Match Report -
Tighter, but Celtic still the better team
By Iain Benson
Hyde were a much tougher opposition than the team that rolled over 5-1 less than a month previously in the Trophy encounter, but there is still a long way to go for Steve Waywell?s men.

Prince looked to continue his good form and went close twice, forcing a decent stop out of the erratic home keeper Njedbayi. A denied penalty shout in the Celtic box suddenly left Celtic breaking with a lot of pace and space. Eastwood evaded the dangerous challenge from an Adams before slotting the ball to Prince. Prince freed Ellington with a well-weighted ball and Hyde looked very exposed, but Ellington?s shot was narrowly wide across the face. Moments later and Ellington was unable to evade Adams? clumsy challenge and the big defender was rightly booked.

With Celtic unable to score despite several glorious chances, Hyde started to get a foothold. Clee looked dangerous and provided a good ball for McNeil, but the ex-Celtic striker headed wide, and Hyde got a couple of corners that they were unable to convert. Thus it was Celtic who were finally able to find the net. And with Njedbayi in goals, it was always likely to be an error from the keeper. After Wharton had been booked for a crazy challenge on Eastwood, the free kick routine was barely cleared as far as Smith who raced back towards the box, nutmegged Flynn and ran around the slow turning defender before striking a low shot. It was a routine save, but Njedbayi somehow contrived to spill the ball right into the path of the league?s top scorer. Ellington said thank-you very much and tapped the ball over the line, unchallenged and unmarked.

The second half started with another error from Njedbayi and another goal for Ellington. Price worked some space well outside the box and blasted towards goal, Njedbayi was unable to keep hold of the ball as it squirmed from between his grasp, and Ellington was again on hand to pounce on the loose ball and lift it over the prostrate Hyde keeper.

Perhaps thoughts of the 5-1 win crept into the minds of the players and they eased off a little when the second goal went in, and that was a mistake. Wharton?s through ball to McNeil gave him time and space, and he used it to thread a ball through to Johnson who slotted the ball past Pettinger in a simple, but effective move that halved the deficit.

Celtic tried to re-establish their lead with some nice interchanges between Price and Smith before Njedbayi was forced into an acrobatic save to tip Price?s thunderous top corner shot away for a corner. Anything Njedbayi could do, Pettinger could do better. McNeil again found himself in space, but went for goal himself from the corner of the box, teeing himself up for a half volley that Pettinger reacted exceptionally well to, leaping across to parry one-handed the shot away for a corner. Pettinger was then beaten by McNeil during Hyde?s best period. He coolly chipped a speedy ball over Pettinger and was unlucky to see it come back off the inside of the post, as Hyde stood and stared in disbelief, Kilbane put the ball out for a corner.

Garvey was brought on to replace the tiring Eastwood and as he touched the ball for the first time, Tolson slid in from the side and took Garvey out. It looked deliberate and malicious, and he only got a yellow card. Celtic got revenge in a classy way. When Flynn handballed right on the edge of the box, Celtic worked a superb corner routine, pulling the defence apart with a run from Prince allowing Garvey to knock the ball into the path of Barnard who drove a zipping low drive well out of the reach of Njedbayi into the bottom corner to claim his first goal for the club.

Njedbayi did reach Garvey?s thunderous shot with five minutes remaining as Hyde started to crumble and Celtic surged forward. Laid off by Barnard it was an excellent shot, and Njedbayi did very well to reach it. Prince then forced another save out of him, running in from a tight angle ? again it squirmed from his grasp, but this time there was no Ellington to tap in. Instead, Ellington tried the tight-angled low-drive and forced Njedbayi to save with his feet. Hyde did manage a late shot, Johnson?s shot taking a deflection off Sykes that took all the sting out of it, but there was no fight in the Tigers at the end.

Hyde made several penalty claims throughout the game, but the referee dismissed them all; given that the players had the ball in the Celtic box, perhaps they may win more games if they tried to score instead of win a spot-kick. The referee was equally unheeding of the Celtic player?s shouts, for there were two straight red fouls from Tolson and Armstrong on Garvey and Black, and Adams and Wharton could well have seen yellow twice for dangerous challenges after being booked already.

It was a typical derby game in many ways, but extends Celtic?s unbeaten run and ends Hyde?s recent run of good results. The final derby match of this little run match is in a week, and Celtic must be confident going into it.

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