The following article was submitted to "The Robins' Review" of 8 March 2016


If you should dare to mention the name Danny McGoona to most Alty supporters of a certain vintage, the ensuing discussion will inevitably spotlight the quasi-legendary winger's jaw-dropping miss of an absolute sitter at Stalybridge Celtic, which transpired on this day 19 years ago.

An alarming slump that had seen them fail to record even a single victory in any of their five preceding league fixtures had seen the Robins plummet to 19th spot in the GM Vauxhall Conference league table, merely five points above the relegation zone.

Just seven days earlier, Bishop Auckland had inflicted a 1-0 FA Trophy Third Round defeat upon the Robins on that infamous afternoon when police horses had to be relocated from Old Trafford football stadium to Moss Lane in order to quell the County Durham club's contingent of deranged hooligans.

Meanwhile, Alty's equally-ailing Tameside hosts back on Saturday, 8th March 1997 had lost their previous five matches, the most recent of which had comprised an abject 5-2 surrender on home territory against Gateshead on the preceding Tuesday evening. Brian Kettle's Stalybridge side lay six places and five points above the Robins, having played three games more.

With Mark Maddox absent owing to a shin injury and both Mick Carmody and Ian Horrigan suspended, John King and Graham Heathcote selected the following line-up: (1) Matt Dickins (2) George Shepherd (3) Darren Heesom (4) Paul France (5) Ricky Harris (6) Neil Doherty (7) Stuart Terry (8) Marc Limbert (9) Tony Daws (10) Steve Carroll (11) Danny McGoona. Subs: (12) Niell Hardy (for Daws - 80 mins) (14) Mike Moore and (15) Andy Brown (for Heesom - 80 mins).

In front of 725 spectators at Bower Fold, the Robins dominated their mediocre and evidently shell-shocked opponents during the opening 45 minutes but failed to convert their superiority into at least one goal.

The outcome of the contest was to be decided by two truly bizarre incidents which occurred within the space of a couple of minutes during the second half.

Firstly, that infamous and egregious howler duly unfolded in the 63rd minute when Marc Limbert's accurate low cross rendered the hosts' debutant on-loan goalkeeper Mark Westhead powerless and presented Danny McGoona with an open goal from no more than three yards out.

Alas, the fleet-footed but notoriously erratic 21-year-old left winger only succeeded in stupefying the onlooking Alty supporters (including me!) by somehow contriving to hit the crossbar from point-blank range when it had seemed inevitable that he would put the Robins 1-0 up.

Within two minutes, the lively Stalybridge substitute Ian Arnold capitalised on Darren Heesom's fatal hesitation when Alty's left full back paused in anticipation of a throw-in being awarded near to the halfway line in front of the main stand. However, the referee's assistant ruled that the ball had not crossed the touchline, whereupon Arnold promptly sprinted away down the wing prior to crossing the ball to Celtic's unmarked leading goalscorer Brendan Burke (who would proceed to have an injury-ravaged spell at Moss Lane during the 1999/2000 season) and he then had the relatively straightforward task of netting his 14th goal of the campaign.

With only seconds of the match remaining, Alty's misery was compounded when the volatile George Shepherd senselessly elbowed Arnold in the face and deservedly received his third red card of the season (and, shamefully, the Robins' ninth of the campaign at that juncture).

Alty's ill-fated season culminated in mortifying relegation to the Unibond League after finishing at the bottom of the league table.

Ambulance paramedic Danny McGoona subsequently played for the likes of Bangor City, Caernarfon Town and Colwyn Bay, where he now resides and plays regularly for the Royal British Legion crown green bowling club.