Match Report -
Not taking chances
By Andrew Brown

This match always had the potential for mediocrity, given Farnborough's recent form of 2 wins in 10 and Celtic's slump following some decent pre-Christmas victories, and in the event was a poor game between two teams low on confidence (to the supporter on the FTFC web-site who thought Town were "dynamite": what colour is the sky in your world?). Pre-match entertainment was provided by some kids trying (unsuccessfully) to uproot a lamp-post outside the ground. An early disappointment was the non-appearance of Town squad player Tim O'Shea; sponsored, according to the match programme, by "Porno Books Ltd".

Withstanding early Town pressure, Celtic broke out to win a series of free-kicks in the Farnborough half, and had a fairly unconvincing penalty shout ignored. Holloway volleyed the ball wide for the home side on the quarter hour; the lively Sam Ayorinde attempted to volley both ball and goalkeeper into the home net minutes later. Bookings were exchanged as burly Town striker Vansittart flattened Tore-Andre-Flo-a-like Futcher, and Kev Parr booted Patterson in the marital furniture.

As the first half wore on, the Blues forced Farnborough back, and produced some slick passing. Parr's body swerve sent Town right-back Warner several yards the wrong way, but the good work was undone as Parr proceeded to control the ball out for a goal kick. A last-ditch tackle saved Farnborough as McNeil was pulling back the trigger on 41 minutes; Ayorinde's lay-off then saw Ged Murphy fire narrowly wide. Murphy's free kick was cleared off the line in the dying seconds of the first half.

Honours fairly even at half time, with a couple of reasonable saves from David Fish, general competence from the Celtic back-line and few clear chances for either side. Both the half-time cup of tea and the Farnborough mascot's attempts to save half-time penalties from the FTFC boys' team were genuinely appalling.

The second half began in similar fashion to the first, with 'Boro unable to convert territorial supremacy into chances. Celtic tried to play neat football on the ground, but made life difficult for themselves by tending to dwell too long in possession. Ten minutes after the break Murphy was booked for injudicious swearing, yelling "what the **** was that" after being bundled into the advertising hoardings. An incisive run infield by Pickford following an error by Warner could well have led to Celtic opening the scoring; but the Celtic #11 inexplicably declined to shoot, instead passing inside to Matthew McNeil who lacked composure and allowed a defender to get a toe in and clear.

At the other end, Fish saved well after a clever turn and low shot from Town striker Crawshaw on the hour mark. Vansittart was put clean through only to be frustrated by the assistant referee's flag. Ayorinde responded for 'Bridge by bursting past two defenders and clipping the ball neatly over the stranded goalkeeper from five yards out, but sadly also over the empty goal.

The match was decided in the 65th minute when Fish and the Celtic defence spent long seconds avoiding clearing the almost stationary ball, allowing Vansittart to scuff it into the Celtic net from a range of approximately two feet, much to the delight of the previously comatose home support. From the restart Pickford sent the ball screaming over the Farnborough bar and out of the ground. Despite a swap of Geds (Courtney for Murphy) and Wharton coming on for the ineffective McNeil, Celtic never really looked like producing an equalizer in the last quarter of the game.

Home substitute Dean Green put some threatening crosses into the Stalybridge box, and also nearly put the windows of the director's box through with an enthusiastic clearance. Fellow replacement Lee secured the points five minutes from time following a swift breakaway passing move by Farnborough. There was still time for Celtic's Nigerian international Ayorinde (note for confused home officials and Observer statisticians: McNeil was #9 and Ayorinde was #10) to despatch two late shots into the local allotments, for goalscorer Vansittart to earn applause from the fans in red on being withdrawn, and for the unpredictable whistle-blower Mr. Barnes to deny Celtic an 89th minute penalty despite a red-shirted defender handling in his area.

A long journey home for the thirty or so Celtic faithful. At 0-0 with a quarter of the game remaining Celtic had chances of a valuable point or three, but one lapse of concentration ultimately cost us the game. The Blues never gave up and could well have extracted some reward on another day, but seemed unwilling to shoot when the opportunity presented itself; it's hard to spot where goals and points needed keep us up are going to come from. With a bit more luck and confidence at the sharp end we may be able to grind some results out, especially at home, but from rock bottom, with 5 wins from 24 games and averaging less than a goal a game ... onwards and (hopefully) upwards ...

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