Celtic missed several glorious chances to put the game well beyond Worksop in the opening 45 minutes, as they dominated the hosts. Sykes was instrumental in orchestrating the midfield, but after an injury to Pearce just before halftime, Sykes was moved into the defensive back four, and Celtic were rocked immediately. Nor was it the only injury, with Bowker, Denham and Caldecott all missing through injury. Celtic could not fill the subs bench.
Celtic's first half performance, if it can be continued for 90 minutes a game for every game, will see them easily attain the play-offs at least. They were fluid and looked dangerous, whilst the back looked strong. Good build up play culminated in Eastwood releasing Monk with a well-weighted ball putting Monk one-on-one with Rogers, Monk put it past both the keeper and the post. Monk get a chance to make amends minutes later when Hayward won a corner off Nicholson that Wharton spread to Whealing, Whealing's pin point cross found Monk unmarked, but he put his header over the bar.
Eastwood squeezed between two defenders, rode a couple of challenges, and picked Monk out with a perfect pass. Davies earned congratulatory pats off his colleagues when his last ditch tackle put the ball out for a corner when it was certain Monk would open Celtic's Nationwide North account. The corner was half cleared, and Wharton put it back in, with Dudgeon heading narrowly past his own upright for a second corner that Davies cleared.
Eastwood broke the offside trap, raced towards the keeper, the home defence were catching him up, and Eastwood pulled his shot across Rogers, and narrowly wide of the post. Dempsey fouled Eastwood just outside the box. Whealing's free kick struck the wall that was never ten yards from the free kick.
Celtic finally converted their excellent possession and passing with a move typical of both. Whealing lofted a pinpoint pass into the box where Wharton brought the ball down expertly, his first attempt was blocked, but he somehow stabbed the ball between the defenders, keeper and post to put Celtic into a deserved lead.
Eastwood continued to terrorise the home defence, and won a corner off Haran, the corner was half cleared as far as Sykes, the ex-Worksop midfielder's shot was thunderously struck, but over the bar.
Sykes then gave his old team a free kick that Pearce nodded out for a corner. It came out to Dempsey whose shot was blocked by Keeling. Keeling looked surprised to see the ball at his feet, but nobody from the home team was following in, and Keeling cleared.
A corner at the other end came courtesy of Eastwood. He took it quickly, catching the home team napping, Wharton's run was perfect, he took one touch and blasted it over Rogers and out off the bar.
Rogers should have walked moments later, and the game would have been very different. A poor back pass was chased by Hayward. Rogers ran out of his box and handled the ball. The referee blew immediately for the foul, but Rogers shoved Hayward away when the Celtic striker tried to take the ball. There seems to be a new rule whereby two red card offences make a yellow, for this is what Rogers got.
Bowling was the reserve keeper, a player that has pulled on Celtic colours, and there was no way he could have done what Rogers did from the free kick, tipping over Whealing's curling ball for a corner. The corner was easily cleared. Dempsey pushed Eastwood over just outside the box, and Dudgeon stretched a leg to block the ball, as it spun high, Sykes came in, forcing Haran into a desperate clearance, for a corner. Celtic couldn't convert the corner, and Worksop went in lucky to be only one nil down.
During a Worksop corner, Pearce had received a strong, but legal knock, from the aptly named Cropper. Sykes replaced him after the interval, and Parr moved into the midfield. Whilst the back four were getting to know each other Townsend received the ball on the wing raced past German, one-on-one with Dootson did what Monk and Eastwood had failed to do, get it past the keeper but inside the post. From kick off to goal was 12 seconds.
This put a whole different complexion on the game, and Worksop looked much stronger in the second half, and Celtic were also lacking the driving force of Sykes in the middle of the park. Davies was finding more room to come down Celtic's right side, and it was a ball from him, that Townsend nearly put into the back of the net going narrowly wide.
Celtic didn't help themselves. They stood off O'Callaghan as he advanced towards goal, thirty yards out he unleashed a thunderous crack that took all of Dootson's expertise to reach let alone tip over the bar. Whitehead was allowed too much space off the corner, and Celtic were fortunate he headed over the bar.
Hayward won a corner off Haran, but nothing came of it, Dempsey fouled Eastwood on the centre spot, earning a yellow card. Sykes flicked on the free kick into the danger area, but Haran headed it out for a corner. Whealing's corner was wicked, and Rogers had to knock it over the bar for a second corner, this eventually came out to Bowman, who fed it to Hayward, the keeper made a good block on Hayward's shot, and when the ball returned to Hayward, he was given offside by a linesman who seemed to think Hayward was offside wherever on the field he was.
O'Callaghan then conceded a weak corner at the other end. Wharton's corner caused all kinds of problems, as Celtic got more into the game, Parr forcing Dudgeon into conceding a second corner. Rogers came to claim, but fumbled, and never got the ball under control. Hayward, Parr, Sykes and Eastwood all almost capitalised, but somehow Worksop rode their luck and hacked the ball clear.
Worksop had lost the momentum the early goal had given them, but not the confidence. Sykes fouled cropper as he tried to run around his former colleague. Davies took the free kick and it was excellent, curling just past the upright with Dootson nowhere near it. Cropper tripped over his own feet chasing a ball to the touchline, fell and grabbed at the ball pulling it back into play, Keeling came across and kicked the ball out off the prone Tiger, fully expecting a goal kick, or a free kick for the handball to be the result – but instead it was a corner.
The corner caused consternation in Celtic's defence. Two goal line clearances from Sykes and Keeling, plus an initial blocking save denied Worksop as they hunted for a way of putting the ball over the line. It eventually came out to Jackson who must have thought he'd scored until German's headed clearance finally got the ball away, again off the line.
With normal time up, O'Callaghan earned his man of the match award for a last minute last-ditch tackle. Great work by Bonsall led up to it, putting Hayward in who then picked out Eastwood with a delicious pass. O'Callaghan slid across the six yard box taking the ball off Eastwood's swinging foot and putting it out for a corner that Celtic wasted.
There was still time for Parr to pick up Celtic's first booking of the campaign, and it was somewhat unjustified! A loose ball in the middle of the park, Parr and Dudgeon both slid for it, Dudgeon made it first so Parr caught Dudgeon's foot – and got cautioned! With only seconds left on the clock, the free kick was punted into the box, and Dootson punched it for a corner that Worksop could not capitalise on.
Celtic's first half performance deserved more goals, but like last season most of the chances worked by excellent, interchanging, fluid football was wasted, by missing the target. After the injury to Pearce the enforced substitution caused by the lack of a replacement centreback allowed Worksop more into the game, because Sykes had to drop back into that role instead of orchestrating the midfield has he had in the first half. Celtic haven't lost their opening fixture, and we did score, but they'll be up against a Lancaster side that have beaten the bookie's favourite, Stafford, and on Saturday we'll take on current table toppers, Altrincham.
Things need to improve.