Match Report -
A solid performance gives Celtic first away win
By Iain Benson
Stalybridge Celtic gave Burscough a further taste of Blue Square North life as Celtic played their first away game of the new season at newly promoted Burscough. Both teams had suffered losses in their opening game, and Burscough must be left wondering where their first points will be coming from after a comprehensive victory by Celtic.

Burscough did start brightly, and Robinson turned Sykes well and forced Gamble into an early save. Sykes made amends from the corner, heading it past his own post for a second corner Burscough couldn't convert.

Barlow had a sensational game for Celtic down the right wing, and put in several crosses. The first of which resulted in an excellent opening goal for Celtic. The cross was inch perfect for Barwick storming into the box, and the header fully justified the cross smacking past McMillan into the top corner. Burscough tried for an instant reply, when Ellington fouled Price thirty yards from goal. Price's free kick was well struck curling around the wall, but it was no trouble for Gamble. Winn then fouled Kilheeney a similar distance, but Dudgeon cleared for a corner that Gamble punched clear. Kilheeney then rounded Smart to go one-on-one with Gamble and forced the Celtic keeper into an excellent reaction save from close range.

Celtic nearly doubled their lead when Smart cut inside and unleashed a low drive that took a wicked deflection of Kilbane narrowly skipping past the post with McMillan wrong footed. The corner came across to Sykes, but he half-volleyed wide of the mark. Winn got the next chance, again a cross from Barlow left the Burscough defence all at sea; Winn trapped the ball with one foot and curled it with the other narrowly wide. Barlow got around Bowen to whip in yet another cross, this was met by the head of Ellington, the ball thudding back off the bar, and McMillan pushed it away as far as Winn, but his shot back in was blocked by Bowen on-route to goal.

A corner conceded by Smart was floated into the box, but Price's header was straight at Gamble. Burscough then had a blow, when McMillan was injured in a clash with his own defender, and had to be replaced by Hibbert. Celtic wasted no time testing the new keeper, as they broke quickly through Barlow who put in a low cross this time for Winn whose shot skidded off his foot and straight to Hall. Hall made no mistake nodding down past the debutant keeper.

There was a further blow for Burscough at the start of the second half when captain Price was sent off for an attempted head-butt on Winn. Burscough went into damage limitation mode, and pressed Celtic all over the field, but Barlow was still able to wriggle clear and put in a great cross for Barwick. Barwick's shot was deflected by Kilbane for a corner. The corner was cleared but McGinn fouled first Hall and then Ellington just outside the box. From the second foul saw Smart aim low around the wall, but Hibbert got down well and kept hold of the ball, after an initial spill, with Winn bearing down. Burbeary should have added to Celtic's lead when Barlow put in another good cross, but his flicked header went across the face and wide.

With the Celtic defence holding firm, Wade was forced to try a distance shot that had Gamble stretching, but it was over the bar. A foul by Dudgeon on substitute Allan Smart saw a wicked free kick to the back post, Sykes's attempted clearance span towards his own goal and forced a sensational save from Gamble.

Celtic finished the stronger of the two sides, with Ellington having enough juice left in him to outpace Bowen to the by-line and pull it back for Oakes, but Hibbert was alert and scooped up the scuffed shot. Garner then held off the attentions of two defenders to turn well and fire a low shot into the side netting.

This was a good win for Celtic: a foundation on which to build for the rest of the season. There was a high work rate all over the pitch, and Celtic never really looked like losing.