Match Preview :- Southport - Tuesday February 12th, 2008 (19:45:00)
Celtic face another top five side on Tuesday when Southport arrive for a re-arranged match (kick off 7:45pm). Southport are currently in fourth, three places and three points ahead of Celtic with a goal difference only four better. A win by two clear goals from Celtic would see us leap-frog Southport into fourth ? and back into the play-offs.

Southport, like Celtic, are having a bit of a wobble at the moment, and have lost their last three matches, beaten at home by Worcester, and on the road by Kettering and (most recently) Blyth. This wobble has seen them drop from second spot to fourth, and within striking distance of Celtic. Celtic will have to overcome their own wobble in order to take advantage of the six-pointer though, with three losses in the last four, and two of those at home.

Southport have the fifth best attack (one place behind Celtic) and the fifth best defence having conceded just twenty-nine goals all season. Southport are more dangerous in the second half, with thirteen of their forty-eight goals coming in the quarter of an hour after the hour mark. Their most vulnerable period is the last twenty minutes, when they have conceded thirteen of their twenty-eight goals. Their top scorer this season is Neil Prince, with six. However, with fourteen other players also on the score sheet this season, Southport?s goals are coming from all over. On average, they score 1.5 goals per game away (1.8 overall), and concede 1.3 goals per game away (1.1 overall). The average time of their first goal is forty minutes, whilst their first concede comes on forty-six minutes. They have kept just two clean sheets on the road, and failed to score in just three.

We have not met Southport yet this season, but Southport?s last visit to the Fold in the year that they were promoted into the Conference National saw them beat us 5-3 in horrendous conditions, after beating us a few days earlier in the season at Haig Avenue. The season before, the last season of the Unibond Premier, saw Celtic take all six points, with a 2-1 at home, and a magnificent defensive display at Southport, to win 3-2. Celtic?s previous win to this was ten years previously, with Southport definitely in the ascendancy, winning seven of the ten meetings, and drawing the other three. The ten prior to that were mostly Celtic, with six wins from ten meetings, one loss and three draws.

Southport are currently looking at welcoming back Paul Barratt from injury, giving them a fully fit squad for Tuesday with no suspension worries. In their last match, the 1-0 away loss at Blyth, Southport lined up as:
1. Steve Drench
2. Chris Lever
3. Danny Holmes
4. Matt Hocking
5. Kevin Lee
6. Chris Holland
7. Mark Duffy
8. Neil Sorvel
9. Neil Robinson
10. Michael Powell
11. Neil Prince

Celtic will be sweating over the fitness of Steve Payne and Barrie Keeling, but otherwise, the squad is currently suspension free (though Paul Sykes is only one yellow card shy of a two match ban). In our 2-0 loss away at Harrogate, Celtic lined up as:
1. Paddy Gamble
2. Ashley Woolliscroft
3. Andy Smart
4. Garry Burke
5. Ashley Winn
6. Paul Sykes
7. Lee Ellington
8. Terry Barwick
9. Chris Hall
10. Matty Barlow
11. Alex Meechan

The automated prediction algorithm cannot separate Celtic and Southport, and is suggesting a 1-1 draw. With Southport losing their last two away matches, and Celtic their last two home matches, this is unsurprising. When Nuneaton came, they were playing for a play-off spot, now it?s Celtic?s turn to play for a play-off spot. On paper, the games after the Southport match are easier (though Blyth showed Southport what on paper means), so if we can get back into the play-offs we may be able to cement our place ? but we have to get there first.
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