Match Report -
Own Goal!
By Debbie Taylor

Celtic truly looked like champions against struggling Altrincham. Altrincham for their part were a different team to the one met earlier in the season, with a new manager, and new, rougher tactics.

Everything that Celtic did, came from Potts' inventiveness. Indeed, he started the game almost immediately with a dangerous ball into the box that Talbot only just reached ahead of Eastwood, and could only clear as far as Parr. Unfortunately, Parr's ball back over the defence left Eastwood offside.

Altrincham's tactics looked like they may pay dividends at the start of the match, especially as Thornley has the strength to run onto any hoofed ball, he shrugged off Davis, but the Burnley man got back on the case, and conceded an early corner, and it was Davis who cleared the corner.

Thornley's heading today was poor, though. After winning a dubious free kick near the half way line, Thornley beat everybody to get on the end of it in the box, but headed wide.

In the Colin Potts show, he provided a throw to Mayers, who's clever touch set Eastwood up for a succinct turn around Maddox to open up space. Maddox threw his body in front of the strike, but Eastwood's shot rose over the bar anyway. Potts then masterminded the opening goal: he turned Adams, leaving him looking like a donkey, before firing in a superb cross that was meant for the side foot of Eastwood. Scott denied Eastwood the goal that would have kept his scoring streak going (to scoring in six games on the trot). It didn't matter to Eastwood, for Scott converted the cross for him! If Scott had not turned the ball into his own net, Eastwood would have.

Scott nearly doubled his tally, when a ball over the defence from Mayers to Eastwood was cut out again by Scott, this time clipping the bar on the way out.

In defence too, Celtic were strong. Though when both Craney and Band snapped off shots, it looked like desperate defending! Hooper cleared off his own line, and Pearce blocked a ferocious shot, as Dootson struggled to get back into position after fisting clear Thornley's cross.

Celtic started to pepper the Altrincham box with quality balls. Potts and Bowman interchanged so that Bowman could whip in a cross that Eastwood met, only to see Rose block on the six yard line. The rebound came to Parr who laid off Hooper, but his shot rose over the bar. Potts latched onto a well weighted ball from Bowman, and whipped in a cross that Rose had to head out for a corner with a diving header.

That was a mistake, for Potts took the corner short to German, who whipped it straight onto Pearce's head, and from close range the defender buried it.

Scott managed to break out of defence occasionally, and tangled with Caldicott on a number of occasions, when he could beat him, he got good crosses in, and Band must have kicked himself, when he headed an easy chance well wide.

Band got another chance moments later, after Pearce slipped not far from the box opening a gap in the defence, but the thunderstruck ball went wide of the mark.

After Potts had been hacked down by Smith, just outside the box, Potts' well struck free kick hit Gallagher, mainly because the Robin's man had set off from his position in the wall well before Potts had kicked it. Smith got a yellow card, and Eastwood took the second free kick. This was better defended, and hacked clear as far as Caldicott, who's cross in was plucked off Eastwood's head by Acton.

A free kick at the start of the second half almost went Altrincham's way: the ball in was only half cleared by Dootson's punch, landing at the feet of Band. Band's shot, for a change, was on target, though Parr was stood there to block it before it was a danger. It landed at the feet of Thornley, but his shot was wide.

Altrincham's problems mounted when Talbot had to be stretchered off, for the Robins had already made two substitutions to try and contain Potts and grab a goal back. These plans were now thrown awry.

To top it off, Potts was still causing them problems despite the replacement of his shadow Adams for Shuttleworth. Celtic won several free kicks around the box, and one where Potts was cut down by Maddox inside the box, but the referee backed down, and made the free kick on the line. It was not the only penalty decision Celtic had turned down. Eastwood had a ferocious shot from 40 yards that Maddox quite deliberately and obviously handballed it inside the box, lifting his arm to shoulder level.

Celtic did apply some pressure from these free kicks, with Parr getting an on-target header from one, that Rose blocked for a corner, and from another, Eastwood got a free shot on goal, producing a good save from Acton. Acton showed a dodgy moment that Celtic almost capitalised on, when he came for a corner ball, and didn't catch cleanly, as he ran in a comedy fumble towards the edge of his box, Mayers tried to sneak the ball off him, but Acton recovered by the edge of his box, and got away with it.

Altrincham finally made Dootson work with quarter of an hour left on the clock. Band made some space around Pearce, and unleashed a powerful strike from twenty yards that was top corner all the way until a top drawer save punched it around the post. Davis cleared the corner as he had done all afternoon.

But though Altrincham worked some free kicks, they never looked threatening again.

Celtic on the other hand looked like they wanted another goal to reduce the goal difference deficit. Caldicott, who had a superb game, made Acton work hard again, with an excellent ball to the back post, curling and dipping past the defenders, to the feet of an unmarked Eastwood. Acton tracked it, and smothered the ball.

Potts and Mayers decided to showboat for a while, playing the ball around in the box, suckering defenders, and it took a well timed, lunging tackle from Maddox to put it out for a corner. Band then got away with Celtic's third good penalty shout, when he pushed the ball over the bar ahead of Acton, using his hand. The referee must have seen it, because he gave a corner. Perhaps he thought Acton had taken off his gloves for a moment.

The corner came out to Caldicott, who's shot through the box of players struck several on its way out for a third corner. Which was cleared properly.

Eastwood whipped a ball in for Denham (on for Mayers), and the young striker slid in to knock it goal-wards, producing another fine save from Acton.

A couple of corners later, and Celtic still couldn't break Altrincham second half resolve. No matter, this was a comprehensive victory that sets Celtic up for the Festive season's clashes with old rivals Hyde United.

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