This was a must win game for both teams, and Bradford won it. There can be no complaints from Celtic about the result, they did not do enough to justify even a point, whereas the visitors, expected to lose, played out of their skins.
That said the game did not look like it would turn out that way. Celtic came out of the blocks and attacked Bradford's goal. Monk cut easily inside his marker and slid a ball to Hayward just inside the penalty box with his back to goal and a defender pressed against him. Hayward cleverly put the ball back into the path of Monk who struck it from just outside the six-yard box and sent the ball over the bar.
The signs only became apparent a few minutes into the game. Sheriffe broke free down the flank and left Whealing trailing behind him, unable to stop the cross to the back post where Ben Jones was unmarked. Only a completely lack of accuracy on the header put it wide. Jones got another chance moments later when Quinn beat Smith to put a cross in that he headed only narrowly wide. Sheriffe took advantage of a Whealing slip to put a low cross into the box where Jones was lurking again. Dootson parried the cross and Keeling put it out for a corner. Jones was there again on the corner, heading just wide.
Celtic were not out of the game at this point by any means, and Hayward's flick past the defence allowed Denham to break and latch onto the ball sliding it past Britton into the back of the net, only to have it ruled out for a very dubious offside decision.
Sheriffe found Jones again at the edge of the box, where he ran over Keeling and won a foul. Parr headed the free kick out for a corner. Parr was there off the corner heading over his own bar for a second corner that was wasted. Moments later a dubious free kick was awarded to the visitors in the centre circle. Dean Jones received the free kick, dummied Ben Smith expertly to turn and shoot, Dootson read it well and saved the low shot.
New signing Steve Smith looked dangerous throughout the match, and when he picked up Whealing's overlapping pass he drove towards the box, only to be fouled by Walsh just outside it. Crossley (a close season target for Celtic) headed the free kick clear, but soon Celtic's other Smith, Ben, brought it straight back, only to be fouled by Dean Jones not far outside the box. Whealing's free kick hit the wall. Steve Smith cut inside Quinn and attempted a lovely curling shot that had Britton scrabbling across the face of his goal, but he made it and caught well.
Sykes was hauled down by Sheriffe but was not given the foul; instead a corner was awarded to Bradford. Keeling cleared the corner only as far as Crossley. Dootson came for the lob into the box, but misjudged the flight, and the Stockport County loan player Reilly reached it first, putting the looping header over Dootson and into the back of the net. Dootson acquitted himself moments later when Sheriffe beat Whealing to a ball in the corner and lobbed the ball to the back post where Reilly was waiting, heading down. Dootson made a fantastic save at the expense of a corner.
Hayward's headed clearance fell to Walsh, and Parr blocked his shot into the crowded box for a second corner. Parr headed it clear and Steve Smith picked it up and raced down the wing. Running out of steam Dean Jones caught him up and blocked the cross for a corner. The referee spotted something in the box during the corner, and awarded a free kick to Avenue.
A long ball down the field bounced past Sykes leaving the Celtic man on the floor and Ben Jones one on one with Dootson. Dootson did get a hand to the curling shot, but not enough to divert it past the post, and the visitors were two up.
Celtic got a goal back immediately when Crossley hauled down Denham at the edge of the penalty area. Wharton's free kick curled around the wall and beyond Britton into the back of the net.
Celtic upped the pace of the game, through Denham. Denham dropped the ball off to Smith on the wing. Smith fed it through to Wharton. Wharton found Hayward with a pinpoint pass into the box. Hayward turned and shot producing a stunning save from Britton. Steve Smith then got a beautiful chance to open his account on his debut and level the scores before half time when Denham's industry allowed him to beat two men with his electric pace and put a cross through the penalty area. It was just beyond Hayward but right into the path of Steve Smith running in, but he was leaning back and the shot sailed over the bar. Denham tried again, racing after a hopeless looking ball and cutting it back through the penalty area, but this time it was behind both Steve Smith and Hayward, and the chance went begging.
Bradford regained the initiative through Sheriffe who beat Whealing for pace and went one-on-one with Dootson. The shot didn't match the build up and trickled towards Dootson. Craig Smith found a bit of space about thirty yards out and chanced his arm with a speculative effort, Dootson watched as it sailed over the bar. Dootson had to be alert moments later as Bradford went looking for the killer goal. Reilly found Ben Jones in acres of space thirty yards from goal dead centre. The shot was sweet, and it took all of Dootson's ability to reach it and punch it around the post for a corner in the dying moments before half time.
Parr cleared the corner, but atrocious defending by Celtic gave Bradford the goal they were looking for. Walsh ran towards goal, and as he neared the box, he pulled Smith, Keeling and Sykes towards him, leaving Ben Jones unmarked to his left (Whealing saw the danger of Sheriffe on his side, denying that option). Walsh had no trouble in picking out Ben Jones and the Bradford striker had no trouble in curling his shot past Dootson into the top corner.
Bradford were rampant, and Celtic were going to have to come out of the changing rooms with a lot more than belief in themselves. However they did not, and Bradford started the second half looking for a fourth goal. Reilly found some space for a shot, in the slippery conditions, the ball almost squirmed under Dootson body into the net, but Dootson held on. A long punt released Monk, who won a corner off Cressey when no other option presented itself. The corner was wasted.
Denham was substituted for the Wigan loan player, David Moores as he looked to be flagging and favouring his leg. The substitution rejuvenated Celtic slightly, and Ben Smith put a great ball over the defence, Parr sneaked past the defence and got a foot on the cross, diverting it narrowly wide. The two Smith's then linked up, Ben whipping the ball across the box to Steve, but Quinn hauled the new boy off his feet inside the box, and the danger was gone. From the other side, Whealing put his own great cross in, Monk beat the offside trap but couldn't divert the cross enough and the ball went wide.
Celtic still failed to heed the warnings Bradford kept giving them. Sheriffe took the ball past Wharton and Whealing to put a ball to the back post, where Ben Jones headed over from close range. Walsh again was stood back off, and despite being some distance from goal had a crack that required an exceptional save from Dootson, conceding a corner. Dootson punched the corner clear.
However, another defensive howler gave Bradford their fourth goal.
Reilly's shot after turning Ben Smith was parried by Dootson, Keeling and Sykes both went to clear the danger, colliding on the six-yard line, allowed Oleksewycz the simplest of finishes to complete the rout.
Bradford were not content with a three goal lead, and Sheriffe put yet another cross past Whealing, which fortunately the unmarked Reilly volleyed wide when he could have let it bounce off him into the net.
Celtic were reduced to speculative efforts. Wharton found some space just outside the box, but his wild shot was wide. Hayward picked up the ball and ran convincingly past Dean Jones, only for the Avenue defender to haul him down on the six-yard line as Hayward was pulling the trigger, the referee was uninterested, and waved play on.
Moores got a chance to grab a goal back when Quinn brought him down just outside the box. Steve Smith thought quickly and gave the ball to Moores just inside the six-yard box, Moores lashed his shot towards goal, but Britton was alert and parried over the bar. Britton punched the corner away as far as Bowker who's snap shot was well wide.
Ben Smith put in a good cross; Parr eluded one marker but not Dean Jones, who headed over for a corner. Reilly's clearance fell to Steve Smith who lobbed the ball to the back post; Parr worked wonders to keep the ball in, nodding it back to Sykes who volleyed from close range over the bar. Moores found enough space under severe pressure for a grass cutting shot from outside the box, just past the post. Moores was looking dangerous in the extreme and he beat Quinn easily, and only a last ditch tackle from Crossley putting the ball out for a corner denied the loan striker a great chance. The corner was wasted, but Hayward won another moments off Dean Jones. Parr headed the corner down to Hayward who struck a sweet shot producing a great reaction save from Britton.
Walsh fouled Hayward in the centre circle, and the free kick was quickly taken to German (on for Whealing), who won a corner out of Quinn. Crossley beat Bowker to the corner, putting it out for a second corner. The corner came back to Moores who'd taken it, he had a good strike from the corner of the box, but just wide.
And that was it. Celtic came strong at the end, but by then it was too late.