Match Report -
Windy!
By Debbie Taylor

In very difficult conditions, Celtic were the equal to their hosts in the first half, gaining a well taken lead, but lost the plot a little in the second half. Even so, they held off the Motormen for most of the second half until two quick goals lost them all of the points.

Vauxhall were the quicker off the mark, testing the Celtic improvised back line with a few early scares. First Young got behind Bowman to whip in a cross that Dootson cleared off the head of Fearns and Bowker cleared. A few minutes later, a lax Potts back pass allowed Cuminskey the chance to latch onto it, and race down Dootson's throat, only an excellently times Bowker sliding tackle robbed the prolific striker at the last moment.

Celtic then edged their way back into the game, using the wind at their backs to good advantage to spread the play. One such move saw the play switch out to Fitzgerald, who put in a great ball to Eastwood at the edge of the box. Eastwood's turn and shot was rising all the time, and cleared the bar. Soon, Potts was squirming his way into the box, but his shot was well blocked by McDermott as far as Wharton. McMullen closed him down quickly and his shot went wide. When Wharton chased down a speeding ball from Fitzgerald, he was running out of space, but he managed to win a corner off Lynch. The wind caught the corner but Parr managed to keep it in with a back header to Bowker, but his shot was blocked off the line by McDermott.

Fearns displayed his skill by dancing past Fitzgerald, Bowker and German to go one on one with Dootson, but his shot from the edge of the box was woeful, slow and right at Dootson, who must have been very relieved.

Celtic received a blow mid way through the first half when Fitzgerald turned his ankle in the centre circle. After lengthy treatment he was stretchered off (and taken away in an ambulance) to be replaced by Caldicott.

Hallows got the game back underway with a great reverse pass into the stride of Eastwood who burst into the box between his markers but his shot zipped over the bar.

As the two sides traded midfield possession before Bowker clattered Lynch forty yards from goal. The free kick was a training ground move, sending Cuminskey out to the by line to drive a low cross into the box - fortunately, German was alert and cleared it before Dootson could be troubled.

Celtic were not the only team on the park to almost be caught out by a bad back pass. Lawton's poor back pass to Ralph saw the Motor's keeper having to sprint from his area to reach the ball before Eastwood, but his clearance landed at the feet of Hallows. Hallows didn't waste any time, but lofted a ball goal ward. Unfortunately, the wind caught it, sending it wide of the mark. The wind again caused problems when Eastwood was laid off by Hallows and burst between Tomlinson and McMullin to get into the box, he tried to curl the ball around Ralph, but the wind held it up, allowing Ralph the time to pluck it out of the air. Tomlinson and McMullin again failed to halt Eastwood when he lifted the ball between them and ran into the box. Having done the hard work, he decided he was eligible for the shot, despite Hallows being completely unmarked inside the box. His shot went over the bar.

Just when it looked like nothing would come off for Celtic, Potts laid Wharton off, forty yards from goal. Wharton had one defender and the keeper between him and goal, so he struck a sweet shot. McDermott jumped to block and the ball grazed his back, taking its flight just beyond Ralph's reach and into the back of the net.

Celtic started the second half looking like the wanted to defend their slender lead. This was probably sensible given the difficulty in getting the ball forward in the heavy wind. Even so, Wharton put in a good cross for Eastwood at the back post, but McDermott cut out the cross. Lynch ploughed right through the back of Wharton long after the cross had gone, and Celtic got a free kick thirty-five yards out. Potts' free kick was squared to Eastwood, and his shot was just over the bar.

Wharton was again involved, winning a corner off Tomlinson, and Potts put the corner to Bowker steaming in at the back post. It was an inch too high, and he put his header wide.

Vauxhall, though, were beginning to edge the possession. Bowker tangled with Lynch, who took the free kick quickly to Fearns. Fearns struck it sweetly, but saw his shot come back off the bar.

Lynch hesitated on the ball, and was robbed by Caldicott who ran into the empty field. Unable to catch him, Lynch earned a yellow card cynically cutting him down. The free kick came to nothing, but shortly Hallows and Parr interchanged. Parr looked a little startled to get the return ball, and it allowed Tomlinson the time to get across and block the shot.

But these were rare forays, and Vauxhall were playing attractive football when they had the ball (and cutting Celtic down when they didn't). Hooper fairly tackled Lynch, who collapsed like house of cards in a gale winning a free kick. Cuminskey took the free kick, curling the ball around the wall and the post. However, Cuminskey fared better with his crosses, providing a good one for Young, who turned and shot, producing an excellent full stretch save from Dootson to keep Celtic's slender lead.

Lynch missed the chance of the match when Fearns pulled back a hopeless looking ball to the captain stood all alone by the back post. It was right onto his favoured foot, twelve inches from goal - and somehow, he put it thirty yards over the bar.

It was beginning to look like Celtic might pull off a stupendous win - especially when Eastwood teed up Potts to run into the box - only a last ditch tackle by Tomlinson as Potts was pulling the trigger denied the winger a deserved goal. The corner came to Eastwood, but Tomlinson threw himself across the path of the ball.

However, it was not to be. With ten minutes left to play, Bowman slid in to block Cuminskey's cross. Dootson palmed the corner over his bar for a second corner that Cuminskey put at the back post. Lynch was there again - unmarked, and he nodded the ball (down this time) into the back of the net. Celtic couldn't get the game back under control, and it wasn't long before Cuminskey was steaming in behind Bowman to go one on one with Dootson. The Celtic number one made an excellent save to deny the Motor's winger, but the rebound fell kindly for Fearns. The prolific striker stepped outside German with a clever dummy, and curled the ball into the top corner past Dootson who had heroically managed to get back to his feet and dive to try and stop it, but it was in vain as Vauxhall went 2-1 up.

There was just time for Vauxhall to win a final corner when Bowker headed Young's shot wide, which Bowman cleared up field before the referee put the freezing players and fans out of their misery and called an end to the game.

Celtic don't seem to be able to play a closed shop game the way teams like Burscough and Wakefiield have been able to do. They are more at home with an attacking approach - the best defence is normally a good offence, but in this case their range of passing was curtailed by the very strong wind, and they had to try and shut up shop. Celtic spurned chances in the first half, and managed to create a couple of openings in the second, but in reality, Ralph was rarely threatened. It may have been worth shooting on sight given the conditions, but Celtic like to be intricate, weaving passes around the opposition, and this night, that didn't come off.

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