Celtic continued their impressive run, only failing to leave the relegation zone thanks to a win by Runcorn. The result of the Runcorn match was known before the Celtic match finished due to a delayed kick off on account of an accident on the M61.
The game started slowly, thanks largely to the unseasonably warm weather, and Celtic easily held off the lethargic approach play from Lancaster. Lancaster's first chance fell to McMahon some way out, but his shot was wild, however, Black forced a corner out of Keeling that caused slight consternation in the Celtic defence, resulting in Dootson coming through a crowd to punch the ball away as Celtic struggled to get it clear. Lancaster were easing themselves into the game, and a whipped in cross from Black was met by the head of Thomson under the close attention of Black, but his header forced a spectacular tip around the post from Dootson.
Celtic were probing at the home defence, eventually Black winning a corner out of Clark that Shepherd whipped in to Sykes. Sykes pivoted and shot, stopped from scoring by an unwitting block from ex-Celt Scott. This corner was only half cleared and Shepherd got it back to Wilford. He held off two defenders in order to squeeze the ball through to Parton. Parton's turn and shot was excellent, producing a stunning save from the foot of Speare in the home goals.
Steve Smith was threaded a ball to chase from Wilford, and though Sparrow tugged and pulled as Smith went into the box, there was no penalty awarded and Smith struggled on, firing off a shot as he was pulled off his feet, meaning the ball ended up in Speare's hands. Steve Smith was again involved moments later, this time being fouled by Clark. The free kick was floated to the back post where Parton's volley cannoned off the post.
Lancaster looked a little devoid of ideas, and resorted to hoofing it for Thomson and Black to chase. Defenders and attackers alike missed one such hoof the bounce fooling everybody and forcing Dootson to acrobatically tip the ball over the bar. During the corner, Dootson received a kick that removed him from the picture, however, Celtic still managed to scramble the corner clear. Eventually, the referee realised something was wrong, as Dootson was lying down on his line. After extensive treatment, he carried on, though shortly into the second half, it was clear he couldn't continue and was replaced.
Unable to take the goal kick, Sykes stepped up and provided a superb goal kick that Steve Smith chased onto, wriggled between two defenders, saw Speare rushing from his goal, and coolly lobbed the Southport-bound keeper with a fine attempt. The travelling contingent (which seemed to outnumber the home support) held their collective breath as the ball looped through the air and into the back of the net with only seconds of normal time left in the first half.
Celtic should have been two up at the interval. Wilford showed a touch of silky skill to get away from Scott and whip in a cross, Parton turned Sparrow and planted the ball into the back of the net, only for the referee to rule the goal off for an unseen foul by Parton on Sparrow.
Though Dootson came out for the second half, it was more down to his determination than his fitness. It was clear he couldn't continue after Thomson's initial shot left him stranded after his save rebounded to Black coming in at the back post. Fortunately, Celtic got the rub of the green as Black's shot from a yard away hit the post. Robinson came on, though Dootson was not happy.
Robinson was tested straight away, with Bauress latching onto a loose ball and shooting from distance, but it was a warm up shot for Celtic's sub keeper.
Celtic got back into stride, and Wharton won first a free kick that McMahon cleared and then a corner out of Scott. The corner was half cleared, coming back to Shepherd, who struck the shot first time, over the bar. Wilford seemed to attract limpets whenever he received the ball. Both Sparrow and McMahon grabbed Wilford as he received Bonsall's ball. Despite the attention he got the ball to Parton who struck a low shot and produced a good save from Speare, the rebound coming out to Caldecott running into the box, but his rising shot was always rising too far, and sailed over the bar.
To prove he is a fine stand in for Dootson, Robinson got his chance when a moment's loss of concentration from the Celtic back line allowed Thomson to turn Keeling and fire a low shot that Robinson did well to smother. He was busy again moments later, when Sullivan's cross was taken by Robinson, but he dropped it under pressure conceding a corner. It was easily clear, but Lancaster were now looking for a goal, and it took Caldecott to stop Jones' run at the expense of another corner. This corner was better: finding the rising head of Thomson, with good contact it required an exceptional save from Robinson. Another ball into the box, another dangerous moment, this time Keeling had to be aware, sliding in to block Thomson's shot at the expense of yet another corner. Thomson got his foot on the corner, but sliced his shot wide, falling to Sullivan who also sliced his shot wide, and Celtic brought the ball clear.
Celtic won a couple of fouls a few yards into the Lancaster half, the second of which caused the most problems, as Parton ran onto it, Speare had to come out of his area to head it clear. The header came to Bonsall, but he couldn't get off an instant shot towards an empty goal, and it allowed Elderton to close him down. Bonsall did manage to give the ball to Parton, but his shot from outside the box was wide.
With the game going into stoppage time, there came a harsh handball decision on Shepherd some thirty-five yards out. As he'd been jumping, the ball was deflected down from Prince, and it struck Shepherd's arm. Lancaster flooded forward, too much in fact, as Celtic caught half a dozen of them offside as the kick was taken.
The players took their plaudits, but with this game over, the next game looms larger. Ignoring the GLS cup on Tuesday, it is the Runcorn match on Good Friday that occupies the minds of the spectators. With Runcorn winning as well, the gap between Celtic and safety remains two points. A win against Runcorn on Good Friday will leave Runcorn in the zone, and Celtic clear for the first time since September.