You expect a certain amount of time wasting when an away team are in the lead – but Hinckley brought a whole new level to the art. With a weak referee, Hinckley were content to use every trick in the book, and invent a few new ones, to run down the clock from the moment they took the lead. That said, Celtic carved out enough chances, but could not take them, and thus deserved the result.
Sykes had been put into a back three, as Celtic adopted a 5-3-2 formation that didn't really suit them. To his credit, he stayed put, and acted as a barrier between Hinckley and Dootson playing his first game since the horror tackle against Ashton way back in October. Fortunately, he didn't have much to do.
It was probably his settling into the defensive role that allowed Marrison to get around Sykes and fire a shot across the face of goal in the opening minute that zipped harmlessly wide. Burns then latched onto a loose ball some distance from goal, and though his strike was sweet, the ball curled wide of the post.
Celtic got into the game, and Hadland's tireless running saw him get the better of Pitham who brought him down near the dugouts. The free kick into the box was easily cleared, though. They got another chance when Willis fouled Sykes on the half way line. This time, the free kick was much better, dropping onto Hayward's feet. With his back to goal, Hayward spread it to German who struck a powerful shot that Pitham blocked right on the edge of the box with his hand. The free kick was headed towards goal by Adams, but Lavery was on the line to block and clear. Whealing raced down the flanks with the ball and lofted it into the box, Pitham hauled Hadland out of the air (missed by the officials) and Bonsall couldn't quite put his foot on the ball to divert it into the net. Whealing repeated the trick, racing past Cartwright and bending a ball to Hayward. Hayward flicked it onto German racing into the box, but the Celtic man couldn't get the power on the ball he needed, and Whittle saved comfortably.
Wharton fouled Pitham on the half way line. The free kick was taken quickly to Burns, who evaded German and whipped in a cross to the near post. Adams lost Marrison as he raced into the box, and as Dootson tried to get across, Marrison blasted it from close range sending the ball into the back of the net off the underside of the crossbar.
Celtic responded immediately. Wharton spread the ball into the path of Whealing whose powerful cross struck Cartwright and went for a corner. Sykes flicked the near post corner to Hayward running in at the back post, but his close range header went narrowly the wrong side of the post and into the side netting.
Hinckley responded with a corner of their own, won off Whealing. Sykes got his head on it, and put it out for a second corner that was put in with some pace, curled towards goal and struck the post, rebounding out for a goal kick.
Lavery got away with a talking to, when he should have got his first yellow card. Bonsall laid the ball through the defence for Hayward to run onto, Lavery clattered Bonsall well after the ball had gone, from behind with two feet. He just got a talking to. The free kick was taken short and moments later Whealing was clattered by Dyer on the halfway line. The free kick caused massive consternation in the Hinckley box, eventually cleared by Willis for a throw.
Celtic kept coming, and Hadland's work-rate enabled him to slip the ball through to Wharton racing into the box, but he sliced his shot, and the miscued ball fell nicely for Whealing. Whealing had more time than he thought and snatched at his shot, curling it over the crossbar and out.
Hadland and Hayward raced down Whittle's throat after a poor pass back from Piercewright left him in all kind of trouble. Whittle did well to reach the ball, but sliced the clearance. Hadland reacted quickly, pulling the ball back for Bonsall. Wharton was steaming in and Bonsall laid the ball into his path. Wharton struck the ball first time and only a stunning fingertip save from Whittle denied Wharton the equaliser.
The corner was initially cleared as far as German, he lobbed it over the defence and the linesman raised his flag for offside, despite there being a goal keeper and a defender on the goal line.
Lavery should have earned his second yellow card when Hadland laid the ball off to Hayward and Lavery slid in two footed from behind after the ball had gone. All Celtic got was a free kick in a dangerous position. The wall refused to get back the full ten yards, and eventually the referee just left them where they were! Whealing's free kick was lifted over the wall and Sykes flicked it on to Hayward. His header was on target this time, but Whittle reacted well and caught.
Lavery deliberately handled the ball as Wharton lifted the ball past him on the halfway line, again just a free kick. Sykes flicked the ball on to Hayward, and Storer had to react incredibly quickly with a last ditch tackle to put the ball out for a corner. The corner wasn't cleared properly, but the keeper caught Hayward's lob to the back post.
As the half drew to a close, Adams stopped Burns' cross at the expense of a corner. The corner was poor and Celtic went on the run, with Whealing racing up the flank only to be scythed down by Lavery in full flight on the half way line. After all of the hefty fouling, the referee finally showed a yellow card to Storer for kicking the ball away!
The free kick was nodded down to Hadland at the corner of the box, it was a great shot and Whittle was beaten, but the ball whistled narrowly past the far post.
The second half started with a foul by Bonsall on Piercewright about forty-five yards out. Sykes easily cleared the free kick. Hinckley came straight back though, and Storer spread the ball to Cartwright who shot from way out, curling his shot wide of the mark. Hinckley's leading goal-scorer, Barnes tried a cross-shot from a wide angle, Dootson read it well, and plucked it out of the air near the back post.
Wharton and Keeling interchanged with Keeling sliding the ball into the box for the return pass, but it was just beyond the reach of Wharton and drifted harmlessly wide. Burns ended Wharton's driving run thirty-five yards out. Again the wall wouldn't retreat, and again the referee seemed content by that. Sykes got his head on the ball, but Whittle was right there to collect off his head.
Hayward was forced to take the ball wide, but still managed to whip in a cross to Bonsall, and Willis with a last ditch tackle put the ball out for a corner. The corner was cleared initially, but Sykes won a second corner out of Cartwright. This time the corner was cleared more convincingly.
Theatrics from Whittle angered the Celtic crowd when Bonsall put a well-weighted ball into the box for Hayward to run onto. Whittle was brave collecting the ball at Hayward's feet, but then spent a minute rolling on the floor in 'pain' and receiving treatment that left him completely cured.
Steve Smith was brought on for German, and his first touch really should have been the equaliser. He raced through the defence, evading the lunging tackles and making enough space for a shot. Whittle was well beaten by the power, but the ball rebounded off the inside of the post and was cleared. Smith's second touch saw him lay the ball off to Hadland inside the six-yard box. Pitham shoved Hadland over, but the referee waved it away.
Dyer slid in from behind as Bonsall looked for an option thirty-five yards out. Again the wall refused to retreat, and again the referee let it pass. Wharton's free kick was slightly too high for Adams to get his head on and it went for a goal kick. Another chance was handed to them as Pitham fouled Bonsall. Again, the referee allowed the wall to stay eight yards from the ball. Adams and Whittle both went for the ball at the back post, Whittle led with his knees and again was in great agony after dropping the ball under Adams' challenge. Whittle recovered much quicker than Adams, unsurprisingly.
While the referee's back was turned, Dyer flattened Bonsall, leaving the Celtic midfielder with a split lip. But nothing would have been given anyway, as was proved moments later when Adams dummied Marrison leaving Marrison stumbling into the dugouts. As Adams went to take the throw in, Marrison erupted from the dugouts and smacked his forearm across the back of Adams' head sending the Celtic defender sprawling face first into the dirt. Celtic and Hinckley players faced up to one another, and John Reed was off the bench shouting at the referee, who did absolutely nothing but make Celtic take the free kick once the melee of players had been dispersed. There is no doubt that Marrison should have walked for that.
Celtic responded brilliantly, and produced some great build up play that ended with Whealing whipping in a cross for Bonsall, but Whittle saved the header well. Celtic kept coming and Hadland won a corner out of Willis. It was cleared as far as Wharton, but his cross back in was easily cleared.
Insult was added to injury as Marrison raced past Adams who shouted for an offside that wasn't given, allowing the man who should have been sent off to race one-on-one with Dootson and he mercilessly slotted it past him into the net to grab his brace against the run of play.
Hayward put a good ball into the path of Bonsall, but the ball stuck in his feet in the mud, allowing Lavery and Storer to get back and put him under a lot of pressure. He still managed to turn and find a gap to shoot through, but Whittle was well placed and saved comfortably.
Whealing blocked Burns' cross at the expense of a corner at the other end. The corner was taken short to substitute Lewis, who held off two Celtic defenders long enough to get a shot in, but wide.
Eastwood was brought on in the dying minutes of the game for Keeling as Celtic switched to 4-3-3. He got a chance almost immediately when Pitham fouled Bonsall on the half way line. Steve Smith picked up the lofted free kick and laid it off to Eastwood. His first touch was to slice his shot, and Adams threw himself at it, diverting the ball just wide.
Storer fouled Wharton forty yards from goal as the game drew to a close. The free kick was cleared as far as Bowker, who tried to run the ball into the box, only to be flattened by McMahon about three yards outside the box. For the final time in the game, the wall refused to retreat, and Wharton's frustration at this saw him blast the ball into the heads of those in the centre of the wall, scattering them like skittles. The ball came back to Wharton and he lifted it to the back post. Adams tried to lift it over Whittle, but lifted it also over the bar.
Celtic had one more chance to get a goal back as Bonsall lifted the ball over the defence and Hayward stole in at the back post, but volleyed narrowly wide leaving Celtic without anything from a game that they dominated.
Hinckley are by far and away the dirtiest team to have played at Bower Fold this season. From blatant time wasting to intimidating the referee, fighting, and producing horrendous tackles that should have seen them reduced to nine men. They feigned injury at every opportunity and even tried to take throw-ins as free kicks.
That said, Celtic just did not convert their possession or chances into goals, allowed two defensive gaffs to become goals, and thus deserved to get nothing out of the game.