Celtic surged to the top of the league with a league topping five goals against pre-season bookies favourites, Altrincham.
Losing by so many was harsh on Altrincham who were one of the best teams to have visited Bower Fold this season. They played football the right way through the ninety minutes, and it was only sublime finishing that was the difference between the two teams.
That sublime finishing was evident from the off when Phil Marsh's perfectly weighted ball let Connor Jennings run past the high line Altrincham were playing and go one-on-one with Stuart Coburn. Jennings's finishing was top class and Coburn stood no chance to finish of a super display of one-touch passing.
Moments later and it could have been two but for a flying one-handed save from Coburn off a Lloyd Ellams peach of a shot after a side footed effort from Jennings had already nipped just past the post as he attempted to turn in Andy McWilliams's cross. Altrincham for their part were playing equally well, and ex-Celtic front man, Michael Twiss, saw his shot cannon off the crossbar. Jennings got his second sweeping home Jack Rea's ball, only for it to be chalked off for offside and Joel Bembo-Leta went agonisingly close, heading over a corner from close range. Greg Wilkinson tried his luck from twenty yards with a screamer that saw Coburn fly to his left to punch it away and Ellams launched the half cleared corner back towards goal only for Coburn to save well.
At the other end, Nicky Clee was causing all kinds of problems for the Celtic back line, seeing one cross roll across the face of goal with nobody there to turn it in, and firing in a sensation cross that had the defence at sixes and sevens, but Damian Reeves couldn't get on the end of it. Marsh worked his magic inside the box, turning Robbie Williams inside out before firing low, without the power to trouble Coburn, before Lloyd Ellams outstanding curling shot from the edge of the box crashed against the woodwork, the rebound coming to a completely unmarked Greg Wilkinson to nod into the back of the net; despite getting a palm on it, Coburn couldn't keep it out.
Altrincham, if anything, redoubled their efforts and were back in the game immediately, Nicky Clee again firing in a wicked cross, this time Michael Twiss got in front of Chris Lynch and headed past Jan Budtz to half the deficit.
The two goal cushion was restored almost immediately with Ellams playing in Marsh with a pass that sliced open Altrincham at the back and allowed Marsh to curl a beautiful shot over Coburn's outstretched fingers and restore the two goal cushion.
Right before half time, Jack Reas was harshly adjudged to have brought down Reeves, and Nicky Clee's free kick was on target and Budtz had to be on his toes to smother near his post.
The second half continued to be a great exhibition of non-league football, with Altrincham looking to grab the goal that would have set them on their way, Twiss saw his header off a corner tipped over by Budtz, and moments later his low drive scooped up by the Dane. At the other end, Ellams was a whisker away from increasing the lead with a trademark chipped shot that was just wide, and Steve Brogan powered into the box, but mishit the shot wide. Celtic knocked the stuffing out of their visitors with their fourth, Phil Marsh driving a cross low and hard for Jennings running into the box, or Brogan coming in behind him, only to see Robbie Williams grab the glory turning the ball into his own net past a despairing Coburn.
Still Altrincham continued to match Celtic's passing game, with Clee and Reeves both getting half chances that they sent sailing wide of the mark, before Celtic made it five with a move that swept across the park from one side to the other with some delightful one-touch passing culminating in Brogan's slide rule pass into Jennings's path and Jennings's gave Coburn no chance at all to send Celtic to the top of the league.
Celtic were content to sit on a four goal cushion and let Altrincham try and take the ball from them, which they managed a couple of times, but the Celtic defence held firm, the Robins's best chances coming from set-pieces that they used to good effect, if there was no end product. Robbie Williams almost made up for his own goal at one end with a thumping header from a corner that just cleared the bar and substitute Simon Richman made sure Budtz was still awake with a thirty yard effort that Budtz took well.
At the end, Altrincham will look at the game and ask how they lost 5-1, but it was down to some outstanding attacking football from Celtic that hopefully impressed some of the floaters to come back and see if we can repeat it against Worcester next week.
|3||Brown, Ryan||> 67|
|4||Danylyk, Anthony||> 60|
|9||Twiss, Michael||> 60|
|12||Lynch, Chris||< 60|
|14||Richman, Simon||< 67|
|16||Redshaw, Jack||< 60|