The opening exchanges were about Celtic pressure. Banim won an early corner that had to be put out for a second corner, no sooner had Vics cleared it than Garvey was bringing it back, only to be clattered by Charnock. Prince?s free kick forced Rogers into a full stretch save conceding a second corner. Northwich defended exceptionally well, but got a bit of luck after Banim kept in a ball he shouldn?t have, flicked the ball over to Garvey who dropped it to Prince. Prince?s shot was deflected into the path of Banim at the back post, but his close range shot was over the bar. Banim was an inch from the area after beating Garner when Garner earned a yellow card for a foul from behind. Again, Celtic couldn?t convert, Prince blazing over.
Brayson, Byrne and Elliott all had chances to open the scoring for the home side: Brayson tried a distance shot straight at Pettinger; Byrne latched onto a deflected clearance, but lacking the power needed to test Pettinger; and Elliott controlled a Haran clearance well, but shot wide. Northwich were ending the half the stronger of the two teams, and could have ended it a goal to the good but for Barnard, as Brayson got into the corner of the box and fired a low shot past Pettinger, but Barnard was there to block on the line. Brayson got the corner, and won a second as his shot deflected off Price.
The second half was to prove more of the same, as both teams played some entertaining football. Northwich could have started well as Carr put a low cross across the six yard box, but Allan?s legs weren?t long enough.
At the other end, Price was teed up twice in quick succession, a pinpoint pass from Banim was smashed just over and Maxfield?s low cross into his path saw Price try to lift the ball over Rogers, only to see it spin just wide of the mark with the home keeper beaten.
With the game so evenly balanced, it was always going to be a moment of magic or a mistake that would separate the teams, as it was, it was both. A poor defensive header fell right onto the boot of Northwich?s most deadly finisher, and Allan volleyed it into the top corner in what has to be said was a well taken goal, to move him level on goals with Ellington. The hosts nearly doubled their lead immediately, when Haran?s conceded corner was put through the six yard box by Allan.
Celtic upped a gear and went at Northwich as they had in the opening half hour. Banim found Sykes with a sweeping cross, but with Rogers beaten, Garner was on hand to block. Celtic then got their own 1966 moment, only without a Russian linesman. Banim was fouled on the edge of the box by Charnock. He took the free kick himself, striking the bar and sending the ball down. Garner was on the line and with Haran coming in kneed the ball back up and off the bar, somehow scrambling it clear under pressure. Did the ball cross the line? Probably not.
Prince found Price at the edge of the six-yard box, but a sweeping tackle from Mayman took the ball and Price?s legs as he was about to pull the trigger. The loose ball fell to Garvey, but his attempted lob was well caught under pressure by Rogers.
Eastwood and Kharas came on for Prince and Garvey, and with so many men committed forward, gaps were always likely at the back, and Allan tried to exploit a small opening, but Pettinger made a good stop to keep Celtic in the game, albeit with time running out.
As the game went into stoppage time, Celtic won a trio of free kicks around the box, but excellent defending and keeping kept the one-goal difference. The best stop of the night came in the last move of the night. Maxfield?s cross found Sykes steaming in at the back post, a point blank bullet header was blocked by Rogers who threw himself at the ground to make a miraculous stop and give all three points to Northwich.
It was a good performance by Celtic, one they can be proud of. On another night, we could have won, and but for a bit of bad luck, would have done.