This was a must win game for Celtic against fellow strugglers mired mid table. A win would put Celtic back into the top thirteen, whilst a loss would start to put them in the chasing pack with today's visitors. To this end they were aided by the fact that Bradford put on one of the most tepid displays seen by opposition at the Fold this season.
Celtic still have a problem with set pieces. In the opening few minutes (after the dog had been removed), an Eastwood handball was given in Celtic's favour, and Wharton wasted it, however he got another opportunity when Crossley knocked Denham off the ball just outside the box. Wharton, who must have seen Henry's free kick for Arsenal, took the kick while the wall was organising. Unluckily for Wharton, Boswell in the Avenue's nets had seen the same match.
Wharton got a third chance, this time from open play when Denham stole the ball off the dallying Crossley before squaring it into Wharton's path. Wharton's well-struck shot sped just over the bar.
Bradford's defence parted before Eastwood like the red (and yellow) sea, putting Celtic three on two. Eastwood's square ball left Mayers with just his marker and the keeper to beat ? Denham was on further pass away and unmarked, but Mayers chose the shot, skimming just wide.
Mayers did pass to Denham moments later, with a deft lob over the defence. Denham turned off his marker and blasted his shot towards the bottom corner, and Boswell did well to save with his feet. Boswell was again the hero when Mayers slid the ball through into the path of Wharton and Boswell smothered the ball at Wharton's feet.
Bradford won a corner just over half way into the half. It was a decent corner, but Dootson punched it clear of the box, but Serrant was soon putting it back in, only to see German block for a corner. Parr headed it clear, and it stayed clear. In a rare spell of pressure though, Avenue won a free kick some thirty yards from goal when Serrant fell over German. The free kick looked like something out of the Celtic playbook, and was easily caught by Dootson.
Celtic got possession back, and though there was no great hurry in their play, it was soon back at the right end of the pitch. German ambled through the Bradford players without anybody looking like they'd tackle him, he was allowed to pick out Eastwood who turned Stansfield and shot, narrowly wide. Celtic seemed to be able to pass the ball at will in any portion of the field, including around the box, this was exposed when Denham picked out Clegg, who had the simplest of touches to set up Wharton, who struck a sweet shot that struck Walsh instead of the back of the net, deflecting for a corner. The corner was the usual fare that Celtic have produced this season, and went nowhere near the goal.
Another pointless set pieces followed, when Heinmann dragged down Denham. The dog made a brief reappearance, but that's no excuse for such a poor free kick from Wharton.
At half time, Celtic had created about half a dozen good chances, and spurned them all, whilst Bradford players appeared to get nosebleeds whenever they entered Celtic's half of the field.
That changed in the second half, when Bradford upped the stakes and the tempo. Serrant slid the ball through for Maxwell to run onto, which he did, and Dootson had to sprint to the edge of his box to block at the striker's feet spinning the ball out for a corner, which Avenue wasted. When Hayward span off Pearce he was through one-on-one with Dootson. The Celtic keeper raced out of his box and made an excellent block with his legs for another corner, which Keeling put out for a second corner that was easily cleared.
Wharton fouled Quinn some twenty five yards out, the free kick was floated to the back post where Grayston had a free header, but as the ball was behind him, he could only head it back into the danger area, where Parr nodded it well clear of the box.
It took Celtic a few minutes to adjust to this new tempo, but adjust they did. Denham raced down the wing past Heinmann, who brought him down for the umpteenth time. The free kick was floated to the back post where a mass of players waited. Boswell shouted and his arms were the highest. However he was back-pedalling and crashed into the group of players (his own and Celtic's) dropping the ball at Pearce's feet. It was a crowded box, but Pearce composed himself and picked the yard of goal line that was uncovered, slotting the ball into the bottom corner of the net. Boswell complained that it was a foul, but the referee ignored him as there were more Bradford players in the crowd he crashed into than Celtic ones!
Denham could have doubled the lead inside a minute, when he beat Heinmann who didn't dare foul Denham again, and curled a shot over Boswell, but also narrowly over the bar as well. Heinmann gave Parr a bear hug twenty yards from goal. Whether there had been words in the dressing room, or Fitzgerald was just fed up with Wharton's free kick technique, it was Fitzgerald that took the kick, and what a kick, curling it around the wall and towards the bottom corner. Boswell did very well to leap to his right to palm the ball away with an excellent stop. Heinmann finally got the card his persistent fouling deserved after he'd recovered from trying to break Clegg's legs and getting a size nine in the head during the attempt. Again Fitzgerald took it, and again there was danger. Parr headed the ball at the back of the six-yard box to an unmarked Mayers, Mayers couldn't get the power on the header needed to beat the keeper, and Boswell caught.
Clegg was obviously still suffering when Eastwood dragged the ball back for Fitzgerald, who then squared it to the recently cropped midfielder, and he dragged his shot wide of the mark.
Boswell was spared blushes a second time thanks to the quick reactions of Crossley. Quinn conceded a corner to Wharton, which Clegg fired in. Boswell spilled it at Parr's feet, but Quinn reacted the quicker, and blasted it clear. Clegg's corners were causing consternation in the box. He got a second one moments later this time courtesy of Heinmann blocking Denham's cross. It fell to Pearce whose header was only half cleared back to him, but he couldn't get his body shape right for the volley and spooned his shot wide.
Wharton skipped past the defence and looked for a layoff; with none forthcoming he tried a speculative shot from just outside the box, but couldn't get any power, and it was an easy save for Boswell.
When Bradford finally regained some kind of initiative it was thanks to the efforts of Serrant, who orchestrated some lovely play before spreading the ball over the top of everybody to Quinn who latched onto it well, and struck his shot well over the bar. Moments later, Serrant put the ball into the path of Grayston, only to see his teammate put the ball well over the bar.
Celtic needed to wrestle the initiative back, and it was Clegg who did it. He slid the ball with perfect weight straight into the stride of Denham, one-on-one with Boswell he bent his run into the area and the outside of his right foot curled the ball into the back of the net past the despairing dive of Boswell who had no realistic chance of getting near the ball. It was finally a bit of breathing space for Celtic.
Bradford tried to come back into the game and Heinmann won a corner off Keeling, but Bradford wasted it, they managed to get three people involved in an attack, Serrant and Heinmann completely unmarked. Oleksewycz 's squared ball found Serrant, with Pearce coming across to cover, Serrant squared it again to the perfectly placed Heinmann, but he spooned his shot high and wide.
Why is it that a penalty area and a yellow card on a person can alter the referee's perception of an incident? Denham received the ball inside the box off Smith (on for Clegg), he went to turn Heinmann, who had been booked, only for Heinmann to wrap his arms around Denham and haul him physically away from the ball. Denham, Boswell, everybody looked to the referee but amazingly the referee said no foul had been committed despite both of Denham's legs leaving the floor! In games where a single goal doesn't matter decisions like this are largely irrelevant, but Celtic have been getting decisions like that one all season, and it rankles!
Celtic nearly got their deserved third goal anyway when Denham left Heinmann trailing in his wake put a good ball into the unmarked Mayers, with Eastwood arriving to Mayer's right, Mayers tried the audacious lob of Boswell, who then produced a stunning save to deny Mayers and tip the ball over the bar. Celtic didn't attempt to play the ball into the box, but instead played possession football for the remaining period of the clock.
Against a side that could not register a shot on goal, Celtic were always the favourites to get a result out of this game, however, they are still spurning guilt edged chances.