This was a game of two halves, with Celtic playing okay in the first half and superbly in the second. It could have gone either way for an hour, but after getting a second goal, Celtic never looked back. There was a few worrying moments, especially when Foster sliced through Parr, forcing him to be stretchered off and taken to hospital, though the good news is, his leg was not broken.
Celtic started attacking straight away, and could have got a goal in the first few seconds, if Diggle had not been alert. As it was, Celtic did win a corner in the opening minutes, when Potts tried to nutmeg Lomax, only for the Hyde full back to close his legs and send the rebound out for a corner. Dominic Crookes cleared the corner comfortably, but the attacking intent was there to see.
Hyde's first corner came when German attempted a back pass header to Dootson, only to direct it poorly, and give Dootson no chance to reach it. Davis got it clear, and soon Celtic were attacking again, with Eastwood seeing Peter Crookes badly positioned, and trying the distance shot. Crookes recovered, but spilled the shot. Mayers was the closest to the spill, but not close enough and the tiger keeper could collect at the second attempt. He tried again from distance a few moments later, when Parr's cushioned header bounced nicely for Eastwood, but his half volley cleared the bar, without worrying Crookes.
Under their new manager, Waywell, the plan looked simple, hustle Celtic at every opportunity, but the defence took it too literally, and conceded several free kicks around the box. Lomax was the first culprit, hauling Potts off the ball as the tricky winger sprinted past him. He made amends when he cleared the free kick after it had deflected off the wall. A brief mention about these walls: When Celtic were lining up their shots, the referee never measured out the distance, but for Hyde's only free kick in a dangerous position, he measured it, and took about twelve steps!
Pearce and Davis were a rock at the back for Celtic, Pearce especially performing well. He hustled Foster every time the striker got in range. He conceded a free kick and a corner stopping Foster, but Celtic defended well in both situations, and Foster's frustration mounted. From the corner, Dootson punched clear, but only as far as Tee. Bowman intercepted Tee's cross at the expense of a second corner, which Dootson again punched clear, but only as far as Fisher. Dootson caught and released Bowman for a run up field.
More strange decisions from the referee: twice he gave obvious corners as goal kicks, the first when Potts was stuck in the corner with Lomax, and kicked the ball off him, and the second when the referee overruled his better positioned linesman to deny Eastwood the corner off Diggle's deflection.
As the half wore on, Celtic looked more and more dangerous. German finally found a good cross when, on twenty minutes, he whipped in a crisp ball meant for the head of Parr, but only a rapid response from Ashwell hoofing narrowly over his own bar denied the Celtic magic-man a certain goal. The corner was right onto the head of Eastwood, but when he clashed heads with Diggle, coming off worst, play was stopped.
Lomax eventually got a yellow card for a slicing tackle on Potts after the Celtic man had beaten him for the umpteenth time. The free kick was poor and it put the Celtic defence under pressure. Davis cleared as far as Fisher forty yards from goal. The tiger tried a snapped off distance shot, it was a comfortable catch for Dootson. As though prompted by Waywell to try distance high shots, Whelan tried a similar forty yard screamer, but it was right at the Celtic number on, and he made it look simple.
But it was a Celtic ascendancy that was obvious. Eastwood and Mayer's linked up at the edge of the Hyde box, with Mayers giving his partner a well cushioned square ball, before trundling through the defence. He wanted the return, but Eastwood wanted a goal, and the ball had been superbly waited, though his shot lacked accuracy, scraping the bar on the way out.
Potts left Lomax standing, Lomax dared not tackle for fear of seeing red allowing Potts to race to the six yard line. Diggle hacked him down, with Ashwell also getting in on the action smothering Potts in a tangle of legs. An obvious penalty to everybody except the referee. The ball fell to Mayers, who lined up his shot, aiming over the mass of players, but Diggle managed to get up and clear.
Diggle was once again lunging in, this time on Mayers 30 yards from goal. Again the referee refused to measure the wall, who were stood about six yards from Potts. Rather than argue, Celtic performed a sublime free kick. Eastwood ran over the ball, Potts slid it sideways to Mayers. No hesitation or control needed, Mayers put it right into the stride of Eastwood, kept just onside by the perfectly timed run to smash it under the body of Crookes. They had expected the curling shot, and were undone by skill.
Moments later, Eastwood could have doubled the lead, when German found him on the six yard line, but the pass was a touch too hard, and Eastwood's first touch was not the best, allowing Diggle to sneak in and welly it clear. Potts then tried to add one, when he ran rings around his new marker, Fisher, to make some space. Eastwood and Mayers were unmarked in the box, but the shot was the only thing on Potts' mind, but he missed!
Parr tackled Evans from behind forty yards from goal, the referee gave the foul, and Fisher curled the free kick over the wall. It beat Dootson, clipping the upright on the way out. Somehow, Davis teleported three yards so that he too could touch it and concede a corner. Even the linesman looked perplexed at that decision! Parr made amends by being the one on the near post, clearing the corner well.
Diggle lunged in yet again on Potts, just outside the box, as Potts had already laid the ball off to Mayers, the referee decided Celtic had the advantage and let play continue, though he never went back to book Diggle. Instead, Diggle got something far worse! Mayers lined up his shot, and struck it sweetly, right between Diggle's legs, leaving the Hyde man on the floor regretting getting in the way! Revenge? Sweet!
To prove his place in the team, Peter Crookes produced a good save as the half ran down. Parr connected well to an Eastwood cross, but Crookes turned the shot around the post, and the corner was cleared by Diggle.
The last action of the half had to fall to Potts. He avoided all of Lomax, Ashwell, Crookes and Diggle's hacking challenges to make space, only to strike Mayers, who deflected it wide!
It looked at the end of the half that Celtic were cruising but not creating, and Dave Miller must have lambasted them in the dressing room, for they came out looking fired up, a good minute ahead of their opposition.
Potts immediately took the ball down the wing and past Lomax, the inch perfect cross was met by the head of Mayers on the back post, but though his header beat Crookes, it clipped the far post on the way wide.
Fisher took his turn in hacking down Potts thirty yards from goal. The wall was far enough away from Potts this time (though how the referee knew this, I don't know). He curled it around the wall and it was top corner all of the way until Crookes got a finger tip to it to concede the corner. It was cleared, but soon Caldicott was racing into the box onto an intelligent Mayers lay-off. Caldicott struck it sweetly, forcing a great save from Crookes. Parr connected with the header but couldn't beat Diggle, who conceded the second corner. Davis and Dominic Crookes both leapt for the same ball, as there was a slight brush of shirt material, the referee gave the foul.
However, everything could have gone wrong. German cut out a cross meant for Foster at the expense of a corner. Dominic Crookes was the tallest in the box, but his header clipped the bar on the way out. The ex-Celtic man had given Celtic a reprieve. But not as big a reprieve as Foster gave them. Meszaros (on for Tee) beat German into the corner and sent in a wondrous cross that was too high for the Celtic defence, but not for Foster sneaking in at the back post. With the scores at 1-0, with the empty net gaping in front of him, with a perfect ball onto the six yard line, he spooned it over the bar.
That was a game turning moment. Celtic realised that they could not afford to tantalise the Tigers, and stepped up three gears into top flight.
Potts steamed off down field, past Lomax, cut in between Meszaros and Crookes and laid Mayers off with a gorgeous skimming cross that allowed Mayers room to turn inside Diggle and drive the ball under Crookes' body.
Celtic never looked back.
Dootson punted the ball to the half way line where Potts brought it down superbly, turned around Fisher, side stepped Crookes, ducked inside Ashwell and slotted the ball inside the keeper. Made by Potts, scored by Potts.
Wharton got to the by line and tried to cut the ball back for Eastwood, but Crookes tracked him at the expense of a corner. The ball eventually came down for Pearce, who forced Meszaros to concede a second corner. Mayers at the near post tried to flick it on, but Peter Crookes plucked the ball unconvincingly out of the air. His long punt up field fell to German. German slid it to Wharton, Wharton pulled off a fifty yard diagonal ball into the path of Colin Potts who suddenly found himself with a clear route to goal. He took it, two strides then wham! His right foot unleashed a strike worthy of a Premiership match and the ball never wavered as it blasted straight into the top corner from forty yards. Goal keepers don't stop those!
In a five minute spell, Celtic had gone from looking like a draw was on the cards to being 4-0 up, and Hyde crumbled.
As if they had not learned their lesson, Crookes hauled Potts back when he couldn't contain the tricky winger, conceding a free kick forty yards from goal. It was destined for Mayers, but Diggle was there to cut it out. Diggle's clearance was retrieved by Parr in the centre circle. He immediately spread it out to Caldicott. What seemed like an eternity later, Foster came sliding in from behind Parr, his foot calf high, and sliced right through Captain Parr's leg. Wharton came steaming over and pushed Foster over, he had seen how serious the foul was. So had the referee. He had no hesitation in sending Foster from the field of play. Whilst the stretcher came for Parr, and an ambulance was called to whisk him off to Tameside General, the referee called Wharton over. He should have walked as well, but the referee handed out a yellow only.
Celtic took revenge in the only way they could. Hooper was brought on for Parr, and he received the free kick. A first time touch slid the ball into Caldicott's path. Caldicott raced up field, just as it looked like he would overwhelmed by defenders, he released a well timed ball that found Eastwood in acres of space. Eastwood turned to face goal. Crookes trembled on his line. Eastwood grabbed his second and Celtic's fifth to propel himself into second place in the Unibond Golden Boot league.
With such a score line, Miller decided to give players a run out. Fitzgerald replaced the impressive and hard working Caldicott, whilst Denham came on for Mayers in order to terrorise the tired Tiger defence.
Celtic were show boating now. Hyde were snapping at shadows, and Dootson had set out his picnic blanket.
Eastwood and Potts traded passes until Eastwood lifted it over the defenders into Wharton's stride. Wharton had more time, but snapped at the shot, sending it skyward.
Celtic won a couple of corners in quick succession, Diggle providing the second intercepting Potts' lofted ball, it was cleared as far as Denham, and he raced towards goal. Ashwell sliced him down thirty five yards from his target. Potts lined up the free kick, and Dominic Crookes had no idea what hit him when his head deflected the ball for a corner - his ears are probably still ringing. The corner came out to German, who pumped the ball into the box for Pearce, but his shot went over the bar.
Potts and Eastwood again toyed with the defence until Denham's run was just right, when Potts slid the ball into his path. He didn't need to adjust his stride such was the quality of the ball, but struck it low and hard. It clipped the near post, and nearly clipped the far post, but went wide.
Denham would not be denied. Potts twisted and turned his way to the by line, dragging defenders in his wake, stunning them with his skill before crossing in a sublime ball that seemed to zip along at waist height. Denham stormed in at the back post and planted the foot on it that diverted it into the back of the net.
Such was the dominance of the Celtic team, that Davis started a move in his own half, and continued his run, almost getting onto the end of Potts' cross into the box.
With seconds on the clock, Evans tried a hopeful shot from a great distance, it bounced awkwardly in front of Dootson, and all he could do was palm it around the post for a corner. However, Hyde were a beaten team, and the corner was easily cleared. The referee decided that enough was enough and as Celtic got it into the last third, he blew full time.
This was a storming second half performance. It was a good job they didn't play like that all game, as new world records on number of goals scored would have attracted unwanted media attention! Hyde were blitzkrieged during a Potts' magical five minute spell, and spent the remainder of the half creating and converting chances.
With the recent news that Parr's injury is severe bruising rather than a break, nothing should hold back the new year celebrations. The Hare and Hounds set off fireworks that paled in comparison to those on the pitch.