|Celtic moved two points away from
clinching the Northern Premier League title in front of the largest non-league crowd this
season, and for many a season.
The 3,708 spectators
(about 1200 for Celtic) got to see a rollercoaster of a match which had everything
including the Sky Non-League show cameras. Due to the sheer number, kick off was delayed
by quarter of an hour as people struggled through the insufficient turnstiles.
Although Celtic had first sight of goal when they won a
corner which resulted in Locke crossing in. Cuss, the Emley keeper, fumbled the cross, but
Parr stabbed the loose ball wide of the net.
It was then Emley's turn to attack the net in this end to
end match. And they showed how it should be done. A free kick just inside the Celtic third
was whipped in by Hatto. The big central defender, David had come up, and found himself
unmarked at the back post, making his header simplicity itself.
A goal down is not enough to make this Celtic side roll
over, and Sullivan caused problems for most of the match, which Hatto dealt with by
dragging and chopping the striker down towards the end of the game, Sullivan had to be
replaced with one too many knocks.
Hatto got his reprieve from the first one, when Sullivan
fired well over the bar.
Moments later, Pickford, Parr and Bauress wove intricate
triangles around the Emley defence, but when Pickford's ball came in Jones headed it over.
At the other end, Prendaghast was causing many problems for
Ward and Filson, and he managed to get several crosses in. The normally prolific Bambrook
wasted his opportunities, firing wide and over.
When Ward was not shepherding Prendaghast, he was putting
in sublime crosses, or in one case, a lovely curling shot that deserved a goal, but Cuss
was aware of the danger, and plucked it out of the air.
Whilst Sullivan had Hatto to deal with, Jones had Wood, who
pulled Jones down near the corner flag. But again, Celtic could do nothing with the
swinging Bauress ball and it was cleared, allowing Emley to put the defence under pressure
again. But Celtic did not allow the Emley speed men of Prendaghast and Wood enough room to
cause any real problems.
Celtic had a pressure free spell during the middle of the
first half, in which Pickford put a ball right through the heart of the six yard box. Parr
made enough space for a shot, but blazed over, and a Locke throw into the heart of the box
saw Bauress put it over the bar. It looked like Celtic were never going to find the back
of the net.
Then Sullivan got booked, admittedly so did the root of the
problem, Wood. In order to protect the ball, Wood knelt with a leg on either side of it,
and looked quite content to stay there. Sullivan reached between his legs to extract the
ball, and as he did so, Wood gave an almighty cry and threw himself to the ground
clutching his head!
After a consultation with the linesman, Sullivan got a
yellow card for a dangerous tackle (!) and Wood for playacting, presumably.
Celtic were then put under the cosh again by an Emley side
that has a lot of quality. And they can rue the chances they missed. Darren Day (taking a
break from appearing in the West End ;-) got on the end of a criss crossing move but his
shot was weak, and allowed Ingham to scoop it up, and then moments later, Nazha was put
under pressure by Filson, and his shot went well wide of the target.
With an echo of the previous fixture, Celtic went a man
down just before half time.
Parr and Wilson jumped for the ball, and Wilson elbowed the
Glossop lad across the cheek, as they came down, Parr raised his arms, and pushed Wilson.
The referee had no choice but to give Parr a straight red.
The half ended with the ball still zipping from end to end,
Cuss caught a Bauress free kick resulting from Pickford being dragged down, and Scott's
curler from Sullivan being hacked down by Hatto went over. Fortunately, Emley were having
similar problems in scoring, as Day proved when he stole in unmarked onto a Hatto cross
only to head over from a yard, if that.
Celtic steamed into the second half, but still had problems
in the penalty area. Sullivan was put through by a great ball from Jones, flicked over the
defence, and Sullivan raced goal bound with two defenders chasing him, but unlikely to
catch him. Cuss came off his line well, and Sullivan tried a chip, but the keeper
smothered the ball, and held on as Sullivan had to leap over him.
Sullivan was again brought down by Hatto, and this time
Bauress fired straight at the keeper. Cuss fumbled, as he had several times before, and
Filson was on hand to stab in the loose ball. He ran to the Celtic contingent at the touch
line and received due appreciation!
It was obvious that Celtic felt they could go onto win this
tie. Ward let loose a thunderous shot from thirty yards which was deflected for a corner.
Bauress put it in, causing mayhem at the back for Emley, as there seemed to be Celtic
shirts everywhere. Eventually they cleared it for a corner, only to see Locke throw it
right back in. It eventually came to Scott, who put it back in, only for Day to clear the
Emley lines, setting Hatto off on a run. Pickford was on hand to remove the ball from
Hatto. Professional foul said the referee handing Syd a yellow card.
Hatto then got his just desserts as he again
upended Sullivan, sending the wing man spinning. He got a yellow card. The resulting ball
in was headed wide by Filson, but the goal kick landed right at Pickford's feet. e
threaded the ball through to Sullivan, who squared it to Jones.
Jones unleashed a brute of a shot from twenty five yards
which sent Cuss flying across his goal in a vain attempt to reach it. Bottom corner, 2-1
Steve Jones had done it again!
Emley saw the title slipping away from them, and to give
them credit, they managed to claw their way back into the game. Though Day needs to get
new boots as again his shot from distance was weak enough for Ingham to finish his cup of
tea before he picked it up. Nazha was substituted by super-sub Tonk, as the international
was getting no change from Crookes and Locke, and Wilson was replaced by Wilson
Between times, Sullivan earned two free kicks after the
hack and slash Hatto but Bauress fired over both times. Possibly in attempt to break the
windows of the Legoland Hospitality suite.
The new Wilson stated his case by getting onto a Bambrook
cross, but he could only head wide.
With new impetus Emley threw men froward to grab the
equaliser. Having something of a record for grabbing late goals, Celtic knew what to
expect. Filson granted them a corner, and then Crookes deflected it for a second, before
Ingham had to tip the ball over his crossbar for a third. Finally Emley wasted their
corner by sending it arcing over the penalty area and off the other side for a goal kick.
With the minutes ticking down, and a final substitution by
Emley to replace the dangerous Prendaghast with an ineffectual Jones, Emley looked
desperate but dangerous. With a lot of men committed forward, Sullivan again broke their
offside trap, and raced down Cuss' throat. Again, the keeper made a fantastic block to
deny Sullivan, and Sully could only put the rebound wide (agonisingly close though).
With so many men forward, and Celtic a man down, it was
inevitable that Emley would get shots on goal, and they brought out the best in Ingham,
who pulled off a trio of great stops, the best of which was to deny Day a powerful headed
shot after he had beaten his marker.
As the end of the match drew closer, Sullivan received one
too many tackles from his shadow and had to be replaced, though Emley took a free kick
before the referee could see the sub flag, fortunately it was cleared, unfortunately
Sullivan was no longer able to run, and latch onto the clearance.
Finally Cooke came on, and his first job was to try and get
onto the end of a corner, but it was cleared, allowing Tonk to break, and slot the ball to
the left of Ingham's outflung arm.
Emley had got their equaliser with two minutes left on the
But a draw was not good enough. With a draw Celtic could
win the league by beating Droylsden and Burscough, hardly two of the leagues high flyers!
Emley continued to press. Emley's Jones blasted just over
the net from just outside the box, and Day headed inches wide from a Hatto cross were the
best of several Emley efforts, the majority of which sailed harmlessly wide.
Jones had run himself into the ground as the ninety minutes
were up and past. Wilson brought Charles on. Charles immediately latched onto a Scott
ball, and lifted it over the Emley defence. Cooke raced through, down Cuss' throat.
Again the keeper was quickly off his line.
Showing greater maturity than Sullivan, Cooke waited until
the keeper was past the penalty spot before lobbing the ball over the keeper, and under
the bar. Cuss could only turn and watch as the most spectacular goal finished off the most
As the referee blew the final whistle, the Celtic fans
mobbed the pitch, congratulating the players, and tearing one or two shirts.
Emley probably feel aggrieved at the result, and perhaps
feel that they deserve a draw. But at the end of the day, Celtic did not crumble under
frequent intense pressure, and got six points off Emley this season. Perhaps Emley do not
need to do the huge amount of work to get their ground up to Conference standard any more.
The Championship race is not yet over. Two points are still
required, three if Emley can beat Droylsden 23-0. Celtic cannot afford to lose