Saturday sees Celtic make their penultimate road trip of the season when we travel to third placed Southport. They are three places and ten points clear of Celtic, having played a game less, on seventy points. Kickoff is 3pm, and there will be a live match centre for this game.
Southport have had a solid season this year, and have spent the entire season entrenched in the top five, with fourth their lowest position. After an unbeaten start to the season of seven games before they lost at home to Alfreton, they were top of the division, and will still be maintaining realistic hopes of automatic promotion, being only seven points behind top placed Tamworth with a game in hand, though manager Liam Watson has stated that he has conceded the title to Tamworth. Celtic are currently sixth, but with Droylsden playing away on Thursday night in Blyth, a win by three or more goals will see them replace Celtic in sixth.
We have played Southport at Bower Fold twice this season. Most recently in September, they knocked us out of the Setanta Shield with a 4-1 win, coming hot on the heels of a 1-0 win in the league at Bower Fold. Last season it was more in Celtic?s favour, with a draw at Bower Fold followed by a 3-2 win at Southport. We then met them in the play-offs, with a 1-0 win for Southport at their place, meaning the 2-1 win (Southport?s goal scored by Paul Sykes) by Celtic saw extra time, and penalties ? that Celtic ultimately went on to win thanks to stand-in keeper Martin Pearson saving Liam Blakeman?s penalty. Going further back, we have visited Southport fourteen times in the past twenty years. Southport have won eight, Celtic four and two were draws.
Southport have the best defensive record in the league, having conceded just twenty-seven goals all season. That defence has also given them the league record for the longest number of games without conceding, standing at six consecutive clean sheets, seeing them not concede a goal in the whole of February.
Southport?s top scorer this season is Ciaran Kilheeney whose fifteen goals put him sixth in the league goal scorers? chart. His closest rival for Southport?s golden boot is Steve Daly, who has eleven. They score an average of 1.6 goals per game overall (two per game at home), whilst they concede 0.8 goals per game overall (a goal per game at home). They have kept nineteen clean sheets this season, and failed to score in just four home games. Their most dangerous period is around the twenty minute mark when they have scored twelve of their fifty seven goals this season. Their most vulnerable period is the ten minutes before half time, when they have conceded five of their twenty-seven goals this season.
Southport will be without the services of Shaun Whalley, whilst James Connolly and Alan Moogan will receive fitness tests ahead of the game. They have no suspensions to worry about. In their last match, the 3-1 home win over Droylsden, Southport lined up as:
1. Tony McMillan
2. Kevin Lee
3. Matty McGinn
4. Adam Flynn
5. Earl Davis
6. Shaun Gray
7. Ashley Winn
8. Alan Moogan
9. Steve Daly
10. Ciaran Kilheeney
11. Michael Powell
Celtic have no suspension worries, and in their last match, the 2-0 defeat at home to Droylsden, lined up as:
1. Paul Phillips
2. Richard Battersby
3. Andy Smart
4. Barrie Keeling
5. Terry Barwick
6. John Hardiker
7. Steve Torpey
8. Keith Briggs
9. Alex Meechan
10. Adam Newbold
11. Matty Barlow
The automated prediction algorithm is suggesting a 2-1 for Southport. If Celtic are to reignite their own playoff hopes, then a win in Southport is vital.
Other games on Saturday:
AFC Telford United (67pts, 4th) v Redditch United (42pts, 16th)
Farsley Celtic (40pts, 18th) v Burscough (33pts, 21st)
Gateshead (73pts, 2nd) v Gainsborough Trinity (46pts, 13th)
Hucknall Town (26pts, 22nd) v Harrogate Town (56pts, 8th)
Hyde United (35pts, 20th) v Droylsden (57pts, 7th)
King?s Lynn (45pts, 14th) v Alfreton Town (66pts, 5th)
Solihull Moors (43pts, 15th) v Hinckley United (50pts, 11th)
Tamworth (77pts, 1st) v Stafford Rangers (41pts, 17th)
Vauxhall Motors (53pts, 10th) v Fleetwood Town (54pts, 9th)
Workington (48pts, 12th) v Blyth Spartans (36pts, 19th)