Stay away fans from the FA Cup Clash between County and Celtic missed an epic encounter, although it never looked likely to slip from Stockport's fingers once they got their noses in front.
It looked like a bad start for County when Danny Hattersley tried a spectacular overhead kick from a corner, sending the ball wide, and landing awkwardly. The physio quickly spotted that Hattersley had a heart murmur and he was taken to hospital. Fortunately, he has since made a full recovery. After a ten minute delay the game kicked off again, with Celtic defending like Trojans, waiting for a chance to counter.
Midway through the first half after a stalemate opening, it required heroic defending from Jordan Barrow and Tim Ryan to both block efforts from Jordan Fagbola and Paul Turnbull as Stockport tried to find a way in. Former Celtic striker, and man of the match, Craig Hobson went close from a corner, and forced Alex Cairnes into an outstanding point blank save with his hooked effort. It was no surprise when it was Hobson who opened the scoring on thirty-nine minutes, Danny Rowe's cross only half cleared by Krisitan Platt, intercepted by Hobson, and placed perfectly, with Cairnes able to get a hand on it, but not prevent it from trickling over the line.
With ten minutes of injury time to play, the game errupted with two goals in thirty seconds from Stockport. The first came when Matty Mainwairing turned Joel Bembo-Leta to get in a great cross that was met by Danny Whitehead, flicking it past Cairnes. Seconds later and Celtic had a mountain to climb, when almost from the kick off, a pass from one side of the Celtic defence to the other was intercepted by Danny Rowe who powered an unstoppable twenty-five yard effort into the top corner.
Three goals down, Celtic could have been forgiven for giving up. Within seconds of the restart, and a Jamie Mullan run dragged the Stockport defence away, and a pin-point pass to Jack Laird saw the young striker ride the heavy challenge of James Tunnicliffe, and stroke the ball past the otherwise underemployed Ian Ormson. There was still time in the injury period at the end of the first half for Austin Mitchell to be brought down in full flight just inside the box by Sean Newton,who got his traditional booking against us. Had Adam Pepper put Celtic just one behind going into the interval, the game may have had a different ending...but it was excvellently saved by Ormson who guessed the right way.
The second half continued to be a thriller. Laird had a couple of chances sail over the bar as he tried to get Celtic back in the game, and it looked all over when Mark Lees was adjudged to have brought Hobson down in the box, as the two tussled for the ball in the corner of the penalty area. It was a harsh decision, but Sean Newton made absolutely sure from the spot with a top drawer, top corner penalty that Cairnes couldn't have saved had he known where it was going.
All over? Absolutely not. Substitute Corey Gregory proved that Danny Rowe isn't the only one with a powerful right foot when Jack Laird nodded down a Jamie Mullan ball into his path twenty-five yards from goal, and he smashed it into the top corner, with Ormson grasping air. Back to two behind.
Cairnes made sure Celtic were still in the hunt with another excellent close range stop, this time from Paul Turnbull, but substiutute Sam Sheridan, stole the ball from a dallying defence, dazzled Platt, drew Cairnes and placed the ball perfectly in the far post, with ten minutes left on the clock. A gap of three again. And Stockport needed the cushion to feel safe, because Celtic were still in the hunt, and didn't look beaten yet.
However, it took Celtic most of the remaining ten minutes to finally open up the County defence again. Mullan dancing into the box to the byline, spotting Jack Laird, and picking him out with a precision pass. Laird knocked the ball just past a defender and curled a twenty-yard spectacular goal into the top corner. It was a shame the game couldn't have gone on another ten minutes as there would have been more goals. As it was, it finished with County going through into the draw on Sunday, all at Celtic wish them well in the next round.