There are no two ways to say this, Celtic were dreadful. They could try and blame the wind that was constant and cold, they could try and blame a pitch that was tatty, dusty and awkward bouncing, but when they look back, they are going to have to say that as a team, there was a spark lacking. Celtic cannot even blame the ref, though his one blatant mistake cost us any points, however underserved. I would just like to point out here that the referee was from York, the linesman at the Celtic end was from Harrogate, whilst the one at the other end was from Holmfirth. We were playing in Bradford - are there no other counties that the officials could have come from?
Bradford did not have a fit keeper, instead, Holmshaw stood in. However, when he got injured (his own fault) the replacement, Thompson (who is a rather overweight ex-Frickley manager there, he thought, to make up the numbers) took over. Any shot on target was virtually guaranteed to be a goal in either half - but we managed three shots on target.
And the first of those shots hardly tested the stand-in keeper when, in the opening minute, a Caldicott cross found Eastwood on the edge of the box. Eastwood tried to turn and shoot, but his shot lacked power, and straight at Holmshaw.
Bradford, for their part, also lacked in the shots on target department: they had four. This is not to say that there was no attacking movement from both sides, just a lack of accuracy. On a ground where missing the goal by an inch then entailed a length wait while a ball was retrieved due to the lack of, for want of a better word, sides to the pitch, this lack of accuracy led to a stop-start game.
The first Avenue attack took over five minutes to get going, fighting a strong headwind as they were, and Pearce conceded a corner from Maxwell's half hearted cross in. Pearce was trying to head back to Dootson, though the Celtic keeper would have needed plenty of practice on the running track encircling the pitch in order to reach it. A well-worked corner followed (that was sarcasm by the way). Maxwell gave it to Mitchell, and Mitchell tried to give it back, but he not quick enough and the ball went for a goal kick.
With the wind at their backs, Celtic should have been in a commanding position, but Mayers was the first to squander an excellent chance. A long cross-field ball from Clegg found Eastwood, he traded passes with Mayers, before Mayers lashed his shot well over the bar.
The first of three free kicks in dangerous areas came to Celtic when Quinn bundled over Bowman just outside the box. Potts' free kick was whipped in towards the back post, and Holmshaw got just enough of a hand on it to divert it away from Mayers, though his touch was anything but convincing.
Mayers then wasted his second opportunity. Eastwood spread the ball to Clegg running down the wing, and Mayers in met Clegg's cross. Holmshaw had come for the cross, and was left hopelessly stranded. Mayers tried to loop his header over the Avenue keeper, but succeeded in also clearing the crossbar. However, the goal kick was absolutely dire, and landed at Potts' feet. He didn't hesitate, Potts just blasted it towards goal - unfortunately he missed by a lot.
Desperate misses came from the other team as well. Painter brought a half clearance from German under control with an obvious use of the hand, knocking it down to Walsh. From forty yards out, Walsh put it forty yards wide. The linesman looked worried, it was that inaccurate.
For a part time keeper, Holmshaw did one thing well. When Eastwood dodged his markers long enough to lob a ball into the box for Caldicott who was continuing a run, Holmshaw sprang like an ancient gazelle and plucked the ball out of the air just ahead of the nippy fullback.
In a fit of generosity, German gave Walsh a corner trying to clear Walsh's poor cross in. Maxwell spread the ball out to Painter running in. Painter saw Hayward unmarked at the back post and slid the ball between half a dozen Celtic legs for Hayward to side foot home in the most simple of fashions. Bradford's first shot on target resulted in a goal. Now if only Celtic could get one on target, they'd be sorted.
However, buoyed by the goal, Bradford came straight back at Celtic, obviously liking this new static defence system they were employing. Walsh beat Pearce and only had Dootson to beat. Dootson advanced and made himself big, however, Walsh saw Hayward all along on the other side of the box, and squared the ball to him. All that was required was a repeat of his goal from moments before, but instead he lifted it over the bar from 8 yards. This was the break that Celtic needed to grab a goal, surely!
This looked even more likely when Holmshaw ran across to keep in a sliced ball from Mitchell. The Avenue keeper stood on the ball and twisted his ankle. As the only person in the team who the keeper jersey fit, Holmshaw elected to stay on, with Tracy taking his goal kicks. Somehow he still managed to get it cleared before Mayers could reach him. The Bradford defence packed solid, and when the ball came into the danger area Collins fouled Eastwood 25 yards from goal. Potts tried again, and for the second time put the ball over the bar. When the Celtic fans politely pointed out that he should try and keep them down, he gave them a cheery grin. The imp!
It looked like Potts may get third time lucky. Eastwood turned Stansfield and was about to step over the line into the box when Stansfield hacked him cynically down. There was a line of defenders so perhaps the yellow card was justified, though a red could probably have been argued as well, for none of those defenders were between Eastwood and the goal.
Having seen Potts put two free kicks from a similar position over the bar earlier, Eastwood then proceeded to repeat the trick.
Parr, having kept a low profile, popped up to try his luck from forty-five yards. Against an injured non-keeper, this would have been a good idea, but he was about forty-five yards over the bar, but perhaps Celtic should have taken note of their captain and peppered the goal from every position the pitch, eventually they would have found how to keep the ball down.
The last act of the half was Hayward trying to cross but turning it into a shot with the vagaries of the wind. Dootson punched it clear, and got flattened by Maxwell.
At half time, Holmshaw was replaced by the equally hard to type, Thompson. Thompson was the manager at Frickley for several years. He was on the bench making up the numbers for Bradford, like Celtic, were depleted by injuries and suspensions. Well, he got a game, though it looked like his first in a long while, and he was never a keeper anyway, he was a defender. If Celtic needed any further encouragement to shoot from anywhere, this was it.
However, the only problem was accuracy. This was highlighted almost immediately. Potts did his thing on the wing and put in a cross that was slightly too high for the head of Mayers, but landed well on Hooper's right boot. His volley sailed inches over the bar.
As though trying to point the way, Walsh demonstrated the technique of shooting from anywhere when he tried a shot from about fifty yards. The bumpy pitch threw the ball up in Dootson's face and he made a great lunging save to push it over the bar. Parr cleared as far as Donaldson, who put the ball back in, only to see Dootson punch clear again.
Painter gave a further example a few moments later. Tracy's low cross was met wide, and thirty yards from goal, however, he tried a shot, and it was only just wide, though Dootson was not worried.
To show variation, Hayward broke the Celtic offside trap, and decided not to try the long shot this time, instead he raced one-on-one with Dootson, who made a great save to keep Celtic in view of Bradford.
Eastwood and Mayers tried to haul the two sides level, when the former found the later with an excellent cross that Mayers lifted, turned a shot. Thompson would have had no chance, so he can buy Stansfield a drink for blocking it for him.
Stansfield then showed another skill - a very long throw. From an innocuous looking throw, he threw the ball all the way towards goal. Nobody could reach it and Dootson overstretched when he palmed it away. Perhaps somebody should have told him that had it gone in, a) he wouldn't have got injured, and b) it would have been a goal kick. You can't score direct from a throw in.
From the corner, Pearce cleared to Bowman. Bowman saw plenty of green grass ahead of him, so he ran into it. Nobody came towards him, so he kept running. He ran from his own penalty box to the Bradford defensive third before Collins approached him. Bowman saw Potts on the overlap, and put the ball ahead of him. Potts collected well, and was one-on-one with Thompson - there was only going to be one result, and Potts curled the ball around Thompson to bring the scores level.
Suddenly back on level terms, Bradford picked up a little pace. Hayward got sight of goal again when he burst onto Painters' cross. His shot looped over Dootson and came back off the crossbar. Caldicott hoofed away the rebound, but only as far as Painter, who tried the instant shot, which Dootson punched over the bar getting knocked over with the ferocity of the shot.
Whilst all that was going on, away from the action, Tracy elbowed German in the face. The linesman saw it, and told the referee. I bet Arsene Wenger wishes the referee had been his when he played United, for he let Tracy off with a yellow card. Presumably, it's not a foul when there's no ball involved.
Hallows (on for Hooper) got between Painter and the goal to grant Bradford a second corner, which was wasted.
Eastwood should have sealed it then, for Celtic. Mayers rode the challenge of Mitchell and sent a great ball into the path of Eastwood. Eastwood was one-on-one with Thompson, he had the time, but he tried to blast it past the stand-in's stand-in and Thompson got a leg on the ball diverting it just wide for a corner. Bradford scrambled the corner across the face where Eastwood won it back and lofted it to Mayers. Mayers had a lot of men around him, but still managed to turn and shoot, though his shot was wide.
Then came a moment of controversy were I believe the referee made a mistake. Walking back from an offside position, despite not interfering with play, Eastwood was flagged offside. The referee didn't see him and play continued. After ten seconds or so, the linesman got fed up holding up his flag and put it down. A further ten second past, and Celtic finally got possession back just outside their box, ready to hoof it clear. Thompson was still screaming about the offside though, and the referee heard him - glanced at his linesman who said that there had been an infringement.
Pop-quiz: what do you do? A. Take play back over twenty seconds and sixty yards to give the offside.
Celtic were scandalised, so much in fact that when Thompson lobbed the ball into the box, nobody reacted when Collins climbed the tallest to nod the ball over Dootson who was left clutching at air.
Though the referee had some impact, what were Celtic doing packed around the box? The free kick was in the other half! It was dreadful defending by Celtic, as was the first goal.
Bradford won a corner that they wasted, and the last defender held Potts back, winning only a foul, but then wasted the free kick. Then finally it was full time. Such had been the delays that both halves had been extended by five minutes, and the wind sliced across the one sided ground making me shiver even now (and I am quite close to those fires on the moors so I'm not cold!).
There is no doubt about it, Celtic lacked a first-to-the-ball spirit that Bradford had in spades, whilst they also lacked the inventiveness to shoot from anywhere against either stand in keeper. I'm hoping for much improvement on Monday against Droylsden - we'll need it.