Match Report -
Hard to tell
By Debbie Taylor

It was a strong United line up that faced Celtic - possibly more so than they had anticipated. Once first team regular, David May formed the centre of the three man backline for United, and to be frank, he could have done the job alone.

The tempo and style of the match was set out from the beginning. Jimmy Davis, a rising star at United, lofted the ball into the bath of Bojan Djordjic (bought for 6 figures) who made no mistake after just 3 minutes. Two minutes later, United had another, when Davis won a corner off German, and Parr's clearance struck Wharton with tremendous force, careering into the net.

Celtic settled then, and matched United's fluid passing, with some excellent one touch, moving play that never saw the ball stay still. It was constantly being moved, flicked, and passed, both long and short. Where Celtic had been forced to chase such passing, United did too, as Celtic tried to recover from such a bad start. And recover they did, when Scott Westwood lofted a ball into the centre circle for Colin Potts to work his magic on. Potts steered the ball around two united players, beating the irrepressible David May to go one-on-one with Ben Williams in the United goals. Potts dummied a shot, which Williams went down to parry, but Potts carried the ball around him, and slotted into the empty net.

That was to be Celtic's only goal, but it was by no means all one way traffic, with Celtic defending better than the score line suggests. And Craig Dootson was able in goals, producing a double save to deny Davies and Djordjic. However, he was only parrying them, forcing Timons into clean up operations, or putting Celtic back into trouble by laying off an attacker.

But Dootson could do nothing about United's third on 18, when Daniel Nardiello cut a ball back from the by line for Kieran Richardson to plant home. Dootson then parried Davies's shot, two minutes later right into the path of Richardson, who picked up his second in as many minutes.

Jimmy Davies played a more conventional provider five minutes later, when his cross was headed firmly past Dootson's flung out arm by Daniel Nardiello to claim United's 4th 20 minutes from half time.

Celtic got back into the game, as though they were not three goals down. The football stayed fluid from both teams, and some of the touches from Potts in particular, but Nathan Wharton as well, were special.

Both sides made changes at half time, with United taking off David May and Lee Roche and replacing them with Luke Steele and Kirk Hilton, two other equally capable defenders. Celtic replaced Dave Ridings and Scott Westwood with Gareth Williams and Jerome Fitzgerald, switching to a 4-3-3 formation in the process.

Williams first job was to bring down a Potts's lob at the edge of the box, only to be dispossessed by an overzealous Paul Tierney (a clash that kept repeating, almost coming to blows at one point). As Williams berated the ref for the lack of free kick, Tierney released Davis, who in turn put a beautiful ball onto the head of Nardiello, who could then do nothing but grab United's fifth.

Celtic really should have got another back when Potts' corner was scooped away by Ben Williams but only as far as Phil Eastwood's feet 8yards out. With the keeper completely out of position, and nobody reacting, Eastwood should have buried it. However, he put it wide - 2 yards wide from 8 yards out. Teacher's comment: he really must do better and concentrate.

But Celtic were playing better, with Hallows going just over twice, and Potts striking the bar, and they may have been able to net another had united not stepped up a gear from nowhere. At first Celtic coped defensively, but something had to give as United managed to some how find small gaps to thread a ball through. Nardiello secured his hat-trick when he twisted off Timons to receive the little lobbed ball from Davis and immediately dinked it over the advancing Dootson. Nardiello was replaced by Ben Muirhead, before he could do more damage!

Celtic once again started to play well, with Eastwood finding his niche out on the left wing, putting in some nice crosses, and Potts's matching them on the other side. But the United defence was stalwart and neither Gareth Williams or Hallows could break them down, though both tried.

When Matty Williams wriggled between Chris Timons and Keith Hill with 12 minutes to go, he went one-on-one with Dootson, and made sure this time, after being forced wide earlier in a simmilar situation, he buried it as soon as he could see the goal. He then had to wait 6 whole minutes before getting his second opening, a cross from Michael Stewart that just evaded Keith Hill and Matty Williams volleyed it well.

Anybody who thought that Dootson's may be more than a little dented by this drubbing, was in for a surprise, as he succeeded in keeping United in single figures with five excellent saves, including a top class, top corner poke around the upright from Matty Williams looking for his hat-trick.

There was a lot of good football on show, but it is difficult to assess how Celtic would do against somebody closer to their own level, as this United reserve team which has won honours and beaten all comers in the friendly season, is way above Celtic's class. Potts and Wharton are going to be the players this season, with Hallows and Williams (if he signs) making a great front pair. Fitzgerald and German are excellent fullbacks in the Ward/Scott tradition (with Fitzgerald actually being left footed). A partner for Timons is still required, though Keith Hill did a credible job, it may be time to try Mayers in that role. Dave Riding and (yes, controversially) Kevin Parr didn't shine on the night, but the biggest disappointment was Eastwood. Banjos and cows spring to mind.

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