Stalybridge Celtic 2-4 Harrogate Town: Dominic Knowles scores brace on return from injury

Dominic Knowles scored twice in the second half to inspire Town to victory
Dominic Knowles scored twice in the second half to inspire Town to victory

Dominic Knowles’ return from injury inspired Harrogate Town to a 4-2 win over Stalybridge Celtic in their penultimate match of the National League campaign at Bower Fold.

Town took the lead after 11 minutes through Danny Ellis’ thumping header, but were pegged back just past the half hour mark as Luke Shiels diverted into his own net.

The relegated hosts then edged ahead as Gary Gee finished at the back post before Simon Weaver introduced Knowles with just under 20 minutes to play.

It took the returning forward just seven minutes to find the net as Knowles capitalised on the otherwise impressive Grant Shenton’s poor clearance to head into an empty net.

Knowles then made sure the points were coming home with Town three minutes from time as he ran clear of the chasing Celtic defenders, rounded the keeper and scored.

Simon Ainge added to Stalybridge’s misery with a stoppage time header to seal Town’s first win in seven.

It took Town six minutes to craft the first opportunity against their recently relegated opposition, but Celtic’s defence reacted well to block Liam Agnew’s strike.

The visitors took the lead five minutes later when Ainge headed into the path of Ellis, who managed to do the rest from close range.

Weaver’s side then had their goalkeeper to thank for keeping them ahead though, as on two occasions Peter Crook stopped one on one chances.

First Town’s stopper stood tall to keep out Danny Wilkins’ finish before keeping out James Roberts’ low strike with his feet.

It was then the turn of Crook’s opposite number to make a series of stunning saves as Shenton first blocked Agnew’s finish before keeping out Warren Burrell’s follow up attempt.

Chances were coming thick and fast, but it was a defensive error that lead to Stalybridge’s equaliser as a low left by-line cross found the net via the legs of Shiels.

Marcus Day almost instantly restored his side’s lead in the exchanges that followed, as first the striker shot over before being denied superbly by a Shenton one handed save.

As an enthralling first half drew to a close, Shenton was again on hand to keep his side level this time beating away Ainge’s header.

Celtic’s stopper started the second half in the same fine form he ended the first; keeping out Ainge’s placed header in the first chance after the restart.

The hosts then created a chance of their own on the hour mark as Kieran Dunbar connected with Porya Ahmadi’s pull back, but was inches away from finding the bottom corner.

With 20 minutes remaining, a low cross found its way to substitute Gee at the far post to finish with ease and give Stalybridge the lead.

The hosts’ lead lasted just nine minutes though as Knowles marked his return with a goal after Shenton’s headed clearance had fallen kindly to the striker to head into an empty net.

Knowles then went one better with three minutes to go, racing behind the Stalybridge defence, rounding the ‘keeper and slotting home to give Harrogate all three points.

Ainge added some gloss to the scoreline with a stoppage time header from Joe Leesley’s free kick as Town claimed their first win in seven.

Harrogate Town: Crook, Platt, Parker, Thirlwell, Shiels, Ellis, Day (Knowles 72), Burrell, Ainge, Agnew, Leesley
Subs not used: Porritt, Pittman, Lees, Elliott
Goals: Ellis 11, Knowles 79, 87, Ainge 90+3
Stalybridge: Shenton, Morton, Regan, Platt, Mather (Bishop 87), Chalmers, Dunbar, McKnight, Roberts (Ahmadi 45), Wilkins (Gee 52), Bakare
Subs not used: Ryan, O’Neill
Goals: Shiels O.G. 31, Gee 70
Referee: K Sarsfield
Attendance: 187