Match Report -
Nearly there now
By Debbie Taylor

Celtic moved one step closer to Conference North survival with a win against tough opposition. Playing five across the back to counter Celtic's three up front, Worcester looked strong in defence, and were capable of soaking up Celtic's attacks, and breaking quickly in the hopes of grabbing a goal.

Warmer was on one such break when Caldecott was harshly adjudged to have impeded him, conceding a free kick in the opening minute, but Sykes cleared as far as Hines, whose shot from distance sailed wide.

Celtic almost upset Worcester's plans when a through ball from Bonsall set Denham through the back line to run at McDonnell in the visiting goals, but there was just two much pace on the ball, and McDonnell put it out for a corner. The corner was cleared, but moments later Denham was whipping in a cross from the same corner, aiming for Parton coming in at the back post. It was a trick ball to deal with and McDonnell did well, tipping it over his crossbar for a corner. Wilford climbed over Heeley and the chance was gone.

Warmer took the ball from the half way line and whipped in a good cross for ex-Celtic favourite Kelly, his header went unchallenged, and it required a great close range stop from Dootson. The save proved unnecessary, as Kelly was offside.

Celtic continued to try and find a way through the defence, and Denham found Wilford with a powerful low cross along the edge of the box, but the packed box meant that Wilford's instant shot was deflected over the bar for a corner that McDonnell caught cleanly. Parton was causing the defence all kinds of problems with his tricky feet, and Carty just couldn't contain him, resulting in a foul just outside the box. Shepherd's free kick was on target, curled around the wall, but McDonnell caught comfortably.

A harsh (some might say, incorrect) handball was given against Black just outside Celtic's penalty box, and Celtic cleared the free kick easily, but Worcester started falling at the slightest touch, and Steve Smith was unlucky to be penalised for an innocuous challenge on Warmer. Again, the Celtic defence held firm.

Denham was again involved as Celtic tried every trick in the book to unlock the stubborn defence that has conceded one goal only under the influence of their new manager. He fed the ball to the overlapping Black who had the space to whip in a good ball for Wilford running in, but McDonnell was well positioned and made a decent save. The sometimes over-physical approach of Worcester meant a lot of free kicks around the box, and when Heeley clattered Denham just outside the box, it warranted a booking. Worcester cleared, but then Woolley shoved Wilford bodily off the ball, and again the free kick was cleared. Heeley risked a second yellow, scything through Denham again just outside the box, and this time, Shepherd's free kick was better, curling around the wall and was top corner until McDonnell got a finger to it, to tip it over the bar for a corner. Keeling got a free header on the corner, but put the ball narrowly over the bar.

As the half neared its end, a wonder save was required from Dootson to keep the scores level at the interval. Warmer's cross found Webster's head, and at close range, Dootson pulled out a superb stop, parrying it into the path of Colley who tried a diving header, putting the ball just around the post. Celtic reclaimed back a little of the luck they were owed.

The second half saw the plot remain the same, and Hines fouled Denham, some twenty-five yards out. Shepherd's free-kick found Sykes with his back to goal, he tried to hook it towards the net, but his shot went wide. Moments later, it was Snape's turn to bring Denham down, thirty yards out this time. Snape earned a yellow card. The free kick was cleared as far as Parton who was clattered by Heeley just outside the box. Worcester got the free kick cleared at the second attempt.

Celtic kept coming, and Steve Smith won a corner out of Warmer. As with the previous corner, it was Keeling's head that met the ball, but again, he was just wide. Celtic were definitely finding small gaps in the Worcester defence, but taking advantage of them was hard. Denham's initial shot smacked into the backside of Carty, falling kindly to Shepherd, but his shot back in was narrowly wide, though McDonnell seemed confident it would miss. A Wilford flick on isolated the defence, leaving Denham with just a defender and the keeper to beat, but his shot clipped the leg of Carty and went for a corner. Sykes flicked the corner at the near post to the back post where Keeling had another glorious opportunity, but volleyed just wide.

When Denham and Snape tangled on the half way line, Denham kicked the ball away in frustration, and was booked. The free kick was floated to the back post where Webster was lurking, but so was Caldecott, intercepting the ball and removing the danger. Another long ball into the box forced Keeling to concede the corner to deny Webster. The corner was a dangerous one, and it took two blocks and a good tackle before Celtic could struggle it clear.

Bonsall, back after a short lay-off, put a good cross in fro Steve Smith, McDonnell flapped at it, and Smith would have been in, had not McDonnell recovered and smothered. Wharton (on for Denham) found Wilford's powerful cross coming towards him in on the penalty spot, with the goal at his mercy, he swung a leg, and the ball went between his legs and was cleared. Worcester got yet another yellow card as Kelly tracked back with Black as the Celtic fullback raced into a crossing position. Kelly slid in from behind, and got cautioned, whilst Shepherd got to try again from twenty-five yards out.

The free kick was floated to the back post, Parton didn't get power on his header, but he got accuracy, and sometimes, that's more important, as the ball smashed into the back of the net, just beyond the outstretched fingertips of McDonnell.

Woolley finally got the yellow card he'd been looking for as Worcester went looking for a reply with only minutes left on the clock. Dootson claimed a bouncing ball, and Woolley swung his boot high, taking out Keeling and hitting Dootson. He got a yellow card, and for retaliating, Dootson got one too.

With seconds remaining, Celtic claimed back some more of their missing luck. Substitute Clegg raced into the box, Dootson narrowed the angle, but Clegg looked to have poked it past him, until Keeling came in and knocked the ball away off the line. Kelly had other ideas, following in; he slid to knock the ball into the gaping net, and missed, from inches, with the final kick of the game.

Celtic rode their luck at the end of each half, but Worcester had played very defensively, and it backfired, as Celtic eventually found a way through. This leaves Celtic just two points behind Runcorn, with a game in hand. The relegation zone should soon have a new occupant.