How unlucky can one team be? Celtic are playing 100% better than previous months, and still the results are not coming in, despite playing teams off the park. This game personified that with three goals that have to go down as pure flukes.
The first half was quite even, with Celtic opening the shooting account from Clegg who found himself with space some 30 yards from goal and unleashed a powerful shot straight at Trueman in the home nets. United responded with Thackery getting goal side of Todd and firing across the face of Bowling. The stand-in Celtic keeper got down well and tipped the ball around the post. Bowling came for the corner but got stranded as he misjudged the flight of the ball. Keeling was on hand to head clear, but the ball fell nicely for Garvey. The Robin's striker hit the ball first time, but Bowling had got back into position, and blocked well.
Ashton continued their early onslaught with Thackery speeding past Todd before whipping in a good cross that Garvey volleyed wide.
Celtic's bad luck manifested itself when Wharton tried to turn Allison winning a corner instead of a cross. Adams rose between Heald and Eastwood to head out for what should have been a second corner, but was in fact a goal kick. Wharton was playing exceptionally well, and was soon powering his way into some space at the edge of the box. He unleashed a super shot that got an unwitting deflection off Royle to go wide of the mark. Celtic couldn't convert the corner, allowing Ashton some breathing space.
In typical derby fashion the game tipped back into Ashton's favour as Miller (on for the injured Thackery) rode several challenges to get a shot off, only to find Bowling on top form, tipping the ball away for a corner. Keeling headed the corner clear, but only as far as Fleury who lobbed it back in. Bowling was there ahead of everybody to pluck the ball out of the air.
Bowling was again called into action when Garvey raced onto a loose ball, beating the offside trap. Bowling was off his line quickly and he made a superb tackle to rob Garvey. The ball fell loose to Miller, German got enough of a deflection onto the shot at the empty net to divert it over the bar. Ashton then proceeded to waste their corner.
As the half went into the final period, German was allowed to drive forward into the opposition half. As the defence parted before him German wasted no time in having a shot. Again a deflection came to Ashton's rescue, this time diverting it into Trueman's hands.
Celtic continued to capitalise on their ascendancy as Eastwood's skill won him the time to spin a cross into the box where Wharton came steaming in with a stooping header. Trueman knew nothing of the save the side of his face made spinning the ball onto the crossbar. Falling backwards, the knuckles of the Robin's keeper grazed the ball away from another nod from Wharton, instead putting it towards Bowman. Adams blocked Bowman's route to the ball and cleared. Eastwood got a great chance when Adam's attempted clearance missed the ball completely leaving it bobbling behind him. Eastwood latched onto the loose ball, but yet another deflection sent his shot over the bar. A strange corner resulted in Celtic going backwards before Clegg was brought down in the centre circle. From the free kick, Keeling nodded the ball across to Fitzgerald. With his back to goal, the Celtic utility player attempted the overhead, clearing the bar.
Ashton tried to come out with all guns blazing, Allison chancing his arm with a long distance drive that was a comfortable catch for Celtic, but Celtic were more fired up still. Great build up play resulted in Heald being clumsily bundled over by Royle 30 yards from goal. Wharton took the free kick curling it around the wall. Trueman got across well, but the ball span between his hands, his legs and the posts across the line to give Celtic their first bit of luck all season. It was a jammy goal, and with Lady Luck obviously looking the other way at that moment, resulted in the bad luck being piled on further.
Celtic tried to build on their lead, as a fine reverse pass from Eastwood found Thornley at a narrow angle. Thornley tried the unexpected of a shot, but there was not enough room between Trueman and the post, and Celtic won a corner alone. The corner came out to Wharton who's powerful shot was inches wide.
After proceeding up the pitch by a series of throw-ins, White did a long throw into the Celtic box that Todd headed out for a corner. Adams came in unmarked, but put his thumping header wide of the goal.
Bravely, Heald kept possession of a ball under a very heavy foul from Royle, feeding it along the line to Thornley. The referee waved play on as Thornley sped along the wing. White conceded the corner blocking Thornley's cross, and once again Celtic went backwards from the corner.
Mayers was brought on for the injured Heald, and went on to reclaim his place in the team. He dropped the ball down to Eastwood who slid the ball across to Clegg. It was a cracking shot, and a good stop from Trueman. Another driving run from Thornley saw him part the first few defenders, before running into a solid wall. A superb reverse pass to Mayers at the edge of the box saw him flick the ball first time, straight at the well positioned Trueman.
Then the bad luck hit.
A throw-in that should have gone to Celtic was thrown by White to Fleury, who crossed the ball into the box, with Carty getting the merest of glancing touches well outside the box, only for the header to elude everybody else, including Bowling as it fell into the back of the net.
Wharton then was penalised when he crashed clumsily into Dormer, sending the Robin crashing to the ground injured. He was penalised with an justified yellow card, and Ashton floated the ball into the box. Through a crowd of players, Bowling poked the ball away with a toe, but Ashton were pressing their advantage now, piling forwards, and soon Todd was adjudged to have blocked off Carty's run. Keeling cleared the free kick only as far Garvey but this header was soft and straight at Bowling.
The final piece of bad luck sealed the win for the home side.
A long ball was booted clear by German, only to strike Keeling's face and rebound across the six yard box where Miller was waiting to tap home.
No doubt the vocal majority will point at this result as a further point in their argument. But there was not one player who was not attempting to win, and only a series of deflections and pure bad luck denied Celtic all three points. There's no question that there's room for improvement in the team, but the team that's put out was easily the better of the two teams for huge periods on the night.