End of season, nothing to play for on either side are the ingredients for a mediocre game of football, right? Not this time. With the continued absence of Caldecott, German slotted into the left back position, vacating his usual role for a welcome return to Smith. Also making a welcome return was Mayers, for the visitors though. He had been elevated to Captain, and his presence in the back line for Barrow was a strong one.
Barrow opened the exchanges with Rankine winning a corner off German. Mayers' head was the first to the corner, putting it back to the corner taker. This time, Rankine ran into the box, and slid the ball to Simpson at the near post. Simpson could well have done better than miss the target. Bowker then conceded a corner, and Monk came on for a struggling Denham. The corner was poor, and easily cleared.
Kewley gave a taste of what he can do with a surging run from the halfway line finishing off with a shot that Bowker got enough on to take the power from the shot and let Horridge scoop up. A Bonsall suicide pass to Wharton put Knight on a run at the Celtic defence. Keeling stood in his path, and Knight tried his luck from distance, forcing a save from Horridge, but not a difficult one. Knight got another chance when a jinking run from Rankine ended with German upending him and the ball rolling to Knight at the edge of the box, but the shot was over the bar. German was called back when the ball went out of play, and was given the game's only booking.
Celtic slowly got into the game. A fast paced run fro Smith gave him enough space to lob a cross into the box for Hayward. The cross was just behind the high scoring striker, but he got his head on it anyway, putting the ball just over the bar. Smith's pace again worked him some space, he laid off the ball to Monk who whipped in a fine first time cross for Hayward, but Bishop was alert, and snatched the ball off Hayward's toes. Hayward beat the offside trap moments later after Wharton rode several challenges to arrive in the box surprisingly still with the ball. Wharton squared the ball to a completely unmarked Hayward who ignored the Barrow shouts for offside and smacked the ball past Bishop and off the post, and put out for a corner. The corner was well worked. Wharton fed the ball to Hayward at the near post, who slid it back, and Wharton crossed to Bowker arriving at the back post, but his header was narrowly wide.
Celtic's increasing possession was frustrating some of the Barrow players, and Burgess boiled over and bundled over Bonsall in the centre circle. This was the second time he'd reacted badly, and he got a stern talking to from the referee. The free kick was played for possession, and culminated in a fine Celtic move that saw Eastwood and Hayward interchange before sliding the ball through for Wharton to run onto. Wharton reached the ball ahead of Bishop and skipped around him, laying the ball across the six-yard box for Hayward racing in, but Hayward's size ten's needed to be size eleven's.
It looked virtually certain that Celtic would get a goal when Monk cut inside Heffernan and squared the ball to Eastwood, unmarked just inside the box. Eastwood failed to get a good contact, and squirted the ball wide of the mark.
Kewley fouled Bonsall in the centre circle and German's free kick was floated into the box where Mayers knocked it out for a corner. The corner was just too high for Keeling and Bowker, and was cleared. Bonsall and Hayward interchanged putting Bonsall into the box, his shot was over the bar. Hayward gave Bonsall another chance moments later when they again sliced apart the Barrow defence, but again Bonsall shot over. Hayward must have been getting frustrated because he interchanged with Eastwood in the dying moments of the half putting Eastwood into the box, but this time Eastwood shot over.
At the start of the second half, Hayward and Monk tried to interchange, but Mayers read the situation and put the ball out for a corner. The corner went out to Smith; Mayers cleared the cross. Eastwood took on and beat three Barrow defenders to dance along the touchline. He beat McDonald with a beautiful move, before putting a cross meant for Monk that Bishop easily intercepted.
Celtic's passing at times was so good that they forgot to shoot. Wharton raced onto a threaded Bonsall through ball to beat the offside trap. He pulled the ball back to Eastwood who turned Mayers and allowed Wharton to continue his run, with too many players now back, Wharton laid the ball to Bonsall at the edge of the box, but Bonsall failed to pull the trigger and was robbed by Simpson.
Kewley carried the ball out of his own half and again ran the full length of the pitch unopposed. On reaching the corner flag, he pulled the ball back across the six-yard box, but nobody else had come with him (or could keep up).
Hayward put Wharton through, but Wharton pushed the ball just too far, and was then racing after it, he pulled it back across the face of goal, but the cross was just too high for anybody. Wharton got another chance when Bonsall fed Monk and Monk raced into the box, with too many bodies in his way he pulled back a great reverse pass for Wharton running into the box. Wharton's shot was over the bar.
Mayers conceded a corner, instead of a penalty when he knocked Monk's cross out with his hand. The corner was well struck, Bowker's header down to the feet of Monk producing a good smothering block from Bishop. German joined the Over the Bar club when he rode the challenges of Anthony and Kewley to make some space, shooting over. Then Eastwood tried to start a new club, Bonsall feeding the ball square; he turned well, but shot just wide of the post. Mayers stopped Hayward with a bear hug twenty yards from goal, and Wharton curled it around the wall and wide of the post. Wharton was knocked over by Campbell just outside the box, the free kick was given to Wharton who threaded it to Monk in a crowded box, Monk couldn't turn and Campbell cleared.
If Celtic had been unlucky to have the handball not seen, Barrow were even unluckier to have a goal not seen. Wharton pushed over Arnold twenty yards out. Arnold curled the free kick was curled over the wall; Horridge caught at the second attempt but his initial parry had put the ball over the line. Nobody saw it, and Celtic cleared.
Horridge made sure moments later when Rankine's square ball found Burgess with enough space for a shot, which was bottom corner all the way until Horridge smothered. Horridge punted, Bonsall brought it under control, lobbed it into the box, and Mayers conceded the corner. Mayers obviously knew Celtic's appalling record from corners, and this was no exception.
Potts came on for Eastwood, with twenty minutes left, and Monk switched sides. In his new position, Hayward found him with a good diagonal ball, but Monk put the ball straight into the midriff Bishop. A second handball decision in the box went Barrow's way. Monk twisted around Campbell and the Barrow sweeper fell over, and knocked the ball away from Monk's foot with his hand. As Potts came in, Bishop smothered.
Barrow were getting more into the game as it went into the closing stages. Arnold got onto a good cross, but put his volley wide. German cut out Burgess' low cross for a corner. Bowker's header cleared the ball as far as Simpson, who knocked it back to the corner taker, this time the cross was met by an unmarked Mayers. The header was simple, the result a Barrow goal with quarter of an hour to go.
The lead didn't last long. Clegg was brought on for Wharton; he won the ball in the middle of the park, fed the ball to Monk on the halfway line. Monk ran half the length of the pitch, cut past Campbell, one-on-one with Bishop, the Barrow keeper came off his line; Monk picked his spot and slotted it past him.
Bowker conceded a corner stopping Burgess' run as possession swung between the two teams. Rankine got on the end of the corner, but his header was poor, and wide.
Potts tricked his way past Heffernan and put a great ball in for Hayward, but it stuck between Hayward's feet and Mayers kicked it clear as far as German. German put a low cross in for Potts, but Bishop came a long way to smother at Potts' feet. Potts tried the same trick to get past Burgess, but Burgess just pulled him down conceding a free kick just outside the box. Campbell cleared the free kick. Some neat one-touch passing between Clegg, Bonsall and Potts eventually resulted in the release of Hayward, but Mayers was alert, and cut the ball out to the relative safety of a corner. Mayers must have thought he'd misjudged when Parr beat him to the header, only for the ball to spin up into the air, and Bowker's knock down was wide of the mark. Campbell half cleared another corner moments later, this time as far as Clegg. Bishop easily caught Clegg's ball in though. Clegg fouled fellow substitute Arnold in the centre circle. The free kick was put out for a corner as Horridge and German clashed trying to reach it. There was only seconds of normal time remaining. Celtic kept their concentration, and Parr's thumping header knocked the ball well clear.
If Celtic thought that they'd survived, they were wrong. In the second minute of two added minutes, Kewley ran half the pitch to the edge of the box after turning German on the halfway line, Horridge didn't come far enough to narrow the angle, and Kewley coolly slotted the ball in off the far post.
Surely, with no time left remaining Barrow had done enough to win?
Celtic piled forward from the kick off. Some lovely interchanging between Hayward and Potts allowed Hayward to slide the ball through a crowded box to Monk who provided a cheeky back heel to knock the ball into the back of the net with three seconds to spare. Barrow had just enough time to kick the ball off the spot before full time was blown.
It might have taken three quarters of the game before the goals started rolling in, but this was possibly the most entertaining final game of the season in many a year. Barrow's early dominance was weathered, and then Barrow weathered Celtic's dominance, before both teams enjoyed a swinging possession game. A draw was definitely a fair result for a great game.