Match Report -
Relegation Looms
By Debbie Taylor

Celtic's inability to convert possession into goals cost them any points in this bottom of the table clash. Gone was the 3-5-2 formation that had caused so many problems for Worcester and Harrogate, and in its place was a standard 4-4-2 formation with the return to the starting line up for Calcutt. Celtic completely failed to make any kind of impact in the first half, and in the second were unable to convert their superior possession into goals until the late introduction of Connor grabbed a consolation.

Barrow started brightly, and Kewley started causing problems from the off with Bowker clumsily halting his charge up field. The free kick was nodded down from the head of the big and powerful Colley, but was straight at Priestley. The man in black wasn't helping the Celtic cause either, as Kewley hauled at Bowker as he tried to shepherd the ball out of play, only to be pulled of his feet, clipping the ball as it went out and conceding a corner that Celtic scrambled clear.

Celtic got a corner of their own at the other end with a nice interchange between Calcutt and Hayward that saw Calcutt attempt to trick his way past Maxfield, and win a corner as his cross struck the full back. Wharton directed the near post header just wide of the mark. Whealing put a decent ball in from the other side straight to the feet of Hayward. Hayward had three attempts at prodding the ball into the back of the net, but between Colley, Maxfield and Bishop the Barrow Keeper they denied him at every turn, eventually clearing their lines. Wharton made some space just outside the box and unleashed a fierce drive that Bishop had to claim at the second attempt under pressure from Hayward.

Priestley continued to impress in the Celtic goal, paling away Ridley's lob into the box. When the loose ball fell to Kewley, the Barrow striker returned the ball with some pace, and Priestley acquitted himself with an outstanding reaction save. He released the ball quickly and Calcutt brought he ball down well, racing into empty space. He had support to his left, but chose the shot, and put the ball wide from the corner of the six-yard box.

Bowker cleared the ball before the swarming Barrow attack could latch onto it, but his clearance fell to Kewley who shot through a crowd wide of the mark. However, Barrow were handed another chance moments later when Wharton clattered Rowland on the half way line. Murray nodded the free kick from Cotterill towards the top corner, but Priestley tipped it acrobatically over the bar. Barrow grabbed a deserved goal from the corner when Colley at the near post met Anthony's ball and he headed powerfully into the back of the net.

Colley was then called into action at the other end when new signing Weller freed Whealing with an excellent through ball and Whealing provided a great cross for Hayward, but Colley read it well and cut it out.

This was Barrow's half and Celtic seemed unable to contain the Barrow front line. Murray escaped the attentions of Keeling, leaving the Celtic man on the floor to go one-on-one with Priestley, but he snatched at his shot as he entered the box and put the ball over the bar. Bowman then stopped Ridley with a last-ditch tackle conceding the corner. This time, Weller easily cleared the near post corner. However Murray won another corner moments later by kicking the ball out off Whealing. Keeling deflected Murray's header over the bar. Again, Weller was on the near post to clear. Barrow continued to press and soon won yet another corner, this time off Bowman, blocking Rowland's cross. Keeling put the ball out for a second corner, and then cleared only as far as Murray, forcing yet another corner out of Keeling. The pressure finally eased as Murray headed over. Hill found himself with a sight of goal whilst some forty yards out; Priestley watched the flight the whole way and caught comfortably.

In between the Barrow pressure, Celtic did manage to get the ball up field and apply a little pressure of their own. Calcutt easily cut inside Maxfield and whipped a great ball in for Hayward, but again, Colley was there to cut it out. Whealing put a similarly excellent ball in from the other side aiming for Sykes. His header was top corner with Bishop stationary, but Cotterill threw himself at the ball and put it narrowly over his own bar. The corner was cleared as far as Whealing, whose ball back in was cut out by Anthony for a second corner. Colley just got his head on the ball to clear, but the half ended with Celtic getting into the game.

The start of the second half saw Wharton fouled just outside the box by Cotterill, another inch and it would have been ignored for being inside the box. Whealing's free kick struck the wall and Calcutt retrieved and lobbed it instantly back in. Hayward flicked it to the back post, but there was nobody there. Whealing beat Heffernan to put another good ball into the box, Colley cleared, but not as convincingly this time, the ball falling to Sykes. Sykes struck a thunderous shot that skimmed just over the bar.

Barrow had a chance against the run of play to move further ahead when Ridley skipped past Bowman leaving him sat in the mud, his cross turned into a shot and rebounded off the crossbar before going out.

Celtic continued their resurgence, and Steve Smith tired to burst into the box only to be toppled by Cotterill. The free kick was taken quickly, but the only result was a corner when Calcutt's cross hit Maxfield. The corner fell to Wharton who turned his marker well and struck a good shot that Maxfield blocked by the post, but the loose ball fell to Calcutt who lobbed the ball to the back post where Bowker and Cotterill both went for it, with the Barrow defender putting the ball out for second corner. Weller fed the corner down to Steve Smith, who lobbed the ball to the back post for Calcutt, but he couldn't control his lob and it went out.

Again, against the run of play, Kewley robbed Calcutt in the middle of the park and he raced into the box one-on-one with Priestley, producing a fine save from the Celtic number one. Calcutt had lost the ball thanks to sustaining an accidentally injury from Kewley's foot in his ribs and he was replaced by Ben Smith. Kewley tried to take advantage of the new player down Barrow's left flank and whipped in a cross for Rowland, but the Barrow midfielder got no power in his shot allowing Priestley a simple catch.

Steve Smith again got the better off Cotterill who clumsily bundled Smith over in the box, which was ignored, and hurriedly cleared for a corner that was wasted. Ben Smith increasingly got into the game and provided a great cross for the Celtic front line, Bishop punched unconvincingly through a crowd, and was fortunate the loose ball fell to a Barrow foot not a Celtic one.

Barrow were attempting to catch Celtic on the break with long balls down to Murray and Kewley. One such ball required an excellent last-ditch tackle from Keeling at the expense of a corner inside the six-yard box. Priestley caught and threw out to Steve Smith and Celtic attempted a break of their own. Smith's cross was nodded down by Sykes to Hayward, but his shot was blocked.

Weller was the next to feel the late challenge of Cotterill ten yards outside the box, but the free kick was woeful. Ben Smith received the ball off Hayward (who then got fouled by Cotterill), but his powerful shot was straight into the wide midriff of Bishop. Celtic increased their pressure on the Barrow box, and it looked like it just might crumble, Whealing's cross was cleared, Wharton's prodded shot was blocked, Hayward's flick was blocked, This was desperate defending by Barrow ? but it was working. When Ben Smith ran along the eighteen-yard line and found enough space for the shot, he did make Bishop work and Bishop saved well.

Another long ball pumped down field gave Barrow the break they needed. Murray collected and took the ball to the by-line before putting his low cross through to Ridley coming in at the far corner. Keeling and Bowman closed quickly, but Ridley placed his shot beyond Priestley.

Maxfield risked a booking with a very late challenge on Steve Smith just outside the box as Celtic looked for a way back into the game. The free kick was taken short, and Ben Smith's shot was headed clear by Maxfield.

The game threatened to boil over as first Murray shoved Bowker and got a booking, then moments later Wharton shoved Simpson and got a similar result.

Lee Conner was introduced, with less than five minutes on the clock. He made his presence felt almost instantly. Hayward nodded the ball into Connor's feet as he charged like a bull through the Barrow players. He put a lot of power behind the shot and Bishop probably wouldn't have reached it even if it hadn't taken a deflection off Cotterill into the bottom corner. Cue a frantic stoppage time. Whealing's cross was headed by Wharton, but lacked the power and Bishop caught, and that was that.

Celtic are now staring relegation in the face. From somewhere Celtic need to find ten wins to ensure another season in non-league's second tier. From a season that started with a lot of promise, the result against Barrow is a further nail in the coffin of Season 2004/2005. Celtic can still turn the season around with one simple change. Somebody needs to start scoring goals: a lot of goals.