Match Report -
Down? Nearly
By Debbie Taylor

Stalybridge missed star striker Ayorinde after the Nigerian earned his third cap with a call-up to the Nigerian squad for a friendly at Hampton park in Scotland.

And without him, there was a cutting edge missing in the Northwich box.

Even so, Celtic were by no means outclassed, even though the Vics went looking for a quick start, but it took 10 minutes before Porter flashed a shot over the bar. The high tempo start paid off after quarter of an hour. Grant squared the ball to Blundell at the edge of the area, and as he was closed down, he put it into the path of player/manager Quinn, who loosed off a fierce drive from the edge of the box that left Fish with no chance.

A quick reaction from Fish saw him race from his box, and sliding tackle Blundell, before clearing, as Celtic looked for a quick reply.

However, it was the home side who were having the breaks in the final third, and Blundell volleyed over the bar from distance.

As the half progressed, Celtic were gaining ground on the Trickies, and Pickford won a corner, which Northwich struggled to clear, though clear it they did.

Celtic were getting stretched at the back as they went for the equaliser, and this allowed Grant to whip in a cross past Perkins, which Porter somehow steered over the bar, much to the relief of Fish. But stretched at the back meant that they were getting forward, and looked a different side to the side that lost three days earlier to Woking. Just past the half hour mark, Walsh won a corner which Trainer flicked in. Shandran was beaten to it by a punch out, but Woods tried to get it back straight away, getting fouled in the process.

Perkins produced sublime skill to dance down the wing before speeding in beautiful low ball that flashed across the box. Pickford threw himself at it, but could not reach it to poke it past Gibson before it ran out of play. In response, Grant latched onto the goal kick, but after rounding Woods, he thundering shot rebounded back off the bar. Quinn's instinctive header cleared the still rattling crossbar.

Woods, back in the side after his injury, was a solid wall to the Vics' attack towards the end of the half, and this got him harshly booked. Within a minute he was again harshly adjudged to have upended Grant, 30 yards out. Ingram took the free kick blasting it into the wall, possibly with the hope that the power would force it through.

Celtic again went close as the half played out when Pickford was hacked down first by Porter, then by Norris. Woods took the free kick, spotting a gap past the wall, and forcing Gibson to pull out a fantastic save to tip the ball with his fingernails around the post. Trainer's corner was unable to find a Celtic shirt, and Northwich scrambled it clear.

The second half saw more of the same, though Shandran was taken off and replaced by Murphy, which was a surprise, although with almost his first touch he almost drew Celtic level when he cut inside Barnard and curled his shot past Gibson and the post. Celtic probed and pushed at the Northwich final third, though without Ayorinde there was definitely something missing: goals!

With Celtic desperate for anything from this game, they relied heavily on Fish in the second half, who answered superbly, though he wasn't needed when Grant's cross found Devlin at the edge of the area, and the midfielder could not keep his volley down.

Without an obvious target man in the box, Wood tried his luck from distance, and his dipping shot curled agonisingly wide, and Walsh again pulled a great save from Gibson when Parr fed him to the edge of the box and his snap shot was well gathered.

The home side were being contained, with Williamson having an outstanding game denying everything that Northwich tried. His commitment to the cause could not be questioned. However, after he robbed Grant for the umpteenth time, the Vic's attacker lost his temper and hacked Williamson down. Williamson regained his feet to square up to his man, only to collapse back onto the floor and he had to be replaced (by Wharton). The referee had no hesitation in sending Grant off for the awful challenge.

It has often been remarked upon that Celtic are rubbish against 10 men, and this is especially true without the inspirational Williamson. However, Fish was on sparkling form. And he needed to be. For despite the numerical advantage, the chances fell to the home side, though Murphy had a half hearted effort that Gibson caught without moving.

Fish intercepted a vicious corner, and caught Garvey's cheeky lob, and when the Vics worked a tricky free kick, which saw Quinn roll the ball into the path of Barnard, who's strongly struck shot produced a great save from the Celtic number one, keeping the score line at least a reasonable reflection of the game.

Celtic look in deep trouble now. With 6 points left up for grabs, one win by Forest Green, and one win by Woking will see Celtic go down, Woking have three games in which to get their points, whilst Forest Green only have two. If Celtic fail to win on Saturday - we are relegated regardless of other results.

Don't expect the half time scores on Saturday!