Celtic’s first half performance couldn’t be sustained into the second half allowing Gainsborough to get back into the game, and produce two inevitable goals. Even in the first half though, the power and height of the Gainsborough front line caused problems whenever the ball was in the air in the box, and Dootson was required to be on top form to keep the score at 2-0. And in the second half, Celtic worked enough chances to take all three points, but ultimately, couldn’t convert and a draw was a fair result.
Celtic’s game plan was to drive at the visitors at every opportunity, and before the fans had finished migrating, Steve Smith had worked some space at the edge of the box for a shot, and only an outstanding save from Holmshaw in the visitor’s nets kept him from opening his account. As the ball fell to Hadland, it took a last ditch tackle from Pell to stop him from opening his account. Holmshaw was in impressive form, and was called on again when Ben Smith put the ball into the path of Wharton, he struck the ball first time and Holmshaw threw himself through the air to deny him. A well weighted ball from Black put Hadland into the box. Parker slid in taking Hadland’s legs and conceding a corner. The corner was cleared, but the pressure hadn’t gone as Sherlock fouled Ben Smith on the half way line, which allowed Black to pump the ball into the box. It was cleared initially, but Parker was forced to concede a corner, and was very surprised when a goal kick was awarded.
It wasn’t all one way traffic, and Gainsborough won a corner off Sykes, as he headed out a Trinity speciality long throw. Pell got his foot on the ball turning and shooting well wide. An attempted clearance from Keeling struck Sykes and fell kindly to Ellington. He struck the ball sweetly, forcing Dootson into a full stretch dive to tip the ball around the post for a corner. Hurst got his head on the corner, putting it over the bar.
It was Bonsall’s industry that edged Celtic in front. He won the ball in midfield and made some space for a blasted shot towards goal. Allison put himself in the path of it, deflecting the ball to Ben Smith. Smith didn’t hesitate, poking it past the despairing Holmshaw.
Celtic kept coming, and Steve Smith’s whipped in corner was punched off the head of Hayward falling to Bonsall. He struck the ball well enough, but over the bar. Steve Smith is still looking for his first goal as he raced into the box and tried to lift the ball past the keeper, but Holmshaw stood up well and claimed comfortably.
A defensive howler of Celtic proportions gave Bonsall his second goal in two games. Whealing whipped in a cross that Holmshaw couldn’t claim under pressure from his own defender. The ball fell into a mix of Celtic and Gainsborough players, but it was Bonsall who got the decisive touch, prodding the ball into a gaping net.
Celtic took their foot of the attack peddle allowing Gainsborough too much possession, and Pell tried his luck from distance with an absolute cracker of a shot that required a cracker of a save from Dootson, conceding the corner. The corner was very poor. An O’Brien cross moments later was met by a very tame header from Ellington, nodding the ball into Dootson’s hands. Black was the next to concede a corner, as Ellington teed up a shot. Bird’s header from the corner looked a certain goal, but Dootson pulled out yet another fantastic save to deny him, at the expense of a corner. Dootson was on top form as Ellington’s close range header saw a great reaction save from the Celtic number one, and Celtic scrambled the ball clear.
Celtic still worked openings, but they were more measured in their approach, with Hadland winning a corner out of Purkiss. Hayward’s flick header at the near post deserved better, but sailed over the bar. Hayward struggled under the attentions of Sherlock who must have fouled him half a dozen times before the referee stopped play and gave Celtic a free kick thirty-five yards out. Celtic couldn’t convert and the half ended 2-0.
Almost from the restart, Gainsborough lost their captain Allison when he kicked the floor not the ball, he was replaced by Allen, who proceeded to have a good game at the heart of the visiting defence. Gainsborough were taking advantage of a tiring Celtic, and Bird charged down Keeling’s clearance, the rebound requiring Dootson to produce yet another top-notch acrobatic save. The corner was poor, and Sykes easily cleared.
A Trinity goal felt inevitable, and when Parker’s ball was floated into the box, Ellington’s diving header put the ball past Sykes and Dootson into the bottom corner, halving the deficit.
Ben Smith immediately was handed a glorious chance to put back the two goal cushion and kill Gainsborough off. Hadland’s ball over the defence was too high for Hayward, but fell in the sticky mud just outside the six-yard box at Smith’s feet. If Smith had struck the ball first time it was a goal, but he took an extra touch that allowed Parker to get across and make a vital block in front of an empty net. From the corner, Keeling put his foot on the ball, diverting it wide. If Ben Smith rued his miss, Steve Smith handed him an identical opportunity, with his cross isolating Holmshaw and leaving Ben Smith with a gaping net. Again Ben Smith required the extra touch and again Parker got across to make the block and keep Gainsborough within touching distance, this time, Holmshaw palmed the ball away from Sykes for what should have been a corner, but was given, to both players’ surprise, as a goal-kick.
Sherlock finally got booked when he took Whealing’s legs away after the fullback had cut inside him. The free kick was poor, but Steve Smith rescued the situation, winning a corner off O’Brien. Keeling and Allen jumped for the ball, the referee decided that Keeling infringed Allen, and gave a free kick. Moments later, a harsh decision on Whealing who was adjudged to have fouled Ellington just outside the Celtic box. Justice was done when the free kick struck the post and went out.
The referee was less eager to award Celtic anything moments later as Hayward struggled to control Steve Smith’s cross as Parker had his arms wrapped around Hayward’s chest inside the box.
Celtic were made to rue their missed chances halfway through the half when Wood raced towards goal. He struck his shot as he entered the box, Sykes threw himself at it, and missed, but Dootson didn’t making a good block. Wood was exceptionally fortunate as the rebound came straight back to him and with Dootson and Sykes still on the floor rifled the ball into the top of the net.
Wharton got a chance to regain the lead when Ben Smith’s square ball gave him a glimmer of goal, but his attempted curler was over the bar. Eastwood was brought on for the tiring Hadland, and he immediately got among the chances as Hayward held off his defender long enough to find Eastwood. Eastwood turned and shot and Holmshaw made a good save. Ben Smith tried to find Eastwood again moments later but Pell covered the ground well, and slid in to dispossess the returning striker inside the box. Though he’d only been on the field five minutes, Eastwood got a second chance after Bonsall found him with a well weighted pass. He lifted the ball between Purkiss and Hurst, before curling the ball towards the far corner, forcing Holmshaw into a very good save.
Gainsborough, too, had chances to take all three points. A long throw was flicked on to Bird who turned and shot wide of the mark.
With ten minutes to go (and Holmshaw constantly checking the time), Wharton forced a corner out of Purkiss that Holmshaw punched as far as Steve Smith, but his shot was over the bar. Calcutt was brought on to enliven the front line still further, with Ben Smith making way. He immediately drew a foul from Grimes level with the penalty box. Calcutt’s free kick was knocked on by Steve Smith to Hayward. Hayward turned and shot, but Holmshaw was well positioned to make the save. Celtic were trying every route into the box to try and get a last gasp winner. Wharton fed the ball through to Hayward’s feet inside the box, and Holmshaw got down well to claim at his feet.
Eastwood nipped in to dispossess Allen near the halfway line. The referee blew for a perceived foul and at that moment Hurst came steaming in and scythed Eastwood’s feet from under him, earning Gainsborough’s second yellow of the night.
As the game went into the final few minutes, Eastwood broke into the box, and despite the pulling and tugging of Purkiss still managed to get a shot off, but he couldn’t keep it down, and it went over the bar and the game ended in a draw.
With the optimism coming into the game, a draw is something of a disappointment. However, it is a vast improvement over Celtic’s previous three home games, and bodes well for the future. Celtic need to take two lessons out of the game – the first is that height is crucial in the box, and the second is that when opportunities present themselves, they need to be taken to kill teams off. Celtic relaxed just too much after taking a two goal lead. They need to keep pushing in future, relaxing at the final whistle and no sooner.