Match Report -
Robbed Again
By Debbie Taylor

Yet again, Celtic played their opposition off the park, and yet again the opposition made the most of the few chances they were handed.

Margate's hack and slash tactics resulted in enough cards to open a shop, with three of the back four taking a yellow each. All for fouls on inspirational loan-signing Kelly.

Yet they were not punished enough. There were three clear penalty appeals, and Kelly was brought down many more times than the four suggested, in two cases, he was adjudged to have dived - once inside the box - and on neither occasion had he.

Celtic lost the toss and played into the sun, but this did not deter a bright start. Kelly stripped a Edwards of the ball as he hesitated over a pass, and fed Pickford. Pickford knocked the ball through to Peacock at the edge of the box, and he shot first time, curling the ball into the top corner. Mitten made a great opening save to tip the ball out for a corner. A good corner in was cleared only as far as Pickford twenty yards out; his well struck shot took a deflection off Porter for another corner.

Futcher could not quite reach the corner, but it fell kindly to him. He tried to hook it over his shoulder, and by the time he had turned, he saw it sail over the crossbar.

Futcher was involved moments later when he casually laid the ball back to Fish with Braithwaite bearing down on the keeper. Fish did well to reach it first, but his clearance struck Collins and skimmed the post into the side netting.

The first yellow card was within the first 5 minutes, as Kelly nutmegged Edwards and raced past him. Edwards stuck out a leg and Kelly went flying, as Edwards was the last man, he should have walked, but from the kind hearted referee, got away with a yellow card.

From the free kick, Peacock lobbed the wall, Futcher flicked on to Kelly, who laid off to Wood at the edge of the box. With no targets, Wood squared it to Pickford, but Yorath steamed in and cleared up field.

It only went as far as Murphy, who put it back in. The second clearance fell to Pickford at the edge of the box. As he started to pull the trigger, Collins sliced into the back of Pickford's legs bringing Syd down. Second yellow card, on five minutes. From the way that they played, it looks like Margate climbed to the top of the league over the bodies of their opponents.

Mitten, denied a certain Celtic goal moments later, when Courtney dropped off to Peacock who skidded the ball across the six yard box to Kelly. The keeper reacted well and cut out the cross. A bright start.

However, Margate were not sitting back and letting Celtic come at them. A long diagonal ball was not cut out by Fish, allowing Collins to take on Scott. He hooked it back across to Braithwaite, who was shepherded well by Futcher forcing him out. Braithwaite laid it back to Munday, who's long distance shot was a simple catch for Fish.

Another missed infringement occurred when Pickford robbed Lamb, to feed Peacock at the touchline. Peacock's skimming low ball was diverted towards the Mitten by Williams, but no pass back!

The keeper's long punt up field was met by Saunders who curled the ball around Futcher, and around the post. Fish had it covered.

A foul only was awarded when Beard raised his foot to head height cracking Kelly in the face, resulting in the pacy forward going off for five minutes of treatment. A yellow card was given after Kelly came on and harangued the referee about his decision not to give Beard a card, and in return, got one himself.

Courtney almost added to his impressive goal tally, when Peacock interchanged with Scott allowing the latter to whip a cross in, that Courtney headed powerfully goalwards. Lamb was on hand to block with his own head, and send the ball clear.

Kelly's persistence saw Celtic win a corner off Edwards. Mitten's punch only went as far as Wood at the edge of the box, who dropped it off to Courtney, but he was robbed of the ball, and Margate nervously cleared.

Celtic were not the only ones unable to convert some excellent crosses. A Braithwaite Cross looked very dangerous as it blazed into the box, but Collins was too short to reach it and Celtic cleared, but only as far as Yorath, who volleyed from distance, forcing an alert and excellent save from Fish, to tip over the bar. He again tipped the ball over the bar, when the corner was bent in. This one was taken by Lamb instead of Porter, and it curled harmlessly out of play.

More excellent play from Celtic saw them move the ball up field. Bushell and Courtney traded passes, and Bushell skipped into the box, around Yorath, but not around Edwards, who slid in and dispossesed the winger.

With all the problems Kelly was causing the defence, it took a rugby tackle from Saunders to stop him running on goal, but Edwards got to the free kick first, heading as far as Futcher, who headed goal bound. Mitten punched as far as Wood, who knocked it back into the box. A deflection brought it to Peacock's feet. His cross in was cleared by Edwards, only as far as Woods, who laid off Courtney, but Courtney's through ball to Peacock was travelling to fast for the wizard to reach.

Saunders, obviously not learning his lesson, fouled Pickford three yards outside the box. Kelly's header fell to Yorath, who booted it upfield. Margate were definitely struggling.

Again waves of Celtic players surged forward. Peacock fed Bushell with a trademark whipped in cross. Bushell squared it to Pickford, running in, but his snap shot curled agonisingly wide of the post.

Williams decided to get in on Saunder's trademark, brining Pickford down in the same spot as before, with a late late tackle. Peacock's free kick was a poor one, hitting the hand of Beard stood in the wall. The snap clearance allowed Bushell to run inside, and lay off Peacock. Peacock hit it first time, curling the ball away from the keeper, and unfortunately the net.

A defender made a simple mistake, trying to shield the ball away from Kelly. But Kelly's pace allowed him to get around the defender and kick the ball into the box. Courtney met it, with his back to goal. He twisted and turned with Porter on his back, eventually managing to squeeze a shot out of the reach of Mitten. Edwards dived in and steered it wide of the mark.

Peacock's corner was punched clear by Mitten, as far as Wood, who volleyed the ball through a crowd of players, seeing it diverted at the last minute by Lamb for a second corner. Peacock swung the ball in, aiming for Futcher, standing head and shoulders above his marker. Futcher did not have to move, he just smacked the ball with his head into the top corner, past the flailing hand of Mitten. Goal! Futcher disappeared under a mound of Celtic players.

Kelly received the ball after Margate's poor kick off, and took it a full half the length of the field, past three Margate players. At the by-line he saw Courtney unmarked in the centre of the box, and cut it back towards him. Mitten was alert and dived full stretch to cut the cross.

Margate's best player by far, Braithwaite may not have been causing as many problems for the Celtic defence as Kelly was for Margate's but he was still a handful, and when he beat Woods at the edge of the box, he looked through on goal. But Woods recovered and stuck his leg out to divert the ball for a corner.

The Celtic back line looked on top form as the corner came in. Kelly cleared only as far as Braithwaite, but Scott made a stupendous tackle to rob him, and send the ball up field to Courtney.

Celtic played the ball about the field, keeping possession, and denying Margate a touch. Patiently they moved the ball upfield, eventually feeding Kelly, who held off Edwards before turning him inside out, racing on a tight angle towards goal, and forcing a great save from Mitten. The block could have gone anywhere, and had it fallen to Courtney, the game may have been over then. But Edwards raced onto the ball, and hoofed it clear.

Yet another aspect of the Conference Curse raised its head when Scott knocked the ball past Beard and raced onto it. With Kelly poised in the box, the ball came sailing in. And the referee blew for half time. Kelly caught the ball, instead of burying it. Bizarre! Surely three extra seconds would have made no difference. He certainly allowed Margate the extra seconds they needed 45 minutes later.

Kelly started the second half as he had ended the first. He won a corner from nothing, bouncing the ball off Porter when it looked certain to be a goal kick.

Futcher again met Peacock's corner, and it needed Lamb on the near post to head it off the line.

Lamb stopped the second corner by brining down Matt Woods, injuring himself in the process. The ref missed it, and when Margate cleared, stopped play so Woods could get treatment. Whilst Woods had to be taken from the field, Lamb got up and ran off.

Whilst Woods was off the field, Margate had a brief attack, but when it was cleared to Peacock, Richard turned his man, and shot, but saw it deflected by Edwards, not even for a corner.

However, Pickford latched onto the clearance, and put the ball through to Kelly. Williams, felled the striker with a slashing tackle. The cowardly referee did not award the penalty, but waved play on instead. Kelly was forced to hobble back into an on-side position. He knew better than to complain though.

With Woods still off the field, Margate had a better run at the Celtic goal, and it took a good block by Fish to deny Braithwaite the equaliser. A Fish speciality long punt was brought down by Bushell, who's shot from the edge of the area was handled by Porter quite deliberately to control the ball onto his foot for a clearance. Everybody except a man in black saw it.

The half time team talk in Margate's dressing room must have had some inspirational words in it, as Margate pressed in brief spurts for the equaliser. A good Scott tackle on Braithwaite was adjudged illegal, but he made amends by hooking clear the shot in.

Acrobatics from Pickford were not quite enough, when Murphy placed a ball towards Courtney, but at full stretch Courtney could not reach it, allowing a wild clearance from Yorath, which Pickford volleyed with a bicycle kick wide of the mark.

Mitten needed woolly ones after Bushell turned two defenders and blasted towards the top corner. As Mitten turned it over the bar, his fingers were bent back, and he spent the rest of the game nursing his sore fingers. Peacock's corner was too high for Courtney, but nothing is out of range of Kelly, who kicked it back towards his sidekick, Courtney's shot, attempting to go through Saunders, who closed his legs just in time, and despite Courtney's attempt to bundle it across the line, Saunders managed to clear.

Courtney was desperate to get on the score sheet, and he nipped between two defenders, and produced a marvellous parry from Mitten, spinning the ball out to Peacock. Peacock's snap shot curled wide of the mark.

The Margate defenders are going to have to receive extra offside trap training after Kelly made a mockery of it on numerous occasions. After a long sweeping ball from Futcher, Kelly's pace was not quite enough to get onto a ball that the keeper collected, and capitalise on Margate's laxness at the back.

Peacock managed to clip the woodwork in the eleventh game running. Courtney received the ball at the edge of the area, and cut inside before feeding Peacock. The first time shot clipped the foot of the post, before going out of play.

A long goal kick was trapped by Braithwaite. He turned Scott inside out, before firing low and hard to the near post. Fish was beaten by the sheer speed of the blast, and Margate had equalised with only 20 minutes left on the clock.

After Kelly was brought cynically down by Williams (for which his exuberant overacting of the offence meant no whistle from the ref) Margate broke, and won a free kick at the other end. Murphy was on hand at the edge of the six yard box to head over for a corner. After the initial clearance from the corner, Futcher granted Margate a second chance, but Collins could only head it over the bar.

Futcher senior attempted to inject a little life into the last 15 minutes by taking off Courtney, who had been unable to break through, and replace him with McNeil. McNeil's strength is holding the ball up while the rest of the team arrive, and this is what Paul Futcher felt would win us the game.

Porter finally got the yellow card he'd obviously been after all game brining down Kelly as the striker was through on goal.

Again it took Lamb's head to save Margate, as McNeil cushioned Peacock's free kick to Bushell, who laid it out to Wood. The Volley was powerful, and on target but Lamb's head flicked it out, before it could cross the line. The ball fell back to Steve Wood, who squared to Pickford. Syd's shot was blocked in the packed area, coming to Peacock, but he stumbled over the ball allowing Edwards to clear.

Though the clearance landed with Beard, Pickford harried and stole the ball, sending the ball through the middle to Peacock. Peacock's shot was not powerful, but it was accurate, and the keeper did well to cover ground and smother the ball at the near post.

After Margate's free kick (Scott brining down Braithwaite) was cleared, Kelly raced it down the wing. Williams slid in, in what looked like a reply of Porter's yellow card offence, and got away with a talking to from the ref. Cowardly refereeing.

A clearance after a corner fell to McNeil. Matt saw Murphy racing out from goal, and crossed the ball to him. Murphy dummied his marker, and put a great ball into the six yard box for Kelly to slam triumphantly home.

Celtic had regained the lead with mere minutes on the clock.

Steve Hafner and Mike Azzopardi were brought on immediately, as Margate saw the game slipping away from them.

After ignoring the referee's stern earlier words, Williams brought Kelly crashing down, after the striker had left the defender stationary. Though Kelly only had the keeper left to beat, Williams escaped with a mere yellow card. To make matters worse, Peacock failed to hit the target with the curling free kick.

Fish made amends for failing to stop the near post goal, when Braithwaite again got the measure of Scott, and tried to replay his goal, but Fish was there to deny him.

As Margate's time turned from minutes into seconds, they piled the pressure onto Celtic, winning two more corners, the last one when Futcher slid bravely in to take the ball off Braithwaite's feet.

Lamb took the corner. Munday, unmarked at the edge of the six yard box, nodded it home. Celtic's brief glimpse of three points was cruelly snatched away.

Though Celtic hurried to restart, the ball did not get chance to leave the centre circle before the referee blew for time.

Celtic had so many chances, and so much went against them again. It really is beginning to feel like a curse imposed on us. How could the three penalty appeals be ignored? How did Margate finish with eleven men on the field? How could the referee blow for half time as a Celtic head was about to nod home the cushion goal? But in the final analysis, there is also the missed chances. Perhaps we should also ask, how could we miss the target when it was almost easier to score?

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