Redditch Keeper Keeps Scoreline Respectable
By Iain Benson
Danny Lewis, the Redditch goalkeeper earned his pay in a match that saw him by far and away the busiest keeper, and he provided a master class display to keep the score line in single figures as Celtic battered the visitors box.
After Matty Barlow had shot narrowly wide from a Joe O'Neill square ball, Barlow turned provider when he latched onto an Andrew Smart cross in the corner of the box, squaring to O'Neill at the edge of the six yard box, the shot was too much for O'Neill and instead he put it into the path of Connor Jennings, who made no mistake, slotting the ball home as the Redditch defence stood and stared.
Keith Briggs forced Lewis into two good stops after excellent build up play, and O'Neill went agonisingly close, turning Dave Hankin's low cross the wrong side of the post. Another goal was coming, and it came off the boot of Joe O'Neill who was again fed by Dave Hankin, this time, turning the shot the right side of the post, with Lewis helpless.
Jennings could have made it six before the interval as time and again he was put one-on-one with Lewis, but time and again, the Redditch custodian made outstanding saves to deny the Celtic striker, the best of the bunch coming just before half time when he got down well to block almost at Jenning's feet.
Redditch's only shot on target of the game came just before half time, with James Dance providing an acrobatic, if ultimately straight at Paul Phillips, effort.
The second half saw Celtic passing the ball around Redditch, and though the visitors broke several times, Steve Woods and John Hardiker, ably assisted by Andrew Smart, Graeme Law and latterly Richard Battersby, ensured that nothing came of their endeavours. It was a case of picking up no injuries as the game progressed, and Celtic were content to play the ball around, although when they did break it was with deadly effect, with Hankin seeing Lewis continuing his sparkling form saving at the second attempt as Hankin broke through the defence.
Hankin ran his fullbacks ragged all game, and won a corner midway through the half which came to Keith Briggs, but again, Lewis was on hand to make good the save.
The game turned sour when Jamie Oliver had a reckless challenge on Richard Battersby, earning himself a yellow card, only to compound his error by pushing Briggs over in the middle of the park seconds later right under the referee's nose. There was no choice but to send the Redditch player off. Against ten men, Celtic looked even more comfortable, and O'Neill was unlucky not to double his tally when Liam Francis got a telling block in on the line as O'Neill attempted to bundle the ball over the line.
Paul Ennis and Craig Hobson were brought on, and Celtic started pounding at the Redditch keeper again, with both having one-on-ones stopped as the onslaught continued. Joe Clarke really should have pulled one back for the visitors with ten minutes remaining, which would have made the last few minutes interesting, when he had a free header a couple of yards from goal and put it well wide of the mark.
With Lewis in sparkling form, Dave Hankin tried an alternative approach as the game drew to a close, beating the defence, rounding Lewis and trying to roll home. Fair play to Lewis, who got back and almost succeeded in keeping the ball out, but there was no denying the goal. Stoppage time didn't stop the efforts, and Ennis was again denied by another fine save from Lewis, before Hobson superbly controlled a lofted cross from Smart, only to blaze over the bar from the edge of the box.
Redditch can congratulate their keeper on keeping the score line respectable, against a lesser keeper, double figures would have beckoned.