Celtic knew that winning at Ossett would mean a trip through to the first round proper of the FA Cup, and a possible money spinning league club tie. Ossett knew this too, unfortunately, and the scene was set for a game of two halves.
Celtic started with an attacking frame of mind, Potts racing down the wing, inside his marker and putting a dangerous ball between the keeper and Dodd. As Eastwood pounced, Dodd got enough on it to clear.
But it was Albion who looked the brighter of the two sides throughout the first half, and with some better finishing could have finished Celtic off. Torenczak skated around the back of Bowker to get onto a bouncing ball into the box, striking the ball well on the half volley, but he shot wide. Torenczak was a menace throughout the game, and he won a couple of corners, and latched onto to some excellent through balls from Shaw, however, he seemed to struggle to find the target.
He wasn't the only one ? Norbury, his strike partner was equal lax in the box. Torenczak flicked on a superb cross into the box from Clee only for Norbury to head over from close range. After turning Fitzgerald, Norbury was one-on-one with Dootson, but didn't get closer, instead firing off a shot that was weak and straight at Dootson.
Celtic's chances early in the first half failed to make Carney, the goalkeeper, work at all. Potts took a free kick too quickly, which did cause consternation in the box, but didn't get near Carney before being cleared and a Potts corner sailed across everybody, with Bowker getting the closest.
It was from a free kick at the other end that Ossett came closest to scoring in the first half. Bowker used Norbury as a springboard conceding a free kick in a dangerous place. Norbury took it, curling it through a small gap in the wall. Dootson reacted well and made a fine stop. When Bowker then fouled Norbury again out by the touchline, Dootson palmed the free kick out for a corner, which was wasted. Norbury again came close when Torenczak's through ball put his partner clear beyond Pearce, however, he again struck the ball early, and Dootson was able to get down and save.
Celtic slowly began to get into the game as the first half ebbed away. Potts shrugged his way through Watts and Dodd before sliding the ball along the edge of the box to Eastwood. Celtic's hit man turned and shot from the edge of the box, but sent the ball sailing over. If Bowker had been conceding free kicks at a pace at one end, the same fouls occurring on Mayers at the other end from Watts went not only unpunished, but also seemingly unnoticed. Mayers was tugged and shoved and hauled around by Watts for ninety minutes.
One decision that did go Celtic's way around the box was Hill's attempt at the world's most blatant handball just outside the box that allowed Potts to swing a free kick in. It was cleared as far as Eastwood who slid it between two defenders for Foster running in. Foster struck it sweetly and wide, but discovered that he'd been called offside. He seemed as mystified at the decision as the rest of us.
Finally, just before the end of the half, Celtic made Carney do some work. Mayers flicked Potts' low cross towards the goal, but Carney made a good stop to keep it out. When Marsh brought Bowman down well inside Potts' range, Celtic's free kick specialist curled his sot around the wall and forced a second good save from Carney. Seconds before the whistle, Mayers lobbed a ball over the top of the defence for Potts to run onto, and run onto it he did, Carney bravely smothering the ball on his feet.
Celtic continued their improvement after the break, but everything could have gone disastrously wrong in the opening minute of the half. Kielty's lax pass was intercepted by Fretwell and quickly spread to Torenczak. One touch was all Torenczak needed to set himself up for a shot. Dootson made an excellent save, but Norbury had latched onto the rebound with an instant shot. Celtic owe their victory to the second save that Dootson made, from the floor, still recovering from the initial shot, somehow his arm got up and blocked the ball, allowing Bowker to clear.
Kielty again put Celtic in danger trying to intercept a cross his interception fell kindly to Torenczak. Only the presence of Dootson and Pearce forced him to shoot wide.
Celtic won a couple of corners and free kicks around the box, but were unable to carve an opening, and Carney remained untroubled. However, the passing of the ball was increasing in tempo, and Celtic looked more threatening.
One such pass came from Eastwood splitting apart the defence. Mayers shrugged off the (extremely) close attention he was receiving from Watts to go one-on-one with Carney. The home keeper acquitted himself admirably with an outstanding stop as Mayers tried to lift the ball past him. It was then Mayers turn to provide, lifting a ball over the defence and putting Potts through on the keeper, Potts saw that Carney was off his line and produced an exquisite lob that stranded Carney well away from his line and the ball sailing goal-ward. Fortunately for Ossett and Carney, Hill came steaming in and threw himself at the ball, clearing it for a corner off the line.
Celtic looked the more dangerous of the two teams. Fretwell tried to lift a ball over the defence and Dootson, but Dootson read his attentions easily, but Celtic's passing was becoming sublime.
And it was Celtic's passing game that undid Albion. Bowman slid the ball to Potts who had switched sides, and Potts played a quick one-two with Eastwood before reaching the by-line. With defenders pouring in, a pin-point perfect pass through them all found Mayers who turned it in at the near post with a powerful strike that left Carney flinging himself at thin air.
Norbury had the chance of an instant comeback when Fretwell pulled a ball back from the by-line to him, unmarked, on the six-yard line in the middle of the goal, but somehow, he headed wide. Pearce tracked Torenczak so closely as he tried to run into the box, the Albion striker was unable to get any power on his shot. Norbury got half a chance as Clee's cross was flicked with the back of the heel straight at the Celtic keeper. Ossett looked to be running out of ideas and their frustration was mounting.
Mayers could have made the score line more flattering as Albion's dream of a first ever first round tie slipped further from their grasp. Kielty won a corner off Dodd, and Mayers headed Potts' perfect cross down. A little less power and Mayers would have bagged a brace, as it was, it bounced over the bar instead of the line.
With ten minutes remaining, Ward replaced Clee and Ward's first touch was to blast the ball at goal, only to strike Pearce and get the ball back again. He immediately tried exactly the same move, and again struck Pearce, who hadn't moved. From the resulting throw Hill ran into the box onto a Norbury flick on, but Dootson produced a flying save to tip his header over the bar. Ossett were throwing everybody forward, and they were getting in each other's way from the corner, Marsh's header straight at Dootson for an easy claim.
Watts then got away with the most blatant foul of the afternoon. Eastwood had latched onto a throw and dropped it to Mayers for holding in the corner. With the close attentions of Watts, Mayers spread the ball out to Potts only for Watts to push Mayers in the face with his open hand ? right in front of the referee who chose to do absolutely nothing at all. Mayers almost got the best kind of revenge when he stole the ball off Watts while the defender dallied outside the box. He snapped off a shot that Carney let go, assuming it would sail over, but the shot dipped and dipped, but not quite far enough, in the end clearing the bar by a couple of inches.
With seconds left on the clock Potts lifted a clever ball over the defence into space. Maters ran in and nodded the ball to Eastwood. With his back to goal, Eastwood tried the overhead kick. Carney was beaten, but Dodd got back and threw himself to head the ball off the line for a corner. Celtic held the ball in the corner as the last few seconds drained away. Ossett won it back and hoofed the ball downfield only for the referee to blow for full time exactly on forty-five minutes.
This win was dedicated to Mark Pover, who is still sorely missed on the anniversary of his passing away.
In the Cricketer's Arms next to the ground, players, management and fans alike awaited the outcome of the FA Cup first round draw.
Over half the games had been announced when Mark Lawerenson said Barnet, and his co-host said Stalybridge Celtic. Whilst Celtic beat Barnet, at Barnet, two years ago, a lot has changed since then. Barnet are currently fourth in the league, with the league's top goal scorer in their side, and to top it off, it is a long trip with very little in the way of gate money or hope of progressing. Celtic couldn't have been handed a worse draw and will need to produce the game of their careers if Celtic are to be in the hat for the second round.