This game was set to be a cracking game, but the referee spoiled it with a very harsh, and over-the-top decision at the end of the first half, when he sent Parr off for foul and abusive language. Up until that point, it had been an end to end match, full of great skill and goals galore.
Celtic opened the shooting and their accounts with a goal. Bowman whipped in a superb cross to the back post, when Parr steamed in and headed back into the danger area. Eastwood was perfectly positioned, and took great advantage with a bullet header into the bottom corner. Any thoughts of defensive play suddenly went out of the minds of the visitors, as they sought a way back into the game. But while they were still rocking from the first goal, Celtic came at them again. This time Eastwood fed Mayers with a difficult to control ball at the edge of the box, but Mayers controlled it well, putting it right back into the path of Celtic's top scorer. Eastwood didn't need a huge invitation, and curled it past the hapless Bishop for his second goal in two minutes, and the game wasn't even ten minutes old.
Barrow, to give them credit, didn't drop their heads, but worked incredibly hard to get back into the game, and though they didn't create anything in the last third, in the middle third, Celtic were chasing shadows.
Eventually, Parr, who was at his most influential, won the ball back, and gave it to Potts. Potts saw Bowman's run and lifted it over two players right into his stride. Bowman took it past two more leaving him one on one with the keeper, and he looked certain to score when Bishop went down early, but the ball was on his wrong foot, and he spooned it wide, when it would have been easier to put it in the back of the net.
Had that gone in, the game could have been very different, as Barrow would probably have crumbled. However, with the reprieve they set off looking for their way back into the game.
Holt got onto a hoofed ball into the corner, and though he had Pearce for company, managed to snap off a looping shot that cleared Dootson, and the bar, though only narrowly.
Pearce was harshly adjudged to have handballed a bouncing ball 35 yards from goal. After making sure the wall got back at least 15 yards, Bullimore stepped up to take the kick. He curled it around the wall and it was top corner all the way, until Dootson pulled off a great save to tip the ball around the post. Parr gave them a second corner, intercepting the first, and Davis smacked the second corner clear.
But a Barrow goal was coming, and it was down to poor marking when it did. As Connell ghosted unmarked to the back post, Bullimore got by-line side of Pearce to whip in a fierce cross that was simplicity itself for Connell to convert.
This gave Celtic the impetus to try and re-establish the cushion, and it almost came from Potts tricky feet as the winger angled across the box, and to the by line, where he turned inside Shaw, before picking out Mayers at the edge of the box. It took a great save with his feet from Bishop to deny Mayers, after being sent the wrong way.
But the referee was falling for the antics of Connell up front, and after Caldicott robbed him with a perfect tackle that freed the full back from the attentions of three Barrow players, the referee gave a free kick in a dangerous area. Fortunately, Bullimore was unable to repeat his early effort, missing the target by a wide margin.
This was to prove costly, as Mayers trundled into the box with the ball at his feet, as Bishop advanced, Mayers tried to blast it past him. Bishop saved it well (he'd have had no chance with a chip the speed to which he went down). The blocked ball went a considerable distance out to Bowman, unmarked 35 yards from goal, with Bishop well off his line, and just getting to his feet, Bowman tried a cheeky long range lob. It clipped Rogers head, giving a little extra height and making it even more impossible for Bishop to reach it, as it was going in anyway, Bowman was credited with his first goal for the club.
Eastwood got greedy as the half went out, sensing his hat-trick, after he received German's long range cross, just keeping it in. He tried to lob the keeper from a narrow angle and (only narrowly) cleared the crossbar.
Then came the most contentious point in the match.
Barrow had been terrified of Parr, with his physical presence and commanding form in the middle of the park, as he charged down Rogers near the corner flag, the Barrow man hoofed it into touch. Much to the amazement of everybody, the throw went Barrow's way. Parr responded with a remark along the lines of "That's our throw, liner!" only with some language of the common people interspersed. The linesman, who obviously has never been in a children's playground, decided that this was foul and abusive language, and called the referee over. The referee, who had previously had a word with Potts and Mayers for a similar outburst, produced a red card and sent Parr off. One can only presume he was trying to even up the game, but what he actually did was make himself the most unpopular man in the ground, and ruin the second half, which could have been as exciting as the first. Some may say that any obscenity is foul and abusive language, but that rule is for real abusive language poured into the face of the officials, not an exclamation. Football is not a game for gentleman, that's polo. The occasional swear word is going to creep in, especially in the heat of the moment. The decision was a farce, and ruined an otherwise excellent game.
Naturally enough, the ineffectual Rogers was replaced by a striker at half time, as Tearney trundled out onto the pitch.
The extra man was to tell as Celtic went into defensive mode, with Mayers pulled back into midfield and Celtic playing deep, but Barrow could always find a spare man on their passes, and left Celtic chasing after the ball. Just four minutes into the half, Gaughan pulled the ball back to Bullimore stood 30 yards from goal, and he unleashed an unstoppable screamer into the top corner.
Barrow were back in the running for a result with such an early goal, and they were quickly back on Celtic, but Celtic calmed the game down, and Potts worked his magic by controlling a long cross from German, and turning inside his man, suddenly, he seemed to have acres of space, and he saw Eastwood unmarked on the penalty spot. A low simple pass found Eastwood, who rifled it into the bottom corner. Celtic had restored their two goal cushion, and for a while looked as though they had a full compliment of players that a two goal cushion gives.
A long Dootson punt almost fell nicely for Eastwood, and had he got anything on the ball, he'd have bagged his fourth goal, but it was just beyond his reach. And when Potts found himself with time once again by the by-line, this time he picked out a well placed Hooper at the edge of the box, but a fifth for Celtic was not on the cards, as the shot blazed over.
After that it was all hands to the defensive pumps as Barrow sent wave after wave of attacks towards the Celtic goal, with crosses flying into the box from all over the pitch. Pearce and Davis were outstanding, and protected Dootson for all they were worth (a moment of madness saw Pearce pass back to Dootson with Connell bearing down, rather than hoof it, Dootson passed it back to Pearce and only the timely interception of an alert Davis saved Dootson's blushes).
A powerful shot from Maxfield looked to be going wide, until Connell popped up at the back post, this time, he was inaccurate, missing the target from inches away. But Barrow weren't going to give up, they still had twenty minutes, and the man advantage. Substitute Tearney got in on the action with a hopeful shot that swerved and dipped, but didn't fool the Celtic number one, who gathered at the second attempt.
Eventually, the Celtic resistance was broken, with a dodgy looking goal. Warren took it through the defence, with a one two off Holt, before sliding it through to Connell, stood in the six yard box with Tearney. Both looked to be offside, but when Connell lifted the ball over Dootson, despite the (rather muted, as they didn't want to be carded) protestations from Celtic players, it stood.
Amid the Barrow pressure, Potts got a chance to re-establish the 2 goal lead when Shaw gave him a bear hug 35 yards from goal. The wall was allowed to stand a mere five yards from Potts, who didn't dare voice a comment, already being on a yellow card. He tried his best but unfortunately, it was an awful free kick, all power, no accuracy and it sailed high over the bar.
As time ran out, Barrow got increasingly desperate, and at one point the ball crisscrossed through the box six or seven times before Dootson plucked it out of the air and lay on it for a couple of seconds.
With so many man committed forwards, a Denham (on for Potts) run saw him race into wide empty spaces. Despite 90 minutes of football, Barrow slogged their way back into defensive positions, but Denham still found Caldicott in acres of space, and he in turn surged into the box with only one man to beat, instead of taking him on, Caldicott blazed the ball across the six yard box. If it had been the opening minute, Eastwood might have made it, as it was, he had run himself into the ground, and couldn't quite put a foot on it, to steer it into the net.
Despite a shocking decision from the officials, Celtic came out of this crucial game with a victory that lifted them to third in the table.