More pressure piled on the manager as Celtic partook in a dire game that held little entertainment. Harrogate were not a good side, but neither were Celtic.
Up until the first goal both sides matched each other with Celtic breaching the defence first through Calcutt. His run down the wing isolated the Harrogate fullback and allowed him to whip in a cross, but the cross did not match the run, and sailed over the penalty box. It was to set a pattern for Celtic.
Turley, Harrogate’s equivalent of Calcutt and ex-Celtic player, outpaced Whealing in order to put a cross in for Morris, but Dootson read the flight better than the Harrogate striker, collecting it in the air. Hunter won a corner off Smith with his next attack, but ex-Harrogate Town player, Sykes, easily cleared.
Hunter and Smith tangled again moments later, this time a free kick was awarded to Celtic and Dootson launched it the length of the field into the box. Pettinger came to claim, but under pressure from Monk dropped the ball, it ricocheted to Sykes, but bounced off his shin, and out.
Turley and Shepherd interchanged, with Turley putting a good cross into the box – Dootson managed to get a fist onto the ball clearing it thirty yards to where Barnard collected and tried the instant shot – but it was well wide. On the opposite of the pitch, Hunter reached a loose ball ahead of Smith, but Monk had tracked back and intercepted the cross at the expense of a corner. Hayward headed easily clear. Turley had the measure of Whealing, and beat him with a nice bit of skill, a deft touch bringing down the lobbed ball and taking it past Whealing where he tried the half volley from the corner of the box, it was a good effort, but not good enough to beat Dootson.
Hayward got Celtic’s best chance of the half off Dootson’s long punt down field. He was squeezed between two defenders, but somehow wriggled free to latch onto the ball and snap off a shot, but the goal-stricken striker screwed his shot wide. Hayward didn’t give up, and collected the ball to bring it into the box. Monk was free and Hayward found him with a threaded pass into the box. Dunning blocked the shot and Wood brought the ball down with his hand inside the box before clearing hurriedly: nothing given.
Bowker conceded a corner intercepting Turley’s cross in. It was cleared thirty yards to Hunter who snapped off an absolute screamer of a shot. Dootson made a valiant effort to reach it, and was really unlucky when he could only get a half fist on the ball, unable to stop it smashing into the back of the net.
Celtic deflated and Harrogate attacked again. Morris was put in by a pinpoint pass from Hunter. He should have doubled the lead but lobbed his shot over the bar from close range.
Harrogate did double their lead moments later when Turley’s cross into the box was missed by Keeling’s diving header, but not be Farrell’s who diverted it past Dootson. Hunter tried to add to the score-line again when he found the ball at his feet about thirty yards out – with the defence parted before him, but he made his previous goal look like a fluke when he screwed his shot well wide.
Calcutt showed some nice skill as the half began to wind down. He easily beat three Harrogate defenders, but the cross was slightly too high for Connell and Monk in the box. His next run saw him win a corner off Sturdy, which Pettinger caught through a crowd.
Straight from the off in the second half, Harrogate went looking for another. Turley and Shepherd interchanged with Shepherd lofting the ball into the box, Hunter collided with Bowker, and the ball went out. Moments later, Hunter found the ball at his feet despite being offside – the shouts from the Celtic back line were ignored, and Hunter hurried his attempt, allowing Keeling and Smith to recover, close him down and scramble the ball clear. Celtic got a decision, though, when Turley used a high foot to try and take a loose ball out of Dootson’s hands, he succeeded in knocking Dootson off his feet and sending the ball spinning away, Dootson made an excellent recovery save to keep the ball out of the net, only to get the foul anyway.
Celtic didn’t get a decision in the opposite box when Calcutt threaded the ball into the box for Hayward to run onto. Hayward obliged only to be sandwiched between Sturdy and Wood who then shoved him bodily to the ground a yard from the six-yard line.
Hunter, seemingly desperate to repeat his earlier screamer, again found the ball at his feet thirty-five yards from goal. His shot was almost on target, but Dootson watched it sail harmlessly past the post. Turley skinned Whealing and whipped in a cross for Morris. Keeling closed the Harrogate man down, but Morris still managed to poke the ball towards goal, producing a good stop from Dootson.
Celtic switched from 4-5-1 to 4-4-2 by replacing Connell with Hindle.
Hindle’s presence gave Celtic another attacking option, and Sykes used it to good effect, lifting the ball over the top of the defence for Hindle to run onto. The lad was at a narrow angle, but not afraid of shooting when isolated in the box, and his shot was on target and required a sharp stop from Pettinger.
Some great defending by Whealing kept the score line respectable when Hunter’s narrow angle shot-cross beat Dootson, but Whealing was there, sliding to the line, to hook the ball clear.
With Hindle on, though, Celtic looked more dangerous in front of goal than they had all match. Hayward found the young striker inside the box after holding off the attentions of two defenders. Hindle had his back to goal and was quickly swamped, he tried to pick Hayward out with a return pass, but it was read well and hoofed clear.
Hunter latched onto a lucky bounce as the game switched from end to end. He took it inside Keeling and fired off a low shot from the edge of the area that Dootson caught with a good save. Dootson was on his feet quickly, and tried to find Hayward with a pump down field. Hayward would have reached it too, had not Wood blatantly brought the ball down, inside the box, with his hand to rob Hayward of a superb chance. Despite the vocal protestations of the players and travelling contingent alike, the referee was uninterested.
As the game trickled towards the finale, Whealing won a corner off Shepherd. The corner from Calcutt was pin-point, finding Hayward, who nodded the ball down to Hindle. Hindle tried to stab the ball towards goal, but Barnard got his leg in the way, and earned his keeper a clean sheet.
Whealing once again saved Celtic a more embarrassing score line. When Hunter got behind the defence again, and again fired off a low shot across the face of Dootson, Whealing was there to clear off the line for the second time.
Hunter showed the other side of his character when he scythed Hayward down in the centre circle with a terrible tackle. The ball was pumped into the box, and cleared as far as Keeling. Keeling shot instantly, but was well wide of the mark. Hindle got closer as the game ran into stoppage time. He latched onto Calcutt’s square ball, but was pushed wide by Sturdy. From somewhere he managed to produce a powerful shot that zipped narrowly over the crossbar. Calcutt tried his luck himself moments later, when the defence opened in front of him, and he snapped off a shot that Pettinger caught. It was the last act of the half, and Celtic continue to under perform.