Match Report -
That Winning Habit
By Debbie Taylor

Both Celtic and Hayes had to rely on goal line clearances to keep the final score at 1-0, thanks to Richard Peacock's blinding shot just before half time.

From the off, Celtic looked to be building on the fine run of form that has seen them lose just once in the past ten games. Kevin Parr, on inspirational form, opened the account of shots on target for Celtic as he snuck in onto a Peacock cross, nodding it past the Van de Saar look-alike Bossu in the Hayes goals. However Sterling was on hand to volley the ball over his own bar to keep the scores level.

Hayes failed to clear the corner properly, allowing the sprinting Clements to run at, and then around the Hayes defence, but his final ball let him down, as he jinked to the right, and tried to pass the ball into the net. That said, his pace caused Hayes no end of problems as defender's still hearing the echoes of "Time" from the keeper, suddenly had six foot of blur taking the ball off their feet. Clements again went close, when he rounded Bossu, but his shot was weak giving Sterling chance to rescue Bossu for the second time in ten minutes clearing off the line.

As Hayes tried and failed to find their feet, Celtic nearly hit them with a sucker one-two. Steve Wood's excellent ball (of which he would provide many) allowed Clements to sprint past the static defence, and blaze a ball inches past the upright. A Peacock cross in was then put agonizingly wide by Parr, and Bossu knew he was in a game, being forced to collect crosses from both sides of the pitch as Scott and Peacock deluged his goal with opportunities. Parr saw Gray lob over his keeper and crossbar, after nipping in at the near post to head home, and Courtney forced a good save from the giant Bossu. At the other end, Batty was a mere spectator, taking off-side free kicks just to keep warm.

About five minutes before time, Peacock received a Pickford squared ball at the edge of the area, he took one touch to take it around Stirling, but his shot was blocked by Spencer's backside as it curled net bound. However, Captain Peacock just would not be denied, and when Steve Wood found Murphy, who slid it into Peacock in his favourite striking position at the edge of the box, he made no mistake, twisting past Gray, and inside Stirling before unleashing a shot that even the mighty Bossu could not reach.

Gallen was brought on for the visitors at half time in an effort to bolster the over-run midfield and replace the frankly poor Everett, however, he found it difficult to raise his game, as Andy Scott seemed intent on beating him to every ball, be it in the air, or on the floor.

Without the huge height of Futcher on the back line, as the second half began, Hayes did get a chance at Goal, but Beasley is nearly as tall, and he cut out several free kicks before Celtic got it back in gear and pressed Hayes back onto the back foot. When Hayes failed to clear a corner it fell to Courtney. Good vision from the striker saw Andy Scott steaming in at full tilt, and he put the ball square into his path, and only a spectacular diving one-handed save from Bossu stopped the insurance paying out for a new net.

As Celtic dominated the midfield, Hayes started to look like they had run out of ideas, and despite the introduction of Currie and Elverson, they were reduced to shooting from so far away, the ball had an air-mail stamp on it by the time it reached Batty.

But as the final 20 minutes came in, Hayes began to find some cohesion. Warner struck a sweet drive that Batty claimed well, and Molesley forced Batty into collecting off his feet. But with Clements's electric pace, Hayes pressing forward was always going to cause problems at the back, and when Peacock's in swinging cross was nodded past the upright by the speedy striker. Courtney too found the wrong side of the same post, nipping in behind the defence, and sliding one past the post.

Celtic looked certain to double their lead when a Peacock corner fell to Woods, who headed it goal bound only to see Bossu block the ball. It fell to Pickford, who lashed through the crowd, only to see it come back to Courtney off Gallen. Courtney too was blocked on the line, and Hayes somehow cleared, and survived.

Hayes were making the running as the time ran out, though. Currie blasted wide, and Molesley headed over the bar. Currie again should have done better as the game entered the last ten, but his cross, come shot skidded through the six yard box without being near anybody. Warner will also claim to have had a shot from the half way line, when his cross went to Batty, yards away from the nearest yellow shirt.

With both attackers looking like they had run a marathon, Courtney and Clements were replaced by McNeil and Turley, obviously with precise instructions to hold onto the ball, as this is what they proceeded to do.

When the full forty five minutes were up, Celtic knew from prior experience that they could not rest easy, and when five minutes of stoppage time were added, the Celtic faithful knew that Hayes would have read that script prior to the game. And so it proved, as Batty was beaten, and Beasley cleared off the line an instant before Elverson could celebrate. From the corner the ball was only partially cleared as far as Warner, who's screamer was tipped around the bar by Batty. The Bower boys still couldn't relax, and when the cross in eluded Batty, it was Matt Woods who hoofed clear off the line, but though Bossu had come up from his own net to help in the corner, Celtic were unable to clear it far enough or fast enough to have a long range speculative effort.

Finally, with seconds remaining on the clock, as Hayes won a final corner, and Bossu back up, Warner was left screaming in frustration as his shot was intercepted by Murphy's knee, and hurtled clear. As Bossu ran up the field, and Andy Scott latched onto the clearance, the referee blew his whistle leaving Bossu lying on his back in the centre circle. Hayes had left it too late, another five minutes and their pressure may have told. As it was, it was celebration time for Celtic as their winning streak continued. In all competitions, Celtic have now won the past five games.