A solitary second half goal from Stalybridge Celtic left Hednesford Town still searching for their first points of 2019 – with the Pitmen now left looking worryingly over their shoulders at the relegation zone.
Hednesford were able to welcome back Jed Davies into midfield after he had missed the last three matches through injury, while new signing Jud Ellis had to settle for a place on the bench.
Meanwhile Stalybridge included two players in their line-up who had actually started 2019 as Pitmen, with Dan Cockerline and Michael Howard making their debuts for Celtic.
After an even start it was the hosts who forced the first effort on target in the eighth minute with Andy Scott’s flamboyant overhead kick being easily dealt with by goalkeeper Mate Deczki.
The Pitmen created their first chance in the 11th minute Matt Dodd worked his way to the byline and his cross deflected up onto the crossbar before being cleared away.
Seven minutes later a long ball down the middle saw an even better chance coming the way of Dodd with Paddy Wharton making a smart save.
Hednesford went close again in the 21st minute as Reece King saw his header saved by Wharton.
In the 35th minute Celtic’s Andy Scott ran across the edge of the box before unleashing a shot that went just wide of the Pitmen goal.
Hednesford had two further chances before the break with Lewis Archer heading narrowly wide in the 42nd minute before Osebi Abadaki forced another save from Wharton.
Stalybridge almost took advantage of a Pitmen defensive blunder in the 48th minute as Charlie Gatter failed to clear the ball but Cockerline couldn’t finish.
Two minutes later a corner wasn’t cleared by the Pitmen with former player Michael Howard blazing an effort over the crossbar.
The hosts would take the lead though in the 65th minute when Howard picked out Scott Bakkor who slid the ball home from six yards out.
Hednesford looked to respond with Andre Johnson joining Archer up front as the Pitmen looked to put more pressure on.
Stalrybridge forced a corner in the 84th minute which was scrambled away by the Hednesford backline as they looked to kill off the game.
It wouldn’t matter though as although Hednesford had plenty of the ball they did very little with it and in the end the solitary second half goal would be enough.
Stalybridge Celtic: Wharton, Marx, Nyaupembe, Wilkinson (Dent 60), Smalley, Clarke, Bakkor, Rule, Cockerline, Scott (Wolfenden 79), Howard (Kengni 68)
Sub not used: Winterbottom
Hednesford Town: Deczki, Melbourne, Cooper, Harvey, Gatter, Bailey, Dodd (Hallahan 71), King, Archer, Davies (Johnson 71), Abadaki
Subs not used: Veiga, Misambo, Ellis