Match Report -
Stonking!
By Debbie Taylor

Celtic booked their place in the fifth round with a superbly taken goal midway through the second half from Eastwood.

The game started, though, with pressure piled on from the home side, Pearce conceding a corner, almost from the kick off, blocking Black's cross. The corner was a tricky one, but Celtic scrambled it clear. However, Marine kept on the pressure, but couldn't break through the Celtic back line. McNally tried his luck from a good thirty five yards out. Dootson watched the flight of the ball the whole way, and made an easy catch.

Slowly Celtic began to get into the match. Dolan had already fouled Wharton once, but that free kick had been wasted, the second time he did it, the ball was slid alongside the box, where Bowman managed to win a corner out of Thurston - this time it was the corner that was wasted. Mayers persistence gave him enough time to put a clever ball into the path of Wharton, and only a last ditch tackle from Connolly stopped Wharton from going one-on-one with Crookes.

In these opening exchanges, the balance soon swung back in the Mariners' favour, and Keeling was adjudged to have held Thurston thirty-five yards from goal. The free kick swerved round the wall, but again, Dootson had plenty of time to watch its flight and made a comfortable catch.

But the pendulum soon swung back into Celtic's favour as they pressed the home side more and more strongly as the half ground on.

Fitzgerald raced down the wing and span in a cross that Eastwood flicked on to Mayers. Mayers span off his marker, but the shot didn't match the move, and lacked pace.

Celtic continued to struggle from free kicks around the box, seeming unable to trouble the home defence. Both Randles and Hussin fouled Mayers outside the box within minutes of each other, but in both cases the free kick was played for possession rather than getting it into the box.

Just past the half hour mark, Whitehall got a great opportunity, when a ball was pinging into the box and ricocheted around dangerously, Whitehall stabbed the ball towards goal, only for Pearce to intercept it on route with Dootson beaten. Dootson recovered enough to gather up the ball as it continued to bounce around his six yard box, and Marine's spell of pressure ended.

Wharton won a corner off Connolly, which Clegg put to the back post where Parr was waiting to nod home, but McNally was alert and put it narrowly around his own post for a second corner, that was delivered by Fitzgerald straight into the keeper's hands.

Parr tried to thread a ball through to Wharton, but he'd left the nippy midfielder a lot to do, even so, Wharton worked enough space for the shot, only to shoot over the bar.

There was still time for a final Marine attack before the game reached the half way mark with Whitehall winning a corner of Keeling. Pearce and Parr both missed their headers leaving Thurston a simple job of guiding the ball into the back of the net, only to head wide and end the half goalless.

Celtic in the past have come out of the dressing rooms a little groggy, and today was no exception. From the off Whitehall's cross was met by the head of Thurston, but he steered it into Dootson's hands.

This woke Celtic up and they proceeded to batter the home box. Connolly got away with murder when he clearly used his hand just inside the box to steer Clegg's low cross away from Mayers and allow him to clear. It was almost a mistake as the ball came straight to Parr, who immediately volleyed it towards goal, and only a deflection from one of the many bodies in the box diverted it for a corner. For the umpteenth time this game, Crookes was able to collect the corner without too much pressure.

He did make a mistake moments later though, when he came well out of his area to reach a sliced clearance. Eastwood was always favourite to reach it, and took it around Crookes, but couldn't get it under control enough to shoot. With defenders pouring back into the box, Eastwood attempted to reach Mayers with a pass, but the bobbling ball didn't react as expected, and it was intercepted and cleared properly.

Celtic did got the ball in the back of the net after Clegg won a corner off Connolly that was put out by Randles at the near post for a second corner. This fell to Keeling who stabbed the ball into the back of the net, only to see it disallowed due to a perceived foul by Pearce on Hussin.

To show Celtic how to get a free kick into the box, after Parr fouled Hussin in the centre circle, the ball was floated into the box where Dolan headed wide under pressure.

But it was a rare attack amid the Celtic pressure.

Such was the pressure that Smith was able to become increasingly involved in the attacks. A long Fitzgerald throw was brought down well by the makeshift fullback, before he unleashed a powerful drive that sailed over the bar.

Marine were forced to try and shoot from distance, Dolan did get one past the defence from forty yards, with plenty of force behind it. Dootson spilled the ball, but the nearest player was still forty yards away and he was able to scoop up the spilled ball.

Finally, Celtic's pressure paid dividends. Clegg worked some space at the edge of the box and unleashed a terrific drive that Crookes tipped over the bar with a superb save. From the corner the ball fell through the defence, Eastwood stuck out the longest leg and smashed the ball into the roof of the net. Celtic's celebrations showed how much this meant.

Thurston tried from distance, even further away than Dolan, Dootson watched it all the way, and didn't have to move at any point as he caught the ball.

Eastwood battled hard around the box, eventually winning the ball and screwing it back for Bowman, who immediately squared it to Clegg. Clegg tried the first time shot, but put the ball wide of the mark.

With ten minutes remaining, Marine finally got a toe-hold back into the game, and proceeded to press Celtic for all they were worth. It was a back to the walls defending job as the white shirts piled forward. Bowman blocked Hussin's cross at the expense of a corner. Dootson scooped up the ball, and held onto it for an unreasonable time, refusing to hand it over. Rightly, he got a yellow card.

Fortunately, the corner, when it came, was wasted.

Celtic won the ball back through the industry of Eastwood, who went to hold the ball in the corner, despite there being a good five minutes left on the clock. Each time Celtic won the ball, they aimed for the corner. Clegg was adjudged to have been too industrious when taking the ball off Dolan - however Dolan and Mullin' reactions were completely unjustified. Dolan shoved Clegg to the floor, and Mullin steamed in and swung a foot into Clegg's ribs, right in front of the linesman. Parr came in and pulled Mullin away from Clegg before his foot could contact hard enough to do some damage, only to have a mass of white shirts descend on him, pulling him away from Mullin. As the game threatened to erupt, the referee separated the warring factions and showed Clegg a yellow card after his treatment had finished! There were no cards to Dolan for the shove, or to Mullin for the kick, despite the linesman speaking at length to the referee.

Celtic tried instead to take revenge in a positive way. Clegg put the ball right into the stride of Eastwood who snapped the offside trap, leaving defenders trailing in his wake to go one-on-one with Crookes. He dummied his shot one way, and curled it the other, sending Crookes completely the wrong way. The ball thudded against the upright and came back into play. With Crookes still landing, the ball came to Mayers. It was a fraction too high for him to get good contact on the ball, but with Mullin angling in to block the goal, Mayers' header looped over Mullin and again thudded against the crossbar, going out this time.

With only a minute of stoppage time remaining, Crookes tried route one, only for Celtic to bring it back out. Wharton lost the ball by the half way line, before winning it back, illegally in the referee's opinion. The free kick was floated into the box where Thurston reached it first with his head. A foot either way, and extra time would have loomed. However, Dootson was well placed, and snatched the ball, and held it like it was his only child.

Dootson's kick down field was the signal for the referee to blow for full time. Celtic had done it with a fine battling performance showing grit and determination. It was justification for their performance over the two legs. The scene is now set for a Valentine's Day clash with Ryman League table topping Canvey Island a Bower Fold.

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