This game had everything but a result. It was a thrilling, end to end match with chances aplenty for both teams. Fish pulled off three remarkable saves, whilst his opposite number, MacKenzie doubled that.
Celtic issued their intent, from the off, with Courtney racing onto a Parr ball, forcing a corner off Wright in the opening minute. Peacock's ball went across to Murphy, who squeezed it through the crowded defence to Courtney at the edge of the 6 yard box. His shot skimmed narrowly wide.
At the other end, Peacock's short back pass let Peyton in on goal, with Beesley closing him down, Peyton's shot into the bottom left corner was a good one, but Fish saved it comfortably.
Action immediately switched back to the other end of the field, as Ayorinde's determination got him to the by-line past Angus. The Nigerian cut it back to Parr, racing into the box, but Parr's shot skimmed off the outside of the upright, taking MacKenzie's water bottle with it.
In this non-stop game, reminiscent more of a tennis match than a football game, saw Beesley required to make a great sliding tackle in the box to rob Birch as the tall attacker was lining up his sights. Angus headed the corner wide of the mark.
The next great chance fell to Pickford as he, Courtney and Perkins played the ball around the defence with some great one-touch passing, before Pickford's low drive produced a stunning save from MacKenzie, which he could only block. As Ayorinde raced in, MacKenzie leapt forward to smother the ball. Moments later Courtney finally beat the offside trap that would deny him on several occasions throughout the match, and raced down the throat of MacKenzie. The Boro' keeper read the situation well, and as Courtney squared it to Ayorinde, he cut out the cross.
Celtic kept pressing, and when Parr was hauled out of the air by Charles, it took brave keeping through a press of bodies for MacKenzie to pluck the ball off Ayorinde's head.
In this open and fluid game, Nuneaton pressed up field, passing well and denying Celtic a glimpse of the ball, until it fell to Birch. He muscled his way past Woods, leaving the defender on the floor in his wake, and snapped off a shot from a tight angle. Fish with great agility dived low, and palmed it around the post. But Nuneaton were to have no joy from corners or crosses as Fish, Woods, and Beesley dealt well with anything in the air all game.
Mid way through the first half, the game got very compressed into the midfield, with offsides a plenty going both ways as the middle third of the pitch held everybody bar the two keepers. However, it was Parr who found a way through this morass to provide a perfect weighted ball that left Courtney one on one with MacKenzie. With the keeper coming out of his area, and Courtney lining up for the lob, Charles crashed into Parr, very late, very deliberate, and the referee hauled Courtney back. A bit of advantage would have seen Celtic take the lead. The free kick was floated in by Peacock, and Parr's header to the opposite top corner looked absolutely perfect, and looked all the way a justice goal. Somehow, McKenzie defied gravity to leap across his net and c;law the ball away from his net.
A goal was inevitable, but the first blood went to Nuneaton. Love's long diagonal ball released Charles, who raced in on Fish. Fish bravely dived at Charles' feet, pushing the ball out wide. It looked set to go for a corer, when Charles reached it,. Fish was back on his feet, and closing Charles down, as the midfielder curled the ball from the by-line, over the stretched arms of Fish, and in under the bar. The travelling contingent of about 300 took a moment to realise the piece of magic had resulted in a goal, and went wild.
Pressing Celtic onto the back foot, Birch again left Woods on the floor in his wake, and fired off a hard drive from just inside the box. Fish produced an excellent save, in a game which saw him named man of the match for no reason other than he was.
Ayorinde's determination got Celtic back onto level terms a few minutes later. Angus scythed him down about 30 yards out from goal. Ayorinde didn't wait for a whistle, he just climbed to his feet, extricated the ball from between his and Angus' legs, and broke down on goal like an unstoppable train. Williams left Courtney unmarked to close down the Nigerian along with MacKenzie, so Sammy squared the ball past Williams to Courtney. Courtney took his time to steady himself. As Lavery made up the distance.Courtney curled the ball around Lavery and the keeper into the top corner.
When Angus pulled Perkins down just outside the Penalty box, the free kick was wasted, with Crowley lobbing it long up field. Murphy racing back tries to head clear but it fell to Charles, who, buoyed by his earlier goal half-volleyed it to Fish's net. Fish tipped it onto the cross bar and over for a corner. The corner was played short to Crowley, and into the box, Celtic could only clear as far as Lavery, forty yards out. His powerful shot was well saved by Fish. Moments later Birch tired to get past Woods, but Woods showed that he wouldn't be beaten three times by sliding in and blocking the shot at the expense of a corner. Again it was a short corner to Crowley, and pumped into the box. Parr cleared as far as Wright, who's ball in was cleared by Beesley.
Celtic continued into the second half in the same open, flowing manner. Fish's punt out, long up field by passed everybody, and put Ayorinde one on one with the keeper. MacKenzie covered the ground well, and Ayorinde tried to head over the stranded keeper, but saw his shot go wide. As Celtic pressed for a winner, Ayorinde dropped off to Peacock, and raced into the box, drawing defenders with him. Peacock was left in acres of space, and tried a trademark curling shot from thirty yards. MacKenzie saw it very late, and did remarkably well to scramble across his goal and smother the ball in the bottom corner. Williams who had raced back with Ayorinde had pulled up with a hamstring injury, and had to be replaced. Angus and MacKenzie would miss his vocal contribution, as it was he that ad been telling them where the attackers were, and his replacement, Alex Sykes was just not as vocal.
Peacock slid a ball through to Courtney stood with his back to goal on the penalty spot. The young lad turned terrifically, but his shot lacked power, and the keeper guessed the right direction, saving quite comfortably in the end.
Nuneaton got back into gear, and a long diagonal ball from Love found Lavery unmarked at the edge of the box, his first time shot was saved superbly by an acrobatic Fish.
Without Williams, the Nuneaton defence were often troubled by meaningless little events. A back pass by Thackery was not given enough power, he was unaware of Pickford steaming in. Pickford continued his run, forcing a bit more pace from MacKenzie. The 'Boro keeper did get there first, but his clearance struck Pickford and could have gone anywhere, fortunately for 'Boro it went wide.
The Keeper again did well when Pickford's perfectly weight ball put Courtney through, one on one once more with MacKenzie. MacKenzie blocked Courtney's powerful top corner curler with an excellent save, then made a stupendous second save from Pickford's blast as it fell to the midfielder, and MacKenzie could smother the ball.
Fish, not to be outdone, made himself big at the other end to deny Wright as another long diagonal ball from Love found Wright, and his shot was top corner all the way until Fish leapt across the face of goal, block with some part of his body for a corner. Wright then missed a sitter from the corner, putting over the bar.
But MacKenzie would not be out done in this battle of the keeper's. When Angus (missing Williams) hesitated too long, Ayorinde nipped in and stole the ball, running at the keeper. His low drive was parried well by MacKenzie, but there was Courtney. Rather than try curling, Courtney tried to lob it over the prostrate keeper. Somehow, MacKenzie got to his feet enough to punch the ball over the bar.
McNeil was brought on for a tired looking Peacock. His first job was to slide a ball through to Pickford, but Sykes blocked it the powerful shot.
Almost instantly, Wood was required to perform a similar job from Wright's just outside the box shot. Steve Wood blocked the corner for a second corner, giving the travelling contingent hope as the time ran down, but Thackery thumped it past the post.
McNeil was then held by Angus, 35 yards out. Without Peacock, it fell to Murphy to take the free kick. He found McNeil with a clever short pass, and McNeil squared it to Ayorinde. The Nigerian's shot was blocked by Sykes, but only as far as Matty Woods. Unused to being in that position, perhaps he hesitated too long, allowing the keeper to readjust to the balls new position, even so, it was a great save.
Fish responded in kind, by saving with his legs from Peyton's fierce half volley from the corner of the box, and Beesley cleared the loose ball.
Turley replaced Courtney, but the ex-Scarborough player didn't really make an impact with only a few minutes on the clock.
Celtic finished with a flurry of near misses. Parr released Ayorinde, who raced past Sykes like the defender was not present, but his shot hit the side netting, too the obvious relief of the keeper. A Murphy cross was met by Parr, keeping it in with heroics, back to Ayorinde, but the shot went wide. McNeil held up the ball from a punt up field, long enough for Ayorinde to steam past. McNeil gave him the perfect ball, but somehow Angus got in the way of the shot, and sent Wright on a counter. Fortunately, for Celtic, Crowley's header from the cross was abysmally wide. The final act of the game was for McNeil to reach and hold a ball in the corner ahead of Angus, and hold it there until bodies in blue shirts could get into the box. His cross in was met by Parr and Thackery, with Thackery just edging it for a series of throw-ins that finally ran the time out on the referee's watch.
It was a great game - apart from one or two missed advantage opportunities, the referee played a stormer too.
The only down side is that a replay is required, though this will have the added benefit of preparing Celtic for Farnborough next Saturday.