Match Report -
Perserverance
By Debbie Taylor

Celtic and Blyth met for the first of three games in a fortnight. No doubt the Blyth players remembered well the game in the FA Cup some months earlier, when Celtic gained a victory then.

With a score to even it was Blyth who settled into the play the most quickly, with first Stewart, then Martin putting balls into the Celtic box from wide angles. Crookes and Filson dealt with earlier forays easily enough containing the home side with typical relaxed defending.

As the half wore on, Celtic slowly began to assert themselves, but goalmouth chances were scant, and it was Blyth who again gained a half chance when they got a corner which Forster somehow put over the bar from two yards out.

Celtic took heed of the shot across their bows, and pressed up field. They brought the ball up the field, and Jones interchanged with Ward as the forwards moved into position. Jones put a superb ball into the box, which McNeil pounced on in typical strikers fashion to stab it past the unfortunate Burke.

Celtic seemed to relax a little after this, secure in the knowledge that the defence had been able to contain Blyth up until that point. Blyth pressed in to get an equaliser, but their best effort was Radian's wild shot from distance that sailed over the bar. Celtic should have doubled their lead, when McNeil trapped the ball wide right, and crossed in to cause mayhem in the Blyth defence, but somehow, the ball would not fall fro Jones, and the defence eventually cleared.

When Stewart broke away from Celtic's defensive attentions, his final shot was weak, though on target, and Ingham got down well to save at his near post. Celtic looked the more comfortable of the two sides as the half time whistle approached.

With a couple of minutes to go, Ward squared the ball to Bauress at the edge of the box, unchallenged, he sliced the shot, and it landed near Jones, who blasted it net bound, forcing a good save from the Blyth number one.

Stewart again broke past his defensive shadow, and crossed in just before the half time whistle. Ingham didn't come, and Crookes was beaten to the lofted ball by Radigan, who headed the ball into Celtic's net. Celtic tried to respond immediately, but a block on the line from Keegan, and then a glaring miss from McNeil allowed Blyth to go into the dressing room with a hard won one apiece.

After the restart, Celtic realised that they could not afford to just sit back, and play keep ball, and started to apply the pressure. They moved up a gear, and attacked the Blyth goal with Pickford and Parr breaking from the middle, and causing untold grief for the Spartans midfield. McNeil really should have put away the cross from Ward, but he shaved the wrong side of the post, with the keeper nowhere near.

With all the pressure, Celtic were forcing corners and throws level with the penalty box, and it was only a matter of time before the Blyth defence crumbled. A long Locke throw caused a scramble in the area, with a Blyth defender impeding his own keeper, so Burke's half hearted fist came right to Filson, who did not hesitate and stuck it in the back of the net.

Celtic started to dominate the proceedings, and McNeil was again denied by a block on the line, this time by Radigan.

Celtic's pressure was causing one or two raised tempers in the Blyth defence, and when Parr broke from midfield, Keegan slid in with no intention of getting the ball, taking Parr's legs from under him. The Celtic number 8 crashed down heavily, and didn't get up. With typical team spirit, Filson stormed over to Keegan, and shared some angry words. Keegan raised his arms against the Bear and the referee who had possibly been going to send Keegan off for the heavy foul, and previous heavy tackles, now had no hesitation in sending Keegan from the field of play. Kevin Parr had been receiving treatment during this altercation, and Anne Marie indicated to the bench that he could not continue. Andy Scott came on to replace him.

Somehow, Blyth's ten-men managed to hold onto an increasingly attacking Celtic, and again their uncertainty in the defensive area resulted in Celtic getting a penalty after the goal keeper shoved Sullivan off his feet to try and get to the ball he should have claimed earlier.

Sullivan took the penalty himself, and Burke made a good save as injury time wound down.

Celtic could have won this six or seven one, and it was only some goal-mouth scrambles that allowed Blyth to retain a dignified score-line. They play the return leg in just over a week.

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