Celtic moved one win closer to safety with a victory at Bradford Park Avenue. Reed had brought in a new fullback, Black, and he slotted straight into the side admirably, and looked perfect for the role.
Celtic started with all guns blazing, Hadland and Hayward racing forward. Hadland pulled the ball back as he ran into a wall of defenders, and Hayward struck his shot first time, right across the face of goal and harmlessly wide. The new look defence protected Dootson well throughout the game, and easily dealt with Avenue's early opening exchanges, without Dootson having to move.
Confidence was rife throughout the squad, and when Clayton slipped as Ben Smith danced past him, Smith had the space to look up and see Britton well off his line. An audacious chipped lob worthy of a top golfer put the ball over the top of Britton and would have been a stupendous opener but for the crossbar, which the ball rebounded off and out. It was Hadland's turn next, put through the defence by a lovely weighted ball from Bonsall, to race one-on-one with Britton. Hadland isn't afraid to shoot, but his confidence about his placement is obviously affected by his lack of goals this season, and he put his shot tamely into Britton's midriff.
Celtic should have been two goals to the good inside the opening quarter of an hour.
Celtic continued to dominate and create the chance in the game, though Holland tried his luck from distance when some good chest control gave him a glimmer of goal. His shot though was always going wide, and Dootson watched it fly with his arms behind his back.
Steve Smith went on a power run taking on the whole of the Bradford team and emerging near the penalty box still on possession. A quick looping cross found Hayward steaming in at the back post, but though his header was accurate, it lacked power and Britton caught easily. Moments later, Hadland chased a lost cause, and whipped in an unexpected cross on the run. It landed at Hayward's feet after evading the defence and keeper, and Hayward side-footed the ball into the back of the net.
The linesman had his flag erroneously raised, and Hayward has now had three good goals overruled in three matches.
This seemed to spur Celtic onto greater heights, and Bonsall capped an outstanding performance in the centre of the park with a wonder goal that was fully justified. He picked up the ball in the middle of the park and ran in towards goal. Initially he looked for an opportunity to pass, but when the defence opened up, thirty-five yards from goal, he hit the ball on the run with a great deal of power. The ball swerved as it flew through the air, and thumped into the top corner.
Celtic quickly regained possession from the kick off and Hadland won a corner from Quinn. The ball in from Whealing caused a great deal of consternation amid the Bradford defenders, but they hoofed it clear, only to see Steve Smith hook it back in again. This time Britton claimed.
Dootson finally had to make a save as the half was running out. Craig Smith saw an opening and a chance to emulate Bonsall, his dipping thirty-yard shot saw Dootson acrobatically reach his right hand post and tip the ball around fro a corner that Bradford were unable to get a head on, and Celtic cleared comfortably.
There was just time for Hayward to slip the ball through the static back line and Hadland to race into the box. Britton was off his line quickly and the two reached the ball at the same time, Britton being very brave and collecting off Hadland's feet.
The second half saw Bradford getting desperate and dirty, with Oleksewycz responsible for a fair number of fouls around the thirty-yard mark. He was their main culprit, but there were plenty of other examples all across the pitch, and how Bradford ended the game with 11 men on the field is a mystery.
Bradford knew that they had to get a goal back quickly, and Oleksewycz made some space at the edge of the box, but Sykes got across well to block the shot. Bradford made a couple of changes, and while the new right back was settling in, Hadland nipped past him, took the ball right to the by-line to ensure everybody was onside, and whipped a cross to the back post. Hayward threw himself at the ball, and had he been wearing his hair in a mullet, Celtic would have been two up.
Hadland had run himself into the ground, and was replaced by Eastwood, who immediately got involved, dropping the ball off to Steve Smith, but he was dispossessed as he tried to weave his way into the box.
There was a moment of worry for the large travelling fans when Craig Smith challenged Grant black with a two-footed challenge, leaving the latest Celt lying on the floor. Justifiably Smith was booked, the only surprise being how he was the only one in the referee's notebook.
From the free kick, Eastwood picked up the ball, and with nowhere to go, won Celtic a corner from Naylor. Bradford failed to deal with the corner at the first attempt, but somehow kept the ball out. Celtic continued to press, but Bradford did break thanks to Oleksewycz latching onto a poor pass from Whealing. Whealing did really well to recover, and got back to block the cross at the expense of a corner, which Adams cleared.
Sykes was harshly adjudged to have up-ended Jones, about forty-yards from goal. The free kick changed from a cross to a shot mid-flight, and though it looked like clearing the crossbar, Dootson made sure with an acrobatic save, tipping the ball well over the bar. Again, Bradford couldn't capitalise on the corner, with Sykes clearing with a header, and Bonsall hooking it away down field.
With the game entering its last quarter of an hour, Hayward was gifted the chance of a comfortable end to the game when he carried the ball from his own half past the last defender to go one-on-one with Britton. Britton did really well to stand up as long as he did, but Hayward's lack of scoring confidence showed when his shot was straight into Britton's midriff. The confidence will return as Celtic get more wins.
Thus it was going to be a nervy final ten minutes, with Bradford desperate for something from the game. Oleksewycz evaded a challenge from Black to race through on-one-on with Dootson. Dootson was off his line like a sprinter from his blocks and scooped the ball off Oleksewycz's feet in a really brave save. Bradford, to their credit kept coming, and Oleksewycz shot from just outside the box, the ball smacking against the top of the bar and out.
Celtic showed great composure, and with the addition of Calcutt calmed the game down, keeping possession. There was nothing Bradford could do, and after a tense stoppage time, the referee blew on Celtic's second away victory of the season, and their second win in three games.
It's the start of a long road towards the end of the season, but at least Celtic are on the right road now. It might have taken a wonder goal from Bonsall, but the result of the game was a more steady, less worrying performance at the back, and a strong midfield performance. Apart from a ten minute spell near the end of the game, Celtic never looked like getting anything other than a win here, and that sort of form will be crucial when Celtic attempt to win twice on the trot against Gainsborough on Tuesday. Three games ago, we needed ten wins to secure Conference North football next season, and not being able to see where the next win was coming from. Today we need eight, and we can see the next win coming midweek.