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Match Report -
Top!
By Debbie Taylor

Celtic surged to the top of the table with an outstanding victory at third place highfliers Bishop Auckland.

Bishop's home record this season has been impressive, with 15 wins, and only two draws out of 22 games, and they have been scoring freely too. However, this was a must win game for Celtic, and it showed in the fire of their performance.

Within five minutes of the kick-off Jones broke through the Auckland defence, and tried to slip the ball under Jones (yes, same name) in the Bishop net, as the keeper rushed Celtic's prolific scorer. The Bishop keeper got down fantastically well to smother the ball.

Celtic continued to prise open the defence, with Parr causing a menace in the air from the crossed in balls from the wings. A goal was on the cards for Celtic, as Bishop struggled to find away out of their own half. When it came, it was of elegant simplicity. A free kick by Bauress just past the centre circle was lofted into the box, where Martin Filson (easily the tallest man on the field) was flicked into the bottom corner past the helpless Jones.

The Bishop's keeper was to prove his worth time and again in the first half, as he intercepted the balls that his defender's seemed unable to reach.

Bishop rallied a little as the half ticked away, with Hutt getting to a Lee corner was cleared off the line by Crookes, but the rally was not set to continue, as Celtic pushed forward again. McNeil got tangled in defenders as he tried to cut his way towards goal, and Jones was unable to reach a Ward delivered ball before his namesake captured the ball.

Any thoughts of a comeback were removed from Bishop's minds when their shambles of a defence was exposed when the Downey let the ball run from the goalkeeper's throw, only to have McNeil intercept it, round him, lay off an inch perfect pass to Pickford. Syd squared it immediately to Jones, who blasted it into the bottom corner with his first touch.

It was uphill (literally, given the pitch) after that. Celtic were content to harry in midfield, and defend with venom when it counted. The two goal cushion gave Celtic a relaxed air, though one or two hearts leapt into mouths as Hutt got clear at the edge of the box, but his final shot was weak and an easy catch for the Celtic number one.

Bishop got a number of free kicks around the Celtic area, thanks to some considerate refereeing, and Bayles almost caught Ingham out, when he took one before the referee could blow his whistle. The referee allowed play to continue, as Ingham first palmed away the swinging shot, then recovered and captured the ball. Ingham again came to the rescue when Hutt crossed the ball in, after doing well to get to the by-line. Ingham and Brunskill went for the ball, with Brunskill coming off better. The ball fell to Gallagher, who scuffed his shot, giving time for Ingham to reach across and smother it.

Celtic rarely threatened the Auckland goal after the interval, but their defending had none of the nervy look about it, as it had in previous games.

They were settled and composed, with Filson dominating the proceedings, and Ward and Pickford sweeping the ball up field when the chance arose.

The victory tasted all the sweeter as news of Emley's one all draw with Runcorn meant Celtic now held pole position with three games left.

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