Match Report -
Daylight Robbery
By Debbie Taylor

In all honesty, Celtic cannot claim a moral victory, though they take the three points. They were outplayed for much of the match by fellow basement battlers Vauxhall, but what counts is that a win is a win, and Celtic needed one more than Vauxhall.

The opening few minutes consisted of the visitors knocking the ball around at the back before sending it forward for the strikers to run onto, having it cleared by Celtic either for a throw or having it lobbed back to the Vauxhall third. Entertainment it was not. Celtic reacted to the ball, rather than played the ball, and it made for a poor spectacle.

That said, when Bonsall brought down a clearance, and was fouled by Glendenning just outside the box, there was enough optimism left in the crowd to expect something. The free kick was poor, but Celtic got a break when Lawton sliced his clearance and it fell to Keeling, thought the Celtic man put just too much power in the shot, and it sailed over the bar. Any optimism drained away as the half wore on, and Celtic had no further shots at goal.

Vauxhall, though, had an outlet in O'Donnell, who was powerful and quick. It was a good job he was alone, had he had a partner, Vauxhall may well have run rampant. He stormed past Whealing and was only stopped by a last ditch tackle from Keeling inside the box at the expense of a corner. Keeling was also the one there to head clear.

Wigan-loan player, Moores, was causing some problems for the visitors, but with no movement off the ball for him, there was nowhere for him to play it. Whilst holding the ball up waiting for support, Tomlinson fouled him. The free kick was a struggle for Vauxhall to clear, but there was nothing for the keeper to do, and the Motormen got it clear eventually. Hayward found himself wide for much of the first half, as all three strikers liked the central role, and there was no wide outlet. When he went out to collect the ball there were no options, so he won a corner off Brazier. It was cleared.

Sykes was not having the best of games in a Celtic shirt, and his frustration up-ended O'Donnell. The free kick from Glendenning was met at the back post by an unmarked but inaccurate Wright, who nodded wide. O'Donnell was soon back, this time taking on and beating Smith to whip a ball in. Wright brought it down and held off Keeling before turning and shooting, and bringing a sharp save from Dootson, palming the ball around the post for a corner. There was nothing Dootson could do when Parr's headed clearance fell to Flood who lobbed it to the back post where Glendenning arrived unchallenged to stab the ball into an empty net.

Having gone a goal up, Vauxhall went onto look for the killer blow. Olsen found some space thirty yards from goal, and unleashed a top-corner screamer. Dootson was again on top form, leaping acrobatically and getting a strong fist on it to punch the ball around the post. This time, Parr's headed clearance went a long way, but still to a Vauxhall shirt. When Griffiths brought the ball back, just outside the box he ran into Parr and earned a central free kick. Griffiths took it himself, curled it around the wall and narrowly past the upright.

Wright closely tailed by German latched onto a midfield-bypassing hoof. Dootson was off his line quickly narrowing the angle, Wright tried to lob Dootson, but his attempt went wide. Wright managed to get a cross in a few minutes later, earning a corner as Keeling intercepted at the expense of a corner. Dootson claimed it easily.

Celtic had a huge let off as the half went into the final few minutes. O'Donnell latched onto another defensive clearance and went one-on-one with Dootson. Dootson went down to smother the ball, but the ball wasn't where Dootson was as O'Donnell nipped around the Celtic number one, with an empty net to aim at. He put his ball into the side netting.

Something had to change at half time, and full credit to the manager for noticing that everything was trying to go through Sykes (who was having an off day), and that there was no outlet down the flanks. Monk and Wharton replaced Hindle and Sykes changing the make up of the Celtic team.

Monk was handed an immediate chance. Bonsall lifted the ball over the defence, Monk came in on the diagonal, but didn't make good contact and succeed in merely changing the direction of the ball which Ditmar, the otherwise unoccupied visiting keeper, scooped up. Just a few minutes into the second half, and Celtic looked a little more comfortable. They were handed a huge chance when the referee penalised Ditmar for holding onto the ball for over six seconds, giving Celtic an indirect free kick just inside the penalty box. Vauxhall packed the defence, and when the ball was rolled to Smith, Brazier blocked his shot on route to goal.

Hayward won a corner off Flood as Celtic continued to press. The corner was cleared as far as Wharton, but the substitutes' shot was woeful and well wide.

Parr was then fouled in Celtic's half. Dootson thumped the free kick up field. Monk raced past the static defence, nodded the ball past the ball watching Ditmar and as the ball looked to be destined for a goal kick provided the most amazing piece of improvisation to flick the ball with the back of his heel at waist height into the empty net.

Celtic could have capitalised on Vauxhall's momentary panic. Moores held off the attentions of the much larger Glendenning long enough to feed Hayward at the edge of the box. Hayward's shot was struck superbly, but rising all the time and cleared the bar.

Bonsall went after Monk's ball down the wing, but with Flood hauling at his arm and shirt, Flood reached it first, Bonsall hauled back himself, and was penalised immediately. For kicking the ball away in frustration at the inconsistency from the linesman (for it was he who did the alerting to the foul) the referee displayed yellow.

Smith overlapped Monk and was given the ball to run onto. His spinning cross looked to be creeping in the near post, but Ditmar acrobatically tipped the surprise ball around the post for a corner. That's how the officials saw it. What really happened was that Smith's cross hit the side netting. Very sportingly, Celtic wasted the corner.

Despite Celtic's increased dominance in the second half, Vauxhall danger man, O'Donnell hadn't gone away. He got beyond Keeling and struck a powerful shot that produced a very good stop out of Dootson to keep the scores level.

Celtic had a bit of a reorganise when Bowker replaced the tired looking Bonsall. Smith went into midfield and German to right back. Smith's first job was to thread a ball through to loan striker, Moores. He worked some space between Tomlinson and Spellman before turning and shooting from an impossible looking position, but shot wide. Obviously this is something Moores is good at, for he was fed a precision ball from Hayward moments later, spun around Tomlinson and fired a low drive just the wrong side of the post.

O'Donnell had an against-the-run-of-play chance. He ran past Bowker and Keeling curled a fast paced shot around Dootson, and back off the post. Vauxhall built on this, and won a foul centrally thirty yards out. Glendenning curled the free kick around the wall, around the post, and almost around the stand. German and Smith interchanged on the flanks, with German putting a cross in from the touchline. With Wharton coming in on the far post, Ditmar had to palm the ball away. Monk was the next to whip in a good cross from the right. Spellman and Tomlinson clashed as Hayward headed the ball, Hayward didn't get as good a contact as Spellman did, for Ditmar caught the ball and Tomlinson was subbed.

Vauxhall's time wasting throughout the second half came back to haunt them. The referee indicated that there would be at least four additional minutes, but Vauxhall continued to play for time, unaware the referee was stopping his watch on each occasion that they tried to take a free kick from yards away, or took twenty seconds for a throw in.

O'Donnell forced a corner out of Keeling as the game went into stoppage time. Spellman latched onto the corner and put his shot wide of the mark. Keeling conceded another moments later, which Dootson punched clear. Hayward saw Smith making a run and Celtic broke from the corner, racing down the field with Wharton for company.

As the defence closed Smith down, he pulled it square for Wharton who struck the ball first time on the run. Ditmar could only parry the powerful strike (a good save none-the-less). It fell back to Smith who struck a shot towards the empty net, and as O'Donnell had done in the first half, hit the side netting.

Seven minutes into stoppage time, Wharton again received the ball on the run and struck it first time. Again it was blocked; again it fell to Smith. Smith had two thirds of the net to aim at and chose the place where Ditmar could never reach, the shot arrow straight into the top corner to give Celtic all three points right at the death.

It was a hollow victory though as Celtic should have been out of contention by the end of the first half. That they were not says more about Vauxhall's chances of survival than it does Celtic's.