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Worcester City 2 Stalybridge Celtic 1
Updated 10:38am Monday 3rd March 2014 in Sport
WORCESTER City might not be safe from relegation but this victory went a long way to ensuring their survival.
Aaron Williams’ headed goal 13 minutes after coming on as a second-half substitute proved decisive after Paul Ennis’ superb free-kick had cancelled out Daniel Nti’s early opener.
The win, City’s first in three games, was greeted with jubilation from players, management and fans alike, the magnitude of the success plain for all to see.
In beating a team below them in the Skrill North table, City put further daylight between themselves and the bottom three.
Never mind that Satlybridge hadn’t won for three months, after slipping up at Gainsborough Trinity, putting three points on the board was everything for the Blue and Whites.
There are now 11 points separating Worcester from the drop-zone and, although they have played more games than those below them, it is Carl Heeley’s side who have the points in the bag.
They are the ones looking up the table rather than down and can face tricky looking away trips to Barrow and North Ferriby United with less trepidation.
Saturday’s Aggborough encounter wasn’t a classic by any means, but that won’t bother Worcester.
Key to their success was veteran centre-half Wayne Thomas, whose arrival until the end of the season could cement City’s place in non-league’s second tier.
Wobbling slightly after Jamie Grimes’ recall by Kidderminster Harriers, with back-to-back defeats, Thomas’ presence restored some belief.
The 34-year-old, with more than 500 Football League appearances under his belt for the likes of Burnley and Southampton, was dominant throughout and gave the Stalybridge strikers a torrid time.
Such assurance seemed to act as a calming influence on the rest of the team, safe in the knowledge that if they stumbled, Thomas, alongside Graham Hutchison, would be there to pick up the pieces.
That proved to be the case as, Ennis’ unstoppable free-kick aside, Ryan Boot, in for the injured Jose Veiga, had little else to do.
At the other end of the pitch, Nti’s return to form continued with his second goal is as many games to take his tally for the season to 12.
Played in by Aaron Brown, who looked out of sorts in a more forward role, following Tyler Weir’s quick throw-in, Nti did well to hold off Jeremy Thierry and prod the ball past Danny East.
But the hosts paid the price for giving away too many cheap fouls and Ennis, minutes after forcing Boot to tip over from outside the area with a free-kick, beat the 19-year-old all ends up from a similar situation.
The second-half was largely scrappy until Ethan Moore fired a shot on the turn agonisingly wide of East’s goal.
Brown made way for Williams and he pounced with 10 minutes left to head home from Steven Leslie’s delightfully dinked cross.
It was enough to give City the points and move them one step closer to survival.