As with the previous encounter with Gainsborough, this was a game of two halves, but this time, the roles were reversed, and it was Celtic who enjoyed the better second period.
Celtic employed the 4-3-3 formation again, at least at first and it seemed to suit them, with Parton racing towards the box and winning a corner out of Parker. The corner was floated in towards Wilford who headed at the back post only to see Ellington clear off the line. Wilford was again involved as he ran past Burley who brought him down with a cynical challenge to stop the big striker getting into the box, he should have been booked. Parker blocked the free kick. Celtic continued to press, with the three strikers giving plenty of presence up-front to aim at, and with the big presence of Wilford, Sykes had no trouble picking him out. Wilford chested the ball into the path of Bonsall who struck a first time shot, but teed it up wrong, and it went wide. Andy Hayward really should have given Celtic the lead during Celtic's early dominance, when a defence splitting pass from Wilford put him through. One-on-one with Holmshaw, the home keeper stood up well and Hayward couldn't slide the ball past him.
Hayward held the ball up excellently after receiving a long ball, waiting fro support, when it came, he laid off Parton who struck a sweet, curling shot that required a decent catch from Holmshaw.
Gainsborough were getting more into the game though. A Free kick from a tackle by Shepherd on Sherlock allowed the ball to pumped into the box, where Celtic struggled to get it clear. Soon after Mallon strode into the box and it required a good initial block from Pearce to deny him, and the second shot when the rebound came back to Mallon, required Dootson to push the ball around the corner, that Dootson subsequently caught.
Celtic were not dominating as in the opening minutes, but Whealing fed a nice ball through to Parton. A burst of pace took Parton into shooting distance and he struck the ball well. It was a good initial block from Holmshaw, the ball rebounding back out to Parton. With Parker back to hassle him, Parton had extra work to do, but he shrugged Parker off only to find Holmshaw smothering the ball at his feet.
When Burley was running down the wing, Sykes brought him clumsily down leaving Burley rolling on the floor in agony. Thankfully through the miracle sponge, he was up and running about moments after Sykes had been shown the yellow card. Considering it was Burley who had evaded a yellow card for a very similar offence in the opening minutes, his behaviour after the tackle was shocking.
Gainsborough had taken control of the game, and looked like making Celtic rue their missed opportunities. Grant found an opening just outside the block, but found Black in the way of his bottom corner shot, and when the ball fell to Mallon, Dootson was there to claim at his feet.
Suddenly Gainsborough were falling down all over the pitch, a strong Bonsall challenge looked innocuous, but was awarded as a free kick. From it, Mallon blasted from the edge of the area. There were a lot of bodies in the box, and it struck one, spinning high into the air. Dootson was impeded as he tried to punch out and didn't get any distance on the ball and it didn't leave the area. Wood put it back in, and Parker slammed his boot onto the ball forcing it over the line.
Celtic didn't have time to feel any injustice as Trinity moved up a gear. Mallon received the ball out wide, cut inside and ran along the edge of the box, found his opening, but lacked power off the shot, and it was a comfortable catch for Dootson.
Celtic were by no means out of the game. Bonsall won the ball in the middle and found Wilford with a looping pass. It was a tricky one to control, but Wilford made it look simple lifting the ball and volleying it towards goal, just wide. Hayward then got the ball in the back of the net, but had it overturned because the referee decided that he had pushed Purkiss to get to the ball, when it had been shoulder to shoulder, and Purkiss had just lost out. Things seemed to be going against Celtic all of a sudden. When Pell put a loose back pass back to Holmshaw, Parton raced towards it, and Holmshaw didn't look favourite at all. They reached the ball at the same time, and it was a difficult one to call as the ball squirted sideways, Parton went flying over the top of Holmshaw. Holmshaw curled on the floor, holding is leg, and the referee showed Parton an undeserved yellow card. Within seconds of the application of the magic sponge, Holmshaw was back on his feet to cries of cheat from the travelling support. There was certainly nothing apparently wrong with him as he proceeded to take the free kick.
Celtic were made to rue that decision even more, when a ball straight down the middle was left by both Pearce and Keeling (their only mistake of the game), but not Mallon, who suddenly had half the park to run into. He wasted no time, picking his spot and curling it past Dootson. Celtic didn't deserve to be two goals down, but they were. Gainsborough were definitely finishing the half the stronger. And Mallon got another chance when he saw a gap from distance, and curled it wide.
Celtic had a big task ahead of them, and they started the process just before the end of the half, getting control of the game back, if not a goal. Whealing's pinpoint cross found Hayward, and with the last kick of the game he brought the ball under control with one touch, and with the goal gaping, sliced his shot from close range, putting it into the side netting when it would have been easier to score.
Celtic were to go onto dominate the second half, but it was the home side who started brighter. Almost from the kick off, with Mallon sliding past Whealing to fire a narrow angle shot in, Dootson palmed it away as Ellington came sniffing for a loose ball. Mallon's cross was then headed out for a corner by Keeling which Gainsborough wasted.
Some good one-touch football moved the ball to Hayward who had a shot from just outside the box, which was blocked in the box rebounding to Sykes, who headed too softly towards, and Holmshaw caught. Wilford used his strength to turn Pell, and lift the ball to the back post, but Holmshaw read it well and plucked it off the head of Hayward. Wilford was causing the home defence all kinds of problems, and he held off Purkiss to loft a ball through the six-yard box, it looked like everybody had missed it, but Sykes did a spectacular, powerful volley that required a sharp stop from Holmshaw.
Celtic were growing in stature with every passing minute, and Gainsborough were visibly wilting. When a high foot from Hurst on Bonsall right on the edge of the box gave Celtic a free kick, it looked like a good chance. It was taken quickly to Wilford, but Ellington was straight on him, robbing him of the ball. The decisions still weren't going Celtic's way though. Purkiss clattered Whealing with a horrible looking challenge, but play went on, and Pell won a free kick as Wilford and he challenged for the aerial ball. The free kick was pumped forward to Ellington, whose shot was wayward.
It didn't take long for Celtic to get the ball back to the Trinity penalty area, though, and Black lifted the ball over the defence, and Hayward flicked it on into the path of Parton. Sherlock had hold of his shirt all the way into the box, and the loan-striker had the ball smothered at his feet by Holmshaw.
Celtic then had an absolute certain penalty claim dismissed. Wilford split the defence, and Hayward ran in, Parker slid in from behind and didn't get the ball, but took Hayward out, while Holmshaw had to push the loose ball out for a corner. Corner given, no penalty. From the corner, it came across to Whealing who lifted it to the back post where Holmshaw and Bonsall jumped, Holmshaw claimed and won a free kick for absolutely nothing.
Sykes slid through Burley as the Gainsborough man was in full flight. It should have been a booking for Sykes, but he got away with just a talking to. Gainsborough wasted possession from the free kick, and Celtic continued to hunt for a way back into the match. Wilford was teeing up such a chance, when he was shoved over by Hurst. The referee had no choice, but to award a free kick just outside the box.
Denham was brought on for the free kick, his first game since the start of the season saw him sidelined with injury. One of Celtic's most talked about players, whatever has gone on, it was good to see him back. And he almost got on the score sheet with his first touch. The free kick was half cleared by Pell, and Wilford put it across the box to Denham who smacked it for the far bottom corner, with it zipping narrowly wide.
Denham was obviously in the mood. Black raced down the wing and whipped in a good ball that Pell had to be alert to clear, but he didn't clear it well, and Hayward brought it down for Denham. Denham tried to lift the ball over the defenders and keeper, but also lifted it over the bar. Celtic were getting closer, and Shepherd put a good curling cross into the box, Hayward raced in and got his head on it, putting it narrowly over the bar. Hurst fouled Hayward on the half way line, Sykes kept the free kick in, knocking it back to Whealing, whose cross was met by the head of Shepherd, putting the ball narrowly over the bar.
Gainsborough just couldn't keep Celtic at bay, and Shepherd won a corner out of Hurst as the attacks just kept building. Keeling's initial header was palmed by Holmshaw high into the air, and Keeling attempted a back header that went wide.
Steve Smith was brought on for Hayward, and immediately made an impact as he raced past Wood, only to be hauled back inches outside the box. Wilford tried to take the free kick while the wall was lining up, but Holmshaw was more alert than his defenders, catching comfortably. If Wilford had troubled the defence, they were all at sea with Steve Smith. He beat three men to make some space and his on-target shot took a deflection off Parker to put the ball out for a corner. Again the referee spotted something in the box that he hadn't been able to spot for Trinity's goal, and awarded a free kick.
Steve Smith again burst through the defence and this time, Hurst brought him down with a stupid challenge inches inside the box. It looked for a moment like the referee wouldn't give it, but he suddenly pointed to the spot, and Wilford picked up the ball. Shepherd and Denham both asked to take it, but Wilford said no, and placed the ball. Holmshaw went right, Wilford went right, but as they were facing each other, Holmshaw went completely the wrong way. Celtic were back in it, with less than quarter of an hour to go.
Mallon attempted to shield the ball in the corner by kneeling down and holding the ball between his legs (a little tip next time you see that ref – it's a booking!), instead of a free kick for Celtic, when Whealing kicked Mallon, instead of the ball, Trinity had the free kick, near the corner flag. Justice was done, and Sykes cleared. Gainsborough soon had the ball back down by the Celtic half, as they looked to restore their two-goal lead, but Pearce headed out Mallon's cross for a corner. Sykes cleared easily, and sent Smith on a run.
Smith got all the way to the edge of the Trinity box, before Pell brought him down, nothing given.
Wilford, Smith and Denham were all causing the home defence no end of problems. Wilford released Denham, and he shot from a seemingly impossible narrow angle that required a superb block from Holmshaw. The rebound came to Wilford who tried to tuck it in at the far post, but Pell got a leg in the way, clearing off the line.
Sykes fed the ball along the floor to Wilford, he turned and shot, but it was over the bar. Trinity just couldn't contain the Celtic attack as the game moved towards the final few minutes. This was typified with just three minutes of normal time remaining. Wilford was presented a lovely ball from Whealing, he twisted past one man, turned past another, used his strength to hold off a third and fired a low powerful drive into the bottom corner past Holmshaw.
Celtic kept attacking, believing that they could come out of the game with a win. At the end of normal time, Denham won a corner out of Parker, but though Bonsall had a free header, Holmshaw caught. Denham's pace took him past Purkiss, but Parker came steaming in, seemingly to try and break Denham's leg again. Celtic had a free kick, deep into stoppage time by the corner flag. Celtic piled into the box. Shepherd floated the ball towards Bonsall again. The keeper went up and caught but as he came down, nearly dropped the ball after colliding with Bonsall. He kept hold of the ball and Gainsborough kept hold of their point for full time came with his kick.
But for a moment of madness in the Celtic defence, three points would have been won in this game. It was a sensational second half performance that Trinity just couldn't respond to. And though it wasn't a win, it was yet another point towards survival, and another mark in the unbeaten run.