Match Report -
No bite in attack
By Debbie Taylor

Celtic went up against an ordinary team, and conspired to make them comfortable winners. The difference in the two teams boiled down to teeth: Hucknall had bite in attack, and Celtic did not.

It took nearly ten minutes before either team managed to get the ball into the opposition's box, and it from an offside pumped down field from Priestley that Wharton took down well and fed to the feet of Sykes. The stand-in centre forward pivoted and shot well enough, but Taylor got across well and clawed the ball around the post for an early corner. Taylor palmed the corner away and in retrieving it, Wharton slipped at the touchline and after lengthy treatment was replaced by Steve Smith. Smith got a chance almost with his first touch when Hayward attempted to lob Heathcote and Taylor, only for Heathcote to get a head on it, and divert the ball towards the top corner. Taylor did very well to claw the ball away and it fell to Steve Smith. Smith had no time to think and poked the ball towards the far post beyond Taylor, and also beyond the post.

Hucknall's best early chance fell to Ricketts. A sliced clearance from Priestley fell to Ricketts who had an empty net to aim at and hit the bar. After pumping a long goal kick down field, Hucknall caused consternation in the Celtic box with several players attempting to stab the ball into the back of the net in the face of last ditch tackles and blocks, before Priestley eventually pounced on it.

Some lovely passing from Celtic saw Hayward hold off Mark Smith long enough to feed the ball into the path of Bonsall. Bonsall charged forward and laid off to Sykes, who took the ball to the by-line. Running out of space, he back-heeled towards Steve Smith running into the box, but a last ditch tackle from Heathcote denied the Celtic substitute. Celtic had a claim for a penalty, albeit one that would have been harsh on Taylor. A sliced clearance from Winder left Taylor chasing after the ball, Hayward nipped in and latched onto the ball just outside the six-yard box. Taylor had been losing his battle with gravity from the moment he set off and crashed into Hayward sending the Celtic forward tumbling, and any danger gone.

Parr's lobbed the ball over the defence. Ben Smith turned and shot forcing a good save from Taylor, with the rebound chased by Hayward. Hayward lobbed the ball to the back post and Sykes threw himself at it, Taylor palmed it around the post, and won a free kick as Sykes collided with him. Sykes kept plugging away, and took over from Ben Smith on the wing to loft a ball into the centre of the box, Hayward controlled it well, turned and shot, forcing another good save from Taylor.

Celtic were nearly made to rue the missed opportunities when Ricketts beat the offside trap with a well timed run and lobbed the ball over the advancing Priestley. Bowker got back really well to head over his own bar from close range. Bonsall knocked the corner out for a second corner, which was wasted.

Celtic again worked half a chance when Hayward flicked on Bonsall's pinpoint cross to Sykes. Sykes tried an overhead kick, but there was no power and Taylor caught easily.

And Celtic were made to rue that miss when Bowker's last ditch tackle on Ricketts put the ball out for a corner deep into stoppage time at the end of the first half. Heathcote was completely unmarked at the back post, found easily from the corner, and he nodded it into the back of the net.

If Celtic had gone in at the end of the first half level, the outcome of the game may well have been different, as, second half Celtic came out looking for an equaliser. And they nearly got it in the opening exchange. Steve Smith had a barrelling run that saw the defence backing off. He laid the ball into the path of Hayward who put it back to Bonsall some twenty yards from goal. Bonsall struck a sweet shot first time with a great deal of power, stinging Taylor's hands.

Palmer didn't help the home-side cause when he barged Sykes off his feet some forty yards from goal. The free kick caused a lot of problems for the home defence, but Celtic seemed content to have one more pass before shooting, allowing Town to get it clear. Celtic got another chance a couple of minutes later when Ben Smith cut inside Heathcote who scythed him down with a cynical challenge right at the edge of the box. The free kick was knocked sideways to Ben Smith whose shot struck the advancing wall. Ben Smith had more luck when he outpaced Plummer to whip a cross into the box for his fellow Smith steaming in at the back post, but Taylor read the flight well and plucked the ball off Steve Smith's foot.

In virtually their first attack of the half, Bacon latched onto a defence splitting ball. One-on-one with Priestley, one of the league's golden boot contenders did not waste the opportunity slotting it past Priestley.

From the kick-off Celtic moved the ball through Ben and Steve Smith with five passes into the path of Bonsall advancing into the box, his shot was a rasping drive, producing a good save from Taylor.

A woeful shot from Palmer was almost trapped by German, who instead gave away a weak corner. Keeling was on hand from the corner to nod it out for a second corner. Hucknall piled on the pressure, but Bowker got to the corner first, putting it out for a third corner. Sykes took his turn in clearing, his clearance landing at the feet of Todd whose pile driver of a shot was well tipped over the bar by Priestley. Hucknall's pressure ended when Ricketts clattered Bowker in the box.

Hucknall soon had the ball back and a long ball into the wide open space at right back was picked up by Todd who only had Priestley to beat, but with Bowker and Keeling coming across he struck his shot wildly over the bar. With Calcutt replacing Caldecott at the back in an attempt to get back into the game, there were gaps opening up at the back. Bacon took advantage of a slip from German to try his luck from an acute angle, but the fierce shot went wide.

Bacon was not to be denied, and moments later he got beyond Keeling and this time got his shot on target. There was an initial good save from Priestley, but Celtic couldn't get it clear, and Cooke lobbed the ball to the back post where Ricketts slammed the ball into the back of the net to put the game beyond even the comeback ability of Celtic.

Hucknall were limited to a handful of attacks, and looked one of the more ordinary sides that Celtic have faced this season, but Celtic lacked the killer instinct in front of goal, and could not convert the half chances into goals. Though Celtic had double the number of shots on target as Hucknall, the home side had put their shots where the keeper wasn't. With the defence leaking goals at the back, the chances that Celtic create need to be converted. It is testament to how poor both sides were that despite never looking like scoring a goal, Celtic still created more chances.