Match Report -
It's not all the ref's fault
By Debbie Taylor

This could be the result that returns Celtic to the Unibond Premier division.

Though many will feel that Jim Tatton of Huyton had an undue affect on the game, there is no getting away from the fact that the Celtic morale looked very low.

The game started with Celtic looking brought. A lovely pass from Perkins freed Courtney to run into acres of space, he was brought to an abrupt stop on the half way line by the elbow of Ramsay. However, as Pickford had picked up the still moving ball to run down the throat of the Dover defence, the ref waved play on, to the admiration of the crowd. However, Pickford's pass to Ayorinde at the edge of the box was intercepted by Browne, and the attack fizzled out, as the ball was hoofed into touch. Before the throw, the ref returned to Ramsay and spoke at some length to the midfielder, but brandished no card.

That was not to be the case some minutes later when Futcher slid in to dispossess Norman, who went sprawling, and earned Futcher a yellow card for a foul that was in no way malicious, just slightly late.

Ayorinde then interchanged brilliantly with Courtney to dance rings around the Dover defence, before getting into the box, and putting a low ball past Hyde in the Dover nets. Only to have it ruled offside.

As both sides struggled to find any fluency, the ref's whistle was a non-stop irritation, blowing for every little thing. With both defences having the better of the opponents attack, neither side looked likely to make a break through. Ayorinde and Courtney both came close, going either side of the goal, and a Pickford shot from a corner cleared the bar. At the other end, Fish didn't have a save to make either.

On the half hour, Norman broke down the right flank, pushing the ball slightly to far ahead of him. Futcher slid in and pushed the ball out for a throw, then Davies continued his run flying over Futcher's leg like it was a new Olympic event.

The ref was duped, despite the close proximity of the linesman, who did not wave for the foul, Tatton dismissed Futcher, to the amazement of everybody except himself. And that includes the Dover fans, who were mystified at this decision.

From that point on, Celtic lacked a certain something in a side that had not looked particularly promising.

Kev Parr dropped deeper, using his phenomenal heading ability to cover for the missing defender. However, when James received the ball, and turned inside the defence, attempted to push the ball past Parr, who obstructed him. The referee decided it was a severe enough to award a penalty. Protestations from the remaining Celtic players fell on deaf ears, and Seabury slotted away the penalty.

Courtney almost had the perfect repost, when Pickford's ball to his feet at the edge of the box allowed him to strike a sweet volley that Hyde could only parry away, making his fingers glow as much as his tan.

That should have been a spur to urge Celtic into second gear, but it didn't.

The second half saw more tired football from both sides, with very little passion displayed. Kelly for Dover never gave up, as Celtic fans knew he wouldn't, and Ayorinde for Celtic was likewise up and down the field like he was tilling it.

However, it was Celtic who got the first opportunity, after a series of corners, Parr fired a low drive in from the edge of the area, only to see a good save from Hyde deny him.

Celtic then made a series of substitutions, to further disorganise an already out of position squad, Perkins was replaced by Murphy, Turley replaced Williamson (who had a great game, and may have found his niche) and Wharton replaced Courtney. The latter two subs were too late into the half to do any good, but for a while Murphy was putting in great crosses.

All the while this was going on, the referee was throwing cards around like confetti, disrupting the game, booking Beesley for asking why an offside had not been given and Parr for asking why a shove in the back had not been a foul. Williamson was also booked (fairly) for a rash scything, two-footed challenge on Kelly. Dover on the other hand seemed immune from prosecution, as though the ref thought that because they were so close to France, they had diplomatic immunity!

As Celtic pushed up, desperate for the equaliser, it was left to Beesley and Woods to hang back. Fast as Woods is, he is no match for Kelly, who raced past Woods to the by line. The speed of the attack left Allen completely unmarked on the far post, and Kelly's swung in ball was just too far away from Fish for the Celtic number one to claim, and Allen had a simple job of nodding home.

That was it, Celtic's heads dropped so far they could use their teeth to tie their shoe laces. Crosses were poor, and easily cut out, even low passes were half hearted. It was only Dover's poor finishing that meant that they didn't grab another as Ramsay blasted well wide on numerous occasions. Celtic though, couldn't find a blue and white shirt in the club shop and it cost dear.

As the fans began to leave, thinking nothing could possibly happen in the last minute, the referee turned a sour, poor game into a farce.

He had long since lost control of the match, with the players unsure of what would get a booking, and what would not. However, when Murphy dispossessed Day by the Celtic penalty area (fair challenge, nothing would ordinarily have come of it) Day sprang to his feet and squared up to the Celtic sub, pushing him over. Parr separated them as an all round melee formed with a number of fists flying.

The referee assumed it had been a foul, booked Murphy for it, sent Day off for punching Murphy. The surprise was that Parr was dismissed also, for breaking up the fight! Everybody else, he just waved away and they eventually sorted themselves out. Dover's free kick, as they all had been, was straight into the wall.

It was a poor Celtic performance, and poor Dover performance, but both were overshadowed by an awful performance from the referee, in my opinion. The score line may have been identical with a better referee, but he spoilt the whole game for me, with inconsistent decision making, waving advantage when none was given, overriding better placed assistants, the list is endless.

Celtic are now in desperate trouble, and beginning to lose site of the safety line.