A gift of three goals amid some vintage Celtic play saw the score-line finish 3-1 to Workington, but the score belies the balance of play.
Celtic could have had a goal in the opening minutes when Chris Lynch powered forward onto a Steve Brogan corner only for Adam Main to head away from under his own crossbar. At the other end, the defending wasn’t as good when Phil McLuckie’s wicked curling cross found the Celtic back line napping, and Jonny Wright stooped in to head the visitors in front after just six minutes. Despite being a goal behind Celtic looked the better side, with both Phil Marsh and Craig Hobson going ever so close to equalising. Lynch saw the defenders parting in front of him as he powered up from the back until he got within shooting distance and unleashed a thunderbolt that any striker would have been proud of and it required a top draw save, the rebound coming to Hobson who got his head on the ball but could only head over the bar. Greg Wilkinson tried a fizzing distance effort that just cleared the crossbar, before Celtic’s second gift.
Workington had given a warning of the impending goal when static defending let goal-scorer Jonny Wright go one-on-one with Jan Budtz. The Celtic keeper stood up well, and Wright’s shot skipped just wide across the face with strike partner Gareth Arnison unable to reach it. Moments late Arnison did reach the ball, this time off a great curling cross from Wright. Again, the Celtic defence was nowhere to be seen, but with Budtz still to beat Arnison’s header had to be spot on, and it crashed in off the underside of the bar.
Just before half time, and Workington put the game beyond Celtic’s reach from a corner, put straight into the mixed for everybody to scrap over. There were prods and blocks, pokes and interceptions before Wright got his second of the game as a loose ball came back off Platt’s shins and Wright poked the ball under Budtz.
Workington had Taylor to thank for going in at half time when Callum Warburton’s powered shot for the top corner was parried away by the Workington’s keeper.
Changes had to be made at half time if Celtic were to salvage a game that looked lost. The remarkable decision was made to take off both centrebacks, with Rhys Meynell and Joel Bembo-Leta forming a new partnership in the centre, and they worked tirelessly for the rest of the game, giving Celtic chance to build. The outstanding Warburton, and equally outstand Rae became the new fullbacks, and put in a fantastic shift.
Taylor was on his toes from a deceptively sharp angle for Steve Brogan’s free kick, which was on target and destined for the top corner, but Taylor palmed it over the bar. There was some great interchanged play with substitute Mitchell Austin powering down the flank and forcing the solid Workington defence to double and sometimes triple the players on him, but still he whipped in cross after cross, ably supported by Warburton. On the other side, Celtic’s other sub, Djenny Bembo-Leta was linking up just as effectively with Jack Rea. One Rea cross had to be put over his own bar by Kyle May with Phil Marsh lurking.
A goal looked to be coming for Celtic, and it duly came from a move started by Warburton, slipping the ball to Mitchell Austin to get to the by line and pull back for Celtic’s third sub Arthur Gnahoua. Gnahoua found Marsh, and despite the attentions of three Workington players, Marsh found the space to poke home Celtic’s first goal from open play for weeks.
Seconds later and it could have been two, when Austin’s clever lofted ball over the defence released Marsh to run in from the angle, only for his shot on the turn to hit the side netting. Gnahoua was showing some of the skill that has given Jim Harvey such confidence in his future, and showed remarkable tenacity to find the opening for a wicked shot that required a great save from Taylor.
It was virtually one way traffic with Workington restricted to thirty-five yard shots straight at Budtz, although it looked dangerous when a long ball was chased by David McNiven, only for Joel Bembo-Leta to sprint sixty yards to catch the Workington man as he was about to pull the trigger in the Celtic box, win the tackle and set off another wave of Celtic pressure.
As the game began to run out, the referee eventually got tired of the thirty second goal kicks from Aaran Taylor and booked him for time wasting, despite it having been going on from the moment Workington scored.
Both Wilkinson and Austin could have snatched another goal back with seconds left on the clock, both players going agonisingly close and leaving a score-line completely unreflective of the play. Celtic were outstanding in the second half, and if they can carry that form on when we visit Blyth on Tuesday, we should be looking at Celtic’s first win of 2012.
|6||Main, Adam||> 77|
|9||Wright, Jonny||> 73|
|11||Green, Stuart||> 67|
|12||Boyd, Mark||< 77|
|14||McNiven, David||< 73|
|15||Rowntree, Gari||< 67|