Celtic went to the Northholme with the first completely unchanged team of the season. We are unbeaten in that stadium for over ten years now (they beat us last on the 7th of December 1991!). However, Gainsborough were unbeaten there this season since August when Droylsden beat them, and had won their last six games. Perhaps then, a draw was always going to be a likely result.
Gainsborough started brightly enough, winning a corner off the kick-off, which Celtic struggled to clear. Carl Smith brought the ball back to the edge of the Celtic box, got goal side of Pearce and shot, but Dootson watched it as it sailed over the bar.
Denham won a corner that Wharton fed out to German. Timons blocked German's powerful low drive on route to goal. Celtic were gaining a foothold in this match, and crisp passing between Bowman and Denham put Bowman through into the box one-on-one with Holmshaw. Bowman tried to slide the ball under Holmshaw but the home-keeper made a brave sliding block, and managed to twist and capture the ball as it threatened to squirm loose.
Gainsborough's problem appeared to be accuracy. Parr conceded a foul in a dangerous position, but the shot was straight into the wall. Smith attempted a distance shot, but was well over. They got another go when German fouled Ellington in a similar position on the opposite side of the pitch. Parr only half cleared with his header, and Grant's cross in had to be palmed away from danger by Dootson.
Celtic at least were making Holmshaw work. After Ellington fouled Denham just outside the box, Mayers nodded Wharton's free kick down to Denham. Denham's instant shot was turned around the post by a smart save from Holmshaw. The corner was a standard corner, and caused mayhem in the Gainsborough box as they struggled to clear. It eventually came out to. A grateful Holmshaw plucked Fitzgerald's cross to Mayers out of the air.
Allison clattered Mayers just inside Trinity's half. The free kick was floated into the box and Gainsborough struggled to get it clear. Eventually, it fell for Denham on the half volley. The young striker hit the ball unhesitatingly, and only a deflection from Staton kept it out of the goal, at the expense of a corner. The corner came all the way across to Fitzgerald; his cross back into the box was too close to Holmshaw. A long punt down field by the Trinity keeper saw Ellington win a corner off Pearce. The corner fell to Ellington, but Keeling blocked the shot at the expense of a second corner. Parr cleared the ball as far as the corner taker, before Pearce cleared properly.
Fitzgerald was getting plenty of licence to run down the left flank, and didn't need asking twice. A super cross over the top was nodded down by Denham to Eastwood; unfortunately, it was just behind Eastwood, and his shot scooped over the bar. Fitzgerald soon brought it back, this time putting it into the feet of Mayers just outside the box. Mayers turned his marker and had a shot, but Allison was in the way.
Gainsborough finished the half with a free kick that fell to O'Brien. Bowman got across to block his distance shot, deflecting it for a corner, which Dootson caught.
Celtic started the second half at the pace they had left the first – full tilt. Denham racing down the flanks, skinning Williams, and pulling the ball deep across the penalty box for Fitzgerald running in. Fitzgerald struck the ball cleanly, and first time, but cleared the bar.
Gainsborough too were keeping up the frantic, end-to-end pace of the game. Grant's fancy footwork saw him earn a yard of space beyond Pearce, but his shot went sailing over the bar without Dootson ever looking troubled.
A moment of controversy (when isn't there one in a Celtic game?) came when Eastwood nodded a German lobbed ball down into the path of Denham, only for Timons to clearly handball just inside the box, nothing was given, but Gainsborough still had to deal with the lose ball. It came out as far as Parr, who fed it back to Denham. Denham nutmegged Timons and got clattered by Allison as he tried to burst between the two defenders. Again nothing was given, and Gainsborough were able to clear.
Denham didn't give up and was soon chasing another hopeless looking ball, keeping it in and pulling it back for Mayers. Mayers didn't have much time to compose himself and fired first time just two high.
Eastwood won a corner off O'Brien, which was cleared courtesy of yet another handball in the box that was ignored by the officials.
Wharton could have won it for Celtic. Eastwood's long cross through the box found Denham, who nodded it perfectly into the path of Wharton, but the midfielder's header was too soft and directed straight at Holmshaw. Moments later he got another chance. Denham's persistence fished the ball out to Fitzgerald. Mayers threaded Fitzgerald's low drive between two defenders and into the path of Wharton, but again the shot was too weak and straight at Holmshaw.
Staton clattered Denham again just outside the box – this time a free kick was awarded. Wharton put into the six-yard mixer, forcing Hurst to almost produce a stunning own goal, but he cleared the crossbar – just. Celtic should have got a second corner when Timons headed the ball out, but the referee decided it was Mayers who had touched it last, much to his mystification.
Celtic were having a strong period of possession, and looked dangerous every time they got forward. Eastwood's vision in the final third almost unlocked all three points when he found Bowman with a pinpoint pass that Bowman put inches wide of the mark. Bowman shot even wider of the mark when he got on the end of a Wharton free kick after Mayers had been bundled clumsily over some thirty-five yards from goal.
Staton shoved Denham over for the umpteenth time as Denham raced past him. Wharton's free kick found Mayers just inside the box but Smith blocked his shot. It fell to Eastwood just outside the box, but this time it was Timons in the way.
Wharton got his third and final gilt-edged chance when Denham squeezed between Williams and Allison, emerging with the ball. He squared to Wharton running in, and though there was more power in the shot, it was still straight at Holmshaw. Eastwood, too, couldn't beat Holmshaw. After doing the hard work of making space between Allison and O'Brien, his shot was right into the midriff of the Trinity keeper.
With a minute left in the game, Grant finally made Dootson pull off a save. From thirty yards he found a little gap open up between Pearce and Keeling, and drove the ball low and hard towards Dootson's left post. Dootson had to make the save, but saw the ball all the way.
Celtic finished the game with a pair of corners, but were unable to convert either of them.
There was much that was positive in this game, and Celtic stretch their unbeaten league run to four games, with a second clean sheet. Some impetus in the league may be lost over the coming fortnight as Celtic have to play Leigh RMI in the Trophy and Woodley Sports in the Cheshire Senior Cup semi-final before they can get back to the business of accumulating much needed points.