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Unbeaten home record vanishes
10:37am Monday 15th October 2012 in Sport By Steve Carley - Midlands Sports Journalist of the Year 2013, @stevecarleyWN
IF ever there was a game for which the phrase ‘snatching defeat from the jaws of victory’ was appropriate, this was it.
Worcester City produced their best performance of the season, yet left St George’s Lane empty-handed and with their unbeaten home record at an end.
Leading 1-0 at the break courtesy of a delightful team move that involved most of the players before Tyler Weir picked out Danny Glover at the far post, few would have predicted the eventual outcome.
By the end of the match, City were playing with nine men and had spurned enough chances to have comfortably seen off their opponents, themselves finishing with 10 men following a dramatic second period.
Centre-half Lee Ayres, preferred to captain Stuart Whitehead alongside Jacob Rowe, walked for pulling back Mitchell Austin as the last man seven minutes after half-time, and Adam Pepper despatched the penalty.
Rob Elvins joined his team-mate in departing before the final whistle after a solid display in central midfield, and as a replacement at the back in the reshuffle, was spoiled by a second bookable offence in stoppage-time.
Referee Michael D’Aguilar also showed a second yellow to Celtic’s Austin with seconds remaining for a reckless lunge on keeper Matt Sargeant, although the challenge was worthy of a straight red.
It took the gloss off what had been an entertaining match and City will no doubt feel hard done by the decisions that went against them.
But suggestions that D’Aguilar cost City three points would be wide of the mark as Carl Heeley's team created more than enough openings to have killed Stalybridge off, even with 10 men.
The official, who might have given a second-half penalty against Celtic for handball, went from being lenient in the first-half to card-happy in the second, but it was not his fault City could not find the back of the net.
In the final 15 minutes alone, Matt Breeze was twice denied by keeper Alex Cairns, the second time when the midfielder was in a one-on-one situation.
Tom Thorley also found himself in a similar position on the opposite side of the penalty box, but was again thwarted by the keeper.
The hosts then let their guard down at an 88th-minute corner and an unmarked Kristian Platt headed home the winner.
It seems strange to criticise City for their failures in front of goal following a first-half that was without doubt the best 45 minutes they have produced this term.
Although it only yielded one goal, the largest crowd of the season, and second four-figure gate in a week, were treated to a sumptuous display of passing that was a delight for all to watch.
But, for all their passing, City failed to convert their chances and Stalybridge, no matter how fortuitously, took advantage.