Match Report -
Should have been three
By Debbie Taylor

Celtic took their number of wins to 2, getting two goals past a competent Marine outfit. And they looked comfortable doing it! This was by far the most comprehensively settled performance of any game played this season so far.

Bowker had come into the centre of the defence, allowing Mayers to become a defensive midfielder behind the central 3 of Parr, Potts and Bowman. Denham got his second start of the campaign, ousting the experienced Eastwood. This was a tactical formation that would pay off.

However, it was Marine that opened the shots on target in the opening minute, when Bowman was adjudged to have fouled McNally in the centre of the park. Hussin sent a speeding ball into the box, and Dootson found himself being tested early as Townsend forced him into tipping the ball over the bar. It was Townsend again, warning Celtic of his ability when he got higher than the defence to head the corner wide.

Randles, a persistent thorn in the Celtic side all match, grasped and pulled at Bowman as the two fought for a bouncing ball off the goal kick, Bowman came out on top, and snapped off a wicked half volley that dipped just a little too late and cleared the bar.

As Celtic pressed the Marine line back further and further, Hallows eventually won a corner of Randles, when the defender paid too close attention to the striker. Parr found himself with plenty of space to connect with Potts's whipped in ball, heading down to the keeper's left. Stewart responded well, blocking the shot. Timons raced onto it and pulled it back for Bowker, but the defender pulled at his shot and sent it skimming just past the post.

Timons then gave a corner at the other end, intercepting Wareing's cross in, but the corner was wasted, and Celtic could continue to patiently build their attack.

Stewart, by far the busiest of the two keepers in the opening fifteen minutes was again called into action, when Hallows connected well with a delicious German cross, catching and holding onto the ball despite the presence of Denham.

Denham and Mayers then threaded the ball around the defence to get into the box, but Mayers' final ball was inches too far ahead of Denham as he raced onto it, and Mullin nipped in to blast it out for a throw-in.

The Celtic pressure continued, and Bowman managed to wangle a corner out of Mullin, but Parr relieved the pressure by heading wide of the mark.

Denham's pace was an asset to Celtic that they continued to try and employ. Hallows threaded a ball right into his path, and this time it was Gautrey who had to be alert, sliding in to disposes the rapid striker, giving Celtic a corner. Celtic's set pieces have not been too hot this season, and this was no exception, with Potts putting the ball far too close to Stewart, who claimed well.

Denham, still looking to open his account for Celtic almost did so when an excellent German ball came zipping into the box, all he needed was a touch to divert it past the keeper, but it was a scant inch above his crew cut, and Stewart could catch with relief.

Celtic then got a couple of free kicks about thirty five yards out, courtesy of the lunging Randles, but in both cases, the Marine defence were strong, and Celtic could not break through. It looked like it would take something special.

And something special it was. Fitzgerald raced past the defence onto a perfectly weighted through ball from Potts, whipping in a cross as he reached the by-line. It was too high for Hallows who dragged the keeper to the middle of the net with him, but it wasn't too high for Denham, who stooped in and nodded home his first goal for the club.

The half time break could have dulled Denham's appetite for more, but there was no evidence of that. He was around every ball that Celtic moved into the area, either threatening or providing. It took alert defending from Mullin to beat the youngster to the ball off Bowman's well worked cross. And it was Denham who put a ball into Fitzgerald's path as he raced down onto the keeper. Beaten, Wareing slid in and hacked Fitzgerald down - no attempt to get the ball, no body else between Fitzgerald and the goal - Wareing should have gone for an early bath - but all he got was a stern talking to.

After being treated, Fitzgerald was instrumental in Celtic's second goal, again freed by Potts, he raced clear and skimmed the ball across the grass along the six yard line. The keeper made a howler of a mistake as he allowed the ball to slip under his body, but Denham wasn't going to stop and apologise, instead he made a simple side foot finish, doubling Celtic's lead.

Marine sensed the game slipping away from them, and not wanting to disappoint Roly Howard (in his thirtieth managerial year at Marine) they began to press themselves as the game went into the last twenty minutes.

Mayers trundled into Hussin 35 yards out from the Celtic goal, well within Culshaw's firing range. Culshaw wasted no time curling a ball up and around the wall, bringing a great save from Dootson.

Eastwood came on for the limping Potts, and Mullin was replaced by Martindale.

Eastwood's first contribution came almost immediately as he cut the ball back from the edge of the six yard box for Fitzgerald running in. Fitzgerald volleyed the ball into the back of the net - only to see his first goal for Celtic wiped off the official scoreboard by a linesman's flag. Despite being behind the ball the whole time, the linesman called him offside. This wasn't the only dubious offside decision this match. There were plenty of examples, including Denham being offside in his own half, and Hallows being offside despite having to haul his way around Wareing.

The goal could have given Celtic a clean sheet, as with 14 minutes left on the clock Bowker cut out a telling cross from Dowlan granting Marine a corner. Once again Townsend got the better of the defence, and after so many early misses, made no mistake this time in the crowded penalty box, sending it past Dootson's right hand.

With a point in sight, Marine went for it. Morgan tried a volley off Dowlan's cross field ball that sailed over the bar.

Celtic did occasionally release the pressure with some cool defending, one such move getting Eastwood into a shooting position, but his curling shot was too slow. and Stewart could catch comfortably. Marine wasted a number of corners, before again Celtic managed to break. Fitzgerald ran into the box, and saw Denham steaming in again. Fitzgerald, in a shooting position himself, unselfishly laid the ball back to Denham so the youngster could get a hat trick on his first full home start. Unfortunately the ball lacked a little pace, and Denham had to adjust his stride, allowing Wareing to get in and wrestle him off the ball. Moments later, on another Celtic break, it was Hallows turn to go one-on-one with Stewart, and Stewart kept his team in the game with a great save to deny the Celtic striker.

With only seconds remaining on the clock, Mayers brought down a racing Dowlan whilst he was still in the Marine half. The whole Marine team surged into the box, and the keeper came way out of his area to take it. Dootson couldn't get through the press of bodies to reach the floated ball in, but neither could Townsend direct it through his own team-mates bodies, seeing his header deflected for a goal kick. If Dootson had caught it, a long punt up field would (had it been on target) would have left the keeper still running back towards his box.

As the only yellow card all day had been for Randle's persistent fouling, it came as no surprise that when Parr raced clear, with an empty pitch ahead of him, and a chasing pack behind, when Townsend scythed him down, there was nothing flashing from the referee's pocket, despite Parr being left unable to run.

But that was it, Celtic had weathered the late storm with some cool, crucial defending. Only the momentary lapse had allowed Townsend to get onto the header, and Celtic had come away with a second victory. They could have had several more, and should have definitely had one more, except for the dubious assistant's decision.

The big test comes when Accrington Stanley visit on Saturday. They have won six out of six of their opening games, and are currently the team to beat.

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