Match Report -
Celtic were just not good enough
By Iain Benson
For long periods watching this match was a frustrating experience. Blyth had clearly come for a goalless draw, and must thank their keeper for the game ending that way.

Barlow started the ball rolling flicking a header towards goal, only for Bartlett to make the simplest of catches. Stringfellow pulled the ball back from the touchline to Barlow, and only heroic defending from Leeson denied Barlow the opener. A Stringfellow cross meant for Hall was put out by McCabe for a corner, and Snowdon put that out for a second corner that Celtic couldn't convert. Winn was soon spinning in another cross that Barlow nodded towards goal only for McCabe to block. Celtic were creating the chances, but lacking that killer touch.

That killer touch looked to have come when Dudgeon put a defence splitting pass through the middle of the Blyth centrebacks, Ellington raced onto it, Snowdon turned and couldn't catch him, so brought Ellington down inside the box, no hesitation from the referee, a penalty. After the last few penalty saves, Ellington had abdicated the responsibility to Barlow, but Sykes took the ball and placed it on the spot. He took no run up and, to be frank, it was an awful penalty with the direction telegraphed. There was a lot of power, but Bartlett knew exactly where it would be and got a good block on it, and Burbeary put the rebound into the side netting.

Another round of corners for Celtic, and again there was no killer touch as the ball flashed across the face of goal a few times before Sykes headed into Bartlett's hands.

Half way through the half, Blyth got a couple of shots on target: first, when Thompson beat the off-side trap, pulled a high cross back for Fenton, but his header was at pass-back speed and Gamble had the easiest of catches. Later, a distance shot from Fenton was from just too far out and too close to Gamble to give him any trouble either.

Ellington was put through by Winn; he rode a couple of challenges before getting into the box and taking the shot, only for Coulthard to block on route to goal. First McCabe then Coulthard put the corners out for a second and third corner before Dudgeon headed well wide.

Celtic got the ball into the net when Smart fired in a curling free kick, Dudgeon rose highest and nodded it into the back of the net. No goal, the referee had seen something in the back post scramble he didn't like.

Dudgeon wasn't having the best of halves, he kicked the ball off Forster and shepherded the ball out of play only to concede a corner, and in frustration kicked the ball towards the corner flag, and was cautioned for kicking the ball away. Blyth couldn't convert the corner, as there wasn't enough time in the half.

The second half started with Blyth looking a little more lively than in the first half, McCabe beating the offside trap and firing a low shot across the face, and narrowly wide.

That soon reverted to the inexplicable and sudden injuries plaguing the Blyth players, and the thirty second throw-ins, which was a shame, for when they were playing football, it was attractive and flowing.

Celtic needed a goal to enliven the game, and Barlow nearly provided it when he made some space and fired in a powerful low drive from the edge of the box, but it zipped wide. Miss of the game has to be handed to Stringfellow. Stringfellow started the move, freeing Burbeary who knocked the ball through to Ellington. Stringfellow had continued the run, and Ellington's back heel into his path left him with time and space to take the shot, but he put it wide. Hall headed a free kick wide as Celtic looked to hit the target, never mind test Bartlett.

The introduction of Roca changed the game. Though he played rather deep, he enlivened a flagging Celtic line-up with charging runs and neat touches. One such run saw him take the ball around Williams and drag the whole defence, a great lifted cross to the back post Hall coming in, and Bartlett had to tip the ball away. Smart, still up from the corner got the ball back as Blyth couldn't clear, he found Dudgeon, also still up, and Dudgeon forced Bartlett into an excellent close range save.

Barlow overlapped with Roca, and saw Ellington unmarked and alone. Ellington had to provide all of the power in the header himself as the perfectly weighted ball came down, and somehow Bartlett got back across the face to tip the ball out for a corner. From having little to do, Bartlett suddenly knew he was in a game. Ellington pulled the ball back for Burbeary who curled a powerful shot through a crowd. Bartlett must have seen it late, but reacted well punching the ball away. As Celtic ran out of time, Roca threaded the ball through to Barlow who aimed low and to the far post, and again Bartlett was there to dive across the face and tip the ball away.

Blyth were, to be honest, not very good. At times they showed they could play, but seemed more content with using as much of the ninety minutes as possible with the ball out of play. That said, Celtic could not buy a goal in this match, so whilst Blyth were not good enough to cause Celtic any problems, Celtic were not good enough to win the match.

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