With testimonials the outcome is normally a drab affair, but this game was the opposite. Both teams took the game in the spirit it was meant, but still produced a highly entertaining spectacle, playing the full ninety minutes out with a competitive edge, despite the roll-on-roll-off substitutions in the second half.
The Celtic XI got the better of the initial exchanges. A poor clearance by Horridge landed at the feet of Pickford. His instant shot was too weak, and from too far out, making it simple for the defensive partnership of Pearce and Bowker to cut out. Sullivan looked comfortable back in a Celtic shirt (albeit an away shirt), and he whipped in an early cross for McNeil. McNeil, now plying his trade with neighbours Hyde, controlled the cross well and produced a good blocking save from Horridge. Scott was on the opposite flank, and Pearce cut out his cross for the first corner of the match. Filson came up for the corner, but couldn't get on the end of it, and it was cleared as far as Jones, whose immediate strike was tipped around the corner by Horridge. Bowker blocked Pickford's initial shot, as far as McNeil, but his shot was blocked by Pearce and cleared properly.
Celtic finally got into the game through Monk's industry, and his cross in found the now retired Kirkham. There was only Filson between him and goal, but that was enough to ensure the once prolific striker's shot was harmless. Ingham was tested a moment later by Monk who went on his own this time, shooting from just outside the box. It was a powerful strike, but straight at Ingham.
Sullivan and McNeil again linked up with the latter volleying the Sullivan's cross, which Horridge parried, and German cleared. Todd tangled with Sullivan in the middle of the park, and Bauress took the free kick quickly, playing in Scott. Scott returned the ball to Bauress as Celtic XI advanced. Bauress passed square to Filson some thirty-five yards from goal, and the shot from the Bear was wide and high. Todd then denied Sullivan again, this time at the expense of a corner, which was cleared.
Monk's fine ball freed Potts to run at the visiting defence. Crookes and Locke were between Potts and the goal, but Potts danced between them, showboated his way past Crookes again, before nipping into the box, dummying Ingham, and slotting it underneath the veteran keeper.
Celtic XI tried the instant comeback; Jones receiving the ball at the edge of the box after McNeil and Pickford interchanged. His shot though, was wide. Jones came close moments later after Bauress floated a free kick into the box, his thumping header crashing against the bar.
Potts was unable to trick his way past Locke a second time, but did win a foul just outside the box. Parr was given the honour of taking it, and he put the free kick over the bar. Potts was able to trick his way past Crookes a second time though, and then a third, and fourth, and finally a fifth just for the hell of it. The end product was a good whipped in cross that Burke couldn't divert the right side of the post.
Todd, for the third time, fouled Sullivan, thirty yards from goal. Bauress' free kick was right onto the volleying foot of Jones, but his shot was wide. Sullivan again got the better of Todd, winning another foul from the ex-Celtic fullback. Bauress played it short for possession, with it eventually ending up at the feet of Ward, but his cross in was headed clear by Pearce. Parr almost got a goal, but at the wrong end, when McNeil's cross was headed narrowly past Parr's own post for a corner. The corner fell to Jones, but Bowker blocked his shot on the line.
Filson stayed up from the corner as the half went into the final act. Sullivan's cross was jumped for by Filson and Horridge, there was a touch of handball from the Bear, and a touch of encroachment on the keeper, especially as the big ex-Celt landed on Horridge. Filson still had the presence of mind to stick out a leg and divert the bouncing ball into the back of the gaping net to level the scores.
Celtic XI could have taken the lead before the half ended, when Sullivan expertly brought down Scott's cross, with only Horridge to beat, he put the ball into the side netting. Scott's next action could have been considered foolhardy. Ricky Hatton (yes, the boxer) was dallying on the ball just outside the box, and Scott tried to wrestle it off him. Celtic got a free kick. Hatton himself took the free kick, which was blocked by McNeil as far as Bowker. His drilled shot was almost diverted into the net with an instinctive lob from Kirkham.
The second half saw numerous changes by both sides (including Parr swapping shirts). One of the substitutes, Wharton started the half by ambling down the wing, before putting a lovely chipped cross in for German who'd played Wharton in originally. Crooked and German reached the ball at the same time, and the dual header was well tipped around the bar by a Celtic XI sub, Fish. Potts delivered the corner to Wharton, at the edge of the box. He shot over the bar.
Celtic, too, had a new goalkeeper, Eastwood! Sullivan decided to test him early on with a shot from distance, but the shot was always rising, and Eastwood could watch it drift over the bar. Keeling then sent a shot over the bar, after interchanging with Heald.
A brilliantly piece of improvisation from a free kick at the other end, saw Bauress win a corner off an unwitting Keeling. Todd cut the corner out at the expense of a second corner. Parr came really close to scoring when he thumped the header unchallenged into the post.
The game was fast paced with some fine passing from both sides, and when Potts broke down the right flank again, it looked like he might repeat his earlier effort, but instead of cutting inside, he span in a cross for Heald, who couldn't quite reach it, and Locke wellied the ball down the far end of the pitch, when McNeil won a corner out of Bowker. The corner from Bauress was delivered to the edge of the box where McNeil waited, but Eastwood was still untested as the shot rose over the bar.
Potts tried to cross for fresh-legged Mayers in a moment of déjà vu. Williamson cut out the cross, for a corner. The corner came to Mayers, but Fish came through a crowd to punch of Mayers' forehead as far as Wharton, who didn’t have time to dally as Jones came in and mugged him. Heald put his head down and surged past Locke to go one-on-one with Fish, producing a stunning save out of the now Curzon Ashton keeper, tipping it around the post.
Heaton got onto the end of the corner, his instant shot crashed against the bar and rebounded back into the danger area, but Mayers couldn't get his first time shot on target, the ball clearing the bar this time. Potts did a couple of stepovers and then a little turn and back heel to get into the box, one-on-one with Fish he looked certain to double his tally, but a stunning reflex save from Fish denied him.
It looked like Fish was unassailable in goals, but he reckoned with Mayers. Keeling picked the big man out in the box; he had the time to pick his place, and blasted it past Fish who had no chance of reaching it.
Again Celtic XI tried the instant comeback. Sullivan dropped the ball off to McNeil, McNeil put a diagonal ball into the path of Jones, but his shot was again around the post. McNeil finally tested Eastwood moments later, when he tried his luck from outside the box, the curling shot was straight down the centre of the goal, and Eastwood made a decent catch.
Smithies, for the current Celtic team, took the ball to the edge of the box; looked for options, saw none so blasted the ball at the goal. Fish was quite relived to see it lift just over the top of his goal. Potts played with the ball in the box, waiting for his teammates to catch up, whilst holding Crookes at bay. When Mayers arrived, Potts' cross took a nick off Crookes and allowed Fish to smother. Keeling lobbed a ball over the top of the defence, with a surprising burst of pace Smithies raced onto it, and volleyed narrowly wide.
A long punt down the field was right between Williamson and Crookes. Potts latched onto it, and Williamson came across to get a challenge in, stumbled and fell into the path of Potts. How Potts' avoided standing on Williamson's head was a mystery, but he did, feet flashing into the box, and slotting the ball past Fish. The goal didn't stand, as the referee gave a foul.
Sullivan could have levelled the scores when he drove down the field, cut inside the defence, made some space and shot, wide of the mark. It didn't matter though; McNeil took over from Sullivan on the flank, put a ball into Parr, unmarked on the penalty spot. Pearce and Eastwood were covering the goal, until both obligingly moved out of the way and Parr scored the leveller.
The rolling subs took on a bizarre turn when the Celtic director Syd White came on for Celtic, and ex-manager Phil Wilson, came on for Celtic XI. Wilson cut out White's cross for a corner, which was easily cleared. At the other end, Pickford (on for his fourth appearance) received a square ball from McNeil, but the Southport-man shot wide. Sullivan tested Eastwood with a fierce drive that must have also tested Eastwood's ribs. The parried ball was spilled into the path of Jones, but Bowker and Pearce shut off his route to goal, and cleared. Eastwood was relishing his new challenge, and looked highly competent moments later when he plucked McNeil's cross out of the air with a clean catch. A sign that Eastwood is not a keeper came seconds later when Crookes tried his luck from distance, Eastwood let it go, thinking it would clear the bar, but instead, it crashed off the bar. However, when Jones drove into the box, it was only a great save with his foot from Eastwood that denied Jones the winner. The ball fell to McNeil. He saw Parr at the corner of the six-yard box and rolled the ball to him, however Parr's shot hit the side netting.
Potts beat Peter Ward with a cheeky nutmeg, before lofting the ball to Mayers. A well-measured shot from Mayers beat Fish, but crashed off the crossbar and was put out for a corner by Derek Ward. The corner was cut out by Jones, and released McNeil. A good cross from McNeil released Pickford. Pearce and Bowker converged on Pickford and under pressure shot tamely into Eastwood's hands.
Fish kept the scores level with another flying save, this time from Smithies who'd found a little space at the edge of the box for a curling shot. Locke cut out the short corner, for a second corner. This was cleared and the hugely entertaining game came to an end with the scores (traditionally) tied at 2-apeice.