They say that you make your own luck - and Celtic certainly had the opportunities in this match when their bit of luck came off.
Once again, Dootson was a spectator, this time not through woeful shooting, but because Celtic just constantly attacked the oppositions nets, keeping Whitby on the back foot all the time. Denham was outstanding, harrying defenders and making a right royal nuisance of himself. Almost from the off, he made space in the corner to whip in a cross for Eastwood. Only alert defending by Hope stopped Eastwood pouncing, and even then, Hope was lucky not to start the game off with an own goal as the intercepted ball sailed just past the upright. New loan player Robertson came up for the corner, and almost made a dream debut as his headed shot beat the keeper, but not Reid who headed off the line and out for another corner. Whitby struggled to clear, and eventually the ball fell at the feet of Fitzgerald, but his shot was narrowly wide.
Wharton, too, was in the thick of things, though occasionally to much so. German's cross in was destined to be volleyed into the back of the net by Denham, until Wharton powered in and headed straight at the keeper. Dowell had to be reactive, but Denham was the better placed player. However it showed how Celtic were queuing up for the crossed ball.
Having missed already, Fitzgerald interchanged with Potts (who had his best game all season) in order to cut inside. His shot from forty yards was powerful, but an outstretched leg from Laws denied him. The corner was cleared, but Celtic were soon right back at Whitby. Many balls sailed into the box, but without the powerful Hallows, there was nobody to convert them.
So Celtic switched tactics, and started slicing open the Whitby defence. Bowman sent an incisive ball past the back line. Eastwood span his man, and set off into the box, only to be deliberately tripped by Rand. Despite the obvious foul on the edge of the box, no yellow card was issued. The referee constantly tried to get the wall back 10 yards, but he could get them to come no further back than 6 yards before he eventually gave up. A yellow card would have had them all dancing back rapidly, or the free kick should have been moved forward 10 yards - into the box. Wharton took the free kick, which clipped Rand at the edge of the wall, taking all the pace out of it, but still Dowell had to be at full stretch at the far post.
Celtic didn't let theses early disappointments slow down their relentless attacking. Soon Denham was racing after a long through ball. Despite Reid's attempt at shielding, Denham raced around him and cut the ball back for Potts, but his first time shot sails over the bar.
Fitzgerald then whipped in a cross from the other side, and when Dixon fluffed his headed clearance, leaving Denham with the chance to pounce, it took a very brave keeper to leap forward and smother the ball.
Potts showed his ability when he had a fine individual run down the wing with plenty of tricks and fancy footwork, before cutting inside, beating two defenders, and then stepping around Reid to have a shot. Though it deserved a goal, it was narrowly wide.
If you are wondering what Dootson is doing, at this point, 30 minutes into the game, he's relaxing on a deckchair. He put it away though as Ure came steaming down the field. However, Robertson protected him well, conceding the corner with a good tackle. The corner was a good one, and Celtic struggled to clear, leaving people wondering if this game would go the same as many others, despite being on top, the opposition snatch a goal. However, the ball was eventually cleared by German, but only as far as Ure, but his shot was high, wide and soft.
Denham robbed Hope at the other end of the pitch, pulling it back for Eastwood at the edge of the box unmarked and poised. He steered his shot around Dowell, but it stuck the foot of the post, rebounding out to Potts. By now Whitby were getting back in numbers, so Potts squared to Bowman running in, who put it into the stride of Parr. It was a good shot, but straight at the keeper, who blocked it, allowing Rand to hook it clear.
As Whitby looked more settled, Potts turned on the style, dancing around their players with the ball, interchanging with Bowman to put Potts clear into the box. However, he tried to place his shot into the top corner, curled around Dowell, and it sailed over the bar.
Eastwood showed Potts how it should be done, he made space just outside the box, and unleashed a skimming low ball the looked to be a simple catch for Dowell. But Dowell will be grateful that there were no cameras present as he did a "Massimo", the ball squirting under his body, between his legs and into the goal!
A little bit of luck, and Celtic fans were smiling again!
Just before the half time whistle, Celtic were reminded that Whitby are a decent side, when Ure and Wilford played their way into a good position, before Ure's cross in was cut out by Bowker. Again, it was a good corner, but Ure couldn't keep his volley down, and it sailed high over the bar.
Celtic may have deserved to be more than one up at the break, but one up they were. There was always a chance that Whitby could get back into the game, and Celtic knew that they were going to have to grab more in the second half.
Again they carried the game to Whitby, penning them into the own half. Wharton won a corner almost immediately off Veart, and though it was cleared by Hope, it was put straight back in by Bowman., but Wharton's ball curled around the post.
Ure, at the other end of the pitch gave Dootson something to do when a cross field ball from Veart came in. However, Dootson job was laughing at Ure's comedy overhead kick which sailed a good twenty yards wide of the mark and left him in a bald heap.
Celtic looked much more likely to score though. Wharton carried the ball half way up the field before crossing into the head of Denham, but the keeper made a comfortable catch. Before Whitby could catch their breath, German brought the goal kick back towards the net, and had a shot from 40 yards, but despite the power, the accuracy was lacking, and it curled wide the whole way. Potts collected the goal kick, and brought it right back at Whitby, feeding Parr who burst through the defence, and only a latch ditch tackle from Rand putting it out for a corner denied Celtic's new club captain. Wilford was back on defensive duties to put the corner out for a corner, which was cleared better this time. There was no let up though, as Celtic came straight back at Whitby, it was relentless pressure by the home side.
Eastwood won a corner from Laws, getting in a good block, which Wharton whipped in. Dowell could only parry the corner, straight to Parr, who gave it back to Wharton to curl in another cross. Denham connected but Dixon blocked and cleared. It was backs to the wall stuff from Whitby.
Bowman tried to emulate the shot of Eastwood in the first half, this time Dowell blocked the ball, right into the path of Potts. Frantically he made a brave dive to smother the ball on Potts' boots.
Slowly, Whitby began to settle, an hour in, and they managed to find a bit of breathing space for themselves. Eventually, they got it forward to Ure. His shot was palmed clear by Dootson (finally given the opportunity to justify him turning up), right into the path of Wilford. German closed in on him with haste, deflecting the shot for a corner. Bowker hooked the corner clear, sending Potts on a run. He brought the ball down well, allowing him to break between Reid and Veart towards the goal. Dowell came out of his area to box Potts in, but the tricky winger lobbed the keeper from a good 40 yards out. Dowell turned and ran back towards his goal, he would never have made it, and looked mighty relieved as the ball cleared the crossbar by an inch, bouncing off the roof of the net.
It wasn't long before Celtic were attacking again, this time it was Parr shooting from distance. His shot was deflected by Rand into the path of Denham, who cut it back for Fitzgerald. A first time cross in was right onto the head of Eastwood, but he couldn't steer it into the net.
It was then Denham's turn to make a glaring miss. Eastwood stopped a clearance, squaring it to Wharton, who put a first time ball through the defence into the path of Denham, but as Dowell advanced, Denham chose the wrong option, trying a little chip that cleared keeper and bar.
Within minutes, Wharton opened up the defence again, stealing the ball by the sideline, back-healing to Potts, a powerful shot from Potts deflected off Laws, and looked certain for the far corner of the net. Dowell got down well, tipping the ball around the post. The corner was long, but Denham raced across and pulled it back for Eastwood, Dixon slid in to deny him the opportunity. Denham was immediately in the same position, this time pulling it back for Bowman, who had no more luck, sticking the ball over the bar.
Denham then used his pace to race through the back line and go one on one with Dowell. Dowell went down, clipping Denham's feet, Denham stayed upright, but was forced wide, he pulled the ball back for Parr, who struck a thunderous shot, but somehow the keeper had recovered, and pulled off a good block.
The second goal was simplicity itself. Potts controlled a long clearance from the Celtic half with one touch. Denham went one way, Eastwood went the other. Potts chose correctly, spreading the ball wide to Eastwood, with the defence split, Eastwood chipped the ball over the keeper and the two (rather short) defenders on the line and into the net.
Eastwood then went hunting for the hat-trick. Potts poked a ball through the defence, and Eastwood span around his marker onto it, but his way was blocked. He lifted it over the defender to Parr, but the bounce was awkward and Parr's shot lacked power. And when Wharton broke clear, and had the opportunity to shoot, or make the pass to Denham, Eastwood called for it, despite being the most poorly placed of all of the attackers. Knowing how important a hat-trick would be for Eastwood, Wharton lifted it to Eastwood, but again Eastwood couldn't get power on the shot, and the catch by Dowell was relatively simple.
Eastwood ran out of time for getting his hat-trick, but there is always Tuesday night in Barrow. Barrow were recently turned over 3-0 by Ashton United. If Celtic play like this, they could record their first away win. Their pressure was relentless, and Hallows wasn't missed all that much, though if he had been present, I'm positive the score-line would have impressed anybody!