Match Report -
Harrogate won because they were the better team
By Iain Benson
Celtic were simply outclassed by a high flying Harrogate team who showed a gulf in class as the game wore on. Celtic started with a 3-5-2 formation, and at first it started well, containing the Harrogate attack and flooding the midfield.

This allowed Winn to push the ball out to Maxfield early on, Maxfield came into the box completely unmarked and fired off a powerful shot that zipped narrowly past the opposite upright. Barlow then got a sensational chance when he beat the offside trap, rounded Lindley in the visiting goals, but from an acute angle his shot struck the post. With Black and Maxfield making deep runs, the early chances were falling to Celtic, and Black?s cross gave Hume a glorious opportunity, but his header was over the bar.

As the game wore on, Harrogate adapted and started exploiting the gaps at the back. They stretched the Celtic defence, and Holland?s low cross along the edge of the box sat up nicely for Hunter, and his shot had Bishop at full stretch to tip the ball out for a corner. With game flowing end to end, the first goal could have come from either side. After Hume was fouled by Timons just outside the box, Maxfield fired in a great free kick that required a goal line block by Merris to deny him.

However, it was Harrogate who opened the scoring, and they never looked back. Just before half time, Holland was allowed to walk the ball to the edge of the box, as he sucked the Celtic defence to him, Colin Hunter was left completely unmarked and a simple pass gave him the time and space to pick his spot and give the visitors the lead.

Lindley proved an admirable last line of defence for Harrogate at the start of the second half. Hume flicked a Barlow cross across the face of goal, Ellington steamed in at the back post, but Lindley jumped making himself big, getting just enough contact to put the ball around the post. Hume got a powerful header onto the corner, but Timons was where Lindley wasn?t and headed off the line.

Sykes was harshly adjudged to have handled the ball at the edge of the Celtic box, Colin Hunter took the free kick and his shot was only narrowly over the bar. Sykes then dallied with the ball inside his own box, Holland took the ball off him, went one-on-one with Bishop and fired a low shot into the opposite corner to increase Harrogate?s lead.

Celtic were being outplayed, but still managed to create chances as they switched to a 4-4-2 formation with Prince and Krief replacing Olsen and Keeling. Prince fed Black who put in a first time cross to the back post, and though Hume got a full bloodied contact, it was straight at Lindley who didn?t have to move.

The gulf of class was evident as Harrogate passed it up the field, leaving the Celtic players chasing shadows. It ended with Holland beating the offside trap and firing into the side netting.

Maxfield was fouled by Roy Hunter in the centre circle, and Black floated the free kick into the box. Barlow?s initial shot was palmed into the path of Ellington by Lindley. Ellington?s instinctive toe-poke was well saved by Lindley, who then pushed the ball away from the foot of Sykes. Just before the final whistle, Ellington found himself in space some distance out, and tried a low shot, but it was straight down the middle, and Lindley gathered thankfully.

In truth, Celtic did not play well enough to contain Harrogate, and did not play well enough to score. So the final result came out of that. The result leaves Celtic dangerously close to the foot of the table. Results on Tuesday could leave Celtic a hairs breadth above the drop zone, if they don?t go our way. Next weekend?s game against Hucknall at Hucknall has become yet another massive game for the Blues.

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