Celtic came out of the blocks at full speed and penned Hinckley into their own box. The first of many heavy tackles saw Cooper bring down Smith a few yards outside the box. The free kick was well taken, and Cowan came steaming through the box to plant a good header towards the top corner. Bowles reacted well, athletically palming the ball around for a corner. Lever planted his head on the corner, forcing Bowles into another stop, though this one was straight at him. Barlow took on Shilton and forced the fullback into conceding a corner. It was another excellent corner from Smith, again Lever got his head on it, this time there was nothing Bowles could do as it bulleted into the top corner to give Celtic the lead.
Celtic kept coming, but Hinckley were defensively well organised and Celtic couldn?t break through until Winn lifted a ball over the top when Love tried to pass it back to Bowles, Brodie nipped around him, Bowles panicked and Brodie hooked the ball past the Hinckley keeper and into the net with a well taken goal to give Celtic a two goal lead.
Hinckley?s rough approach to tackling saw Prince have to leave the field when the wrong ball was kicked by Cooper, with the freshly arrived Ellington brought on to replace him. This was minutes after Flynn had come on to replace the concussed Lever who had been the victim of a high boot.
Ellington got right into the game, and was soon being brought down just outside the box. Smith?s free kick forced an excellent reaction save out of Bowles.
As the half drew to a close, Hinckley were getting more and more chances, and soon it was Hinckley?s turn to get a free kick just outside the box. Cartwright set up the free kick, spotted a narrow gap between the wall and the far post, and exploited it with an arrow straight free kick right on the stroke of half time.
It was a bad time to concede the goal, but Celtic could have started the second half with a mirror of the Hinckley goal, when Sykes was up ended right on the edge of the box by Butler, inches from getting a penalty. Smith again lined up to take it, and his powerful free kick whizzed narrowly past the upright, looking for just a second like it might go in.
Hinckley were starting to look much more comfortable, and Celtic beginning to look a little disorganised. A pair of corners caused consternation in the Celtic box, but not as much as a free kick whipped in from the half way line that Celtic really struggled to get clear with Bishop eventually able to claim. A long throw into the box was flicked on to Marrison who forced a great save out of Bishop, the rebound coming to Kelly who shook the bar when he fired it back in, and Cartwright knocked it wide for a goal kick.
Celtic were riding their luck a little bit, and the problem with Celtic?s luck is that it never lasts very long. Nurse got wide, fired a cross across the box, the defence were sucked to the front post, and ex-Celtic forward Kelly was on hand at the back post to knock the ball in, it was a difficult height, but Kelly had all the time in the world to put the ball in.
Barlow did all the hard work when he kept in a ball that should have gone out, beat his marker and found Sykes at the edge of the box, but Sykes put his shot wide of the mark. It was then Hinckley?s turn to ride their luck as Celtic pressed. Smith put in a beautiful ball for Barlow who forced Bowles into a save with his knees, the rebound coming to Sykes whose shot struck the bar and was cleared.
The Celtic crowd were getting frustrated with the referee, and this started to boil over towards the end of the match when a series of incomprehensible decisions were made. Barlow was tripped just outside the box; Brodie nipped in on the ball and was in the box, one-on-one with Bowles when play was brought back for the foul ? in direct contradiction of the advantage rule! Play does not get more advantageous than that. A free kick that Celtic could not convert.
It nearly cost Celtic dear as Cartwright put a sensational cross through the box whilst on the run with Sykes right beside him, fortunately, Sherlock didn?t have the legs to get beyond Flynn and reach it.
As the game went into the final minutes all the action was at the Hinckley goal end. A foul by Cartwright on Barlow was blocked sending the ball high into the air, as Bowles tried to claim, Barlow stood his ground and Bowles could only flap it away, Barlow was on it in a flash, knocking the ball back to Olsen, but his low drive was blocked by Butler. Barlow was then denied a penalty because, apparently, he didn?t protest enough. With seconds left, he was collecting a ball at the back post when Cooper Love went straight into his back shoving Barlow and the ball off the pitch. A cast iron penalty that would have sealed three points.
Considering our position, a draw would have been a good result before the match, but after letting another two goal lead slip, it felt a little like being mugged.