Match Preview :- Droylsden - Saturday April 29th, 2006 (15:00:00)
It all comes down to this game: the last game of the season against local rivals Droylsden, at the Butchers Arms (kick off 3pm), for a place in the play-offs. Droylsden are three points ahead of Celtic in fourth, a position Celtic could take by winning by two clear goals. A win of one clear goal wouldn't be a disaster, but it would mean that Harrogate would have to fail to win at Stafford (a draw would be enough for us).

Droylsden have visited Bower Fold twice this season, and did not beat us in either game, earning a valuable point (as it transpired) when they came in December and exiting the Trophy at our hands just a week later. Can we beat them again? This will be John Reed's first visit to the Butchers Arms as Celtic manager, as the last time we played them was back at the start of the 2004 season when Dave Miller was manager, and we held Droylsden to a 0-0 draw. We have to go back to May Day, 2001 for the last time we won there, a game that lives long in Celtic fans' memories as it was the day we were promoted to the Conference.

The forms of the two teams are vastly different this season. We have won just four games away from home this season, with our last away win in mid-March when we beat Worcester. Droylsden's home record is impressive, with their last home defeat in December, when Workington beat them 3-2. They have not lost at home by two goals all season, and that is the margin that we need if we are to ensure our place in the play-offs. Taking these into account, the automated prediction is going for a 3-2 win for Droylsden. Celtic will obviously have to turn this game into a home match, and that's where the fans come in. Droylsden have been beaten away from home recently, losing 2-0 at Hucknall, and 2-1 at Workington, so they are by no means invincible.

Their main danger man is obviously Terry Fearns, seventeen of whose twenty-five goals have come at home, and eight of which have come from the spot. All Droylsden's ten penalties (the most converted by any team in the league) have come at home, and they had one in each of their last five matches, so it's something the Celtic defence need to be aware of going into the game. Fearns is the third top scorer in the league, three goals behind Lee Ellington and streets ahead of Robbie Talbot, whose eleven goals put him joint fifteenth in the league goal-scorers chart; joint fifteenth with Neil Prince and Paul Sykes. The two strike forces on show are two of the top three attacks in the league, Droylsden score 1.9 goals per game, and Celtic 1.8; both are behind Northwich who have a phenomenal 2.3 goals per game this season.

Droylsden have scored in all of their home matches (failing to score in just four away matches), and kept five clean sheets at home (and three away). In their last five home matches, they have scored sixteen goals, including a 6-1 demolition of Lancaster. They have conceded just four, including a clean sheet in their last home match; the 3-0 win over Worcester.

With no outstanding suspensions, and the only injury to defender James Tandy, Droylsden are nearly at full strength. In their last match, they lined up as:
1. Paul Phillips
2. Jimmy Williams
3. Danny Warner
4. Steve Halford
5. Carl Ruffer
6. Gareth Morris
7. Garry Burke
8. Kevin Lynch
9. Terry Fearns
10. Robbie Talbot
11. Ian Fitzpatrick

Celtic have suffered a few knocks, but the excellent physio team at Celtic that has kept us ticking along all season will no doubt work their magic again to put out a good squad of players. In our last game, the 2-1 win over Barrow, we lined up as:
1. Paul Pettinger
2. Grant Black
3. Scott Maxfield
4. Mark Barnard
5. Paul Sykes
6. Ashley Winn
7. Phil Eastwood
8. Mark Atkins
9. Lee Ellington
10. Jody Banim
11. Neil Prince

There is no question about it; this match has become as important as the Wakefield Emley game in 2001. We need to win by two goals. We are capable of it, and with a good backing from Celtic fans we can turn this into a home game. If ever Celtic needed our support, it is for this match. Our excellent home form was marred by Worcester, let us see if we can mar Droylsden's.
Distance: 5
Time: 15 minutes

Drive down Stamford street until it becomes Manchester New road, past B&Q.
The road forks by Audenshaw library, take the right hand fork, followed by an immediate left.
This is Droylsden road.
Stay on this road to some traffic lights with Droylsden precinct on your right.
Turn right here.
Just across the traffic lights, you will see the Butchers Arms pub.
The club is behind it.