to a long ball in atrocious conditions with the pitch getting worse by the minute and defenders unable to turn quickly as they pumped the ball over the top as our defence got deeper and deeper facing a strong wind .
Their first goal was as a result of our Achilles heel , slack marking and a Middleton forward getting in behind us to score . When will we learn this valuable lesson which results in goals against us time and again . Their second goal came from a poor clearance but in no way would I associate blame against Luke as stand in keeper and in fact I must praise his ability to play in multiple positions without complaint . He really is a team player .
At half time we highlighted their work rate and determination from 11 men which was key to their game and asked the same from our lads . We also said the game would be in our favour now due to the weather particularly the strong wind now being in our favour . We also asked the centre halves to stop dropping deeper and to allow their forwards to run offside which worked a treat within a couple of minutes of the restart .
The lads got their reward very soon with Oisin who is absolutely outstanding at present getting the ball 15 yards from their box with only one thing in his mind as he drove forward and from five yards outside of the box he let fly perfectly to score a cracker in the top left corner and the keepers right . You will not see a better goal in the premier league this weekend . It will only be a matter of time before he gets noticed once again as he is playing at such a high level consistently . Our equaliser came from Lewis doing what we asked and that is getting behind the opposition and the finish was good as he fired low to the keepers right with sufficient power to beat him .
Next week sees the return fixture and if the weather is like today it will be on 3g for sure !

With Dan , Rowie , Josh out injured or sick my promise was to retain Ben and Luke as starters after their performances in the last game . With a powerful centre forward Joel dropped into the back four and throughout the game Rob and Joel kept him quiet getting to him quickly and stifling his game .

Luke and Joe Hull sat in front of the back four which left Oisin on the right , Jack in the centre and Marcus on the left with Lewis up front in place of the late turning up Morgs .

From the start and throughout the game Unsworth in fourth place were the better team against Curzon Ashton who have moved into second place in recent weeks .

Marcus lobbed the keeper after intercepting the ball and the only surprise was that the ball was not nestling in the back of the net . Joe Hull shortly after had a good effort saved by their keeper who scrambled the ball away for a corner .

It was no surprise that Unsworth took the lead with Jack finding Marcus with a fine pass and Marcus finishing nicely . Shortly after for me we put the game to bed when Joel towered above everyone from a corner to make it 2-0 with what is becoming a trademark goal from an Oisin corner and it was this score at half time .

We said to the lads that more of the same and hardwork could give us a 4 or 5-0 victory but that we must ensure no early goal against us .

Sure enough the lads met the challenge and with a poor back header giving Lewis the opportunity to run on to and finish easily it gave us a further safety net to win a big game .

The only way Curzon were going to score was from a penalty in all honesty as Mark was largely unused except for clearances on the edge of our box .

A foul on their player in the box allowed their best player to step up to meet the challenge with a strike down the middle .

However there was to be no comeback as Oisin put in a fine ball for Ben to run onto in his stride to finish nicely to the keepers right and shortly after the game was over when Oisin mesmerised the opposition to put in Lewis who made the perfect decision to put in Morgan who kept up his run of goals to make it 5-1 . We will need these goals if Marcus is out for any time with a recurring injury .

Undeservedly Curzon got another penalty from a poor decision from the ref for handball to make it 5-2 but all in all a super display with some fine performances from Ben , Rob , Jack , Oisin and Lewis in particular but the whole team deserve a pat on the back as we move to challenge for 2nd spot in the league .

Lets keep it going now to keep us at the right tempo to make the most of two cup quarter finals over the coming months .

 

The Reds started with a bare twelve with Dan injured and Joe H and Rowie sick to leave Ben at left back and Luke S in front of the back four having impressed in training recently with his super attitude and work rate .
The match began with a one minute silence to mark the passing of Marks granddad who would have loved this game and been applauding from above for both the team and Mark who pulled off a number of great saves . We will miss his friendly face on the side lines at most of our games .
The first half saw possession fairly equal with both sides pressing but it must be said that Unsworth had the best chances with Mark largely unworked except for long distance shots .
Our first real effort saw a great throw from Mark put in Marcus who found Morgan but their keeper saved really well from a cracking strike . This was followed shortly after with Lewis putting in Marcus for their number 1 to again pull off a fine save .
Our last chance saw Lewis cross to Marcus who could not quite get in the power on his head he would have liked and the keeper made an easy save . This left a stalemate at half time at 0-0 .
Our discussion at half time was to just keep the work rate going but to take the chances with our quality as we really should have been ahead at half time but it was pleasing in terms of effort and attitude .

With Dan , Josh , and Jack out injured and no Morgan the team still appeared capable of matching Stalybridge who of late are our bogey team .
Throughout the game the backline looked solid with Dev having his best game and run of the season and looking back to his best , Rob sweeping up throughout and winning a tackle in a fashion he was never going to lose and both Luke and Ben deputising really well so much so that they will be starting next week against Failsworth Dynamoes .
In front Joel played his first game here as his game on the ground has improved no end though it would take time to adjust to the position but we felt we needed more bite in this position and a physical presence which he did in abundance supported by Joe H .
Their goal came from an obvious push by Joel which provided an easy opportunity to put a shot on goal and they picked up the pieces to make it 1-0 .
Our best effort came from the dominant Dev whipping in a super ball for Marcus to head at the keeper who pulled off a super save .
Our half time team talk was quite simply to get stuck in more as again Stalybridge were winning far too many challenges with ourselves not prepared to get hurt . Also we wanted the two wide players to get in behind their back four as far too often they were too deep when collecting the ball .
The effort from the lads was always there in the game though we did lack cutting edge up front predominantly as Morgan has been on fire holding the ball up really well to bring others in the game as well as scoring recently .
That battling got us a penalty as we put pressure on Celtic a number of times and a silly handball got us back in the game as Oisin stood tall under the pressure with only five minutes to go to back up his fine display to give us the equaliser putting the penalty to the keepers right but with power to guarantee the goal . Man of the Match has to go to Dev though who needs to keep this form and desire going now , Great to watch .

In our first Quarter Final of the season the lads started brightly especially in the opposition half and it was no surprise that our player of the season to date , Oisin , put us in front from a quality free kick from three yards outside the box which left the keeper floundering with the net rippling from his effort .
Then some Rowie magic left all in his wake but no options to pass to from a static midfield who should be busting a gut to get in the box every time he has the ball .
A long range Marcus effort added to our superiority on chances .
That said some cracks were starting to show especially when their midfield broke into forward runs who often ran into danger areas unmarked despite us having superiority in numbers which shows a lack of personal responsibility and talking which is something we must work on .
It was from one of these runs that a Stalybridge player got in between two of our players from a long ball but it must be said he took it really well on the chest to put it in his stride and to finish with aplomb . Mark also made a super save from a similar situation .
At the other end Morgan who is having his best spell in a while put in Lewis who almost put in Marcus on the edge of the six yard box .
Then our first moment of hesitancy in the tackle cost us when Rob brought down a Stalybridge forward for a sure fire penalty which they finished really well to make it 2-1 at half time .
At half time we asked the lads to pick up the runners from midfield and to take individual responsibility to pick up a blue shirt but in all honesty in the first half only three or four players were playing at the level required to win a quarter final with many nowhere near their best after the holidays .
The second half continued where we left off with hesitancy in the tackle from Josh and Joe H costing us dear as the opposition took full advantage to increase the lead to 4-1 as we gave it to Stalybridge on a plate . Our inability to tackle and take a hit is costing us dear which is why we have to play with a 4-2-3-1 formation when ideally we would want to play a 4-1-4-1 or 4-1-3-2 formation . The boys really do need to get stuck in but nice lads they are .
Quite rightly Unsworth got a consolation as Oisin put in a fine ball for Morgan to finish nicely and indeed the latter should have finished an easier chance rather than showboating and trying to lob the keeper instead of doing the simple thing in passing it into the net to give the Reds a chance of a draw they did not really deserve as Stalybridge who seem to be our bogey team were definitely fitter and more willing to make the extra effort required to win big games .