Celtic's result can be explained by a simple fact: nobody would shoot. Celtic's passing and domination on the field was excellent throughout the game, but Welsby could have got away with playing up front for the home team, and the score would not have been altered. Celtic played a new formation, not quite 5-4-1, as it probably has halves in there. Celtic gave a full debut to Scott Bonsall newly signed from Harrogate Town. This time, he lasted the full ninety minutes, instead of getting stretchered off after eighteen minutes.
In floodlights the outlined the shadows rather than banished them, Denham gave the defence a taste of what was to come racing straight at them. At the last minute, he laid the ball off to Potts who drove and jinked before blasting towards goal. The ball was blocked, coming to Parr; his instant shot was also blocked. Potts was relishing being back at Lancaster and showing what they were missing. A superb cross field ball was straight to the feet of Smith, unmarked for a whole of a second closed down quickly he gave the ball back to Potts, but there were too many defenders and not enough of Potts' feet.
Keeling brought the ball out of defence; the home side kept backing off him, so he kept coming. As he neared the box, he rode a couple of challenges, but still kept coming, and then unleashed a strong drive that smacked into Mercer and fell to Denham. Denham put the ball back into the path of Keeling's continued run; Keeling hit the ball on the run stringing the palms of Welsby.
The game was flowing at a cracking pace, and this seemed to suit Celtic more than Lancaster. The defence were constantly pushed back right up inside their own box. However, Celtic's goal didn't come from a dribbling run, it came gift-wrapped. Kilbane passed the ball back to Welsby from the edge of his box, and Welsby picked it up. Celtic got an indirect free kick. Welsby put eight people into his wall, which explains why he couldn't see when Potts smashed the ball into the top corner.
Hughes started to exploit the shadows around the Celtic box to hide in. That's the only explanation for why the defence never seemed to pick up Lancaster's top scorer. They were given a warning straight after Celtic's goal, when he latched onto a flicked on throw-in, completely unmarked at the edge of the box; fortunately, he headed a weak header wide of the mark.
Kilbane decided to try the same trick. A free kick floated across the box from the half way line found Kilbane completely unmarked, unlike Hughes, Kilbane didn't miss with his volley, allowing the tanoy announcer got really excited.
Caldecott was tripped and stood on by Sullivan as he powered up the wing, Keeling stopped his run, at the expense of a foul. The free kick was sent into the box and Celtic couldn't clear it. Thomson got the closest with Lancaster's scrambled efforts with a header rebounding back off the bar. Sullivan used his pace to break free off the defence and blast a shot towards the Celtic goal, resulting in a good save by Ralph.
Celtic continued at their hectic pace and towards the end of the half began to dominate again, but the closest they came to a goal was when Caldecott won a corner that Potts tried to curl into the near post, and when Potts put a sweet ball into the Denham's path, his shot between Kilbane's legs going wide.
In the second half, Lancaster came out to disrupt Celtic's passing with some heavy tackling. Bonsall was the first to suffer with a late challenge in the middle of the park. The free kick came to Smith, he shot was deflected, Potts couldn't get on the end of it, and it fell to Clegg. He miscued his shot putting it into the path of Caldecott. His shot was deflected for a corner. The corner went over the outstretched fingers of Welsby and bounced off Bowker's head and over the bar.
Lancaster quickly put the ball up the other end where Hughes found some space and produced a stunning save from Ralph. Keeling stopped Sullivan's run, illegally, and the free kick was put onto the head of Hughes, again finding Ralph in top form.
Kilbane's persistent fouling eventually resulted in him hammering into the back of Clegg after the Celtic man had lain off the ball. Clegg was left writhing on the floor, and Kilbane was shown a yellow card. Celtic then got a stroke of luck when Keeling dispossessed Hughes in the box, he shouted for the penalty, but the referee said Keeling got the ball and waved play on. Potts got some revenge on Kilbane for Clegg when Potts kicked the ball at the same time as the Lancaster man, leaving Kilbane lying on the floor. The ball span free to Caldecott, who smacked it towards goal, Welsby flew through the air but couldn't reach it, fortunately for the Dolly's keeper, Caldecott's shot was an inch wide.
Potts cut inside and put the ball into the path of Smith, Smith looked to hesitate, allowing Scott to get in and cover, Smith still got his shot off, but put it over the bar. Kilbane continued to use bullyboy tactics, clattering Denham just outside the centre circle. The free kick was half cleared as far as Keeling, but his attempted lob didn't have enough height to get over Welsby.
German, who had pulled up short some minutes before blocked Clark's shot at the expense of a corner. Ralph came and punched but didn't get any distance on the ball, and Celtic struggled to clear the ball. Hughes, once again masked by the shadows was completely unmarked and when Prince's drive across the crowded face of goal was not cleared, he had the simplest of side foot finishes. It was a blow Celtic didn't deserve for their efforts.
German was eventually pulled off, and Mayers put on in his place, putting backbone back into the wilting Celtic side. Mayers' first touch was to put in Caldecott. Denham flicked his cross on to the back post where Mayers was trundling in, and Clark put it out for a corner. The corner was met with a thumping header from Mayers; Sparrow blocked it on the line after Welsby had been beaten.
This was a game Celtic should have deserved a point from, but due to an abject lack of finishing, they didn't get their reward. The passing from Celtic was exceptional for much of the game, and but for the heavy-handed tactics employed in the second half by Lancaster the game could have been a classic. If only Celtic would shoot more frequently, more results would come our way. Welsby was barely troubled, and this is Celtic's failing this season. We now travel to the east coast on Saturday to face a Spennymoor side that operates a shoot on site policy. Celtic will need to adopt a similar policy in order to get a now vital three points out of the game. Results elsewhere in the league have meant that this defeat puts Celtic perilously close to the drop zone.