Match Report -
It was a penalty
By Debbie Taylor

Celtic won the toss, but not the game, however they do now go to three games unbeaten. Giving the visitors the good end of a poor pitch was going to invite them onto us in the first half, and it did – with Frew powering to the by line and pulling the ball back to the edge of the box for McGorry, but the Nuneaton player's shot was wild.

Considering they were playing into the glue pot, Celtic responded positively to this opening exchange, and Wharton pushed the ball along the edge of the box before knocking the ball through to Bonsall who hammered the ball just wide of the mark. Celtic were giving a debut to Aron Wilford, latterly of Clyde in the Scottish second division, and almost with his first touch he applied a superb flick to a low Whealing cross that diverted it past helpless Acton and defender.

Nuneaton tried to respond with Frew powering past the defence once again. Sykes went with him, forcing him wider and wider until when his shot came it was inevitable that he put it into the side netting. Whealing was harshly adjudged to have fouled Noon just inside the Celtic half. Oddy pumped the ball into the box, and Sykes conceded the corner. Cowan was head and shoulders above the Celtic back line, and he headed the ball wide.

Cowan was handy with his feet too. Hayward finally got the nod from the linesman that he was on side as he ran onto a Wharton through ball. Acton was off his line quickly but as Hayward lined up the shot, Cowan slid in with a last ditch tackle conceding the corner, which was wasted. Cowan put the pressure straight back on the 'Boro defence shoving Wilford in the back right on the edge of the box. Wharton's free kick was on target, curled around the wall – and caught by Acton.

Black spun a cross to the back post where Hayward was running in, but so too was Moore, who conceded the corner. It was cleared as far as Steve Smith who squared to Wharton. Whittaker closed Wharton down quickly as the Celtic man tried to extricate the ball from the mud.

With the half going into the last few minutes, Frew put Wilkins into the box. As he entered he box Adams tugged at his shirt, it was the merest of touches right on the edge of the box, but Wilkins stumbled and fell over Dootson who had come to claim the ball. It was a soft, played for penalty (given against Adams), but a penalty never the less, and Whittaker converted straight down the middle. Adams was booked for the tug.

Hayward fed a good ball into the path of Steve Smith as Celtic tried to regain the initiative. Smith struggled to move the ball through the mud in the six-yard box and Acton got across to smother the shot. Smith continued plugging away and won a free kick when Whittaker lifted his legs from under him about thirty-five yards out. Wilford volleyed Wharton's free kick over the bar. Next to tee-up was Sykes. Advancing from defence he saw an opening from forty yards, but didn't quite get hold of the shot and put it wide.

The last attack of the half came from Nuneaton, looking for a late goal. Black headed out Whittaker's cross, and Sykes cleared the corner, allowing the referee to send them back to the dressing rooms. Adams didn't come out of the dressing room – replaced instead by a welcome return to Gregg Pearce.

Celtic were attacking the good end in the second half, but it was Nuneaton who got an opening first, when Wilkins latched onto a poor Sykes clearance. He snatched at his shot, curling it well wide. Whealing was then harshly adjudged to have fouled Oddy near the dugouts. Oddy pumped the ball into the box and it was a free header for Cowan, but he thumped it over the bar.

Celtic then got their by now traditional bad decisions from the officials. Hayward pulled the ball back to Wharton, but Cowan intercepted, passing it back to Acton. Acton took hold of the ball in one of the most blatant passes back to the keeper seen at Bower Fold. It was right on the edge of the six-yard box. Absolutely nothing given. Celtic were then nearly punished still further as they protested to the referee, Acton pumped the ball down field, and Whittaker's shot evaded Dootson, and was cleared at the back post by Black.

Hayward picked up the ball IN HIS OWN HALF, and was called offside by the linesman. From the free kick Cowan finally got his header on target but saw Dootson in fine form with an outstanding close-range save to deny him. From the corner, Cowan went back to missing the target.

Cowan shoved Wharton over whilst he dallied on the ball just outside the box. There appears to be a new rule from FIFA that indicates that if the wall doesn't feel like moving back when asked to by the referee, they don't have to, for this is the second game on the trot where the referee has asked the wall to move, and when they have not, he has left them; a yellow card works wonders when it comes to that situation. Hayward took the shot anyway; curling it around the wall and producing a wonder save from Acton, at full stretch, tipping the ball away for a corner. The corner was cleared.

Cowan barged into the back of Wilford thirty-five yards out, conceding the free kick. Wharton put the ball to the corner of the box, where Wilford turned and shot. Moore blocked on the line, the ball rebounding to Hayward. Hayward tried to squeeze the ball in at the near post, but Acton got down well to make the block, and Hayward's second chance was far too narrow an angle and went into the side netting.

Yet more farcical decisions saw Acton remain unpunished when he stood with his toes on the edge of his box, and his arms fully extended in front of him to catch a Ben Smith cross. That must be another new rule, as long as some part of the keeper is inside the box, it's not handball. Smith worked his way along the edge of the box moments later to find a gap, and when he did, it took an unwitting deflection from Moore to deny Smith his seventh of the season. The corner was cleared only as far as Wharton who's cross struck Love to go for a second corner. This was cleared as far as Keeling who lifted it over the defence and Hayward tried to redirect the ball past Acton, but Acton collected comfortably.

Nuneaton were hanging on a bit at the end, and getting the rub of the black. Wharton tried to power a ball into the back of the net, but an unseen hand from Moore blocked the shot, with it falling to Whealing. He took aim, only for it to hit Cowan. This time it fell to Bonsall. His shot struck Moore (chest this time), and cleared. Bonsall tried again moments later, picking up the ball just inside the Nuneaton half and racing into the box with the defenders trailing in his wake, he blasted from close range, but the ball skimmed just wide with Acton beaten.

Another vastly improved performance by Celtic, and we are again unbeaten. However, once again we allowed the opposition to get a goal, this time from the spot. With Pearce and Sykes at the back, though, Nuneaton never really looked like scoring, and Keeling and Bonsall in the middle, the midfield looked strong too. All that's needed now is somebody who can convert the chances created into goals – hopefully, that man will be Wilford as soon as he has a few games under his belt.

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