Match Report -
Celtic battered and beaten
By Debbie Taylor

Celtic's first half performance deserved more, but a late first half goal and crunching tackles that left Wharton, Shepherd and Black requiring substituting before the second half meant that Celtic's second half performance allowed Altrincham to run riot in the second period.

Celtic started the game brightly, and Hussin's handball allowed Shepherd to whip a ball in. Wilford won the header but Altrincham desperately scrambled the ball away from danger. Wilford was then fouled by Melling, but Shepherd's free kick was an easy catch for Coburn.

Ex-Celtic player Potts provided Altrincham's first chance lobbing a cross to the back post where Owen got his head on it, but his header was wide of the mark.

Willis had been brought in to replace the injured Bonsall, and he made enough space for a curling shot from the edge of the box, but it curled the wrong side of the post. Wharton received a bouncing ball, and scuffed the half volley but somehow threaded the ball to Wilford, who squared the ball on to Parton, but his curling shot was just wide. Celtic were just unable to hit the target, and Wilford again went close after controlling a difficult pass, interchanging with Parton and shooting just wide of the mark.

Some nice play saw Wilford feed Parton who knocked the ball on to Shepherd. Willis was running in and was given the perfect ball that he struck well, forcing Coburn into tipping the ball over the bar. The corner was lashed towards goal three times before Adams managed to put the ball out for a second corner. This corner was cleared as far as Wharton, his ball back in caused all sorts of problems for the home defence, but they did manage to scramble it clear. Willis was having a great game, and Shepherd fed him with another good ball that he blasted towards goal, it curled away from the target and went narrowly wide.

Wharton was the victim of an Altrincham crunching tackle that required him to be replaced by Ben Smith. Moments later Hilton took Black out with an exceptionally strong challenge that left him in as much pain as Black, the difference being Black didn't make it into the second half, and Hilton did, and Black was out of sorts for the rest of the first half.

Having seen that the referee was willing to let a lot pass without punishment Scott slid straight through the back of Steve Smith. Shepherd played the free kick short to Ben Smith who found Parton with a direct pass. Parton took the ball around Coburn but his shot was cleared off the line by Talbot.

Altrincham managed to mount another attack as the first half started to run out, with Potts taking advantage of the struggling Black to whip a cross in. Keeling put it out for a corner, and then beat Thornley to the ball to put the corner out for a second corner, which was cleared.

A great through ball from Shepherd put Parton off on a run. Melling slid through back of his legs as Talbot came across and body checked Parton in full flight ? both yellow card offences, neither even talked to. The free kick was fed to Wilford whose shot from the edge of the box stung Coburn's hands.

As the game went into stoppage time, Sykes was forced to come across and put out Hilton's cross at the expense of a corner. Celtic got it clear only for Potts to race past the clearly slowing Black. Potts put the ball in, and Little was unmarked at the back post to powerfully head it into the back of the net. It was Altrincham's first meaningful shot, and they scored from it. It was a body blow to Celtic coming right before half time. In the build up to the goal, Shepherd had been taken out with a crunching tackle that left him requiring treatment.

Haskins and Parr came on in the second half with Black and Shepherd unable to continue.

Altrincham looked a lot more confident in the second half, while Celtic looked like they were still in the dressing room. This was shown as Little raced unchallenged down the field, reaching the box as Sykes reached him and Dootson narrowed the angle forcing Altricham's top scorer to shoot wide. Caldecott then tangled with Potts, conceding the free kick near the corner flag, which Keeling put out for a corner. Willis conceded the second corner that the Robins wasted.

Celtic got out of the dressing room and strung together some nice football, Wilford barging his way to the by-line and pulling the ball back to Parton just outside the six-yard box, but Parton smashed his shot over the bar.

Keeling conceded a corner stopping Hilton's cross. Potts got the corner back, and shot, but Sykes stuck out a leg and conceded a second corner, which Altrincham wasted.

Potts was involved at the other end, up ending Steve Smith. The free kick was half cleared as far as Willis, who lobbed the ball to the back post, but Wilford's header went wide. Melling really should have been shown a yellow card when he slid straight through the back of Wilford with no attempt to play the ball, but Celtic got a free kick only, that Altrincham cleared. Celtic were looking like getting back into the swing of the first half, and Parton saw his initial shot blocked by Talbot, with Willis getting the rebound. Willis blasted towards goal, but put the ball just over the bar.

Altrincham were growing in confidence though, and Little showed a burst of pace to get beyond the defence and fire a shot across Dootson, who showed great agility to tip the powerful drive around the post. Celtic cleared the corner, but makeshift right back Ben Smith allowed Hilton to get around him and put in a cross for Little ? but Dootson was aware and plucked the cross out of the air.

Owen was another Altrincham player that should have received a yellow card as he slid in with both feet as Steve Smith raced past him, again no card was shown. Parton got the free kick and tried a first time distance shot that whistled over the bar.

A lofted ball into the box allowed Little to race after it. There was a moment's hesitation as Dootson didn't come, but Keeling reacted well, putting the ball out for a corner. The corner was cleared for a throw, which was lobbed into the box. Keeling headed it out, straight to Hussin who had an absolute screamer of a volley back towards goal that left Dootson rooted to the spot as it smacked into the back of the net.

The killer blow came when Keeling was harshly adjudged to have body checked Thornley just outside the box. Potts didn't wait for the whistle, he put the ball through to Little just inside the penalty area, the referee blew his whistle and everybody stopped except Little who prodded the ball into the back of the unguarded net.

Celtic were by now thoroughly demoralised, and Potts was given a glimpse of goal, producing a good stop from Dootson, with Keeling doing the cleaning up. Slowly though, Celtic picked up a bit of confidence through the work of Steve Smith, and the other members of the team began to put a bit more effort in. This resulted in Wilford putting a cross to the near post that Coburn plucked out of the air ahead of Parton, and then Parton turned provider laying the ball into the path of Willis, but his shot was over the bar.

Substitute Norris handled Parton's shot right on the edge of the box (no yellow card obviously), but Ben Smith's free kick was poor, sailing over the bar.

The first yellow card of the game was finally handed out with five minutes to go ? to Keeling! After the injury inducing fouls from the home side, Keeling received a yellow card with a mistimed tackle on the edge of the box. Potts waited for the referee's whistle this time, and produced a stunning free kick that Dootson acrobatically tipped around the post. The corner was pinged across the box a couple of times before Owen shot well wide.

Celtic looked like gaining a bit of pride, and it came through the exceptionally hard working Steve Smith. Parton pulled Parr's headed down into Smith's path; Steve Smith didn't hesitate, drilling the ball into the bottom corner beyond Coburn's reach. Celtic suddenly looked to have a bit more about them, and surged forward. Melling's crunching tackle on Parton allowed Ben Smith to whip the ball to Wilford, who brought the ball down for Steve Smith. Smith squared the ball to Willis, his shot was going in, until Melling put a leg on it, and deflected it over the bar for a corner. The corner was given to Ben Smith, who took the shot when there was a queue of players at the box post, and the shot was a bread-and-butter stop for Coburn at the near post.

As the game went towards stoppages, Celtic were still on the ascendancy, and Steve Smith made enough space despite the hacking challenges, but his shot was narrowly over the bar.

Celtic's good work was undone with them short at the back, a whipped in ball from the wing was walked across the line on his chest by Norris with no real challenge on him, and that was it.

The score line flattered Altrincham, who never looked comfortable until their late first half goal, and with Celtic struggling to get into gear in the second half, there was only ever going to be one result. The main difference between the two teams is that Altrincham took their chances.