Two weakened sides squared up in this side-show competition. Although there was little importance to the game, and Celtic are better off out of it, to go out in such a way has been extremely frustrating, with the linesman at the Celtic attacking end turning the game into a farce with his inability to spot an offside, and the referee’s inability to see that a foul inside the box is still a foul.
Both teams had unusual line-ups with key players not risked, and Steve Smith finally got the nod to start the game. His live-wire performance was one of the better Celtic performances on the night and he unlocked the Vauxhall defence in the opening exchanges bringing the ball past several defenders and skipping around Murphy in the visitor’s nets. Murphy clawed at the ball, catching Smith’s foot, Smith regained his balance and managed to reach the ball and pull it back for Sykes, but Griffiths interception cleared the danger. Celtic’s first claim for a penalty was turned down before five minutes had elapsed.
Vauxhall’s turn came when O’Donnell took advantage of some dithering in defence in order to burst towards the Celtic box. He shot just before entering, and Robinson palmed around the post. The corner was cleared, but Flood picked it up and put the ball back into the box, getting a deflection of Bowker for a second corner. Keeling nodded it clear.
Celtic did what they rarely did this season, they scored from a corner. Turning good possession into attack Smith and Nesbitt both went for a lofted ball, with Nesbitt edging out the smaller Smith at the expense of a corner. Calcutt’s corner was nodded back from the edge of the box by Bowker to Keeling whose powerful header was well beyond Murphy’s reach into the back of the net.
Glendenning picked up the ball in the middle of the park, thundered down the wing, cut inside German and struck a powerful shot that rebounded off the post with Robinson beaten. The ball ricocheted off O’Donnell, struck Robinson as he fell, bounced back off O’Donnell and out for a goal kick. Another good chance fell to O’Donnell minutes later when Glendenning again cut inside German and lobbed a cross to the back post, where Robinson and Bowman combined to smuggle the ball around the post for a corner. Caldecott blocked the near post corner for a second corner, which was wasted.
Bonsall was playing the pivot role in midfield, and he laid off Calcutt for a good run at the Motor’s defence. He strode past his marker and whipped in a good cross for Sykes, but O’Brien was back defending and headed it out for a corner, which was wasted. Bonsall then set up Smith with a cutting pass. Smith had to wrestle his way past Griffiths to go one-on-one with Murphy. Murphy was out of his box quickly, Smith knocked the ball past him towards goal and got scythed down by Murphy (nothing given), as the ball rolled towards goal, it slowed in the mud around the six-yard box giving Flood time to get across and clear.
Vauxhall were getting quite dirty, and Nesbitt hauled Bonsall off his feet on the half-way line. The corner was taken short to Whealing who got to the by-line and cut the ball back for Sykes. Glendenning slid in and put the ball out for a corner. The corner was cleared.
Celtic’s second goal came courtesy of Calcutt. He robbed Glendenning with a neat touch that left Glendenning swinging at air, raced towards goal and one-on-one with Murphy slotting it past the keeper’s outstretched palm, only for the referee to pull him back for some perceived foul on Glendenning that mystified the Vauxhall man as much as Calcutt. To top the decision off, he proceeded to book Calcutt for scoring after the whistle despite Calcutt being some distance from the ref, concentrating on scoring, and with the knowledge that at no point had he done anything wrong.
Celtic were still stunned allowing Woodyatt to get down the wing and lob in a cross that hit the roof of the net, and then allow Glendenning the chance to pick his lob into the box, which Keeling and O’Donnell both went for, the Celtic man winning, at the expense of a corner. Keeling won the corner putting it out again, this time the corner was poor.
Bonsall knocked the ball past Tamm and raced after it with Murphy racing out of the box. Murphy reached it a fraction of a second ahead of Bonsall, and his clearance struck Bonsall’s backside, and floated across towards Sykes. Sykes misjudged the bounce and his shot towards an empty net was wide. Whealing found enough space to whip in a cross, Murphy got enough on the ball to divert it away from Calcutt and Vauxhall broke. German won the ball, but then dithered around the edge of the box losing out to Noone, whose shot across the face was no danger. With the time in the half running out, Noone nutmegged German and Nesbitt latched onto it, curling his shot from the edge of the area, but the shot lacked power and Robinson made a comfortable catch.
Celtic’s third goal came right at the end of the half, when Bonsall’s ball was played into space behind the defenders, Calcutt raced between Tamm and Griffiths, latched onto the ball, rounded the keeper and put the ball into the back of the net: only to see a completely ludicrous offside decision. The referee didn’t book Calcutt this time on account of the ball leaving Calcutt’s boot when the linesman raised his flag.
Celtic came out of the dressing room looking to get some goals that would actually count. Bonsall held off Nesbitt’s bear hug long enough to feed the ball to Calcutt who whipped a good ball into the box for Sykes, but Woodyatt got across and headed narrowly over his own bar. Keeling’s header off the corner was just wide. Moments later Wharton’s cross to Sykes in the middle was this time met by Glendenning who put the ball out for a corner. The corner was wasted and Vauxhall got one of their own at the other end when Bowker got across well to deny O’Donnell. Celtic cleared the corner and broke with Wharton’s ball over the top for Sykes to chase. Glendenning was the last man and was trying to shepherd the ball back to the keeper, he suddenly realised Sykes was right there and poked the ball narrowly past his own post to deny Sykes an easy strike. Bowker scissor kicked the corner, the ball taking a deflection off Flood for a second corner, which was cleared. Sykes and Calcutt did some nice quick passing to put the latter into a good shooting position, but Calcutt’s shot was always rising and cleared the bar.
Celtic’s persistence paid off when Calcutt displayed some beautiful ball control before lofting the ball into the space behind the defence. Smith and Sykes both chased it down (the linesman kept his flag down for a change). Again Murphy was out quick, but when Smith broke left Murphy was stranded and Sykes took advantage of Murphy’s indecision by slotting the ball past him with a simple finish.
Smith brought the ball through the defence and was just about to enter the box and go one-on-one with Murphy when O’Brien scythed him down from behind. The referee left the wall seven yards from the ball, and Whealing’s free kick hit it. Smith picked it up and lofted in a cross, which Tamm put out. Keeling met the near post corner with a scooting shot that deflected off O’Brien, but a goal kick was the decision. A corner did come moments later when Calcutt’s corner was cut out by Glendenning. As soon as the corner was cleared, Vauxhall made wholesale changes, bringing on all three subs (Anthony and Darren Wright and Spellman) for O’Donnell, Glendenning and Woodyatt.
Celtic’s half time substitute, Wharton (on for Caldecott) picked up a loose ball on the wing and fed the ball into the feet of the overlapping Bonsall whose first time shot landed between the feet of Sykes, he tried to extract it, and put it out past the post.
The disallowed goals and missed were telling when substitute Darren Wright took advantage of a slip by German to put a cross to the far post, where his brother Anthony had lost Whealing and met the cross with a good header. Robinson had got across well, but couldn’t get enough of a hand on the ball to keep it out.
With time running out, Vauxhall were getting desperate for the equaliser. German picked up a loose ball on the half way line, and pushed it out to Calcutt. Duffy then slid straight through the back of German and got a yellow card. Celtic wasted the free kick, but Smith continued to advertise his stake for a first team place, when he latched onto Bowman’s well-weighted ball into the box. Tamm and Griffiths were both pulling at the Celtic striker, somehow he got his shot off just before finally being hauled off his feet, the penalty shout was waved away by the referee who awarded a corner instead as Smith’s shot had been deflected around the post by Flood.
The corner was perfectly delivered by Wharton, and Sykes will have to be disappointed that his header just cleared the bar.
He must have felt gutted when Flood got down the wing and put in a cross, German slipped trying to reach it, and suddenly Anthony Wright surprisingly discovered the ball at his feet inside the six-yard box with Robinson equally surprised. Wright didn’t stay surprised long and slid the ball past Robinson to get Vauxhall’s equaliser.
With extra time looming, Sykes and Bonsall got the ball past the defence, and with Spellman and Griffiths chasing, Sykes beat them into the box, both defenders slid in from the back with Griffiths taking Sykes legs away a good two feet inside the box, Sykes went flying, Celtic’s second penalty shout was denied, and Murphy scooped up the ball and booted it down field, when Wright latched onto it and struck a shot that hit the post.
The game ended at 2-2, amazingly.
Straight from the off in the first period, Wharton was adjudged to have fouled Darren Wright some forty yards out. The free kick was taken quickly, twenty yards from incident, with Anthony Wright picking it up and blasting it towards goal, Robinson made the initial stop with the ball sticking in the mud by the goal, but Wright had continued his run, hurdled Robinson and stuck the ball in the back of the net. Celtic protested, but the referee ignored them.
Hayward and Ben Smith were brought on to freshen the Celtic attack for Bowman and Calcutt. The two substitutes combined when Ben Smith lifted the ball over the top into the wide open spaces left behind the Vauxhall defence. Hayward made sure he was always behind the ball, raced after it, picked it up inside the box and slotted it past Murphy to put the scores level again.
Vauxhall went looking for a winner again, with Anthony Wright turning provider with a cut-back to the unmarked Duffy, but the Vauxhall man lashed at his shot sending it over the bar.
It really looked like Celtic would get the winner though, especially when Ben Smith chased down a poor back pass from Tamm, putting Murphy under pressure, and the clearance fell to Hayward, with too many bodies in his way he fed the ball to Ben Smith who was completely unmarked and had so much time, he overplayed the ball allowing Flood to come across and steal the ball.
The second period of extra time started with Steve Smith having a cracker of the shot that struck Griffiths and rebounded out. Keeling won it back in the centre circle before being flattened by Noone, who got a yellow card. Vauxhall immediately picked up another yellow card when Bonsall flicked on the free kick and got flattened by Nesbitt. Hayward made a diagonal run after the free kick was played into space, latched onto the ball and slipped it into the back of the net, only for the flag-happy linesman to pull him back for yet another ludicrous offside.
Darren Wright got past Whealing courtesy of a slip and having a shot from the corner of the box that Robinson smothered. Keeling was then adjudged to have fouled Anthony Wright right on the edge of the box, but the free kick was poor, and they were handed another chance when Wright was again fouled, this time dead-centre by Bowker. The free kick was better curled around the wall by Wright and forcing a good save from Robinson.
Steve Smith raced past Darren Wright before cutting inside the box; Wright scythed him down sending Smith face first into the mud. The flag-happy linesman indicated that the foul was outside the box despite clear marks in the grass proving otherwise. Wright was booked for the foul, as was Tamm for complaining. The free kick, when it came, was wasted.
Vauxhall grabbed what would be the winner when the defence held off Nesbitt long enough for him to slide the ball just beyond the outstretched leg of Keeling into the path of Anthony Wright. The Vauxhall striker completed his personal rout of the Celtic backline with his fourth goal slotted past Robinson.
With time running out, Sykes lobbed the defence, and Steve Smith broke through the defence, lobbed Murphy and put the back in the net for the seventh time that night for Celtic. In case you haven’t guessed by now, the flag-happy linesman indicated that yet again, Celtic were offside.
And thus Vauxhall went through to the semi-final of the Cheshire Senior Cup.
Celtic did more than enough to win this game, they scored seven goals and had three penalties turned down. Although a win would have proved a distraction, losing due to poor official decisions made the whole game a farce.