Celtic were the architects of their own downfall against a committed Avro side who played eighty minutes with ten men.
From the off, Avro looked keen, riding the wave of promotion, and three minutes into the match, Jake Cottrell powered down the channel. He slid the ball into the path of Deane Smalley at the near post, who turned in the opening goal. Celtic responded well. Obua Mugalula caused his markers countless problems before bursting through one-on-one with Grant Shenton. The former Celtic keeper had the ball knocked past him, but slid through Mugalulaâ€™s standing foot, earning a straight red. Max Harrop stepped up and sent Jake Cottrell the wrong way. Having lost their charismatic goalkeeper, Avro dug in deep, swapping the keeper for Matty Crothers. When Aaron Dwyer went through one-on-one with the new stand-in keeper, he made no mistake, slotting the ball home.
Celtic should have pressed this advantage. And despite a fourth goalkeeper for Avro, failed to hit the target and only carved out one more chance. Content to play the ball around pitch and let Avro chase, Celtic got the ball to Mugalula, who danced over the challenges to fire narrowly wide.
The worst thing Celtic could do was start the second half in the same vein. They did, and they paid the price. Cottrell robbed Greg Wilkinson during one such leisurely passing manoeuvre and bore down on goal, equalising with a cutting drive. The cue for Celtic to press their player advantage with a fourth stand-in keeper? Sadly not. And though Harrop twisted and turned his way into the box to create a chance to give Celtic the lead, it squeaked the wrong side of the post. Michael Brewster had a glorious opportunity to restore Celticâ€™s lead, firing way over the bar from eight yards.
That gave the home side the reprieve they needed. When Wilkinson let a stray ball go, instead of dealing with it, Smalley was there. He latched onto the ball and curled in a superb strike that bent just beyond Hewitsonâ€™s fingertips.
Now Celtic upped the pressure. Joe Edwards tried a distant shot that the stand-in keeper wouldnâ€™t have reached, but missed by inches. Aaron Dwyer made the space and found the shot, but saw his close range effort palmed around the post. Brad Byrne nodded Harropâ€™s cross the wrong side of the upright, and Dwyerâ€™s drive from the edge of the box smacked the opposite post. In the dying moments of stoppage time, Brewster again had the time and space to pick his spot for his shot, and again, his shot sailed over the bar.
Celtic had the opportunity to walk this game into three points, and spurned it, but full credit to Avro. They never capitulated and deserved the win.
|Da Silva, Vani