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Match Preview :- AFC Telford - Saturday August 9th, 2008 (15:00:00)
The new season starts on Saturday (kick off 3pm); with last season's runners up AFC Telford United the visitors. Telford pipped Celtic to the second spot by just one point, going into the play off finals to play Barrow home and away, and losing both games to the ultimate play-off winners. Celtic needed penalties to see of fourth placed Southport, and then went on to lose against Barrow in the final by one goal. Both teams will be looking to improve on last season's results, and for both teams that would mean promotion.

Telford have had a good start to their season, with four wins out of their seven pre-season games, losing only to a strong Nottingham Forest side, and beating Bridgnorth Town in the county cup. They've scored nineteen goals, and conceded eight. There are several new faces at the New Bucks head this season, including Terry Fearns, who signed from Droylsden. He found the net twice in the Shropshire County Cup, and got a hat-trick against Wellington Amateurs, and is a proven goal-scorer at this level, having been in the promotion winning teams of Droylsden and Southport.

After pushing Kettering for the title last season, Telford had a bit of a wobble losing four games on the bounce, and with a run in against seven of the play off or title contenders, there was a time that they looked unlikely to even make the play-offs, with Southport, Barrow, Nuneaton and Kettering all beating them. However, Telford pulled it around in the last three games, and beat us, Harrogate and Burscough to secure second spot. Last season's top scorer for them was Matty Lewis, who scored fifteen league goals, with Lee Moore some way behind on eight. Telford had the fifth best defensive record in the league, conceding only forty-three goals all season, and keeping fifteen clean sheets.

Celtic's top scorer last season was Chris Hall with sixteen, though Matty Barlow wasn't far behind on eleven. Chris Hall is no longer with the club, which has meant Lee Ellington can return to his natural position. Celtic's defence last season was no slouch, conceding just fifty-one goals (seventh best), and with Celtic's on fire strike force netting eighty-eight (second best, behind Kettering's ninety-three), this gave Celtic a healthy goal difference of thirty-seven.

Our past meetings with Telford have been mainly Telford's victories, with Telford winning the previous six encounters both home and away, culminating with a 2-1 victory at Bower Fold at the end of last season. Indeed, on their last three visits, they have scored two in each game. The last time Celtic beat Telford was at the Bucks Head in March 1996, and the last time we had a victory over them at Bower Fold was September 1994, with five subsequent visits from Telford netting them eleven from a possibly fifteen points.

Celtic will be without Andy Smart (ankle) and Martin Pearson (back), whilst Steve Torpey and Barrie Keeling are both to be looked at over the coming few days to assess their fitness ahead of Saturday's match.

Our first eleven in our last friendly (the 4-0 loss to Blackburn Rovers) was:
1. Paul Phillips
2. Ashley Woolliscroft
3. Danny Wood
4. Barrie Keeling
5. Terry Barwick
6. Paul Sykes
7. Steve Torpey
8. Keith Briggs
9. Nathan Joynes
10. Lee Ellington
11. Chris Williams

Telford's first eleven in their last friendly (a 4-1 win over Chester City) was:
1. Ryan Young
2. Martin Naylor
3. Steve Jagielka
4. Gavin Cowan
5. Stuart Whitehead
6. Indy Khela
7. Jon Adams
8. Carl Rogers
9. Andy Brown
10. Lee Moore
11. Liam Blakeman

As with all new seasons, hopes are high for both teams, but there is no doubt both will be considering it a tricky fixture. It's too early in the season for the automated prediction algorithm to be making any guesses, but on the prediction league, the current feeling is 2-1 for Celtic (28%), and a 1-1 draw (23%). Celtic haven't had the best of the opening games of the season for some years, but we are at home, and that has got to count for something.
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