Celtic lost out in the semi-final after twice pegging Nantwich back, only to lose to a single extra-time goal.
Both teams had chances in the first half. Early on, Joe Mwasile got clear of the Celtic defence with his pace, but his final effort clipped the bar and was cleared for a corner. At the other end, Alex Honeyball’s powerful effort took a wicked deflection off Toby Mullarkey for a corner that Luke Ashworth headed the wrong side of the post. Jake Charles was causing problems for the home defence, but his instinctive volley flipped over the bar, whilst Liam Dickinson’s effort from a free kick back across goal was caught by Myles Boney.
Nantwich opened the scoring ten minutes before the interval, when Celtic couldn’t get the ball clear, with Harry Clayton twice having a stab at goal before a rebound came to Steve Jones, who fired home.
Connor Hughes and Liam Dickinson both went close before the interval, whilst just after Harrison Holgate cut inside and cleared the bar from the corner of the box.
There was a touch of fortune for Nantwich ten minutes after the restart. Matthew Bell’s close range shot struck the woodwork, coming back to him out wide, but could have gone anywhere. He lifted it to the back post where nobody had picked up Joel Stair who headed back across goal leaving George Sykes-Kenworthy no chance.
Connor Hughes got Celtic back in the game by sheer pace and determination. Despite requests by Boney to stop the cross, Hughes made himself the space to fire a low ball to the back post where Charles arrived to poke home his first from close range.
His second arrived the same way three minutes later, Hughes again the provider, this time with a looping cross that Charles thumped into the top corner.
Celtic were on top at this point; with Dickinson and Holgate both denied by decent stops, but when Luke Ashworth miscued his clearance, sending the ball on towards his own goal instead of away, allowing Nantwich’s top scorer, Clayton, to go one-on-one with Sykes-Kenworthy, though he was forced very wide and had to score from an extremely acute angle.
Despite Nantwich twice threatening to increase their lead with Clayton and Bell both lacking the power to beat Sykes-Kenworthy, Celtic still looked the more likely to score. Hughes again was the provider, this time from a corner, swinging it to the near post where Boney flapped, knocking the ball down to Matty Wolfenden’s feet. The striker instinctively buried his shot putting Celtic back on terms with ten minutes to go.
Dickinson’s flicked header was caught and Hughes curled his run and his shot right at the death, but cleared the bar putting the game into extra time.
Extra time started badly for Celtic, when Danny Morton dwelled to long on the ball and was dispossessed by Steve Jones. One-on-one with Sykes-Kenworthy, Jones got the telling goal that would hand the place in the final to the home team.
The remainder of the period and the whole of the second period of extra time was a virtual procession towards Nantwich’s goal with a forest of green between Celtic and the goal. Dickinson’s low shot was stopped by Boney, Holgate’s effort blocked by Stair and his next attempt a one handed flying save from Boney. In the end, summoning up the energy for tired legs proved too much, and when Jamie Morgan cleared Celtic’s third corner of extra time, there was no more time for Celtic to find a way through.
|10||Bell, Matthew||> 95|
|12||ORiordan, Declan||< 95|