Match Report -
Just couldn't open the defence
By Debbie Taylor

Let's begin by detailing Emley's attacking contributions to this game.

The game was 40 minutes old before the visitors got a shot on target - that is if you call a header from 5 yards out which hit the angle of post and crossbar on target. Four minutes later Bambrook did get the ball into Celtic's net but was unsurprised to have it ruled out since he was standing 5 yards offside.

And that's it.

On a windswept afternoon of continuous pouring rain , this turned out to be a contest between Celtic's offensive intentions and Emley's defensive capabilities.

The visitors can point to three outstanding defensive performances for keeping them in the game . Goalkeeper Paul Cuss pulled off two magnificent saves and central defenders Rudi Coleano and Paul David offered him excellent protection as Celtic's insistent probing threatened to unzip a defence that was determined to stay tightly shut.

As early as the first minute Kenny Mayers found himself in - literally, given the weather conditions - oceans of space. A yard inside the box and only Paul Cuss between him and glory. He passed the ball square to Phil Eastwood who was as surprised as the intercepting Emley defender was relieved when the chance slid away.

Fitzgerald, Clegg and German were soon in their stride, wading through the puddles and the opposition before releasing dangerous crosses into the penalty area from all angles. One bit of daring-do involved Jezza and Parry, playing a mickey-taking one-two-three-four sequence of short passes around the edge of the box before Fitzgerald drove the ball just past the far post.

It seemed only a matter of time before Celtic would score but when Mayers just failed to connect with another perfect Fitzgerald cross, and when an Eastwood header was hoofed off the goalline before even half an hour had passed, the 560+ crowd sheltering from the elements began to sense that this may not be Celtic's day.

Colin Potts seemed to be enjoying the conditions. With defenders finding it hard to keep their feet, how he loved turning them this way and that! When the impressive Clegg fed him the ball seemingly through a straw - so dead straight was its accuracy- Potts evaded the attentions of two mesmerised defenders only to see his shot just miss its target by inches. Then , seconds before half time, he unbuttoned his opponents again and released a top-notch cross for Kenny Mayers to head a fraction over the top.

If we saw very little of Emley's strike force in the first half , we were to see absolutely nothing of them in the second. From the off, and with the wind and rain increasing in their unpleasantness, Celtic bore down on the Emley goal repeatedly and with great determination.

Hooper drove a left foot 25 yarder just over the bar on 54 minutes; Eastwood, put clear by Fitzgerald on 64, shot wide; Hooper burst into the penalty area on 82 and was prevented from scoring only by the tackle of the day, timed to perfection by the eye-catching Coleano.

Eastwood was to curse Cuss and his defenders twice in this period. With 54 minutes gone , he planted a firm header from a Bowman cross well out of the keeper's reach only to see Coleano head it off the line before the defender himself tumbled backwards into the net, such was the power of Eastwood's effort. Then, in the 68th minute, Eastwood attempted a 40 yard strike ( with the wind as a powerful ally) from near the half way line. It stayed in the air long enough for Cuss to fall backwards underneath it and claw it to safety from just under the bar.

Cuss's big save of the day was being kept on melted ice for the 78th minute. Mayers head-flicked a pass into the path of Colin Potts who had got ahead of his marker near the penalty spot. Potts gave the ball an almighty whack and as it rose into the top corner, Cuss flung himself to his left to turn the ball onto the post and away for a corner.

The cold and the wind and the rain and the sheer frustration of it all was getting to the home side with several players losing their composure as the inevitability of more lost points loomed larger. Kevin Parr was lucky to stay on the pitch after appearing to stamp on an opponent's hand in the final minute. But to be fair, Danny Hooper was desperately unlucky to have been booked at all after he was barged to the ground in the 85th minute, treated on the pitch for a head injury by Dave Pover, and cautioned as he got to his feet.

Given the conditions, and Emley's flattering position in the league, this was another encouraging Celtic display. We remain lightweight in defence and short of real firepower up front. But we do have players of real quality. It was a joy to watch the fluency and accuracy of some of the passing from Hooper, Clegg, German and Fitzgerald, and Phil Eastwood must be wondering what he has to do to score.

But for now, hot baths and fluffy towels are what's needed as we prepare for the tough away days to come. On this showing, the lads have nothing to fear.