Next up at Bower Fold are Lancaster City, with a 7.45pm kick off. Lancaster are currently fourteenth in the table, eight points and five places behind Celtic having played a game less. The previous match at the beginning of the season saw Celtic overturn a 2-0 deficit to end the game 2-2. That game was notable as Celtic?s last awarded penalty.
With Kettering and Harrogate being the only two rivals for a play off spot that will be playing, against lower positioned opposition (Alfreton and Gainsborough respectively) Celtic need another home win to keep the pressure on, and could end the day two points behind Harrogate in sixth, if results go our way, although that isn?t likely.
The form book points at three home wins for these games, with the automated prediction algorithm predicting a 3-2 win for Celtic. In the last ten years, Lancaster have only ever won once at Bower Fold, back in 2003, and in 2001 suffered one of their heaviest defeats ever, being beaten 11-0 by Celtic in the Unibond Charity Shield match.
Lancaster have lost their last seven away fixtures, their last away win coming back in January when they beat Leigh RMI, their fifth away win of the campaign; though they did win their last home game, 2-1 over Harrogate Town, one of three wins in their last four home games. Their last game saw them succumb to a 6-1 defeat at Droylsden, a game that wiped out Celtic?s goal advantage over Droylsden, giving Droylsden a goal difference of twenty-one to Celtic?s fourteen.
In the past five games overall, Lancaster have conceded thirteen goals, but have managed to score eight; so it would appear that their scoring is okay, but their defence is rocky. In their last five away games, they have conceded fifteen, whilst scoring four, suggesting that their scoring is also confined to home appearances. Having kept eight clean sheets all season (three away), whilst failing to score in eight matches (five away), this does not appear to be a new phenomenon. On average they score 1.2 goals per game away from home (1.4 overall), conceding 1.8 goals per game (1.5 overall).
Their top scorer is Alex Taylor with seventeen goals (which puts him sixth in the golden boot league). However, he has only found the net four times away from home. Most of his goals have come in the second half (eleven). This is mirrored in Lancaster?s scoring as well, with fourteen goals scored in the last ten minutes, though they have also conceded eleven in the same period. Most of the scoring against them is done in the opening half.
Celtic have the fourth best attack in the league (and the sixth best defence), so hopefully we can take advantage of Lancaster?s rocky defence, and reduce the goal difference gap again between us and Lancaster, though the most important aspect of the game is the three points. We have taken six points off just Workington this season, whilst Lancaster have taken six points off Barrow, Redditch and Leigh RMI. With the last game ending 2-2, neither side will be improving on that statistic.
With defender Joe McMahon unavailable due to a suspension picked up for ten bookings, and charismatic midfielder Andrew Bond out with an ankle injury, Lancaster?s wafer thin squad will be stretched. Against Droylsden in their 6-1 defeat, Lancaster lined up as:
1. Anthony McMillan
2. Michael Eckersley
3. Andy Scott
4. Neil Uberschar
5. Kevin Brown
6. Alan Dodd
7. Scott Greenwood
8. Ryan Elderton
9. Steven Skinner
10. Alex Taylor
11. Matthew Bailey
Celtic?s last game was the 2-1 defeat of Workington. In that we lined up as:
1. Paul Pettinger
2. Grant Black
3. Scott Maxfield
4. Mark Barnard
5. Barrie Keeling
6. Ashley Winn
7. Steve Garvey
8. Kevin Parr
9. Lee Ellington
10. Paul Sykes
11. James Turley
Mark Haran was missing thanks to a double hernia that may keep him out for the rest of the season; a massive blow.
There?s no reason we cannot win against Lancaster, anything else will put a severe strain on our ability to reach the play-offs.