Match Report -
The best defence...
By Debbie Taylor

Celtic dominated the play overall, with Altrincham using delaying tactics. However, there were spells when the back four proved their worth yet again, with two excellent saves by Gary Ingham and some fine work by Crookes and co.

Celtic spurned many a chance in this match, with Stuart Coburn being called into action to provide a string of excellent saves.

Sullivan started the shots on goal, with a low drive that was blocked by Sullivan's man marker, Maddox. The first of Coburn's great saves came when a corner was floated in, and McNeil acrobatically performed an overhead kick that Coburn just managed to tip over the bar.

Altrincham had their moments too, with Crookes deflecting a shot from Hawes for a corner that had probably beated Ingham, and Mark Ward's long range speculative effort that Ingham caught without moving.

For most of the game though, the game was battled in midfield with the referee breaking up any chance of flowing football by awarding fouls for anything that resulted in a player on the floor. Given the state of our pitch, this meant a lot of fouls. He also gave McNeil a yellow card though McNeil had not made contact with the player who had merely slipped launching the ball up field.

There was precious little action for either keeper in the first half, with both defences having good games, and the linesman's offside flag was quick to raise. What half chances there were fell Celtic's way. Nigel Evans failed to make more of his chances, and Sullivan spurned a couple of opportunities without troubling the keeper.

Coburn's second great save came right at the start of the second half. Sully squared a ball to McNeil who headed down to the right corner. Somehow Coburn got down and gathered it up. Celtic continued to make and waste chances, with Ward and Bairess both missing the target.

Ingham's turn to impress came during a ten minute altrincham dominance spell, when Finney got on the end of a cross ahead of Filson, and headed for what looked a definite goal, Ingham's flying form, gather up the ball before it could cross the line.

Coburn was not to be oudone, when a Sullivan cross came in, Bauress and Coburn went up together, with the ball going loose. Coburn twisted on the floor to gather the ball up before McNeil could pounce. He then manged to deny McNeil again, with a fine save, once more off a header from Sullivan cross. It was beginning to look as though Celtic would never bea ble to break both the defence and the keeper at the same time.

The goal when it came, started with a long throw from Locke, which was cleared as far as Dominic Crookes who looped a hopeful shot goalwards. The Conurn was left looking foolish as he obviously thought it would miss, but creapt in under the right hand corner.

Moments later, the Altrincham keeper made amends when Jones was pulled down in the box and Bauress stepped up to take the penalty. Last season, he knocked in every penalty, but this season, he has been having a tougher time of it. His penalty was perfect, but Coburn had guessed the right way, and spread himself well to block it. Sully raced onto the rebound, but somehow Coburn managed to get a hand to the ball and palm it away as far as Jones, who volleyed it well enough, but Jason Gallagher stuck a leg out and blocked it on the line. Filson put the resulting corner over the bar, so Altrincham could breathe again.

Buoyed by the near miss, and with only minutes to go, Altrincham came at Celtic, interecepting every clearance, and running the team ragged. Only fine performances by Locke, Filson, Ward and Crookes, prevented them from getting through. When they did get through, ngham was on hand to gather the ball up, only once being called into proving his worth with a superb flying save to deny Finney.

For the last couple of minutes, Celtic forced the ball into Altrincham's third, and tried to keep it there, with some success. However, it was a relieved 1000+ crowd that heard the final whistle.