Match Report -
Barnet Fair - Celtic Superb!
By Debbie Taylor

Before the game, Paul Futcher had gone on record as saying: "Our biggest problem when we play away is a lack of goals - it seems that if we go one behind we're not capable of scoring two. "We've only scored eight away all season and that is something we have to address."

Well, the players certainly showed that this problem has been addressed.

Celtic played the game with a 5-3-2 formation, brining together the three central defenders of Woods, Futcher and Beasley, who performed so well against Doncaster. With such a formation, it allowed both Perkins and Murphy the freedom to roam up the wings, allowing Peacock and Parr greater freedom to cut inside. It was an inspired formation, and one that proved decisive. Even so, Barnet were employing a shoot on site policy to try and grind Celtic into the ground, and it would take some fine goalkeeping and some even better defending to bring this win home.

Barnet took the game to the visitors, anxious for a first win of 2002, and Woods granted them a corner before the echoes of the referee's whistle had died down, blocking Tom's run. With the tallest defence in the league, corner's were to prove no worries to Celtic, and a pattern was set, as Beasley headed clear, and set Murphy off on a run.

But a bad clearance from Walker almost set up the opening goal on 10 minutes for the Bees. Walker raced from his line to clear a through ball, but his clearance fell to Gower, who forgot the mandate of shoot first, think later, and hesitated long enough for Futcher to close him down, and let Walker return to his goal line.

A cleared cross fell to Peacock, who shimmied past Gower, and whipped a cross in to Ayorinde. Immediately the Nigerian was swamped by yellow and black defenders, but persistence and vision saw Murphy steaming into the box, and a lifted cross beat all three markers, to leave Murphy unmarked just inside the box. Murphy did not hesitate, and volleyed the ball across the face of Naisbitt and into the bottom corner. Celtic had finally broken their half hour duck with a fantastic worked goal.

Barnet were rocked, and that could have contributed to allowing Courtney to sneak in at the back post onto a dipping Peacock corner. The defence half cleared the incoming ball, and Celtic's top scorer tried to adjust himself to stab at the ball, but he was falling off balance and steered the ball wide of the mark.

It looked as though Celtic would rue that missed opportunity as Barnet upped the tempo and surged upfield, but Gower repeated the mistake of his opposite number poking the ball around the corner, and leaving Walker unworried.

Walked was more worried moments later as Barnet continued to press, parrying well from Gower right into the path of Stevens, slipping in off the shoulder of Futcher. However, Walker saved well, blocking the second shot with his legs and allowing Futcher to hook the ball clear.

It wasn't over for the ex-Emley keeper, as Flynn's powerful shot from thirty yards forced a sharp reaction, diving low to his left. As the ball rebounded into the box, Woods hooked the ball clear, bending around Toms, to reach the ball. Toms went down in a heap waving for a penalty, but the referee ignored the dramatics and waved play on.

Celtic gave themselves some breathing space, as Ayorinde forced a throw level with the penalty area. Murphy dropped the ball to Peacock, who hit a first time, curling shot from thirty yards - his favourite move. Naisbitt stretched a full length but was unable to reach the inch perfect cross as it smacked off the underside of the crossbar and into the back of the net.

Barnet did get another chance despite the attentions of the back five. But it was only a half chance and Gower's crossed ball was nodded wide of the mark by Purser.

The half time dressing room for the home side must have been blue - and Stills made some drastic changes, changing the formation into an attacking one, bringing on Arber, Berkley and Midgely.

With Barnet pressing so hard, Celtic were forced into 45 minutes of defending, and it was all hands to the defensive pumps. Steve Wood would run himself into the ground, and eventually get replaced by Williamson to further bolster the defence, as cross after cross had to be dealt with, and corner after corner was granted to the home side.

With crosses coming to nothing, and the defence as stalwart as possible, Barnet resorted to blasting from distance, hoping for deflections, or goalkeeping errors. Stevens came the closest, smacking the woodwork, but Doolan should have done better as Flynn's drive was parried into his path by Walker, only for the keeper to twist himself over and smother Doolan's stretching shot. Flynn had a second chance, but again, Walker saved well. As time began to run out, Purser thought that he had scored when his header enabled him to beat Walker, but the Celtic defence were on hand to scramble the ball off the line.

Such intense attacking pressure had to tell, and despite Celtic playing 6-2-2, a last gasp corner was granted to the home side as the referee continued to add the minutes - though there had been no noticeable stoppages.

The ball dropped into the danger area, and players from both sides jammed the penalty area, striving for the ball. As it pinged about with Celtic blocking and tackling, it eventually fell to Midgely, who somehow found a way through the mass of players into the bottom corner of the net. But there was to be no more time added on, and Barnet had to settle for the consolation goal.

The opposition had scored, but Celtic had managed to score more, which pleased Paul Futcher, who said after the game: "We had to work hard for this win but Barnet didn't worry us."