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Late penalty heartbreak for Lancaster City at Stalybridge Celtic

Lancaster City went down 1-0 to Stalybridge on Saturday. Photo by Phil Dawson (@PhotosbyPhilD).

Lancaster City were dealt a late blow to their hopes of remaining unbeaten after losing at Stalybridge Celtic on Saturday.

City looked set to be heading for a third consecutive draw in the Northern Premier League but a penalty late in the day for the home side, converted by Celts’ striker Raul Correia, meant that the Dollies would be heading back to North Lancashire with nothing.

It was despite them having the best chances and being the dominant side in large parts of the game.

Lancaster City felt that they themselves should’ve had a penalty for a Stalybridge handball in the first half but appeals for a spot kick were waved away by the referee.

An end-to-end first half was followed up by a second half where the Dollies pushed for a breakthrough. There was a brief scare when City captain Andy Teague went down injured but he was quickly back on his feet and carried on for the rest of the game.

Stalybridge Celtic were awarded with a penalty in the 85th minute when Teague’s hand made contact with the ball after Cameron Darkawah, who had only come on five minutes earlier, crossed it into the danger area. Raul Correia made it 1-0 from 12 yards out and, although City had one or two late pushes for an equaliser along with another shout for a penalty of their own, the game ended in victory for the hosts. Niall Cowperthwaite was the Dolly Blues’ man of the match.

“I would say I can’t believe we’ve lost the game but I can because we didn’t take our chances”, said manager Mark Fell to the Lancaster City website.

“They (Stalybridge Celtic) have had one chance from a free kick on the edge of the box which Jordan Eastham caught, and then a penalty.”

Fell was dubious about the decision to award the home team the crucial spot kick, saying “I don’t think anyone knows the handball rule, to be honest. I’m not sure how, when your back is towards goal, your hands cannot be away from your body.”

Reflecting on how he felt his side should’ve had a penalty themselves, also for handball, at 1-0 down, he said: “There’s one, exactly the same (as Stalybridge’s penalty appeal) in injury time, but the referee says he’s blindsided so he can’t see it.

"I’m frustrated, but it doesn’t excuse our own performance because I’ve just said to the players that no one played badly, but no one took the game by the scruff of the neck.

“I’m absolutely convinced that if you play that game 10 times, we probably win nine of them.”

Next up for Fell and his squad, it is a return to home turf on Tuesday when they play Radcliffe at the Giant Axe, and he’s already confirmed there will be changes to the starting 11.

“We’re going to have to make changes because if we’re not scoring enough goals, we’ve got to do something differently.

“I’m sure it’ll be a case of when you win your first game, the rest follow suit.”

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