Match Report -
Gale force win
By Debbie Taylor

The wind played a huge part in the game at Bower Fold. It was gusting and swirling around the pitch making the flight of the ball difficult to judge. Neither team could capitalise on this during the first half, but when the ball started holding up for Celtic and speeding on for Blyth in the second half, it got a lot more interesting. Unfortunately, the game was marred by a number of bookings, some justified, some woefully inadequate, and some bizarre.

It was obvious that it would be a rough match from the off when Forster clumsily bundled over Bowman in full flight thirty yards from goal in the opening exchanges. Potts didn't try to use the wind, but went for a trademark curler, that went straight into the keeper's arms. Turns, in the visitor's nets was on hand again moments later when Caldecott threaded the ball through to Denham at the edge of the box. The young striker tried to flick the ball over his shoulder, but Turns read it well and easily caught.

Caldecott looked to try and use the wind when he and Bonsall exchanged passes before the fullback launched his distance effort, but a swirling gust carried the shot wide.

With the unpredictable wind, it would not have been unexpected to see Celtic operate a shoot on site policy, even though the majority would be carried away. However, they didn't. Fortunately, the hoofed Blyth clearances couldn't reach the Celtic half, and Celtic could keep pressing. However, when they did break out, there appeared to be little danger. Graham latched onto a loose ball and struck a clean effort from distance, though the wind bent the flight, the catch was a simple affair for Ralph, and he released German. German rode a couple of challenges bringing the ball to the edge of the Blyth box, before poking his shot wide.

Graham lost Denham in a blur of blue and hauled him back thirty yards from goal. Potts' free kick was whipped into the back post during a brief lull in the wind. Keeling's diving header was wide. Hayward won a corner off Williams, but as usual nothing came of it.

Booth tried to emulate German's run, riding his luck and the challenges to get into a testing position, before shooting amazingly wide. German's late challenge on Williams near the dig out's was the day's first booking, and justified as a yellow card. When Phillips brought down Bowman just outside the box, it looked like the second booking of the day, bit nothing but a free kick was forthcoming. Booth headed the free kick out for a corner. Potts either through luck or amazing skill curled the free kick with the wind almost over the line, but Forster was aware and headed off the line. From the resulting throw, Denham won a corner off Phillips, who didn't know much about it. Unusually, a Celtic shirt got on the corner, but Bowker headed over the bar. Phillips brought down Denham next, thirty yards from goal; Potts' curled free kick forced a save from the keeper.

As the half began to die away, unlike the wind, Potts brought down his opposite number Phillips some forty yards from goal. Ralph came through a press of bodies to claim the cross comfortably. However, from the resulting clearance that held up in the wind, Booth latched onto the drifting ball and snapped off a shot before Caldecott could reach him, and it was only just wide across the face of the goal.

Both Atkinson and Phillips were shown yellow cards within moments of each other before the half ended. The former for berating the referee for making a decision he didn't like, and Phillips for slicing through the back of Bonsall in the centre circle. From the free kick Atkinson blocked Denham's cross for a corner. From the corner, Bowker cam steaming in and succeeded in heading not the ball, but Fenton's head. It was a touch over zealous to award Bowker a yellow card for the offence, but not unusual. What was unusual was the reaction of Forster. The Blyth Captain grabbed Bowker who'd been walking away, spun him round and punched him. Immediately, there were swarms of Blyth and Celtic players pulling the enraged Forster off Bowker. Would we witness a sending off? No, not even a card or a talking to.

The last act of the half was for Hayward to hold off the attentions of Forster long enough to poke a ball across the box to Potts, who put his lashed shot over the bar.

Blyth came out with the shoot on sight policy many thought Celtic should have employed in the first half. Williams chanced his arm from forty yards, but shot over. Woodhouse, on for George at half time also tried a distance shot, it took a deflection and produced a good save from Ralph to deny him.

The half's first yellow card fell to Graham for sliding through the back of Bonsall in the centre circle. The referee then turned down appeals for a Blyth penalty when Parr slid in to dispossess Woodhouse in the box, and Ralph was able to collect the loose ball. Ralph, German and Keeling then provided a comical mix-up in communications in the Celtic box, before hoofing it clear. It was only comical because there were no Blyth players around to capitalise.

Celtic seemed to prefer the wind holding the ball up as it allowed them to play more creatively. Bonsall latched onto one such hold up and dropped the ball down to Denham at the edge of the Blyth box. His shot stung the palms of Turns, who dropped the ball almost into the path of Potts, and somehow Blyth struggled it clear.

The feeling that the game would be a nil-nil draw began to evaporate.

Forster's antics finally earned him a yellow card when he cynically brought down Parr about halfway into the Blyth half. Forster was the one to then put the free kick out for a corner. The corner was lobbed back into the mixer by Hayward, Parr stabbed a low cross through the six-yard box, Bonsall couldn't reach it and the chance was gone.

For making his feelings known to Forster, Parr got mobbed by Blyth players and then shown a yellow card, the game's seventh and Celtic's second. Booth, who'd been the one to physically shove Parr to the ground, got away with the act. Perhaps the referee was making allowance for the wind whipping up tempers.

Williams couldn't keep up with Denham and brought him down some thirty yards out. Turns claimed well amid a press of bodies.

Celtic then changed the system. Monk was brought on to replace Bowman and instructed operate on the left. Celtic immediately looked more balanced. Monk's first touch was to get his head onto a Caldecott cross knocking it down to Denham, who interchanged with Potts before Denham screwed his shot wide of the mark.

Bonsall was hacked by Leeson some forty yards from goal, but the referee played advantage as Denham raced into the box. Denham lost the ball to a tackle from Forster, and the chance looked to be gone, until Monk regained possession and released the ball back to Denham, who finally made the defence pay with some fine skill and pace. He raced back into the box dragging defenders with him. He held them off until it looked like he would be swamped, and then spread the ball across the box to Hayward, unmarked and composed, and Celtic's latest hit man hit the back of the net with the simplest of touches.

Showing a moment of common sense, the referee went back to Leeson and showed him yet another yellow card. Blyth's sixth.

Again the referee played advantage, this time when Graham clattered Parr. The loose ball was collected by Hayward. A superb cushioned lay-off from Hayward set up Bonsall perfectly, and Bonsall's shot stung Turns' hands as he dropped. Denham was racing in on the follow-through, and Turns had to be brave, dropping at Denham's feet to smother the ball despite a fierce strike from the Celtic striker.

More interchange passing from Celtic split apart the visiting defence, Potts and Denham then Potts and Hayward before Hayward shot straight at the keeper. Turns was called on again moments later as Celtic kept winding up the pressure. Denham twisted and turned into the box, and unleashed a low drive that Turns had to catch, which he did.

Smith was brought on for Potts, who'd done an awful lot of running. His impact wasn't immediate, as Blyth were beginning to gain a foothold back into the game, mainly down to the wind which had picked up in intensity again. Bowker's clearance bent back on itself and went for a corner. Parr headed clear, but heading into the wind was largely pointless, and Celtic struggled to clear, eventually doing so off the boot of Caldecott.

Smith's impact came after a couple of minutes on the pitch. Denham kept in a ball that Atkinson thought was going out and pulled it back for Hayward. One touch was all that Hayward required to set up Smith for a screamer of a shot that zipped over the bar.

Bowker again was caught short by the wind, with a clearance going out for a corner. This time, Caldecott put the ball out for a throw. From the throw Bonsall won the ball back and put Denham through on a run. Graham and Leeson tagged him as he raced from his own half with the ball and the two Blyth men. Blyth struggled to get back from the earlier corner and Denham punished them racing into the box. The two Blyth men had caught up with Denham by the time he got to the box, but Monk had also made the run with Denham. Denham sold Turns, Leeson and Graham the most stupendous dummy ever seen, he looked to pass the ball to Monk, all three players turned to Monk but Denham's clever dummy had released him enough space to stick his shot in the back of the net in what is possibly a goal of the season contender.

There was enough time for Caldecott to fire a free kick (off Woodhouse's right hook on Parr) straight at Turns before the referee called a halt to the windiest game of many a season. Celtic had come through the tricky conditions with a well-needed victory that cements their place six points clear of fourteenth. There had been some rough play from the opposition, which on the whole the referee dealt with well, although how he allowed Forster and Booth the leeway they had in the melee's is a mystery given the rest of his performance. A victory against Frickley midweek could vault Celtic over Gainsborough to level on points with Altrincham, though with a worse goal difference as Altrincham are not playing whilst Gainsborough have to travel to Southport. At this stage in the season Celtic need all the safety net they can make.